Teacher Content Knowledge

Quality Urban Ecology Science Teaching for Diverse Learners

This project will examine the relationship between teacher professional development associated with newly developed modules in urban ecology and the achievement and engagement of long-term English learners (LTEL).  Existing Urban Ecology learning modules will be enhanced to accommodate the needs of LTELs, and teachers will participate in professional development aimed at using the new materials to effectively integrate academic science discourse and literacy development for LTELs.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1503519
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2015 to Tue, 07/31/2018
Full Description: 

The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. This exploratory research project will examine the relationship between teacher professional development associated with newly developed modules in urban ecology and the achievement and engagement of long-term English learners (LTEL). Participants in the project will include students in grades 4-8 in a large urban school district, elementary school teachers, middle school science teachers, and middle school teachers of English language arts. Existing Urban Ecology learning modules will be enhanced to accommodate the needs of LTELs, and teachers will participate in professional development aimed at using the new materials to effectively integrate academic science discourse and literacy development for LTELs.

The project will develop two enhanced urban ecology modules (47 lessons) for English learners in grades 4-8; science language and literacy assessments for English language learners (ELLs); an ELL STEM career awareness inventory; an urban ecology for ELLs teacher knowledge scale, and an urban ecology for ELLs pedagogy observation protocol. The materials will be tested with a stratified random sample of students identified by achievement level (low, medium, and high) and linguistic background (mainstream, LTEL, and "at risk" of becoming LTEL). A mixed-methods research design will be used to test the hypothesis that the quantity and quality of LTEL science language and literacy achievement will increase as a result of teacher participation in implementing the newly developed transdisciplinary framework for Urban Ecology for English Learners.

Collaborative Math: Creating Sustainable Excellence in Mathematics for Head Start Programs

This project will adapt and study a promising and replicable teacher professional development (PD) intervention, called Collaborative Math (CM), for use in early childhood programs. Prepared as generalists, preschool teachers typically acquire less math knowledge in pre-service training than their colleagues in upper grades, which reduces their effectiveness in teaching math. To address teacher PD needs, the project will simultaneously develop teacher content knowledge, confidence, and classroom practice by using a whole teacher approach.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1503486
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2015 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

This project was submitted to the Discovery Research K-12 (DRK-12) program that seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models, and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. The project will adapt and study a promising and replicable teacher professional development (PD) intervention, called Collaborative Math (CM), for use in early childhood programs. CM content will focus on nine topics emphasized in preschool mathematics, including sets, number sense, counting, number operations, pattern, measurement, data analysis, spatial relationships, and shape. These concepts are organized around Big Ideas familiar in early math, are developmentally appropriate and foundational to a young child's understanding of mathematics. The project addresses the urgent need for improving early math instruction for low-income children. Prepared as generalists, preschool teachers typically acquire less math knowledge in pre-service training than their colleagues in upper grades, which reduces their effectiveness in teaching math. To address teacher PD needs, the project will simultaneously develop teacher content knowledge, confidence, and classroom practice by using a whole teacher approach. Likewise, the project will involve teachers, teacher aides, and administrators through a whole school approach in PD, which research has shown is more effective than involving only lead teachers. Through several phases of development and research, the project will investigate the contributions of project components on increases in teacher knowledge and classroom practices, student math knowledge, and overall implementation. The project will impact approximately 200 Head Start (HS) teaching staff, better preparing them to provide quality early math experiences to more than 3,000 HS children during the project period. Upon the completion of the project, a range of well-tested CM materials such as resource books and teaching videos will be widely available for early math PD use. Assessment tools that look at math knowledge, attitudes, and teacher practice will also be available. 

The project builds on Erikson Institute research and development work in fields of early math PD and curriculum. Over a 4-year span, project development and research will be implemented in 4 phases: (1) adapting the existing CM and research measures for HS context; (2) conducting a limited field study of revised CM in terms of fidelity and director, teacher/aide, and student outcomes, and study of business as usual (BAU) comparison groups; (3) a study of the promise of the intervention promise with the phase 3 BAU group (who offered baseline in phase 2) and (4) a test of the 2nd year sustainability intervention with phase 3 treatment group. The teacher and student measures are all published, frequently used measures in early childhood education and will be piloted and refined prior to full implementation. The project is a partnership between Erikson, SRI, and Chicago Head Start programs. Project research and resources will be widely disseminated to policy makers, researchers, and practitioners.

