Curricula/Activities

From Access to Sustainability: Investigating Ways to Foster Sustainable Use of Computational Modeling in K-12 Science Classrooms

This project investigates how to support sustained engagement in computational modeling in middle school classrooms in two ways: 1) Design and develop an accessible modeling toolkit and accompanying thematically linked curricular units; and, 2) Examine how this toolkit and curriculum enable students to become sophisticated modelers and integrate modeling with other scientific practices such as physical experimentation and argumentation.

Award Number: 
2010413
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/15/2020 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

Modeling is a core scientific activity in which a difficult-to-observe phenomenon is represented, e.g., visually or in a computer program. Research has shown that sustained experience with modeling contributes to sophisticated understanding, learning, and engagement of scientific practices. Computational modeling is a promising way to integrate computation and science learning. Yet computational modeling is not widely adopted in science classrooms over sustained periods of time because of difficulties such as the time required for students to become adept modelers, the need to better integrate computational modeling with other scientific practices, and the need for teachers to experience agency in using these modeling tools. This Design and Development project investigates how to support sustained engagement in computational modeling in middle school classrooms in two ways: 1) Design and develop an accessible modeling toolkit and accompanying thematically linked curricular units; and, 2) Examine how this toolkit and curriculum enable students to become sophisticated modelers and integrate modeling with other scientific practices such as physical experimentation and argumentation. The project will contribute to the conversation around how to support students and teachers to incorporate computational modeling together with valued scientific practices into their classrooms for sustained periods. For three years, the project will work with six sixth and seventh grade teachers and approximately 400 students.

Through iterative cycles of design-based research, the project will design a computational modeling tool and six curricular units for sixth and seventh-grade students. The team will work closely with two teacher co-designers to design and develop each of the six curricular units. The goal is to investigate: 1) How students become sophisticated modelers as they shift from using phenomenon-level primitives to unpacking and modifying these primitives for extended investigations; 2) How classroom norms around computational modeling develop over time. Specifically, how do student models become objects for classroom reflection and how students integrate modeling into other practices such as explanation and argumentation; 3) How data from physical experiments support students in constructing and refining models; and, 4) How sustained engagement supports students' conceptual learning and learning to model using computing tools. The team will collect and analyze video and written data, as well as log files and pre/posttests, to examine how communities of students and teachers adopt computational modeling as an integral practice in science learning. For video and text analysis, the team will use qualitative coding to detect patterns before, during, and after the activities. For the examination of logfiles from the software, the project will use learning analytics techniques such as the classification and clustering of students' sequences of actions. Finally, the team will also conduct pre/post-tests on both content and meta-modeling skills, analyzing the results with standard statistical tests.

Creating a Model for Sustainable Ambitious Mathematics Programs in High-Need Settings: A Researcher-Practitioner Collaboration

This project will study a successful, ambitious mathematics reform effort in high-needs secondary schools. The goal is to develop resources and tools to support other high-needs schools and districts in transforming and sustaining  their mathematics programs. The model focuses on the resources required for change and the aspects of the organization that support or constrain change in mathematics teaching and learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010111
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2020 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

A long-standing challenge in secondary mathematics education is broadening participation in STEM. Reform of schools and districts to support this goal can be challenging to sustain. This implementation and improvement project will study a successful, ambitious mathematics reform effort in high-needs secondary schools. The goal is to develop resources and tools to support other high-needs schools and districts in transforming and sustaining  their mathematics programs. The model focuses on the resources required for change and the aspects of the organization that support or constrain change in mathematics teaching and learning. The project team includes school district partners that have successfully transformed mathematics teaching to better support students' learning.

The project will develop a model for understanding the demands and resources from an organizational perspective that support ambitious mathematics teaching and learning reforms. Demands are requirements for physical resources or efforts that need to be met in the instructional system. Resources are the material, human, instructional, and organizational requirements needed to address demands. The project will develop the model through a collaboration of researchers, professional development leaders, students, teachers, coaches, and administrators to: (1) understand the demands created throughout a school or district when implementing an ambitious secondary mathematics program in a high-need context; (2) identify the resources and organizational dynamics necessary to address the demands and thus sustain the program; and (3) articulate a model for a sustainable ambitious secondary mathematics program in high-need settings that has validity across a range of implementation contexts. To develop the model over multiple iterations, the project will examine the demands and resources related to implementing an ambitious mathematics program, the perspectives of stakeholders, the organizational structure, and the program goals and implementation. The project will also conduct a systematic literature review to bring together findings from the successful district and other research findings. The data collection and analysis process will include interviews, document analysis, collection of artifacts, and observations across four phases of the project.  Participants will include students, teachers, instructional support personnel, and administrators (from schools and the district).

