STEM Practices

Teaching Science Outdoors: A Next Generation Approach for Advancing Elementary Science Teaching in Urban Communities

This project project is designed to enhance the capacity of elementary teachers in high-poverty urban communities for enacting Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned science approaches using the outdoors as part of their classroom. The goal of the project is to advance elementary teachers' pedagogical practices and determine how this affects cognitive and non-cognitive learning outcomes of their students, particularly those who are traditionally marginalized in science classrooms.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907506
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Project Evaluator: 
Full Description: 

This project addresses a long-standing challenge in science education centered on providing meaningful science education opportunities to students living in communities of high poverty and attending under-resourced elementary schools. These students are significantly less likely to receive high-quality science learning opportunities and to be encouraged to engage in (rather than simply learn about) science. This Michigan State University research project is designed to enhance the capacity of elementary teachers in high-poverty urban communities for enacting Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned science approaches using the outdoors as part of their classroom. It builds on and advances prior outdoor education work for the current context of science education that requires elementary teachers to engage students in making sense of phenomena using next generation science and engineering practices. The goal of this project is to advance elementary teachers' pedagogical practices and determine how this affects cognitive and non-cognitive learning outcomes of their students, particularly those who are traditionally marginalized in science classrooms. It also will advance knowledge on ways to bridge informal and formal learning environments. To achieve these goals, the project will develop, enact and study a program that involves a scaffolded series of summer professional development sessions focused on outdoor learning and school year follow-up meetings and classroom-based coaching for elementary teachers and informal educators from two high-need districts.

Design-based research will be utilized to: 1) foster teacher practices and study how these develop over time, 2) work with teachers to measure student outcomes, and 3) determine what aspects of this formal/informal approach are productive, measures of student engagement and student learning artifacts--will be analyzed. The project will serve as a model for developing partnerships between informal science organizations, educators, and K-12 programs. Revised measures and outcomes of teacher practices and student learning; outdoor-focused lesson plans; cases illustrating how elementary teachers develop and enact NGSS-aligned outdoor lessons; a revised informal-formal theoretical model; and information about dissemination of products including facilitation guidelines and coaching approaches will be developed and disseminated.

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Strengthening Middle School Mathematical Argumentation through Teacher Coaching: Bridging from Professional Development to Classroom Practice

This project is a professional learning experience for middle school teachers to support them in developing five mathematical practices in their teaching focused on mathematical argumentation - creating mathematical arguments, using appropriate tools strategically, looking for and make use of structure, attending to precision, and looking for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907561
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

The Bridging Professional Development project is a professional learning experience for middle school teachers to support them in developing five mathematical practices in their teaching focused on mathematical argumentation. These practices are: create mathematical arguments, use appropriate tools strategically, look for and make use of structure, attend to precision, and look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning. Mathematics argumentation is an important component of complex problem solving and supporting students in understanding the why, not just the how, of mathematics. The professional development intervention consists of summer workshop focused on approximations of teaching practice, and coaching during the school year. The coaching component includes face-to-face coaching and a video-based tool that allows teachers and coaches to engage with records of classroom interactions. The project expands the successful Bridging professional development work by adding four additional mathematical practices that relate to argumentation, adding the coaching component, collecting data on students' equitable participation in classroom discussions, and piloting an impact study to determine whether the professional development that includes coaching leads to improved mathematics teaching and learning, and the mechanisms by which that hypothesized improvement occurs.

