Teacher Content Knowledge

Boosting Data Science Teaching and Learning in STEM

This project addresses a critical need to help middle school teachers learn to incorporate data science in their teaching. It uses an open-source platform called the Common Online Data Analysis Platform (CODAP) as a tool for teachers to learn about data science and develop resources for students’ learning. The project team will develop a framework for teachers’ knowledge of data science teaching and learning. Insights from the project will help develop effective practices for teaching data science and understanding how students learn data science.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101049
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2021 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

Data fluency is the ability to navigate the world of data. This includes understanding the sources of data, structuring data for analysis, interpreting representations of data, inferring meaning from data, and explaining data and findings to diverse audiences. Data science is becoming more important as a career opportunity and a mechanism for addressing complex phenomena in STEM disciplines. This project addresses a critical need to help middle school teachers learn to incorporate data science in their teaching. It uses an open-source platform called the Common Online Data Analysis Platform (CODAP) as a tool for teachers to learn about data science and develop resources for students’ learning. We will develop a framework for teachers’ knowledge of data science teaching and learning. Insights from the project will help develop effective practices for teaching data science and understanding how students learn data science.

This project will result in two key products: a framework for teacher data fluency and a set of resources for teacher professional learning in data science, including cases of classroom practice that illustrate teaching and learning progressions in data science and surface common student roadblocks, materials for site-based Professional Learning Communities, and professional learning modules that engage teachers in the kind of data-rich learning called for by science education standards and STEM education more broadly. The project will include two stages. During stage one, the project will use a design-based research approach to develop a model of pedagogical content knowledge for data fluency in middle school. Stage one will answer the following questions: (1a) What do teachers need to know and be able to do to support students in becoming data fluent? (1b) What are common student misconceptions and roadblocks in students’ progress to data fluency? (1c) What are the core components of professional learning that boost teachers’ data fluency and their ability to support students becoming data fluent? During stage two, the project will use a mixed methods approach to study the model’s implementation. Stage two will address the following questions: (2a) What impact does professional learning with the core components identified in stage one have on the opportunities to learn teachers provide to their students and on their students’ data fluency? (2b) Are the professional learning innovations usable and feasible for the end users? (2c) In what ways do teachers’ and students’ classroom interactions reflect the model of pedagogical content knowledge developed in stage one? What evidence supports or refutes the hypothesis about the knowledge and skills teachers need to support students’ movement to data fluency?

Supporting the Implementation of Scientific Modeling Instruction in High School Chemistry and Biology in Rural Schools

High school students in many rural school districts have limited access to advanced STEM coursework and advanced technologies, including high-speed Internet. Rural school districts face difficulties in recruiting and retaining STEM teachers. In many cases, rural STEM teachers need additional training and support. The project will identify these, and other barriers rural teachers face and create professional development for teachers.

Award Number: 
2101590
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2021 to Sun, 08/31/2025
Full Description: 

High school students in many rural school districts have limited access to advanced STEM coursework and advanced technologies, including high-speed Internet. Rural school districts face difficulties in recruiting and retaining STEM teachers. In many cases, rural STEM teachers need additional training and support. The project will identify these, and other barriers rural teachers face and create professional development for teachers. The training will be designed to increase their discipline specific knowledge and related skills in engaging students in using models to explore, analyze, assess, and improve their thinking about and knowledge of science. Participating teachers will receive 114 hours of formal professional development in the summer and sustained support from follow-up sessions and an innovative virtual mentoring throughout the academic year. The project will revise biology and chemistry curriculum and support 30-90 teachers annually in rural areas in implementing reform-oriented MI instruction benefiting approximately 25,000 rural students. The project will result in a network of leader teachers who can sustain project initiatives. Online STEM professional development courses and digital tools for rural teachers and teachers will be made widely disseminated. In addition, project resources and research findings will be disseminated via conference presentations and peer-reviewed research journals.