Reaching Across the Hallway: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Teaching Computer Science in Rural Schools

This project will develop, test, and refine a "train-the-trainer" professional development model for rural teacher-leaders. The project goal is to design and develop a professional development model that supports teachers integrating culturally relevant computer science skills and practices into their middle school social studies classrooms, thereby broadening rural students' participation in computer science.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010256
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2020 to Sun, 06/30/2024
Full Description: 

Strengthening computer science (CS) and computational thinking (CT) education is a national priority with particular attention to increasing the number of teachers prepared to deliver computer science courses. For rural schools, that collectively serve more than 10 million students, it is especially challenging. Rural schools find it difficult to recruit and retain STEM teachers that are prepared to teach computer science and computational thinking. This project will develop, test, and refine a "train-the-trainer" professional development model for rural teacher-leaders. The project will build teachers' self-efficacy to deliver computer science concepts and practices into middle school social studies classrooms. The project is led by CodeVA (a statewide non-profit in Virginia), in partnership with TERC (a STEM-focused national research institution) and the University of South Florida College of Education, and in collaboration with six rural school districts in Virginia. The project goal is to design and develop a professional development model that supports teachers integrating culturally relevant computer science skills and practices into their middle school social studies classrooms, thereby broadening rural students' participation in computer science. The professional development model will be designed and developed around meeting rural teachers, where they are, geographically, economically, and culturally. The model will also be sustainable and will work within the resource constraints of the rural school district. The model will also be built on strategies that will broadly spread CS education while building rural capacity.

The project will use a mixed-methods research approach to understand the model's potential to build capacity for teaching CS in rural schools. The research design is broken down into four distinct phases; planning/development prototyping, piloting and initial dissemination, an efficacy study, and analysis, and dissemination. The project will recruit 45 teacher-leaders and one district-level instructional coach, 6th and 7th-grade teachers, and serve over 1900 6th and 7th-grade students. Participants will be recruited from the rural Virginia school districts of Buchanan, Russell, Charlotte, Halifax, and Northampton. The research question for phase 1 is what is each district's existing practice around computer science education (if any) and social studies education? Phases 2, 3 and 4 research will examine the effectiveness of professional development on teacher leadership and the CS curricular integration. Phase 4 research will examine teacher efficacy to implement the professional development independently, enabling district teachers to integrate CS into their social studies classes. Teacher data sources for each phase include interviews with administrators and teachers, teacher readiness surveys, observations, an examination of artifacts, and CS/CT content interviews. Student data will consist of classroom observation and student attitude surveys. Quantitative and qualitative data will be triangulated to address each set of research questions and provide a reliability check on findings. Qualitative data, such as observations/video, and interview data will be analyzed through codes that represent expected themes and patterns related to teachers' and coaches' experiences. Project results will be communicated through presentations at conferences such as Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education, the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS), and the American Educational Research Association. Lesson plans will be made available on the project website, and links will be provided through publications and newsletters such as the NCSS Middle-Level Learner, NCSS Social Education, CSTA the Voice, the NSF-funded CADREK12 website and the NSF-funded STEM Video Showcase.

Opening Pathways into Engineering through an Illinois Physics and Secondary Schools Partnership

The Illinois Physics and Secondary Schools (IPaSS) Partnership Program responds to disparities in student access to high-quality, advanced physics instruction by bringing together Illinois high school physics teachers from a diverse set of school contexts to participate in intensive PD experiences structured around university-level instructional materials.

Award Number: 
2010188
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2020 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

This project will conduct research and teacher professional development (PD) to adapt university-level instructional materials for implementation by high school teachers in their physics courses. Access to high-quality, advanced physics instruction in high school can open pathways for students to attain university STEM degrees by preparing them for the challenges faced in gatekeeping undergraduate physics courses. Yet, across the nation, access to such advanced physics instruction is not universally available, particularly in rural, urban, and low-income serving districts, in which instructional resources for teachers may be more limited, and physics teacher isolation, under-preparation and out-of-field teaching are most common. The Illinois Physics and Secondary Schools (IPaSS) Partnership Program responds to these disparities in student access by bringing together Illinois high school physics teachers from a diverse set of school contexts to participate in intensive PD experiences structured around university-level instructional materials. This program will help teachers adapt, adopt, and integrate high-quality, university-aligned physics instruction into their classrooms, in turn opening more equitable, clear, and viable pathways for students into STEM education and careers.

