Teacher Content Knowledge

Building High School Students’ Understanding of Evolution through Collection and Analysis of Data, Evidence-based Arguments, and an Understanding of Heredity

This project will address widespread misunderstandings related to evolution by developing and testing a new high school curriculum unit and assessment measures focusing on biological evolution.  The new curriculum will integrate the three dimensions of the Next Generation Science Standards, the Common Core Mathematics standards on reasoning abstractly and quantitatively, and an English Language Arts standard for writing arguments focused on discipline-specific content. 

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1418136
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

Understanding evolution is fundamental to understanding contemporary biology, but many students do not understand the core ideas of evolutionary theory. Students misinterpret phylogenetic trees, they misunderstand fundamental concepts of common ancestry, and they have a poor grasp of evolutionary time. This project will address widespread misunderstandings related to evolution by developing and testing a new high school curriculum unit and assessment measures focusing on biological evolution. The University of Utah Genetic Science Learning Center and the American Association for the Advancement of Science are collaborating to develop a curriculum unit that models integration of the three dimensions of the Next Generation Science Standards: disciplinary core ideas, science practices, and crosscutting concepts. The new curriculum will also integrate Common Core Mathematics standards on reasoning abstractly and quantitatively, and an English Language Arts standard for writing arguments focused on discipline-specific content. This project builds on a previously funded NSF project that developed and tested six prototype lessons on natural selection. In classroom enactments the lessons showed preliminary promise for significantly increasing student understanding of natural selection and decreasing their misconceptions about natural selection and statistics.

This research and development project is based on the hypothesis that students will better understand the disciplinary core ideas about biological evolution when curriculum materials and instruction have certain identified features and when professional development experiences prepare teachers to use those materials and instructional practices. The research questions and research plan are designed to test this hypothesis using a randomized controlled trial design that allows for iterative rounds of refinement. The study will engage 20 teachers of grades 9-10 biology from across the U.S. who teach a diversity of students. To conduct the research, the project will develop measures of student understanding and a measure of teacher content knowledge. A measure of evidence-based evolution argumentation will also be developed for use with teachers and students.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Evolution: DNA and the Unity of Life

Presenter(s): Louisa Stark, Dina Drits-Esser, Sheila Homburger, & Molly Malone


Centers for Learning and Teaching: Research to Identify Changes in Mathematics Education Doctoral Preparation and the Production of New Doctorates

This project will research the programmatic changes that resulted from the NSF investment in Centers for Learning and Teaching of Mathematics (CLT) at the 31 participating institutions. It will provide information on the core elements of doctoral preparation in mathematics education at the institutions and ways in which participation in the CLTs has changed their programs.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1434442
Funding Period: 
Fri, 08/01/2014 to Tue, 07/31/2018
Full Description: 

The quality of the mathematical education provided to teachers and ultimately to their students depends on the quality of teacher educators at the colleges and universities. For several decades, there has been a shortage of well-prepared mathematics teacher educators. Doctoral programs in mathematics education are the primary ways that these teacher educators learn the content and methods that they need to prepare teachers, but the quality of these programs varies and the number of qualified graduates has been insufficient to meet the demand.

This project will research the programmatic changes that resulted from the NSF investment in Centers for Learning and Teaching of Mathematics (CLT) at the 31 participating institutions. It will provide information on the core elements of doctoral preparation in mathematics education at the institutions and ways in which participation in the CLTs has changed their programs. It will also gather data on the number of doctorates in mathematics education from the CLT institutions prior to the establishment of the CLT and after their CLT ended. A comparison group of Doctoral granting institutions will be studied over the same time frame to determine the number of doctoral students graduated during similar time frames as the CLTs. Follow-up data from graduates of the CLTs will be gathered to identify programmatic strengths and weaknesses as graduates will be asked to reflect on how their doctoral preparation aligned with their current career path. The research questions are: What were the effects of CLTs on the production of new doctorates in mathematics education? What changes were made to doctoral programs in mathematics education by the CLT institutions? How well prepared were the CLT graduates for various career paths?

