Cognitive Science

Undergraduate Biology Education Research Program

The goals of this nine-week summer program are to develop undergraduates' knowledge and skills in biology education research, encourage undergraduates to pursue doctoral study of biology teaching and learning, expand the diversity of the talent pool in biology education research, strengthen and expand collaborations among faculty and students in education and life sciences, and contribute to the development of theory and knowledge about biology education in ways that can inform undergraduate biology instruction.

Award Number: 
1262715
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2013 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

The Undergraduate Biology Education Research (UBER) REU Site engages undergraduates in studying important issues specific to the teaching and learning of biology, with mentorship from faculty in the Division of Biological Sciences and the Mathematics and Science Education Department at the University of Georgia. The goals of this nine-week summer program are to develop undergraduates' knowledge and skills in biology education research, encourage undergraduates to pursue doctoral study of biology teaching and learning, expand the diversity of the talent pool in biology education research by strategically recruiting and mentoring underrepresented and disadvantaged students, strengthen and expand collaborations among faculty and students in education and life sciences, and contribute to the development of theory and knowledge about biology education in ways that can inform undergraduate biology instruction.

A programmatic effort to introduce undergraduates to the discipline of biology education research is unprecedented nationwide. Biology education research as a discipline is quite young, and systematic involvement of undergraduates has not been part of the culture or practice in biology or education. UBER aims to promote cultural change that expands the involvement of undergraduates in biology education research and raises awareness among undergraduates that biology teaching and learning are compelling foci for study that can be pursued at the graduate level and via various career paths. UBER utilizes a combined strategy of broad and strategic recruiting to attract underrepresented minority students as well as students who do not have access to biology education research opportunities at their own institutions. Evaluation plans involve tracking UBER participants over time to understand the trajectories of students who complete undergraduate training in biology education research.

Significant co-funding of this project is provided by the Division of Biological Infrastructure in the NSF Directorate for Biological Sciences in recognition of the importance of educational research in the discipline of biology. The Division of Undergraduate Education and the Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings also provides co-funding.

Leveraging MIPOs: Developing a Theory of Productive Use of Student Mathematical Thinking (Collaborative Research: Van Zoest)

The core research questions of the project are: (1) What is the nature of high-leverage student thinking that teachers have available to them in their classrooms? (2) How do teachers use student thinking during instruction and what goals, orientations and resources underlie that use? (3) What is the learning trajectory for the teaching practice of productively using student thinking? and (4) What supports can be provided to move teachers along that learning trajectory?

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1220148
Funding Period: 
Mon, 10/01/2012 to Fri, 09/30/2016
Full Description: 

Leveraging MOSTs (Mathematically Significant Pedagogical Openings to build on Student Thinking) is a collaborative project among Brigham Young University, Michigan Technological University and Western Michigan University that focuses on improving the teaching of secondary school mathematics by improving teachers' abilities to use student thinking during instruction to develop mathematical concepts. The core research questions of the project are: (1) What is the nature of high-leverage student thinking that teachers have available to them in their classrooms? (2) How do teachers use student thinking during instruction and what goals, orientations and resources underlie that use? (3) What is the learning trajectory for the teaching practice of productively using student thinking? and (4) What supports can be provided to move teachers along that learning trajectory? The project is developing a theory of Productive Use of Student Mathematical Thinking (PUMT Theory) that articulates what the practice of productively using student mathematical thinking looks like, how one develops this practice, and how that development can be facilitated.

Design research methodology underlies the work of four interrelated phases: (1) Student thinking - testing and refining a preliminary framework by expanding an existing data set of classroom discourse video to include more diverse teacher and student populations; (2) Teachers' interactions with student thinking - assessing teachers' perceptions of using student thinking and how they make decisions about which thinking to pursue; (3) Teachers' learning about student thinking - using a series of teacher development experiments to improve teachers' abilities to productively use student mathematical thinking during instruction; and (4) Shareable products - creating useful products that are in forms that encourage feedback for further refinement. Data include video recordings of classroom instruction (to identify MOSTs and teachers' responses to them), teacher interviews (to understand their decisions in response to instances of student thinking), and records of teacher development sessions and the researchers' discussions about the teachers' development (to inform the teacher development experiments and future professional development activities). Project evaluation includes both formative and summative components that focus on the quality of the project's process for developing a PUMT Theory and associated tools and professional development, as well as the quality of the resulting products.