The IPaSS Partnership Program puts education researchers, university physics instructors, and teacher professional development staff at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (U of I) in collaboration with in-service high school physics teachers to adapt university physics curricula and pedagogies to fit the context of their high school classrooms. The project will adapt two key components of U of I's undergraduate physics curriculum for high school use by: (1) using a web-based "flipped" platform, smartPhysics, which contains online pre-lectures, pre-labs and homework and (2) using research-based physics lab activities targeting scientific skill development, utilizing the iOLab wireless lab system - a compact device that contains all sensors necessary for hundreds of physics labs with an interface that supports quick data collection and analysis. The program adopts two PD elements that support sustained, in-depth teacher engagement: (1) incremental expansion of the pool of teachers to a cohort of 40 by the end of the project, with a range of physics teaching assignments and work collaboratively with a physics teaching community to develop advanced physics instruction for their particular classroom contexts, (2) involvement in a combination of intensive summer PD sessions containing weekly PD meetings with university project staff that value teachers' agency in designing their courses, and the formation of lasting professional relationships between teachers. The IPaSS Partnership Program also addresses needs for guidance, support and resources as teachers adapt to the shifts in Advanced Placement (AP) Physics standards. The recent revised high school physics curriculum that emphasizes deep conceptual understanding of central physical principles and scientific practices will be learned through the inquiry-based laboratory work. The planned research will address three central questions: (1) How does IPaSS impact teachers' practice? (2) Does the program encourage student proficiency in physics and their pursuit of STEM topics beyond the course? (3) What aspects of the U of I curricula must be adapted to the structures of the high school classroom to best serve high school student populations? To answer these questions, several streams of data will be collected: Researchers will collect instructional artifacts and video recordings from teachers' PD activities and classroom teaching throughout the year to trace the development of teachers' pedagogical and instructional development. The students of participating teachers will be surveyed on their physics knowledge, attitudes, and future career aspirations before and after their physics course, video recordings of student groupwork will be made, and student written coursework and grades will be collected. Finally, high school students will be surveyed post-graduation about their STEM education and career trajectories. The result of this project will be a community of Illinois physics teachers who are engaged in continual development of advanced high school physics curricula, teacher-documented examples of these curricula suited for a range of school and classroom contexts, and a research-based set of PD principles aimed at supporting students' future STEM opportunities and engagement.

Supporting Elementary Teacher Learning for Effective School-Based Citizen Science (TL4CS)

This project will develop two forms of support for teachers: guidance embedded in citizen science project materials and teacher professional development. The overarching goal of the project is to generate knowledge about teacher learning that enables elementary school citizen science to support students' engagement with authentic science content and practices through data collection and sense making.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2009212
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2020 to Sun, 06/30/2024
Full Description: 

Citizen science involves individuals, who are not professional scientists, in authentic scientific research, typically in collaboration with professional scientists. When implemented well in elementary schools, citizen science projects immerse students in science content and engage them with scientific practices. These projects can also create opportunities for students to connect with their local natural surroundings, which is needed, as some research has suggested that children are becoming increasingly detached from nature. The classroom teacher plays a critical role in ensuring that school-based citizen science projects are implemented in a way that maximizes the benefits. However, these projects typically do not include substantial guidance for teachers who want to implement the projects for instructional purposes. This project will develop two forms of support for teachers: (1) guidance embedded in citizen science project materials and (2) teacher professional development. It will develop materials and professional development experiences to support teacher learning for 80 5th grade teachers impacting students in 40 diverse elementary schools.

The overarching goal of this project is to generate knowledge about teacher learning that enables elementary school citizen science to support students' engagement with authentic science content and practices through data collection and sense making. Specifically, the study is designed to address the following research questions: (1) What kinds of support foster teacher learning for enacting effective school-based citizen science? (2) How do supports for teacher learning shape the way teachers enact school-based citizen science? and (3) What is the potential of school-based citizen science for positively influencing student learning and student attitudes toward nature and science? Data collected during project implementation will include teacher surveys, student surveys and assessments, and case study protocols.

Internet of Things Pedagogical Ecosystem for Integrated Computer Science and Software Engineering Education for Grades 9-12

This project aims to develop, implement, and evaluate an Internet of Things (IoT) based educational curriculum and technology that provides grades 9-12 students with Computer Science (CS) and Software Engineering (SE) education.