Climate Change Narrative Game Education (CHANGE)

This exploratory project helps high school students learn complex Global Climate Change (GCC) science by making it personally relevant and understandable. CHANGE creates a prototype curriculum, and integrates it into elective Marine Sciences high school courses. Research will examine the project's impact on student learning of climate science, student attitude toward science, and teacher instruction of climate science.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316782
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/15/2013 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

This exploratory project helps high school students learn complex Global Climate Change (GCC) science by making it personally relevant and understandable. CHANGE creates a prototype curriculum, and integrates it into elective Marine Sciences high school courses. Research will examine the project's impact on student learning of climate science, student attitude toward science, and teacher instruction of climate science. The goal of this project is to develop a place-based futuristic gaming simulation model that can easily extend to the other locales in other states, based on local climate change effects, local stakeholders, local economic and social effects to motivate the high school students in that area. CHANGE uses: (a) scientifically realistic text narratives about future Florida residents (text stories with local Florida characters, many years in the future based on GCC), (b) local, place-based approach grounded in west-central Florida Gulf Coast using scientific data, (c) a focus on the built environment, (d) simulations & games based on scientific data to help students learn principles of GCC so students can experience and try to cope with the potential long term effect of GCC via role-play and science-based simulation, and (e) a web-based eBook narrative where sections of narrative text alternate with simulations/computer games. The proposed project will work with 25 high school Marine Science teachers in 25 schools in Hillsborough County, Florida. The project delivers new research for instructional technologists and serious game developers regarding effective interface and usability design of intermedia narrative gaming-simulations for education.

This project employs and researches innovative models for delivering high school GCC education. GCC is a complex topic involving numerous factors and uncertainties making teaching this extremely important topic very difficult. The pioneering techniques proposed for this project will advance science education of GCC. It also will deliver new research for instructional technologists and serious game developers regarding effective interface and usability design of intermedia narrative gaming-simulations for education. Effective education is probably the most crucial part in our ability to cope with climate change. CHANGE will educate underserved low SES and minority high school students in Hillsborough County, and later elsewhere, with a model making GCC personally relevant to them.

Integrating Quality Talk Professional Development to Enhance Professional Vision and Leadership for STEM Teachers in High-Need Schools

This project expands and augments a currently-funded NSF Noyce Track II teacher recruitment and retention grant with Quality Talk (QT), an innovative, scalable teacher-facilitated discourse model. Over the course of four years, the work will address critical needs in physics and chemistry education in 10th through 12th grade classrooms by strengthening the capacity of participating teachers to design and implement lessons that support effective dialogic interactions.

Award Number: 
1316347
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/15/2013 to Fri, 06/30/2017
Full Description: 

This project expands and augments a currently-funded NSF Noyce Track II teacher recruitment and retention grant with Quality Talk (QT), an innovative, scalable teacher-facilitated discourse model. It is hypothesized that the QT model will enhance pre- and in-service secondary teachers' development of professional vision and leadership skills necessary for 21st century STEM education. Over the course of four years, the work will address critical needs in physics and chemistry education in 10th through 12th grade classrooms in five of Georgia's high-need school districts by strengthening the capacity of participating teachers to design and implement lessons that support effective dialogic interactions. As a result of such interactions, students' scientific literacy will be enhanced, including their ability to participate in content-rich discourse (i.e., QT) through effective disciplinary critical-analytic thinking and epistemic cognition. The contributions of this project, beyond the tangible benefits for teacher and student participants, include the development, refinement, and dissemination of an effective QT intervention and professional developmental framework that the entire science education community can use to promote scientific literacy and understanding.

The project goals are being achieved through a series of three studies employing complementary methods and data sources, and a focus upon dissemination of the model in the final project year. The first two years of the project focus on developing and refining the curricular and intervention efficacy materials using design-based research methods. In Year 3, the project engages in a quasi-experimental study of the refined QT model, followed by further refinements before disseminating the materials both within Georgia and throughout the national science education community in Year 4. Quantitative measures of teacher and student discourse and knowledge, as well as video-coding and qualitative investigations of intervention efficacy, are being analyzed using multiple methods. In collaboration with, but independent from project staff and stakeholders, the participatory and responsive evaluation utilizes a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods to conduct formative and summative evaluation.

Over the course of four years, the project will involve the participation of approximately 32 teachers in Georgia whose students include substantive percentages from populations underrepresented in the STEM fields. In addition to advancing their own students' scientific literacy, these participating teachers receive professional development on how to train other teachers, outside of the project, in using QT to promote scientific literacy. Further, the project will conduct a QT Summit for educational stakeholders and non-participant teachers to disseminate the intervention and professional development model. Finally, the project team will disseminate the findings widely to applied and scholarly communities through a website with materials and PD information (http://www.qualitytalk.org), professional journals, conferences, and NSF's DRK-12 Resource Network. This project, with its focus on teacher leadership and the pedagogical content knowledge necessary to use discourse to promote student science literacy, significantly advances the nation's goals of producing critical consumers and producers of scientific knowledge.