Leveraging MOSTs provides critical resources - including a theory, framework, and hypothetical learning trajectory - for teachers, teacher educators, and researchers that make more tangible the often abstract but fundamental goal of productively using students' mathematical thinking. The project enhances the field's understanding of (1) the MOSTs that teachers have available to them in their classrooms, and how they vary in diverse contexts; (2) teachers' perceptions and productive use of student thinking during instruction; and (3) the trajectory of teachers' learning about student thinking and how best to support movement along that trajectory. Using student thinking productively is a cornerstone of effective teaching, thus the PUMT Theory and associated supports produced by the project are valuable resources for those involved in mathematics education as well as other fields.

Continuous Learning and Automated Scoring in Science (CLASS)

This five-year project investigates how to provide continuous assessment and feedback to guide students' understanding during science inquiry-learning experiences, as well as detailed guidance to teachers and administrators through a technology-enhanced system. The assessment system integrates validated automated scorings for students' written responses to open-ended assessment items into the "Web-based Inquiry Science Environment" (WISE) program.

Award Number: 
1119670
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Mon, 08/31/2015
Full Description: 

This five-year project investigates how to provide continuous assessment and feedback to guide students' understanding during science inquiry-learning experiences, as well as detailed guidance to teachers and administrators through a technology-enhanced system. The assessment system integrates validated automated scorings for students' written responses to open-ended assessment items (i.e., short essays, science narratives, concept mapping, graphing problems, and virtual experiments) into the "Web-based Inquiry Science Environment" (WISE) program. WISE is an online science-inquiry curricula that supports deep understanding through visualization of processes not directly observable, virtual experiments, graphing results, collaboration, and response to prompts for explanations. In partnership with Educational Testing Services (ETS), project goals are: (1) to develop five automated inquiry assessment activities that capture students' abilities to integrate their ideas and form coherent scientific arguments; (2) to customize WISE by incorporating automated scores; (3) to investigate how students' systematic feedback based on these scores improve their learning outcomes; and (4) to design professional development resources to help teachers use scores to improve classroom instruction, and administrators to make better informed decisions about teacher professional development and inquiry instruction. The project targets general science (life, physical, and earth) in three northern California school districts, five middle schools serving over 4,000 6th-8th grade students with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and 29 science teachers. It contributes to increase opportunities for students to improve their science achievement, and for teachers and administrators to make efficient, evidence-based decisions about high-quality teaching and learning.

A key research question guides this effort: How automated scoring of inquiry assessments can increase success for diverse students, improve teachers' instructional practices, and inform administrators' decisions about professional development, inquiry instruction, and assessment? To develop science inquiry assessment activities, scoring written responses include semantic, syntax, and structure of meaning analyses, as well as calibration of human-scored items with a computer-scoring system through the c-rater--an ETS-developed cyber learning technology. Validity studies are conducted to compare automated scores with human-scored items, teacher, district, and state scores, including sensitivity to the diverse student population. To customize the WISE curriculum, the project modifies 12 existing units and develops nine new modules. To design adaptive feedback to students, comparative studies explore options for adaptive guidance and test alternatives based on automated scores employing linear models to compare student performance across randomly assigned guidance conditions; controlling for covariates, such as prior science scores, gender, and language; and grouping comparison studies. To design teacher professional development, synthesis reports on auto-scored data are created to enable them to use evidence to guide curricular decisions, and comments' analysis to improve feedback quality. Workshops, classroom observations, and interviews are conducted to measure longitudinal teachers' change over time. To empower administrators' decision making, special data reports, using-evidence activities, individual interviews, and observation of administrators' meetings are conducted. An advisory board charged with project evaluation addresses both formative and summative aspects.

A research-informed model to improve science teaching and learning at the middle school level through cyber-enabled assessment is the main outcome of this effort. A total of 21 new, one- to three-week duration standards-based science units, each with four or more automatically scored items, serve as prototypes to improve students' performance, teachers' instructional approaches, and administrators' school policies and practices.