TRUmath and Lesson Study: Supporting Fundamental and Sustainable Improvement in High School Mathematics Teaching (Collaborative Research: Schoenfeld)

Given the changes in instructional practices needed to support high quality mathematics teaching and learning based on college and career readiness standards, school districts need to provide professional learning opportunities for teachers that support those changes. The project is based on the TRUmath framework and will build a coherent and scalable plan for providing these opportunities in high school mathematics departments, a traditionally difficult unit of organizational change.

Award Number: 
1503454
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2015 to Sun, 06/30/2019
Full Description: 

Given the changes in instructional practices needed to support high quality mathematics teaching and learning based on college and career readiness standards, school districts need to provide professional learning opportunities for teachers that support those changes. The project will build a coherent and scalable plan for providing these opportunities in high school mathematics departments, a traditionally difficult unit of organizational change. Based on the TRUmath framework, characterizing the five essential dimensions of powerful mathematics classrooms, the project brings together a focus on curricular materials that support teaching, Lesson Study protocols and materials, and a professional learning community-based professional development model. The project will design and revise professional development and coaching guides and lesson study mathematical resources built around the curricular materials. The project will study changes in instructional practice and impact on student learning. By documenting the supports used in the Oakland Unified School District where the research and development will be conducted, the resources can be used by other districts and in similar work by other research-practice partnerships.

This project hypothesizes that the quality of classroom instruction can be defined by five dimensions - quality of the mathematics; cognitive demand of the tasks; access to mathematics content in the classroom; student agency, authority, and identity; and uses of assessment. The project will use an iterative design process to develop and refine a suite of tool, including a conversation guide to support productive dialogue between teachers and coaches, support materials for building site-based professional learning materials, and formative assessment lessons using Lesson Study as a mechanism to enact reforms of these dimensions. The study will use a pre-post design and natural variation to student the relationships between these dimensions, changes in teachers' instructional practice, and student learning using hierarchical linear modeling with random intercept models with covariates. Qualitative of the changes in teachers' instructional practices will be based on coding of observations based on the TRUmath framework. The study will also use qualitative analysis techniques to identify themes from surveys and interviews on factors that promote or hinder the effectiveness of the intervention.

TRUmath and Lesson Study: Supporting Fundamental and Sustainable Improvement in High School Mathematics Teaching (Collaborative Research: Donovan)

Given the changes in instructional practices needed to support high quality mathematics teaching and learning based on college and career readiness standards, school districts need to provide professional learning opportunities for teachers that support those changes. The project is based on the TRUmath framework and will build a coherent and scalable plan for providing these opportunities in high school mathematics departments, a traditionally difficult unit of organizational change.

Award Number: 
1503342
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2015 to Sun, 06/30/2019
Full Description: 

Given the changes in instructional practices needed to support high quality mathematics teaching and learning based on college and career readiness standards, school districts need to provide professional learning opportunities for teachers that support those changes. The project will build a coherent and scalable plan for providing these opportunities in high school mathematics departments, a traditionally difficult unit of organizational change. Based on the TRUmath framework, characterizing the five essential dimensions of powerful mathematics classrooms, the project brings together a focus on curricular materials that support teaching, Lesson Study protocols and materials, and a professional learning community-based professional development model. The project will design and revise professional development and coaching guides and lesson study mathematical resources built around the curricular materials. The project will study changes in instructional practice and impact on student learning. By documenting the supports used in the Oakland Unified School District where the research and development will be conducted, the resources can be used by other districts and in similar work by other research-practice partnerships.

This project hypothesizes that the quality of classroom instruction can be defined by five dimensions - quality of the mathematics; cognitive demand of the tasks; access to mathematics content in the classroom; student agency, authority, and identity; and uses of assessment. The project will use an iterative design process to develop and refine a suite of tool, including a conversation guide to support productive dialogue between teachers and coaches, support materials for building site-based professional learning materials, and formative assessment lessons using Lesson Study as a mechanism to enact reforms of these dimensions. The study will use a pre-post design and natural variation to student the relationships between these dimensions, changes in teachers' instructional practice, and student learning using hierarchical linear modeling with random intercept models with covariates. Qualitative of the changes in teachers' instructional practices will be based on coding of observations based on the TRUmath framework. The study will also use qualitative analysis techniques to identify themes from surveys and interviews on factors that promote or hinder the effectiveness of the intervention.