Every Day, Every Child: A Partnership for Research with Elementary Math and Science Instructional Specialists

This exploratory project is studying the use of mathematics and science specialist teachers in elementary schools. The first four studies are in six school districts in Washington State. They are characterizing and categorizing the specialists, investigating the content knowledge, preparation and needs of these teachers, determining their instructional effectiveness, and determining their impact on student learning and attitudes towards mathematics and science.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316520
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/15/2013 to Mon, 02/29/2016
Full Description: 

This exploratory project is studying the use of mathematics and science specialist teachers in elementary schools. The first four studies are in six school districts in Washington State. They are characterizing and categorizing the specialists, investigating the content knowledge, preparation and needs of these teachers, determining their instructional effectiveness, and determining their impact on student learning and attitudes towards mathematics and science. The project is recruiting 25 specialists in math and 15 in science and comparing them with equal numbers of matched non-specialist teachers. The fifth study is conducting a survey of state educational agencies to determine the types of specialist teaching models being used and how they are funded. The project is directed by Western Washington University in partnership with the Mathematics Education Collaboration.

The project is creating interview protocols for teachers and administrators, and utilizing Learning Math for Teaching (University of Michigan) and Assessing Teacher Learning About Science Teaching (ATLAST-Horizon Research). Classroom observations are being conducted using the Reformed Teaching Observational Protocol (RTOP-Arizona State University). Student measures include the Washington State Measures of Student Progress in math and science, an instrument to be created using items released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the Attitudes Towards Math Inventory, and the Modified Attitudes Towards Science Inventory.

Project research results are being disseminated in mathematics and science educational journals and conference presentations and are being posted on the project website. Findings are be shared with the Educational Service Districts in Washington State and other State agencies, as well as the National Educational Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

QuEST: Quality Elementary Science Teaching

This project is examining an innovative model of situated Professional Development (PD) and the contribution of controlled teaching experiences to teacher learning and, as a result, to student learning. The project is carrying out intensive research about an existing special PD summer institute (QuEST) that has been in existence for more than five years through a state Improving Teacher Quality Grants program.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316683
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/15/2013 to Mon, 07/31/2017
Full Description: 

The University of Missouri-Columbia is examining an innovative model of situated Professional Development (PD) and the contribution of controlled teaching experiences to teacher learning and, as a result, to student learning. The project is carrying out intensive research about an existing special PD summer institute (QuEST) that has been in existence for more than five years through a state Improving Teacher Quality Grants program. The project will do the following: (1) undertake more in-depth and targeted research to better understand the efficacy of the PD model and impacts on student learning; (2) develop and field test resources from the project that can produce broader impacts; and (3) explore potential scale-up of the model for diverse audiences. The overarching goals of the project are: (a) Implement a high-quality situated PD model for K-6 teachers in science; (b) Conduct a comprehensive and rigorous program of research to study the impacts of this model on teacher and student learning; and (c) Disseminate project outcomes to a variety of stakeholders to produce broader impacts. A comparison of two groups of teachers will be done. Both groups will experience a content (physics) and pedagogy learning experience during one week in the summer. During a second week, one group will experience "controlled teaching" of elementary students, while the other group will not. Teacher and student gains will be measured using a quantitative and qualitative, mixed-methods design.

Investigating Simulations of Teaching Practice: Assessing Readiness to Teach Elementary Mathematics

The PI of this project argues cogently that assessment of pre-service teacher preparedness to teach is based on a flawed model. The goal then is to use a simulation model from other professional arenas: the training of doctors, nurses, etc., to offer new insights and control for the many variables that come to play when conducting evaluations in practice.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316571
Funding Period: 
Tue, 10/01/2013 to Wed, 09/30/2015
Full Description: 

The PI argues cogently that assessment of pre-service teacher preparedness to teach is based on a flawed model. The goal then is to use a simulation model from other professional arenas: the training of doctors, nurses, etc., to offer new insights and control for the many variables that come to play when conducting evaluations in practice. These might include classroom context, the difficulty of the mathematics being deployed, etc. To do this the PI will develop three assessments that vary in the simulation scenario. In the context of developing and validating these assessments, the PI will examine:

1. What do we learn about the nature of pre-service teachers skills at eliciting and interpreting students thinking and their mathematical knowledge for teaching (MKT) in use through assessments that simulate teaching practice? How does their performance correspond with eliciting and interpreting students mathematical thinking in classroom contexts?