Project research is designed to generate knowledge about the development of rural science teachers' pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) and the supports needed as rural teachers implement an approach to teaching called Modeling Instruction (MI). PCK refers to knowledge of and how to teach discipline-specific science concepts. MI is a pedagogical approach where students are actively engaged in using conceptual models that are created and applied to concrete physical, biological, and chemical phenomena to promote their understanding of scientific/mathematical principles. Through longitudinal mixed-methods research, the project will add new knowledge about PCK and MI. The project will investigate the progression of teachers’ PCK associated with the high-level implementation of MI that engages students in science research practices. The research of discipline specific PCK will significantly inform the curriculum and design of preservice and in-service science teacher education programs. The project will also research how various aspects of mentoring (e.g., feedback, interactions, discourse, and the modes and quantity of mentoring activities) support teachers in the effective use of PCK in the classroom. Qualitative research tools will include analysis of videos of teacher implementation of lessons, interviews with teachers focusing on the lessons, focus groups and semi-structured interviews on mentoring experiences, and analysis of teacher mentor-teacher mentee sessions and activity. The Science Instruction Practices Survey will collect quantitative data that will be used to understand each teacher’s implementation of MI, looking at the science practices that teachers in the classroom such as investigation, data collection and analysis, explanation, modeling, and science communication.

Understanding STEM Teaching through Integrated Contexts in Everyday Life (Collaborative Research: Marco-Bujosa)

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in STEM instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101144
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2021 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner. Socioscientific issues (SSI) can provide a powerful avenue for promoting the desired kinds of engagement. SSI are debatable and ill-defined problems that have a basis in science but necessarily include moral and ethical choices. SSI for economically disadvantaged, culturally diverse students in urban settings might include, for example, lead paint contamination, poor water or air quality, or the existence of “food deserts.” By integrating locally relevant SSI with the goals of social justice, the Social Justice STEM Pedagogies (SJSP) framework the project uses is intended to support students to use their scientific expertise to be agents of change. SJSP can be potentially transformative for teachers, students, schools, and the communities in which students live. For SJSP to effectively promote STEM learning, however, teachers must learn how to integrate STEM-concepts and practices into the various real-world SSI present in their students’ environment. This collaborative project is designed to implement and evaluate a comprehensive professional development plan for grades 7 –12 STEM teachers from economically disadvantaged school districts in Philadelphia and surrounding areas. Teachers will develop ways to incorporate SSI into their instruction that are grounded in standards to foster students’ STEM engagement. The instructional practices enacted by teachers will enhance students’ STEM literacy while utilizing their own knowledge and culture in solving complex and ethically challenging STEM issues, thus promoting students’ abilities to be change agents.

This collaborative research project involves Arcadia University, Mercyhurst University, LaSalle University, Villanova University, and St. Joseph’s University. It is designed to investigate the effectiveness of a professional development (PD) program for STEM teachers to develop their pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in teaching SSI and SJSP. Over four years, three cohorts of 25 grades 7-12 teachers will participate in about 200 hours of PD. The SSI and SJSP encompass authentic, complex real-world, STEM-based issues that are directly related to the inequities experienced by students and their communities that students can engage with in the classroom through the use of inquiry-based learning strategies. By promoting students’ engagement in and awareness of the relevance of STEM in everyday life, teacher participants in this PD will foster STEM learning, especially among students who have been historically marginalized from STEM disciplines, and who are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The research plan is designed to reveal elements of the PD program that are most effective in supporting teachers’ increased capacity to design and implement units of study that incorporate scientific, social, and discursive elements of SSI. Using predominantly qualitative methods, other outcomes include how teachers’ PCK change towards teaching with SSI/SJSP; what factors support and inhibit teacher’s abilities to promote SSI/SJSP; and how justice-centered STEM lessons help students to develop moral and ethical reasoning, scientific skepticism, STEM inquiry/modeling, and SSI discourse/argumentation.

Understanding STEM Teaching through Integrated Contexts in Everyday Life (Collaborative Research: Johnson)

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in STEM instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101287
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2021 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner. Socioscientific issues (SSI) can provide a powerful avenue for promoting the desired kinds of engagement. SSI are debatable and ill-defined problems that have a basis in science but necessarily include moral and ethical choices. SSI for economically disadvantaged, culturally diverse students in urban settings might include, for example, lead paint contamination, poor water or air quality, or the existence of “food deserts.” By integrating locally relevant SSI with the goals of social justice, the Social Justice STEM Pedagogies (SJSP) framework the project uses is intended to support students to use their scientific expertise to be agents of change. SJSP can be potentially transformative for teachers, students, schools, and the communities in which students live. For SJSP to effectively promote STEM learning, however, teachers must learn how to integrate STEM-concepts and practices into the various real-world SSI present in their students’ environment. This collaborative project is designed to implement and evaluate a comprehensive professional development plan for grades 7 –12 STEM teachers from economically disadvantaged school districts in Philadelphia and surrounding areas. Teachers will develop ways to incorporate SSI into their instruction that are grounded in standards to foster students’ STEM engagement. The instructional practices enacted by teachers will enhance students’ STEM literacy while utilizing their own knowledge and culture in solving complex and ethically challenging STEM issues, thus promoting students’ abilities to be change agents.