Development of a Cognition-Guided, Formative-Assessment-Intensive, Individualized Computer-Based Dynamic Geometry Learning System for Grades 3-8

This project is focused on creating, testing, refining, and studying a computer-based, individualized, interactive learning system for intermediate/middle school students or by teachers in classrooms. This learning system is called Individualized Dynamic Geometry Instruction and will contain four instructional modules in geometry and measurement that reflect the recommendations of the Common Core State Standards.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1119034
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Mon, 08/31/2015
Project Evaluator: 
Jeff Shih
Full Description: 

Developers and researchers at Ohio State University and KCP Technologies are creating, testing, refining, and studying a computer-based, individualized, interactive learning system for intermediate/middle school students that can be used by them independently (online or offline) or by teachers in classrooms. This learning system is called Individualized Dynamic Geometry Instruction (iDGi) and will contain four instructional modules in geometry and measurement that reflect the recommendations of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). iDGi courseware fully integrates research-based Learning Progressions (LPs) for guiding students' reasoning; formative-assessment linked to LPs; instructional sequencing that interactively adapts to students' locations in LPs; built-in student monitoring, feedback, and guidance; and research-based principles of educational media into the modules. The software platform for iDGi development is an extended version of the dynamic geometry computer environment, The Geometer's Sketchpad.

The development process follows recommendations in Douglas Clements' Curriculum Research Framework and includes sequences of development, trials with students, data collection, and revision. The research and evaluation are based on random assignment of approximately 350 students to treatment and control groups. Achievement data are collected using developer-constructed instruments with items that reflect the mathematics topics in the CCSS. Researchers explore the variability at the student, teacher, and school levels using the appropriate level of hierarchical linear models.

Commercial publishers have expressed strong interest in publishing online and offline computer versions of iDGi, an iPad version of iDGi, an online management system for iDGi, and support materials for users and teachers.

Cyber-Enabled Learning: Digital Natives in Integrated Scientific Inquiry Classrooms (Collaborative Research: Wang)

This project investigated the professional development needed to make teachers comfortable teaching with multi-user simulations and communications that students use every day. The enactment with OpenSim (an open source, modular, expandable platform used to create simulated 3D spaces with customizable terrain, weather and physics) also provides an opportunity to demonstrate the level of planning and preparation that go into fashioning modules with all selected cyber-enabled cognitive tools framed by constructivism, such as GoogleEarth and Biologica.

Award Number: 
1020091
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Wed, 08/31/2011
Project Evaluator: 
HRI
Full Description: 

There is an increasing gap between the assumptions governing the use of cyber-enabled resources in schools and the realities of their use by students in out of school settings. The potential of information and communications technologies (ICT) as cognitive tools for engaging students in scientific inquiry and enhancing teacher learning is explored. A comprehensive professional development program of over 240 hours, along with follow-up is used to determine how teachers can be supported to use ICT tools effectively in classroom instruction to create meaningful learning experiences for students, reducing the gap between formal and informal learning and improve student learning outcomes. In the first year, six teachers from school districts - two in Utah and one in New York - are educated to become teacher leaders and advisors. Then three cohorts of 30 teachers matched by characteristics are provided professional development and field test units over two years in a delayed-treatment design. Biologists from Utah State University and New York College of Technology develop four modules that meet the science standards for both states - the first being changes in the environment. Teachers are guided to develop additional modules. The key technological resource to be used in the project is the Opensimulator 3D application Server (OpenSim), an open source, modular, expandable platform used to create simulated 3D spaces with customizable terrain, weather and physics. 

The research methodology includes the use of the classroom observations using RTOP and Technology Use in Science Instruction (TUSI), selected interviews of teachers and students and validated assessments of student learning. Evaluation, by an external evaluator, assesses the quality of the professional development and the quality of the cyber-enabled learning resources, as well as reviews the research design and implementation. An Advisory Board will monitor the project. 

The project is to determine the professional development needed to make teachers comfortable teaching with multi-user simulations and communications that students use everyday. The enactment with OpenSim also provides an opportunity to demonstrate the level of planning and preparation that go into fashioning modules with all selected cyber-enabled cognitive tools framed by constructivism, such as GoogleEarth and Biologica.