Playing with the Data: Developing Digital Supports for Middle School Science Teachers using Game-based Formative Assessment

This project will use cycles of design-based research to build new knowledge about how to facilitate teachers' interpretation and use of digital game-based formative assessment data. The research will also inform the revision and expansion of Playfully, an existing, online data-reporting dashboard that can be used with multiple digital games.

Award Number: 
1503255
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2015 to Sat, 06/30/2018
Full Description: 

The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

This project will use cycles of design-based research to build new knowledge about how to facilitate teachers' interpretation and use of digital game-based formative assessment data. The research will also inform the revision and expansion of Playfully, an existing, online data-reporting dashboard that can be used with multiple digital games. The project is a collaboration between researchers at Education Development Center Inc.'s Center for Children and Technology (EDC|CCT) and the assessment and game development teams at GlassLab. The research and development teams will engage in a three-year partnership with 60 middle-grade science teachers working in diverse school settings in different parts of the country. The aim of the project is to refine an online formative assessment platform that utilizes data from a video game designed to teach argumentation at the middle school level. It provides rigorous research on the design features of data tools and associated materials available to teachers to inform their ongoing instruction (i.e., formative assessment tools) when using game-based platforms.

Dissemination of the results of this project will include practical, evidence-based suggestions for supporting middle school science teachers' use of digital games for assessment, and for the design and implementation of data dashboards. Key audiences include educational game designers, game-based assessment developers, formative assessment experts, and leaders in middle grade science teaching and learning.

Student-Adaptive Pedagogy for Elementary Teachers: Promoting Multiplicative and Fractional Reasoning to Improve Students' Preparedness for Middle School Mathematics

The project develops a teacher professional development intervention to support student-adaptive pedagogy for multiplicative and fractional reasoning. The idea is that classroom instruction should build on students' current conceptions and experiences. It focuses on students from urban, underserved and low-socioeconomic status populations who often fall behind in the elementary grades and are left underprepared for middle grades mathematics.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1503206
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/15/2015 to Sun, 06/30/2019
Full Description: 

The project develops a teacher professional development intervention to support student-adaptive pedagogy for multiplicative and fractional reasoning. The idea is that classroom instruction should build on students' current conceptions and experiences. The context for the study is grades 3-5 teachers in Aurora Public Schools. It focuses on students from urban, underserved and low-socioeconomic status populations who often fall behind in the elementary grades and are left underprepared for middle grades mathematics. It includes a summer workshop and academic year follow-up including teacher collaboration. The project provides tools for capitalizing on successful, school-based research for promoting teachers' buy-in, adoption, and sustaining of student-adaptive pedagogy. The project also includes measurement of student understanding of the concepts. An extensive plan to share tools and resources for teachers and instructional coaches (scalable to district/state levels) and of research instruments and findings, will promote sharing project outcomes with a wide community of stakeholders (teachers, administrators, researchers, parents, policy makers) responsible for students' growth. This is a Full Design & Development project within the DRK-12 Program's Learning Strand. The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

The project aims to implement and study a professional development intervention designed to shift upper-elementary teachers' mathematics teaching toward a constructivist approach, called student-adaptive pedagogy (AdPed), which adapts teaching goals and activities based on students' conceptions and experiences. The project focuses on multiplicative and fractional reasoning--critical for students' success in key areas of middle school mathematics (e.g., ratio, proportion, and function). The project seeks to design an instrument for measuring teachers' implementation of AdPed, a clinical interview rubric for students' multiplicative reasoning and then an analysis of teachers' content knowledge and the implementation of AdPed following the professional development. The research design is rooted in an innovative, cohesive framework that integrates four research-based components: (i) a model of mathematics learning and knowing, (ii) models of progressions in students' multiplicative and fractional reasoning, (iii) a model of teaching (AdPed) to promote such learning, and (iv) a mathematics teacher development continuum. Capitalizing on successful preliminary efforts in the Denver Metro area to refine a PD intervention and student-adaptive tools that challenge and transform current practices, the project will first validate and test instruments to measure (a) teacher growth toward adaptive pedagogy and (b) students' growth in multiplicative reasoning. Using these new instruments, along with available measures, the project will then promote school-wide teacher professional development (grades 3-5) in multiple schools in an urban district with large underserved student populations and study the professional development benefits for teacher practices and student outcomes. The mixed methods study includes classroom-based data (e.g., video analysis, lesson observations, teacher interviews) and measures of students' multiplicative reasoning specifically and mathematical understanding generally.