This collaborative research project involves Arcadia University, Mercyhurst University, LaSalle University, Villanova University, and St. Joseph’s University. It is designed to investigate the effectiveness of a professional development (PD) program for STEM teachers to develop their pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in teaching SSI and SJSP. Over four years, three cohorts of 25 grades 7-12 teachers will participate in about 200 hours of PD. The SSI and SJSP encompass authentic, complex real-world, STEM-based issues that are directly related to the inequities experienced by students and their communities that students can engage with in the classroom through the use of inquiry-based learning strategies. By promoting students’ engagement in and awareness of the relevance of STEM in everyday life, teacher participants in this PD will foster STEM learning, especially among students who have been historically marginalized from STEM disciplines, and who are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The research plan is designed to reveal elements of the PD program that are most effective in supporting teachers’ increased capacity to design and implement units of study that incorporate scientific, social, and discursive elements of SSI. Using predominantly qualitative methods, other outcomes include how teachers’ PCK change towards teaching with SSI/SJSP; what factors support and inhibit teacher’s abilities to promote SSI/SJSP; and how justice-centered STEM lessons help students to develop moral and ethical reasoning, scientific skepticism, STEM inquiry/modeling, and SSI discourse/argumentation.

Understanding STEM Teaching through Integrated Contexts in Everyday Life (Collaborative Research: Richardson)

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in STEM instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101324
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2021 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner. Socioscientific issues (SSI) can provide a powerful avenue for promoting the desired kinds of engagement. SSI are debatable and ill-defined problems that have a basis in science but necessarily include moral and ethical choices. SSI for economically disadvantaged, culturally diverse students in urban settings might include, for example, lead paint contamination, poor water or air quality, or the existence of “food deserts.” By integrating locally relevant SSI with the goals of social justice, the Social Justice STEM Pedagogies (SJSP) framework the project uses is intended to support students to use their scientific expertise to be agents of change. SJSP can be potentially transformative for teachers, students, schools, and the communities in which students live. For SJSP to effectively promote STEM learning, however, teachers must learn how to integrate STEM-concepts and practices into the various real-world SSI present in their students’ environment. This collaborative project is designed to implement and evaluate a comprehensive professional development plan for grades 7 –12 STEM teachers from economically disadvantaged school districts in Philadelphia and surrounding areas. Teachers will develop ways to incorporate SSI into their instruction that are grounded in standards to foster students’ STEM engagement. The instructional practices enacted by teachers will enhance students’ STEM literacy while utilizing their own knowledge and culture in solving complex and ethically challenging STEM issues, thus promoting students’ abilities to be change agents.

This collaborative research project involves Arcadia University, Mercyhurst University, LaSalle University, Villanova University, and St. Joseph’s University. It is designed to investigate the effectiveness of a professional development (PD) program for STEM teachers to develop their pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in teaching SSI and SJSP. Over four years, three cohorts of 25 grades 7-12 teachers will participate in about 200 hours of PD. The SSI and SJSP encompass authentic, complex real-world, STEM-based issues that are directly related to the inequities experienced by students and their communities that students can engage with in the classroom through the use of inquiry-based learning strategies. By promoting students’ engagement in and awareness of the relevance of STEM in everyday life, teacher participants in this PD will foster STEM learning, especially among students who have been historically marginalized from STEM disciplines, and who are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The research plan is designed to reveal elements of the PD program that are most effective in supporting teachers’ increased capacity to design and implement units of study that incorporate scientific, social, and discursive elements of SSI. Using predominantly qualitative methods, other outcomes include how teachers’ PCK change towards teaching with SSI/SJSP; what factors support and inhibit teacher’s abilities to promote SSI/SJSP; and how justice-centered STEM lessons help students to develop moral and ethical reasoning, scientific skepticism, STEM inquiry/modeling, and SSI discourse/argumentation.