Award Number: 
2010259
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2020 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

The Internet of Things (IoT) technology connects physical devices such as industrial machines, vehicles, kitchen appliances, medical devices to the internet to enable users, businesses, and computers to make data driven decisions. The IoT is a rapidly improving, transformative field that is bound to positively impact global job markets and industries. With continued advancement in science and technology comes the need to educate K-12 students in emerging technologies to better prepare them for future academic and professional pursuits. This project aims to develop, implement, and evaluate an Internet of Things (IoT) based educational curriculum and technology that provides grades 9-12 students with Computer Science (CS) and Software Engineering (SE) education. At its core, the IoT technology uses inexpensive microcomputers that run code to collect, analyze, and share data with other devices or users. Due to this inherent integration between hardware and software, IoT has the potential to serve as an excellent platform for teaching CS and SE to high school students. Grades 9-12 teachers and students from diverse and varied socioeconomic backgrounds will participate in this curricular experience through their STEM/CS/Engineering classes. Broad dissemination through online platforms, summer camps, and museums will be used to share content, testimonials, teaching strategies, and best practices to a wide audience in the K-12 education community. Over three hundred high school students and 27 teachers will be engaged directly in-class or via outreach activities. The skills and knowledge gained as part of this curricular experience will provide strong college and career readiness to high school students.

The proposed IoT pedagogical ecosystem features an innovative approach to bringing CS and SE education to grades 9-12 by immersing students in the technical challenges of building web-connected physical computing systems. This project will focus on identifying critical elements for effective instructional design for CS and SE education by understanding student and teacher motivation. A key innovation of this effort will be the low-cost, IoT-hardware kits for project-based learning to create a hands-on experience in the classroom. The curriculum will involve real-world projects inspired by the National Academy of Engineering grand challenges that have direct applications in the industry (e.g., urban infrastructure, wearable technology, connected vehicles, connected health, and cybersecurity). Continuous and methodical assessment via rubrics and focus groups will enable data collection on students' CS/SE/IoT knowledge and skills, teamwork skills, and overall engagement. Rigorous quantitative statistical analysis (parametric and non-parametric) and qualitative methods (first cycle and second cycle coding) will be used to answer three research questions: 1) What is the impact of IoT-based projects on students' CS, SE, and hardware skills and knowledge? 2)What is the effect of IoT-based projects on students' engagement and teamwork skills? 3) What factors of instructional design promote/hinder engagement? This project will cumulatively provide an evidence-based understanding of how effective IoT is as a means to provide high school students with critical and modern CS/SE skills and knowledge.

How Deep Structural Modeling Supports Learning with Big Ideas in Biology (Collaborative Research: Capps)

This project addresses the pressing need to more effectively organize STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) teaching and learning around "big ideas" that run through science disciplines. Unfortunately, finding ways to teach big ideas effectively so they become useful as knowledge frameworks is a significant challenge. Deep structure modeling (DSM), the innovation advanced in this project, is designed to meet this challenge in the context of high school biology.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010223
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2020 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

This project addresses the pressing need to more effectively organize STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) teaching and learning around "big ideas" that run through science disciplines. This need is forcefully advanced by policy leaders including the National Research Council and the College Board. They point out that learning is more effective when students organize and link information within a consistent knowledge framework, which is what big ideas should provide. Unfortunately, finding ways to teach big ideas effectively so they become useful as knowledge frameworks is a significant challenge. Deep structure modeling (DSM), the innovation advanced in this project, is designed to meet this challenge in the context of high school biology. In DSM, students learn a big idea as the underlying, or "deep" structure of a set of examples that contain the structure, but with varying outward details. As learners begin to apprehend the deep structure (i.e., the big idea) within the examples, they use the tools and procedures of scientific modeling to express and develop it. According to theories of learning that undergird DSM, the result of this process should be a big idea that is flexible, meaningful, and easy to express, thus providing an ideal framework for making sense of new information learners encounter (i.e., learning with the big idea). To the extent that this explanation is born out in rigorous research tests and within authentic curriculum materials, it contributes important knowledge about how teaching and learning can be organized around big ideas, and not only for deep structural modeling but for other instructional approaches as well.