Visual Access to Mathematics: Professional Development for Teachers of English Learners

This project addresses a critical need, developing professional development materials to address the teachers of ELLs. The project will create resources to help teachers build ELLs' mathematical proficiency through the design and development of professional development materials building on visual representations (VRs) for mathematical reasoning across a range of mathematical topics.

Award Number: 
1503057
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2015 to Wed, 07/31/2019
Full Description: 

The demands placed on mathematics teachers of all students have increased with the introduction of college and career readiness standards. At the same time, the mathematics achievement of English Language Learners (ELLs) lags behind that of their peers. This project addresses a critical need, developing professional development materials to address the teachers of ELLs. The project will create resources to help teachers build ELLs' mathematical proficiency through the design and development of professional development materials building on visual representations (VRs) for mathematical reasoning across a range of mathematical topics. The project will study how to enhance teachers' pedagogical content knowledge that is critical to fostering ELLs' mathematical problem solving and communication to help support fluency in using VRs among teachers and students. To broaden the participation of students who have traditionally not demonstrated high levels of achievement in mathematics, a critical underpinning to further success in the sciences and engineering, there will need to be greater support for teachers of these students using techniques that have been demonstrated to improve student learning. 

The project will use an iterative design and development process to develop a blended learning model of professional development on using VRs with a 30-hour face-to-face summer institute and sixteen 2-hour online learning sessions. Teachers and teacher-leaders will help support the development of the professional development materials. A cluster randomized control trial will study the piloting of the materials and their impact on teacher outcomes. Thirty middle schools from Massachusetts and Maine serving high numbers of ELLs, with approximately 120 teachers, will be randomly assigned to receive the treatment or control conditions. Using a two-level random intercepts hierarchical linear model, the study will explore the impact of participation in the professional development on teachers' mathematical knowledge for teaching and instructional practice. The pilot study will also explore the feasibility of delivering the professional development model more broadly. It builds on prior work that has shown efficacy in geometry, but expands the work beyond a single area in mathematics. At the same time, they will test the model for feasibility of broad implementation.

The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Designing PD for Math Educators of Students Who are ELs

Presenter(s): Peter Tierney-Fife, Pamela Buffington, Josephine Louie, Jill Neumayer Depiper, & Johannah Nikula

2016 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Visual Access to Mathematics: Supporting Teachers of ELs

Presenter(s): Johannah Nikula, Pam Buffington, Mark Driscoll & Peter Tierney-Fife


Learning Labs: Using Videos, Exemplary STEM Instruction and Online Teacher Collaboration to Enhance K-2 Mathematics and Science Practice and Classroom Discourse

This project will develop and study two sets of instructional materials for K-2 teacher professional development in mathematics and science that are aligned with the CCSS and NGSS. Teachers will be able to review the materials online, watch video of exemplary teaching practice, and then upload their own examples and students' work to be critiqued by other teachers enrolled in professional learning communities as well as expert coaches.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1417757
Funding Period: 
Wed, 04/15/2015 to Sat, 03/31/2018
Full Description: 

The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. The investigators of this study propose to develop and study two sets of instructional materials for K-2 teacher professional development in mathematics and science that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CCSS) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). They will develop two modules in each subject area and an introductory module that prefaces and integrates the science and mathematics materials. Teachers will be able to review the materials online, watch video of exemplary teaching practice, and then upload their own examples and students' work to be critiqued by other teachers enrolled in professional learning communities as well as expert coaches. New instructional materials aligned with the standards are needed to assist teachers in meeting the challenging instructional practices recommended. To date, scant few resources of this type exist and, given many school districts have limited resources, more cost-effective forms of development such as this must be found. A particular strength of this project is that teachers will be able to engage in the courses online, on an ongoing basis and integrate what they have learned into their daily teaching practice.