The Bridging series of professional development projects are built on a theoretical framework that begins with providing teachers with opportunities to engage in meaningful mathematics teaching practices, identify teaching moves that would support students in learning those practices, and to try out those moves with other teachers in approximations of teaching practice. The outcomes of such activity are increased teacher knowledge that can be mobilized in the planning and enactment of lessons, and improved pedagogical moves in the classroom. This in turn is likely to lead to increased student engagement and mathematics achievement. In this award, Bridging adds cycles of coaching to support teachers in translating lessons learned from approximations of practice to the work in their classrooms with students, and to provide ongoing school-year support for implementation. The research components of the project focus on understanding the practice of the coaches, including the design and deployment of coaching training and coaching sessions, as it relates to teachers' abilities to foster stronger student engagement in mathematical practices. The project will recruit 25 teachers at middle schools with experienced mathematics coaches to participate, with teachers directed to select a single focus class for data collection. Case studies will be pursued with six teachers and three coaches that represent diverse backgrounds, experiences, and levels of prior knowledge. Video records of coaching training and sessions will be collected and analyzed, along with lessons plans and teacher-enacted lessons, to determine the influence of the coaching on practice. The study will also investigate the ways in which teacher engagement in the professional developments leads to changes in teacher practice and student outcomes. Video records of practice, written lesson plans, student work, and interviews will be collected and analyzed to determine the impact on teaching practice. Teachers' mathematical knowledge for teaching will also be assessed at key points in the project to assess teacher learning, and student standardized assessment scores and performance assessment outcomes will be collected to assess student learning.

Streams of Data: Nurturing Data Literacy in Young Science Learners (Collaborative Research: Kochevar)

This project will develop an approach to support fourth grade students' data literacy with complex, large-scale, professionally collected data sets. The work will focus on analytical thinking as a subset of data literacy, specifically evaluating and interpreting data. The project will teach students about working with geoscience data, which connect to observable, familiar aspects of the natural world and align with Earth science curriculum standards.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1906264
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Full Description: 

These skills are essential for working with scientific data sets, but educators know very little about how to prepare students for the issues involved in making appropriate inferences from data. The need is compounded by the fact that studies that exist have worked with data sets that students themselves collected, whereas the many electronic data sets, proliferating in the public domain, pose different challenges. This project will develop an approach to support fourth grade students' data literacy with complex, large-scale, professionally collected data sets. The work will focus on analytical thinking as a subset of data literacy, specifically evaluating and interpreting data. The project will teach students about working with geoscience data, which connect to observable, familiar aspects of the natural world and align with Earth science curriculum standards. An interdisciplinary team of educators, researchers, and scientists from the Oceans of Data Institute at Educational Development Center and the American Geological Institute will (1) conduct baseline research to understand students' natural affinities for understanding inference from complex data and phenomena; (2) develop and test scaffolding activities that leverage students' intellectual assets and minimize barriers to analytical thinking with professionally collected data; and (3) examine the degree to which the resulting activities support students to do productive work with professionally collected data. In developing an instructional approach, the project informs generally how professionally collected, scientific data can be used to support elementary students to develop data literacy skills.

Hypothesizing that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education generally can benefit from the instructional use of complex, large, interactive, and professionally-collected (CLIP) data sets (e.g., related to precipitation, stream flow, and groundwater levels), this study will explore approaches to integrating those data into fourth grade classroom instruction. The research is based on a premise that students who engage with CLIP data early in their classroom STEM experiences will develop skills and attitudes that promote meaningful analyses of those data earlier than if that exposure is delayed until secondary courses. The project will use a three-phase iterative design that will unfold in three urban and suburban school districts in Virginia and Maryland. Phase one will focus on creating a baseline of the reasoning students employ when making inferences from data. It will involve 45 students from grades 3-5 in targeted interviews, which will be recorded, transcribed and analyzed. Phases two and three will focus on design and development in grade 4. Phase two will develop and test activities through an iterative design plan that employs a semi-clinical method with small groups of students. Phase three will implement the activities that result from that process in six classrooms across three districts with approximately 150 students. A scoring rubric that captures student learning will be constructed in phase two and used to measure impacts of the field testing in phase three. Observations and interviews will also be conducted at field sites to understand what students learn about analytical thinking from the activities.