2. How does the nature of pre-service teachers skills at eliciting and interpreting students thinking and mathematical knowledge vary in relation to different simulation scenarios? Are some simulation scenarios easier than other simulation scenarios?

3. What are the challenges of designing alternative versions of a particular simulation assessment?

Engineering for All (EfA)

This project creates, tests and revises two-six week prototypical modules for middle school technology education classes, using the unifying themes and important social contexts of food and water. The modules employ engineering design as the core pedagogy and integrate content and practices from the standards for college and career readiness.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316601
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/15/2013 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

The Engineering for All project creates, tests and revises two-six week prototypical modules for middle school technology education classes, using the unifying themes and important social contexts of food and water. The modules employ engineering design as the core pedagogy and integrate content and practices from the standards for college and career readiness. Embedded assessments are developed and tested to make student learning visible to both teachers and students. Professional development for a limited group of teachers is used to increase their knowledge of engineering design and to test instruments being developed to measure (a) student and teacher capacity to employ informed design practices and (b) teacher design pedagogical content knowledge.

The project leadership is experienced at creating materials for engineering and technology and in providing professional development for teachers. The assessments and instruments are created by educational researchers. The advisory board includes engineers, science and engineering educators, and educational researchers to guide the development of the modules, the assessments and the instruments. An external evaluator reviews the protocols and their implementation.

This project has the potential to provide exemplary materials and assessments for engineering/technology education that address standards, change teacher practice, and increase the capacity of the engineering/technology education community to do research.

Misconceptions Oriented Standards-Based Assessment Resource for Teachers of High School Life Science (MOSART HSLS)

This project is developing and validating an assessment instrument that addresses the life sciences for students and teachers in grades 9 through 12 based on the Misconception Oriented Standards-based Assessment Resource for Teachers (MOSART).

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316645
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2013 to Thu, 08/31/2017
Full Description: 

Researchers in the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics are developing and validating an assessment instrument that addresses the life sciences for students and teachers in grades 9 through 12 based on the Misconception Oriented Standards-based Assessment Resource for Teachers (MOSART). The project is developing 400 new test items that are based on core content domains for life science and are aligning these items with the previous National Science Education Standards to provide a connection to the earlier MOSART assessments. The project is also developing and validating two test instruments that address the cross cutting concepts of energy and matter for grades K-12, with a specific focus on flows, cycles and conservation. The new assessments will be made available to other researchers and practitioner through the project website and their on-line assessment system.

The assessment development is based on the process used in prior work that has produced the other MOSART instruments, including design efforts of assessment specialists, teachers, and learning scientists. Pilot items are tested through crowd-sourcing with online adult test takers. Classic test theory techniques, item response theory and Bayesian techniques model the student responses. Outcomes consist of item parameters, test and sub-test characteristics, and predictive linkages among items. A stratified, nationally representative sample of 250 high school biology teachers field test the items with classrooms of students. Descriptive statistics are generated to establish the state of student knowledge, pre-and post-test performance by item and by standard, and teacher knowledge, including the fraction of items for which teachers have correctly identified the most popular wrong answer. Descriptive analyses are followed by hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) of students within classrooms to examine the relationships between student and teacher knowledge. The dependent variables in HLM are student gain scores. Independent variables include teachers' knowledge, and student performance on grade K-8 assessments.

The MOSART instruments have been a strong line of assessment tools that are based on a model of cognition with a strong research base in misconceptions in science education. That research base is only slowly being augmented with a more coherent framework on learning progressions in STEM education, and the MOSART instruments will have the potential for extensive use for the foreseeable future. The grades 9-12 life science instrument based on coupling core ideas with science and engineering practices addresses the gaps in the current MOSART system of assessments. Given the rich literature on misconceptions in life science and the ubiquity of life science as a course at the high school level, the instrument promises to be as useful as the one for K-8 developed with MSP RETA funding. The new instruments on cross-cutting concepts provides a much needed set of assessments for researchers and practitioners, particularly teacher professional development providers. The transition to coupling core content and sciences practices with both the life sciences and the cross-cutting concepts is an opportunity to expand and update the suite of instruments.

Undergraduate Biology Education Research Program

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

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

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

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

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

Pages

Subscribe to Teacher Content Knowledge