The investigators propose a program of design research to develop and improve the modules. The central hypothesis is a test of the Teaching Channel model--that the modules and professional learning communities result in significant changes in the quality of instructional practice. Text analytics will be performed on the online discussion to detect changes in group discourse over time. Changes in instructional quality and vision will be measured by observing the videos posted by teachers. Pre-post tests of student work will be performed. The findings of the research will be disseminated through conference presentations, publications, and the Teaching Channel website.

An Efficacy Study of the Learning and Teaching Geometry PD Materials: Examining Impact and Context-Based Adaptations

This study will examine the impact of the Learning and Teaching Geometry (LTG) professional development for secondary mathematics teachers on the teachers' knowledge and classroom instruction, as well as on their students' learning. As the nation invests vast resources in the professional development of teachers to meet new curriculum and instruction challenges, exploring the efficacy of professional development is important to understand how best to direct those resources.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1503399
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2015 to Sun, 06/30/2019
Full Description: 

The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. There are few examples of research that demonstrates causal impacts of professional development on teachers' knowledge and practice and student learning. This study will examine the impact of the Learning and Teaching Geometry (LTG) professional development for secondary mathematics teachers on the teachers' knowledge and classroom instruction, as well as on their students' learning. As the nation invests vast resources in the professional development of teachers to meet new curriculum and instruction challenges, exploring the efficacy of professional development is important to understand how best to direct those resources.

Using a cluster randomized design, the project will sample from 132 teachers (66 per condition) from 28 middle and high schools to participate in a 2-year implementation of the LTG professional development, facilitated by highly trained facilitators to study the efficacy of the materials. The project will monitor the fiedity of implementation of the LTG using a professional development session logging tool and Facilitator Interview Protocol. Outcome measures include measures of teacher knowledge, teaching practice, and student learning of geometry. Analyses will include two- and three-level hierarchical linear models to estimate the effects of participation in the LTG professional development and growth over time.

STEM Practice-Rich Investigations for NGSS Teaching (SPRINT)

This is an exploratory project that will research and develop resources and a model for professional learning needed to meet the demand of implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The Exploratorium Teacher Institute will engage middle school science teachers in a one-year professional learning program to study how familiar routines and classroom tools, specifically hands-on science activities, can serve as starting points for teacher learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1503153
Funding Period: 
Mon, 06/01/2015 to Wed, 05/31/2017
Full Description: 

The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

STEM Practice-rich Investigations for NGSS Teaching (SPRINT) is an exploratory project that will research and develop resources and a model for professional learning needed to meet the demand of implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The Exploratorium Teacher Institute will engage middle school science teachers in a one-year professional learning program to study how familiar routines and classroom tools, specifically hands-on science activities, can serve as starting points for teacher learning. The Teacher Institute will use existing hands-on activities as the basis for developing "practice-rich investigations" that provide teachers and students with opportunities for deep engagement with science and engineering practices. The results of this project will include: (1) empirical evidence from professional learning experiences that support teacher uptake of practice-rich investigations in workshops and their classrooms; (2) a portfolio of STEM practice-rich investigations developed from existing hands-on activities that are shown to enhance teacher understanding of NGSS; and (3) a design tool that supports teachers in modifying existing activities to align with NGSS.

SPRINT conjectures that to address the immediate challenge of supporting teachers to implement NGSS, professional learning models should engage teachers in the same active learning experiences they are expected to provide for their students and that building on teachers' existing strengths and understanding through an asset-based approach could lead to a more sustainable implementation. SPRINT will use design-based research methods to study (a) how creating NGSS-aligned, practice-rich investigations from teachers' existing resources provides them with experiences for three-dimensional science learning and (b) how engaging in these investigations and reflecting on classroom practice can support teachers in understanding and implementing NGSS learning experiences.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Immersed in Phenomena: Helping Teachers Transition to NGSS

Presenter(s): Julie Yu, Sara Heredia, & Jessica Parker


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