Reasoning Language for Teaching Secondary Algebra

This project proposes to study the teaching and learning of algebra in grades 7-9, with a specific focus on the ways in which classroom language explicitly describes properties of and relationships among algebraic objects. The project seeks to investigate the bi-directional relationship between reasoning-rich algebraic discourse and the mathematical meanings students hold for core algebraic concepts such as equations, the equation-solving process, and functions.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
1908825
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2019 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Project Evaluator: 
Full Description: 

Decades of research have demonstrated that stronger mathematics classroom discourse, along with the use and connection of multiple mathematical representations, correlates positively with gains in student learning. This relationship is particularly salient in algebra, where diversifying the representations available to students can provide important supports for the development of conceptual understanding. The Reasoning Language for Teaching Secondary Algebra (ReLaTe-SA) project proposes to study the teaching and learning of algebra in grades 7-9, with a specific focus on the ways in which classroom language explicitly describes properties of and relationships among algebraic objects. The project seeks to investigate the bi-directional relationship between reasoning-rich algebraic discourse and the mathematical meanings students hold for core algebraic concepts such as equations, the equation-solving process, and functions. With a focus on the teacher, ReLaTe-SA will analyze classroom narratives about algebraic concepts and procedures and provide an 80-hour professional development program designed to support teachers in developing stronger explanations of algebraic objects, their properties, and their relationships.

The ReLaTe-SA project will investigate three aspects of teacher discourse practice related to algebra. First, the project will study the discourse and discourse routines that teachers use to explain algebraic objects, their properties, and their relationships. This will be accomplished through the development and deployment of an assessment called the Survey of Algebraic Language and Reasoning to identify teachers' discursive routines and narratives in the context of algebra. The instrument asks teachers to interpret student work and explanations by describing the student's mathematical reasoning and underlying mathematical understandings. Second, the project will support potential growth in teachers' algebraic discourse practices through an 80-hour professional development intervention focused on discourse in algebra. The impact of this intervention will be measured by changes to teachers' response patterns on the Survey of Algebraic Language and Reasoning, analyses of teachers' work within the professional development, and the analysis of classroom observations after the professional development has concluded. Third, the project will seek to understand the ways in which teachers develop lessons that explicitly focus on the development of students' algebraic reasoning and discourse. This goal will be realized through analyses of the tasks, plans, and implementations of mathematics lessons in participating teachers' classrooms. Three cohorts of 12 teachers each will be recruited for the project. Based on the results of this exploratory project, the team intends to follow up with a larger-scale study of the professional development and its impact on the teaching and learning of algebra.

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Professional Development for Teaching and Learning about Energy and Equity in High School Physics (Collaborative Research: Scherr)

This project will research and develop instructional materials and conduct professional development for teachers to help students understand energy flow. The project will create a model for secondary science teacher professional development that integrates science concepts with equity education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907815
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

This project will research and develop instructional materials and conduct professional development for teachers to help students understand energy flow, an important scientific concept with economic and social implications. This energy learning is the foundation for informed decision-making about sustainable and just use of energy resources. Energy issues are not only issues of science and technology, but must be integrated with civics, history, economics, sociology, psychology, and politics to understand and solve modern energy problems. Placing the scientific concept of energy in this social context presents an opportunity to advance science education as equitable and culturally responsive.

This project will create a model for secondary science teacher professional development that integrates science concepts with equity education. This model promotes a key epistemological issue: that science concepts are not culture-free or socially neutral ideas, but rather are concepts created and sustained by people in specific times and places for the purposes of (1) addressing specific social needs and (2) empowering people or groups of people. The two major components of the project are (1) the professional development experience, including both an intensive in-person summer workshop and an online professional learning community, and (2)an energy and equity portal, including an instructional materials library, an action research exchange, and a community forum for teacher discussions. The portal will provide technical resources to support the PLC, including support for sharing instructional materials and reporting on action research. The research plan includes exploratory, development and application phases. The researchers will identify teacher learning in the first iteration of PD, collect and analyze the instructional artifacts to inform how teacher engage with, participate in, and build an understanding energy as a historically and politically situated science concept. A team of scholar-videographers will observe, taking real-time field notes and making daily memos. The research team will use the instructional artifacts, video recordings, field notes, and memos as a basis for analysis through the next academic year. The result will be a nationally significant community of teacher-leaders and library of research-tested instructional materials that are responsive to students' scientific ideas, relevant to socio-political concerns about energy sustainability, respectful of students' cultures, and open to all students no matter their cultural background. Teachers participating in the project will learn to explain how scientific concepts of energy reflect culturally specific values, analyze socio-politically relevant energy scenarios, learn the historic and present-day inequities in the energy industry and in science participation, and be supported in preparing instruction for secondary students that is culturally responsive and relevant to their students' communities.