This project has twin research and prototype development components. Both are taking place in the context of high school biology, in nine classrooms across three districts, supporting up to 610 students. The work focuses on three design features of DSM: (1) embedding model source materials with intuitive, mechanistic ideas; (2) supporting learners to abstract those ideas as a deep structure shared by a set of sources; and (3) representing this deep structure efficiently within the model. In combination, these features support students to understand an abstract, intuitively rich, and efficient knowledge structure that they subsequently use as a framework to interpret, organize, and link disciplinary content. A series of five research studies build on one another to develop knowledge about whether and how the design features bring about these anticipated effects. Earlier studies in the sequence are small-scale classroom experiments randomly assigning students to either deep structural modeling or to parallel, non modeling controls. Measures discriminate for the anticipated effects during learning and on posttests. Later studies use qualitative methods to carefully trace the anticipated effects over time and across topics. As a group, these studies are contributing generalized knowledge of how learners can effectively abstract and represent big ideas and how these ideas can be leveraged as frameworks for learning content with understanding. Two research-tested biology curriculum prototypes are being developed as the studies evolve: a quarter-year DSM biology curriculum centered on energy; and an eighth-year DSM unit centered on natural selection.

How Deep Structural Modeling Supports Learning with Big Ideas in Biology (Collaborative Research: Shemwell)

This project addresses the pressing need to more effectively organize STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) teaching and learning around "big ideas" that run through science disciplines. Unfortunately, finding ways to teach big ideas effectively so they become useful as knowledge frameworks is a significant challenge. Deep structure modeling (DSM), the innovation advanced in this project, is designed to meet this challenge in the context of high school biology.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010334
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2020 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

This project addresses the pressing need to more effectively organize STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) teaching and learning around "big ideas" that run through science disciplines. This need is forcefully advanced by policy leaders including the National Research Council and the College Board. They point out that learning is more effective when students organize and link information within a consistent knowledge framework, which is what big ideas should provide. Unfortunately, finding ways to teach big ideas effectively so they become useful as knowledge frameworks is a significant challenge. Deep structure modeling (DSM), the innovation advanced in this project, is designed to meet this challenge in the context of high school biology. In DSM, students learn a big idea as the underlying, or "deep" structure of a set of examples that contain the structure, but with varying outward details. As learners begin to apprehend the deep structure (i.e., the big idea) within the examples, they use the tools and procedures of scientific modeling to express and develop it. According to theories of learning that undergird DSM, the result of this process should be a big idea that is flexible, meaningful, and easy to express, thus providing an ideal framework for making sense of new information learners encounter (i.e., learning with the big idea). To the extent that this explanation is born out in rigorous research tests and within authentic curriculum materials, it contributes important knowledge about how teaching and learning can be organized around big ideas, and not only for deep structural modeling but for other instructional approaches as well.

This project has twin research and prototype development components. Both are taking place in the context of high school biology, in nine classrooms across three districts, supporting up to 610 students. The work focuses on three design features of DSM: (1) embedding model source materials with intuitive, mechanistic ideas; (2) supporting learners to abstract those ideas as a deep structure shared by a set of sources; and (3) representing this deep structure efficiently within the model. In combination, these features support students to understand an abstract, intuitively rich, and efficient knowledge structure that they subsequently use as a framework to interpret, organize, and link disciplinary content. A series of five research studies build on one another to develop knowledge about whether and how the design features bring about these anticipated effects. Earlier studies in the sequence are small-scale classroom experiments randomly assigning students to either deep structural modeling or to parallel, non modeling controls. Measures discriminate for the anticipated effects during learning and on posttests. Later studies use qualitative methods to carefully trace the anticipated effects over time and across topics. As a group, these studies are contributing generalized knowledge of how learners can effectively abstract and represent big ideas and how these ideas can be leveraged as frameworks for learning content with understanding. Two research-tested biology curriculum prototypes are being developed as the studies evolve: a quarter-year DSM biology curriculum centered on energy; and an eighth-year DSM unit centered on natural selection.