Understanding STEM Teaching through Integrated Contexts in Everyday Life (Collaborative Research: Macalalag)

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in STEM instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101395
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2021 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner. Socioscientific issues (SSI) can provide a powerful avenue for promoting the desired kinds of engagement. SSI are debatable and ill-defined problems that have a basis in science but necessarily include moral and ethical choices. SSI for economically disadvantaged, culturally diverse students in urban settings might include, for example, lead paint contamination, poor water or air quality, or the existence of “food deserts.” By integrating locally relevant SSI with the goals of social justice, the Social Justice STEM Pedagogies (SJSP) framework the project uses is intended to support students to use their scientific expertise to be agents of change. SJSP can be potentially transformative for teachers, students, schools, and the communities in which students live. For SJSP to effectively promote STEM learning, however, teachers must learn how to integrate STEM-concepts and practices into the various real-world SSI present in their students’ environment. This collaborative project is designed to implement and evaluate a comprehensive professional development plan for grades 7 –12 STEM teachers from economically disadvantaged school districts in Philadelphia and surrounding areas. Teachers will develop ways to incorporate SSI into their instruction that are grounded in standards to foster students’ STEM engagement. The instructional practices enacted by teachers will enhance students’ STEM literacy while utilizing their own knowledge and culture in solving complex and ethically challenging STEM issues, thus promoting students’ abilities to be change agents.

This collaborative research project involves Arcadia University, Mercyhurst University, LaSalle University, Villanova University, and St. Joseph’s University. It is designed to investigate the effectiveness of a professional development (PD) program for STEM teachers to develop their pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in teaching SSI and SJSP. Over four years, three cohorts of 25 grades 7-12 teachers will participate in about 200 hours of PD. The SSI and SJSP encompass authentic, complex real-world, STEM-based issues that are directly related to the inequities experienced by students and their communities that students can engage with in the classroom through the use of inquiry-based learning strategies. By promoting students’ engagement in and awareness of the relevance of STEM in everyday life, teacher participants in this PD will foster STEM learning, especially among students who have been historically marginalized from STEM disciplines, and who are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The research plan is designed to reveal elements of the PD program that are most effective in supporting teachers’ increased capacity to design and implement units of study that incorporate scientific, social, and discursive elements of SSI. Using predominantly qualitative methods, other outcomes include how teachers’ PCK change towards teaching with SSI/SJSP; what factors support and inhibit teacher’s abilities to promote SSI/SJSP; and how justice-centered STEM lessons help students to develop moral and ethical reasoning, scientific skepticism, STEM inquiry/modeling, and SSI discourse/argumentation.

Education and Experience: Do Teacher Qualifications in Career-Focused STEM Courses Make a Difference?

Using high school statewide longitudinal data from Maryland from 2012-2022, this study will first document who has taught STEM-CTE courses over this period. After exploring the teaching landscape, the study will then explore whether qualifications (i.e., education, credentials, teaching experience) of teachers in STEM-CTE high school courses were associated with their students’ success.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101163
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/01/2021 to Mon, 07/31/2023
Full Description: 

When high school students take “STEM-CTE” (i.e., career and technical education courses in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields), they have much stronger outcomes across the school-to-college/career pipeline, including lower dropout rates and better attendance in high school, stronger math achievement in 12th grade, and higher odds of pursuing advanced STEM courses in high school and college. Growing teacher research shows that teachers matter for students’ success, particularly in STEM. In particular, research has established that teacher education and credentials in STEM fields, as well as years of classroom teaching experiences are key teacher factors in supporting student outcomes. However, there has been limited prior research regarding (a) who teaches STEM-CTE courses and (b) whether the benefits of these courses and pathways are driven or influenced by specific characteristics of STEM-CTE teachers. This project will aim to explore these questions.

Using high school statewide longitudinal data from Maryland from 2012-2022, this study will first document who has taught STEM-CTE courses over this period. The dataset includes approximately 5,000 unique teacher observations and approximately 500,000 unique student observations. After exploring the teaching landscape, the study will then explore whether qualifications (i.e., education, credentials, teaching experience) of teachers in STEM-CTE high school courses were associated with their students’ success. Indicators of success in the dataset include end-of-course grades, STEM-CTE concentration/industry-recognized credentialing, advanced STEM coursetaking (e.g., honors, AP, IB, dual-enrollment), STEM standardized test scores, math SAT/ACT scores, attendance/suspension rates, on-time graduation, and reduced dropout. Data analysis includes multivariate regression analyses, supplemented with tests for nonrandom sorting of teachers to students.