Measurement Approach to Rational Number (MARN)

This project is designing, developing, and testing an innovative approach to elementary students' learning in the critical areas of multiplicative reasoning, fractions, and proportional reasoning. The project is building on the successful El'Konin-Davydov (E-D) elementary mathematics curriculum that originated in Russia to develop a curriculum framework that can be implemented in U. S. schools. The ultimate product of the research will be a rational number learning progression consisting of carefully articulated and sequenced learning goals.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020154
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/15/2010 to Tue, 06/30/2015
Full Description: 

The Measurement Approach to Rational Number (MARN) project is a collaborative effort by faculty at New York University, Iowa State University, and the Illinois Institute of Technology that is designing, developing, and testing an innovative approach to elementary students' learning in the critical areas of multiplicative reasoning, fractions, and proportional reasoning. The project team is building on the successful El'Konin-Davydov (E-D) elementary mathematics curriculum that originated in Russia to develop a curriculum framework that can be implemented in U. S. schools.

The MARN project addresses five core research questions about how rational number learning can be developed from a measurement perspective and how sociocultural theory and constructivism can contribute to design of effective learning trajectories based on that perspective. The project begins with careful analysis of the E-D curriculum embodied in Russian mathematics materials, of classroom data from a Hawaii implementation of the E-D curriculum, and of relevant prior curriculum development projects in other U. S. contexts. Work is proceeding from development of an initial curriculum framework through intensive teaching experiments to implementation and modification of the framework in the course of classroom design experiments.

The ultimate product of the research and development effort will be a rational number learning progression consisting of carefully articulated and sequenced learning goals. The curriculum framework will also include mathematical tasks to foster learning of each concept, description of predicted student learning in the context of the tasks, a set of assessment items related to each concept, and guidelines for relevant teacher interventions. Thus, the framework will provide a foundation for development of curriculum units.

Embodied STEM Learning Across Technology-Based Learning Environments

This project conducts interdisciplinary research to advance understanding of embodied learning as it applies to STEM topics across a range of current technology-based learning environments (e.g., desktop simulations, interactive whiteboards, and 3D interactive environments). The project has two central research questions: How are student knowledge gains impacted by the degree of embodied learning and to what extent do the affordances of different technology-based learning environments constrain or support embodied learning for STEM topics?

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020367
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/15/2010 to Sun, 07/31/2011
Project Evaluator: 
Susan Haag
Full Description: 

This project conducts interdisciplinary research to advance understanding of embodied learning as it applies to STEM topics across a range of current technology-based learning environments (e.g., desktop simulations, interactive whiteboards, and 3D interactive environments). The project builds on extensive research, including prior work of the PIs, regarding both embodied learning and statistical learning. The PIs describe embodied learning as engaging the neuromuscular systems of learners as they interact with the world around them visually, aurally, and kinesthetically in order to construct new knowledge structures. Statistical learning is described as the ability to learn, often without intent, which sequences of stimuli are consistent with a set of rules. An example of statistical learning is pattern recognition, which is central to mastery of complex topics in many STEM disciplines including physics and mathematics.

The project has two central research questions: How are student knowledge gains impacted by the degree of embodied learning and to what extent do the affordances of different technology-based learning environments constrain or support embodied learning for STEM topics? To investigate these questions, the PIs are conducting three series of experiments in five phases using two physics topics. The first four phases are developmental and the final phase implements and assesses the two modules in schools (20 plus teachers, 700 plus K-12 students) in Arizona and New York (15 total sites, 10 plus public schools, minimum one Title I school).

The aim of this project is to meld these two research trajectories to yield two key outcomes: 1) basic research regarding embodiment and statistical learning that can be applied to create powerful STEM learning experiences, and 2) the realization of exemplary models and principles to aid curriculum and technology designers in creating learning scenarios that take into account the level of embodiment that a given learning environment affords.