Exploring Early Childhood Teachers' Abilities to Identify Computational Thinking Precursors to Strengthen Computer Science in Classrooms

This project will explore PK-2 teachers' content knowledge by investigating their understanding of the design and implementation of culturally relevant computer science learning activities for young children. The project team will design a replicable model of PK-2 teacher professional development to address the lack of research in early computer science education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2006595
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

Strengthening computer science education is a national priority with special attention to increasing the number of teachers who can deliver computer science education in schools. Yet computer science education lacks the evidence to determine how teachers come to think about computational thinking (a problem-solving process) and how it could be integrated within their day-to-day classroom activities. For teachers of pre-kindergarten to 2nd (PK-2) grades, very little research has specifically addressed teacher learning. This oversight challenges the achievement of an equitable, culturally diverse, computationally empowered society. The project team will design a replicable model of PK-2 teacher professional development in San Marcos, Texas, to address the lack of research in early computer science education. The model will emphasize three aspects of teacher learning: a) exploration of and reflection on computer science and computational thinking skills and practices, b) noticing and naming computer science precursor skills and practices in early childhood learning, and c) collaborative design, implementation and assessment of learning activities aligned with standards across content areas. The project will explore PK-2 teachers' content knowledge by investigating their understanding of the design and implementation of culturally relevant computer science learning activities for young children. The project includes a two-week computational making and inquiry institute focused on algorithms and data in the context of citizen science and historical storytelling. The project also includes monthly classroom coaching sessions, and teacher meetups.

The research will include two cohorts of 15 PK-2 teachers recruited from the San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District (SMCISD) in years one and two of the project. The project incorporates a 3-phase professional development program to be run in two cycles for each cohort of teachers. Phase one (summer) includes a 2-week Computational Making and Inquiry Institute, phase two (school year) includes classroom observations and teacher meetups and phase three (late spring) includes an advanced computational thinking institute and a community education conference. Research and data collection on impacts will follow a mixed-methods approach based on a grounded theory design to document teachers learning. The mixed-methods approach will enable researchers to triangulate participants' acquisition of new knowledge and skills with their developing abilities to implement learning activities in practice. Data analysis will be ongoing, interweaving qualitative and quantitative methods. Qualitative data, including field notes, observations, interviews, and artifact assessments, will be analyzed by identifying analytical categories and their relationships. Quantitative data includes pre to post surveys administered at three-time points for each cohort. Inter-item correlations and scale reliabilities will be examined, and a repeated measures ANOVA will be used to assess mean change across time for each of five measures. Project results will be communicated via peer-reviewed journals, education newsletters, annual conferences, family and teacher meetups, and community art and culture events, as well as on social media, blogs, and education databases.

Enhancing Energy Literacy through Place-based Learning: Using the School Building to Link Energy Use with Earth Systems

This exploratory project will design, pilot, and evaluate a 10-weeek, energy literacy curriculum unit for a program called Energy and Your Environment (EYE). In the EYE curriculum, students will study energy use and transfer in their own school buildings. They will explore how Earth systems supply renewable and nonrenewable energy, and how these energy sources are transformed and transferred from Earth systems to a school building to meet its daily energy requirements.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2009127
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

Student understanding of energy concepts about Earth systems and human-built systems require grappling with current societal issues related to resource use and management, energy sources, climate impacts, and sustainability. These relationships are challenging for students and underdeveloped in many science curriculum frameworks. This exploratory project will design, pilot, and evaluate a 10-weeek, energy literacy curriculum unit for a program called Energy and Your Environment (EYE). In the EYE curriculum, students will study energy use and transfer in their own school buildings. They will explore how Earth systems supply renewable and nonrenewable energy, and how these energy sources are transformed and transferred from Earth systems to a school building to meet its daily energy requirements. Learning about complex ideas in a place that is common to both students and teachers provides a means for deeper understanding and application of energy use and exchange. The research team includes researchers in biology and in architecture with an emphasis on natural resources and the environment. The researchers will work with four middle school science teachers to develop a curriculum unit that requires deep understanding of energy-systems models, but that will also be designed to apply to the school system and community. This is place-based learning aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards to foster energy literacy, modeling of energy use and flow, and systems thinking.

The research questions for this study will ask about students' ability to construct and explain models about energy use and exchange, as well as about teachers' use of the newly developed instructional materials. The research team will collaborate with 4 middle school teachers to design and test the unit in their classrooms. Data collection includes students' drawn models of the energy systems in use in their school building, student and teacher interviews, classroom observations, and teacher questionnaires. Student understanding of the learning goals will be assessed through a learning performance on energy modeling, and an accompanying rubric to score student models and explanations. After an initial implementation of the unit in classrooms, the following summer, researchers and teachers will meet to revise the curriculum materials. Then, teachers new to the curriculum unit will participate in the professional development required to teach the EYE unit. They will introduce the revised unit to their students in the next year, as researchers collect data and evaluate student learning for the revised curriculum materials. Overall, the project intends to include about 600 middle school students.

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