Professional Development for Teaching and Learning about Energy and Equity in High School Physics (Collaborative Research: Mason)

This project will research and develop instructional materials and conduct professional development for teachers to help students understand energy flow. The project will create a model for secondary science teacher professional development that integrates science concepts with equity education.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907950
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

This project will research and develop instructional materials and conduct professional development for teachers to help students understand energy flow, an important scientific concept with economic and social implications. This energy learning is the foundation for informed decision-making about sustainable and just use of energy resources. Energy issues are not only issues of science and technology, but must be integrated with civics, history, economics, sociology, psychology, and politics to understand and solve modern energy problems. Placing the scientific concept of energy in this social context presents an opportunity to advance science education as equitable and culturally responsive.

This project will create a model for secondary science teacher professional development that integrates science concepts with equity education. This model promotes a key epistemological issue: that science concepts are not culture-free or socially neutral ideas, but rather are concepts created and sustained by people in specific times and places for the purposes of (1) addressing specific social needs and (2) empowering people or groups of people. The two major components of the project are (1) the professional development experience, including both an intensive in-person summer workshop and an online professional learning community, and (2)an energy and equity portal, including an instructional materials library, an action research exchange, and a community forum for teacher discussions. The portal will provide technical resources to support the PLC, including support for sharing instructional materials and reporting on action research. The research plan includes exploratory, development and application phases. The researchers will identify teacher learning in the first iteration of PD, collect and analyze the instructional artifacts to inform how teacher engage with, participate in, and build an understanding energy as a historically and politically situated science concept. A team of scholar-videographers will observe, taking real-time field notes and making daily memos. The research team will use the instructional artifacts, video recordings, field notes, and memos as a basis for analysis through the next academic year. The result will be a nationally significant community of teacher-leaders and library of research-tested instructional materials that are responsive to students' scientific ideas, relevant to socio-political concerns about energy sustainability, respectful of students' cultures, and open to all students no matter their cultural background. Teachers participating in the project will learn to explain how scientific concepts of energy reflect culturally specific values, analyze socio-politically relevant energy scenarios, learn the historic and present-day inequities in the energy industry and in science participation, and be supported in preparing instruction for secondary students that is culturally responsive and relevant to their students' communities.

CAREER: Expanding Latinxs' Opportunities to Develop Complex Thinking in Secondary Science Classrooms through a Research-Practice Partnership

This project will address the need to educate teachers and students to engage in asking questions, collecting and interpreting data, making claims, and constructing explanations about real-world problems that matter to them. The study will explore ways to enhance youths' learning experiences in secondary school classrooms (grades 6-12) by building a sustainable partnership between researchers and practitioners.

Award Number: 
1846227
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Sun, 06/30/2024
Full Description: 

This project will address the need to educate teachers and students to engage in asking questions, collecting and interpreting data, making claims, and constructing explanations about real-world problems that matter to them. Science educators generally agree that science classrooms should provide opportunities for students to advance their thinking by engaging in critical conversations with each other as capable sense-makers. Despite decades of reform efforts and the use of experiential activities in science instruction, research indicates that classroom learning for students remains largely procedural, undemanding, and disconnected from the development of substantive scientific ideas. Furthermore, access to high-quality science instruction that promotes such complex thinking is scarce for students with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The project goals will be: (1) To design a year-long teacher professional development program; and (2) To study the extent to which the professional development model improves teachers' capacity to plan and implement inclusive science curricula.