CAREER: Learning About Complex Causality in the Classroom

This project focuses on how children learn to reason about three aspects of complex causality; probabilistic causation; action at a distance; and distributed causality;and how to best support the development of this reasoning in classrooms. Through microgenetic study across the school year with small numbers of students in grades K-6, the study will characterize children's reasoning at different ages and how it shifts over time and with different learning supports.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0845632
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2009 to Mon, 06/30/2014
Full Description: 

Dealing with the world's most pressing problems requires an ability to understand and reason about causal complexity. For instance, understanding topics such as ecosystems and global warming involves reasoning about non-obvious causes, spatial gaps, temporal delays, cyclic causality, and distributed causality where the agency/intentionality of one's actions is on a different level than those of the emergent outcomes. The focus of this project is on how children learn to reason about complex causality and how that reasoning can be stimulated and taught in classrooms. The literature on child development suggests that children are capable of understanding complex causal concepts to a greater extent than earlier research suggested. Yet, paradoxically, students' misconceptions in science have been linked to students' difficulties reasoning about complex causality. This study explores how children learn to reason when provided with activities and materials that support three types of reasoning: distributed causality, probabilistic causality, and action at a distance. By conducting and videotaping close interviews at multiple points in the school year with small numbers of students in grades K-6 (the microgenetic phase), the study will characterize children's reasoning at different ages and how it shifts over time and with different learning supports. It will consider the contexts of biology, mechanical reasoning, social reasoning, and games. Classroom-level interventions will then be introduced and studied. In the last year of the project, using what was learned about children's reasoning and how to support it, ecosystems and global warming curriculum units will be designed and tested in middle school classrooms.

Chemistry Facets: Formative Assessment to Improve Student Understanding in Chemistry

This project implemented a facets-of-thinking perspective to design tools and practices to improve high school chemistry teachers' formative assessment practices. Goals are to identify and develop clusters of facets related to key chemistry concepts; develop assessment items; enhance the assessment system for administering items, reporting results, and providing teacher resource materials; develop teacher professional development and resource materials; and examine whether student learning in chemistry improves in classes that incorporate a facet-based assessment system.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0733169
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/15/2007 to Wed, 08/31/2011
Project Evaluator: 
Heller Research Associates
Full Description: 

Supported by research on students' preconceptions, particularly in chemistry, and the need to build on the knowledge and skills that students bring to the classroom, this project implements a facets-of-thinking perspective for the improvement of formative assessment, learning, and instruction in high school chemistry. Its goals are: to identify and develop clusters of facets (students' ideas and understandings) related to key high school chemistry concepts; to develop assessment items that diagnose facets within each cluster; to enhance the existing web-based Diagnoser assessment system for administering items, reporting results, and providing teacher resource materials for interpreting and using the assessment data; to develop teacher professional development and resource materials to support their use of facet-based approaches in chemistry; and to examine whether student learning in chemistry improves in classes that incorporate a facet-based assessment system.

The proposed work builds on two previously NSF-funded projects focused on designing Diagnoser (ESI-0435727) in the area of physics and on assessment development to support the transition to complex science learning (REC-0129406). The work plan is organized in three strands: (1) Assessment Development, consisting of the development and validation of facet clusters related to the Atomic Structure of Matter and Changes in Matter and the development and validation of question sets related to each facet cluster, including their administration to chemistry classes; (2) Professional Development, through which materials will be produced for a teacher workshop focused on the assessment-for-learning cycle; and (3) Technology Development, to upgrade the Diagnoser authoring system and to include chemistry facets and assessments.

Anticipated products include: (1) 8-10 validated facet clusters related to the Atomic Structure of Matter and Changes in Matter; (2) 12-20 items per facet cluster that provide diagnostic information about student understanding in relation to the facet clusters; (3) additional instructional materials related to each facet cluster, including 1-3 questions to elicit inital student ideas, a developmental lesson to encourage students' exploration of new concepts, and 3-5 prescriptive lessons to address persistent problematic ideas; and (4) a publically-available web-based Diagnoser for chemistry (www.Diagnoser.com), including student assessments and instructional materials.

Learning in Practice: New Possibilities for Teacher Professional Education in Science

This project promotes teacher "learning in practice" to bring out and build on the cognitive strengths of their students for science learning in the classroom. Understanding the broader contexts of their student’s lives will enable teachers to make teaching more effective and relevant for their students. Teachers and researchers collaborate to develop theories of action, document and disseminate practices that support teacher learning, and design a model for sustainable, school-wide improvement of science education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0353341
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/15/2004 to Sat, 07/31/2010

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