Supporting Teacher Customizations of Curriculum Materials for Equitable Student Sensemaking in Secondary Science (Collaborative Researcher: Reiser)

This project is developing and researching customization tools to support teachers’ instructional shifts to achieve equitable sensemaking in middle school science classrooms. These tools will help teachers to better notice and leverage the ideas and experiences of non-dominant students to support all students in equitable sensemaking.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101377
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2021 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

This project is developing and researching tools to support teachers’ instructional shifts to achieve equitable sensemaking in middle school science classrooms. Sensemaking involves students building and using science ideas to address questions and problems they identify, rather than solely learning about the science others have done. Despite it being a central goal of recent national policy documents, such meaningful engagement with science knowledge building remains elusive in many classrooms. Students from non-dominant communities frequently do not see themselves as “science people” because their ways of knowing and experiences are often not valued in science classrooms. Professional learning grounded in teachers’ use of innovative high quality curriculum materials can help teachers learn to teach in new ways. Yet teachers need guidance to customize curriculum materials to fit their own local contexts and leverage students’ ideas and experiences while maintaining the goals of recent policy documents. This project is researching and developing customization tools to support teachers in their principled use and adaptation of materials for their classrooms. These customization tools will help teachers to better notice and leverage the ideas and experiences of non-dominant students to support all students in equitable sensemaking. During the project, 74 teachers from diverse schools will participate in professional learning using these customization tools. After testing, the customization tools and illustrative cases will be disseminated broadly to support teachers enacting any science curriculum in leveraging the ideas and experiences that students bring into the classroom. In addition, the research results in the form of design principles will inform future design of curriculum materials and professional learning resources for science.

A key element in science education reform efforts includes shifting the epistemic and power structures in the classroom so that teachers and students work together to build knowledge. Research shows that shifts in science teaching are challenging for teachers. Researchers and practitioners have collaborated to develop curriculum materials that begin to support teachers in this work. But teachers need to interpret these materials and customize the tasks and strategies for their own context as they work with their own students. Curriculum enactment is not prescriptive, but rather a “participatory relationship” between the teacher, curriculum materials, students and context, where teachers interpret the materials and the goals of the reform, and customize them to adapt the tasks and activity structures to meet the needs and leverage the resources of their students. The field needs to better understand how teachers learn from and navigate this participatory relationship and what supports can aid in this work. This project will include design-based research examining teachers’ customization processes and the development of tools to support teachers in adapting curriculum materials for their specific school context to facilitate equitable science sensemaking for all students, where all students engage in ambitious science knowledge building. The major components of the research program will include: (1) Empirical study of teachers’ customization processes; (2) Theoretical model of teacher thinking and learning that underlies customization of curriculum materials; (3) Tools to support principled customization consistent with the goals of the reform; and (4) Empirical study of how tools influence teachers’ customization processes. The project is addressing the urgent need for scalable support for teacher learning for recent shifts in science education in relation to both a vision of figuring out and equity.

Supporting Teacher Customizations of Curriculum Materials for Equitable Student Sensemaking in Secondary Science (Collaborative Researcher: McNeill)

This project is developing and researching customization tools to support teachers’ instructional shifts to achieve equitable sensemaking in middle school science classrooms. These tools will help teachers to better notice and leverage the ideas and experiences of non-dominant students to support all students in equitable sensemaking.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101384
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2021 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