This study will explore ways to enhance youths' learning experiences in secondary school classrooms (grades 6-12) by building a sustainable partnership between researchers and practitioners. The work will build on a previous similar activity with one local high school; plans are to expand the existing study to an entire school district over five years. The proposed work will be conducted in three phases. During Phase I, the study will develop a conceptual framework focused on inclusive science curricula, and implement the new teacher professional development program in 3 high schools with 15 science teachers. Phase II will expand to 6 middle schools in the school district with 24 teachers aimed at creating a continuous and sustainable research-practice partnership approach at the district. Phase III will focus on data analysis, assessment of partnership activities, dissemination, and planning a research agenda for the immediate future. The study will address three research questions: (1) Whether and to what extent does participating teachers' capacity of planning and implementing the curriculum improve over time; (2) How and why do teachers show differential progress individually and collectively?; and (3) What opportunities and constraints within schools and the school district shape teachers' development of their capacity to design and implement curricula? To address the research questions, the project will gather information about the quality of planned and implemented curriculum using both qualitative and quantitative data. Main project's outcomes will be: (1) a framework that guides teachers' engagement in planning and implementing inclusive science curricula; and (2) increased knowledge base on teacher learning. An advisory board will oversee the work in progress. An external evaluator will provide formative and summative feedback.

Teacher Professional Learning to Support Student Motivational Competencies During Science Instruction (Collaborative Research: Marchand)

This project will bring together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and science teachers to identify a set of practices that science teachers can readily incorporate into their planning and instruction. The project will design, develop, and test a research-based professional learning approach to help middle school science teachers effectively support and sustain student motivational competencies during science instruction.

Award Number: 
1812976
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

Science teachers identify fostering student motivation to learn as a pressing need, yet teacher professional learning programs rarely devote time to helping teachers understand and apply motivational principles in their instruction. This project will bring together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and science teachers to identify a set of practices that science teachers can readily incorporate into their planning and instruction. The project will design, develop, and test a research-based professional learning approach to help middle school science teachers effectively support and sustain student motivational competencies during science instruction. The approach will include use of materials addressing student motivational processes and how to support them, evaluation tools to measure student motivational competencies, lesson planning tools, and instruments for teacher self-evaluation. The translation to practice will include recognition of student diversity and consider ways to facilitate context-specific integration of disciplinary and motivational knowledge in practice. The project will focus on middle school science classrooms because this period is an important motivational bridge between elementary and secondary science learning. This project will enhance understanding of teacher pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in that it frames knowledge about supporting motivational competencies in science as PCK rather than general pedagogical knowledge.

This early stage design and development project will iteratively develop and study a model of teacher professional learning that will help middle school science teachers create, modify, and implement instruction that integrates support for students' motivational competencies with the science practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas specified in science curriculum standards. A design-based research approach will be used to develop and test four resources teachers will use to explicitly include attention to student motivational competencies in their lesson planning efforts. The resources will include: 1) educational materials about students' motivational processes with concrete examples of how to support them; 2) easy-to-implement student evaluation tools for teachers to gauge students' motivational competencies; 3) planning tools to incorporate motivational practices into science lesson planning; and 4) instruments for teacher self-evaluation. A collaborative group of educational researchers will partner with science teachers from multiple school districts having diverse student populations to jointly develop the professional learning approach and resources. This project will contribute to systemic change by moving motivational processes from an implicit element of educating students, to an explicit and intentional set of strategies teachers can enact. Research questions will focus on how teachers respond to the newly developed professional learning model, and how students respond to instruction developed through implementing the model.

Supporting Teachers in Responsive Instruction for Developing Expertise in Science (Collaborative Research: Linn)

This project takes advantage of advanced technologies to support science teachers to rapidly respond to diverse student ideas in their classrooms. Students will use web-based curriculum units to engage with models, simulations, and virtual experiments to write multiple explanations for standards-based science topics. The project will also design planning tools for teachers that will make suggestions relevant research-proven instructional strategies based on the real-time analysis of student responses.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813713
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

Many teachers want to adapt their instruction to meet student learning needs, yet lack the time to regularly assess and analyze students' developing understandings. The Supporting Teachers in Responsive Instruction for Developing Expertise in Science (STRIDES) project takes advantage of advanced technologies to support science teachers to rapidly respond to diverse student ideas in their classrooms. In this project students will use web-based curriculum units to engage with models, simulations, and virtual experiments to write multiple explanations for standards-based science topics. Advanced technologies (including natural language processing) will be used to assess students' written responses and summaries their science understanding in real-time. The project will also design planning tools for teachers that will make suggestions relevant research-proven instructional strategies based on the real-time analysis of student responses. Research will examine how teachers make use of the feedback and suggestions to customize their instruction. Further we will study how these instructional changes help students develop coherent understanding of complex science topics and ability to make sense of models and graphs. The findings will be used to refine the tools that analyze the student essays and generate the summaries; improve the research-based instructional suggestions in the planning tool; and strengthen the online interface for teachers. The tools will be incorporated into open-source, freely available online curriculum units. STRIDES will directly benefit up to 30 teachers and 24,000 students from diverse school settings over four years.

Leveraging advances in natural language processing methods, the project will analyze student written explanations to provide fine-grained summaries to teachers about strengths and weaknesses in student work. Based on the linguistic analysis and logs of student navigation, the project will then provide instructional customizations based on learning science research, and study how teachers use them to improve student progress. Researchers will annually conduct at least 10 design or comparison studies, each involving up to 6 teachers and 300-600 students per year. Insights from this research will be captured in automated scoring algorithms, empirically tested and refined customization activities, and data logging techniques that can be used by other research and curriculum design programs to enable teacher customization.

Building Middle School Students' Understanding of Heredity and Evolution

This project will develop and test the impact of heredity and evolution curriculum units for middle school grades that are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The project will advance science teaching by investigating the ways in which two curriculum units can be designed to incorporate science and engineering practices, cross-cutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas, the three dimensions of science learning described by the NGSS. The project will also develop resources to support teachers in implementation of the new modules.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1814194
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project will develop and test the impact of heredity and evolution curriculum units for middle school grades that are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The project will advance science teaching by investigating the ways in which two curriculum units can be designed to incorporate science and engineering practices, cross-cutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas, the three dimensions of science learning described by the NGSS. The project will also develop resources to support teachers in implementation of the new modules. The planned research will also examine whether student understanding of evolution depends on the length and time of exposure to learning about heredity prior to learning about evolution.

This Early Stage Design and Development project will develop two new 3-week middle school curriculum units, with one focusing on heredity and the other focusing on evolution. The units will include embedded formative and summative assessment measures and online teacher support materials. These units will be developed as part of a curriculum learning progression that will eventually span the elementary grades through high school. This curriculum learning progression will integrate heredity, evolution, data analysis, construction of scientific explanations, evidence-based argumentation, pattern recognition, and inferring cause and effect relationships. To inform development and iterative revisions of the units, the project will conduct nation-wide beta and pilot tests, selecting schools with broad ranges of student demographics and geographical locations. The project will include three rounds of testing and revision of both the student curriculum and teacher materials. The project will also investigate student understanding of evolution in terms of how their understanding is impacted by conceptual understanding of heredity. The research to be conducted by this project is organized around three broad research questions: (a) In what ways can two curriculum units be designed to incorporate the three dimensions of science learning and educative teacher supports to guide students' conceptual understanding of heredity and evolution? (b) To what extent does student understanding of evolution depend on the length and timing of heredity lessons that preceded an evolution unit? And (c) In what ways do students learn heredity and evolution?

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