This project is developing and researching tools to support teachers’ instructional shifts to achieve equitable sensemaking in middle school science classrooms. Sensemaking involves students building and using science ideas to address questions and problems they identify, rather than solely learning about the science others have done. Despite it being a central goal of recent national policy documents, such meaningful engagement with science knowledge building remains elusive in many classrooms. Students from non-dominant communities frequently do not see themselves as “science people” because their ways of knowing and experiences are often not valued in science classrooms. Professional learning grounded in teachers’ use of innovative high quality curriculum materials can help teachers learn to teach in new ways. Yet teachers need guidance to customize curriculum materials to fit their own local contexts and leverage students’ ideas and experiences while maintaining the goals of recent policy documents. This project is researching and developing customization tools to support teachers in their principled use and adaptation of materials for their classrooms. These customization tools will help teachers to better notice and leverage the ideas and experiences of non-dominant students to support all students in equitable sensemaking. During the project, 74 teachers from diverse schools will participate in professional learning using these customization tools. After testing, the customization tools and illustrative cases will be disseminated broadly to support teachers enacting any science curriculum in leveraging the ideas and experiences that students bring into the classroom. In addition, the research results in the form of design principles will inform future design of curriculum materials and professional learning resources for science.

A key element in science education reform efforts includes shifting the epistemic and power structures in the classroom so that teachers and students work together to build knowledge. Research shows that shifts in science teaching are challenging for teachers. Researchers and practitioners have collaborated to develop curriculum materials that begin to support teachers in this work. But teachers need to interpret these materials and customize the tasks and strategies for their own context as they work with their own students. Curriculum enactment is not prescriptive, but rather a “participatory relationship” between the teacher, curriculum materials, students and context, where teachers interpret the materials and the goals of the reform, and customize them to adapt the tasks and activity structures to meet the needs and leverage the resources of their students. The field needs to better understand how teachers learn from and navigate this participatory relationship and what supports can aid in this work. This project will include design-based research examining teachers’ customization processes and the development of tools to support teachers in adapting curriculum materials for their specific school context to facilitate equitable science sensemaking for all students, where all students engage in ambitious science knowledge building. The major components of the research program will include: (1) Empirical study of teachers’ customization processes; (2) Theoretical model of teacher thinking and learning that underlies customization of curriculum materials; (3) Tools to support principled customization consistent with the goals of the reform; and (4) Empirical study of how tools influence teachers’ customization processes. The project is addressing the urgent need for scalable support for teacher learning for recent shifts in science education in relation to both a vision of figuring out and equity.

Supporting High School Students and Teachers with a Digital, Localizable, Climate Education Experience

This partnership of BSCS Science Learning, Oregon Public Broadcasting, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration advances curriculum materials development for high quality units that are intentionally designed for adaptation by teachers for their local context. The project will create a base unit on carbon cycling as a foundation for understanding how and why the Earth's climate is changing, and it will study the process of localizing the unit for teachers to implement across varied contexts to incorporate local phenomena, problems, and solutions.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2100808
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2021 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

Teachers regularly adapt curriculum materials to localize for their school or community context, yet curriculum materials are not always created to support this localization. Developing materials that are intentionally designed for localization has potential to support rich science learning across different contexts, especially for a topic like climate change where global change can have varied local effects. This partnership of BSCS Science Learning, Oregon Public Broadcasting, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration advances curriculum materials development for high quality units that are intentionally designed for adaptation by teachers for their local context. It will develop and test a design process bringing together national designers and teachers across the country. Teachers will be supported through professional learning to adapt from the base unit to create a local learning experience for their students. The project will create a base unit on carbon cycling as a foundation for understanding how and why the Earth's climate is changing, and it will study the process of localizing the unit for teachers to implement across varied contexts to incorporate local phenomena, problems, and solutions. The unit will be fully digital with rich visual experiences, simulations, and computer models that incorporate real-time data and the addition of localized data sets. These data-based learning experiences will support students in reasoning with data to ask and answer questions about phenomena. Research will study the unit development and localization process, the supports appropriate for teachers and students, and the impact on classroom practice.

The project will adopt an iterative design process to create a Storyline base unit, aligned to Next Generation Science Standards, for localization, piloting, and an implementation study with 40 teachers. To support teacher learning, the project adopts the STeLLA teacher professional learning model. To support student learning, the project addresses climate change content knowledge with a focus on socioscientific issues and students’ sense of agency with environmental science. The project will research how the educative features in the unit and the professional development impact teachers’ practice, including their content knowledge, comfort for teaching a socioscientific issue, and their ability to productively localize materials from a base unit. The study uses a cohort-control quasi-experimental design to examine the impact of the unit and professional learning experience on dimensions of students' sense of agency with environmental science. The study will also include exploratory analyses to examine whether all students benefit from the unit. It uses a pre-post design to examine impacts on teacher knowledge and practice.

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