STEM Practices

Aligning the Science Teacher Education Pathway: A Networked Improvement Community

This project will study the activities of a Networked Improvement Community (NIC) as a vehicle to bridge gaps across four identified steps along the science teacher training and development pathways within local contexts of 8 participating universities. The overarching goal of the project is to strengthen the capacity of universities and school districts to reliably produce teachers of science who are knowledgeable about and can effectively enact the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), although prepared in varied organizational contexts.

Award Number: 
1908900
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

California State University will study the activities of a Networked Improvement Community (NIC) as a vehicle to bridge gaps across four identified steps along the science teacher training and development pathways within local contexts of 8 participating universities (NIC sites). Networked Improvement Community (NIC) will co-create a shared vision and co-defined research agenda between university researchers, science educators and school district practitioners working together to reform teacher education across a variety of local contexts. By studying outcomes of shared supports and teacher tools for use in multiple steps along the science teacher education pathway, researchers will map variation existing in the system and align efforts across the science teacher education pathway. This process will integrate an iterative nature of educational change in local contexts impacting enactment of the NGSS in both university teacher preparation programs and in school district professional training activities and classrooms.

The overarching goal of the project is to strengthen the capacity of universities and school districts to reliably produce teachers of science who are knowledgeable about and can effectively enact the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), although prepared in varied organizational contexts. The project will accomplish this goal 1) leveraging the use of an established Networked Improvement Community, composed of science education faculty from eight university campuses and by 2) improving and studying coherence in the steps along the science teacher education pathway within and across these universities and school districts. The project will use a mixed methods approach to data collection and analysis. Consistent with Improvement Science Theory, research questions will be co-defined by all stakeholders.

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?

An Integrated Approach to Early Elementary Earth and Space Science

This project will study if, how, and under what circumstances an integration of literacy strategies, hands-on inquiry-based investigations, and planetarium experiences supports the development of science practices (noticing, recognizing change, making predictions, and constructing explanations) in early elementary level students. The project will generate knowledge about how astronomy-focused storybooks, hands-on investigations, and planetarium experiences can be integrated to develop age-appropriate science practices in very young children.

Award Number: 
1813189
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

State science standards increasingly emphasize the importance of engaging K-12 students directly in natural phenomena and providing opportunities to construct explanations grounded in evidence. Moreover, these state science standards introduce earth and space science content in the early elementary grades. This creates a critical need for new pedagogies, materials, and resources for science teachers in all grades, but the need is particularly urgent in grades K-3 where teachers have had little preparation to teach science, let alone astronomy. There is also growing consensus that when learning opportunities in formal and informal settings are closely aligned, children's science literacy is developed in ways greater than either setting can achieve alone. The investigators will study if, how, and under what circumstances an integration of literacy strategies, hands-on inquiry-based investigations, and planetarium experiences supports the development of science practices (noticing, recognizing change, making predictions, and constructing explanations) in early elementary level students. This project will generate knowledge about how astronomy-focused storybooks, hands-on investigations, and planetarium experiences can be integrated to develop age-appropriate science practices in very young children (noticing, recognizing change, making predictions, and constructing explanations).

Emergent research on the development of children's science thinking indicates that when young children are engaged with science-focused storybooks and activities that each highlight the same phenomenon, children notice and gather evidence, make predictions and claims based on evidence, and provide explanations grounded in the experiences provided to them. This project has two phases. In Phase 1, first and third grade teachers will be recruited. They will help identify specific learner needs as these relate to the earth and space science standards in their grade band, assist in the development and pilot testing of a prototype instructional sequence and supporting activities taking place within their classrooms and at a local planetarium. In Phase 2, the revised learning sequence and research protocol will be implemented with the same teachers and a new cohort of children. The mixed method research design includes video observations, teacher interviews, and teacher and student surveys. Data analysis will focus on science practices, connections across contexts (e.g., school and planetarium), and instructional adaptations. The project involves a research-practice collaboration between the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Rockman & Associates, the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley, and West Chester University.

LabVenture - Revealing Systemic Impacts of a 12-Year Statewide Science Field Trip Program

This project will examine the impact of a 12-year statewide science field trip program called LabVenture, a hands-on program in discovery and inquiry that brings middle school students and teachers across the state of Maine to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) to become fully immersed in explorations into the complexities of local marine science ecosystems.

Award Number: 
1811452
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

This research in service to practice project will examine the impact of a 12-year statewide science field trip program called LabVenture. This hands-on program in discovery and inquiry brings middle school students and teachers across the state of Maine to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) in Portland, Maine to become fully immersed in explorations into the complexities of local marine science ecosystems. These intensive field trip experiences are led by informal educators and facilitated entirely within informal contexts at GMRI. Approximately 70% of all fifth and sixth grade students in Maine participate in the program each year and more than 120,000 students have attended since the program's inception in 2005. Unfortunately, little is known to date on how the program has influenced practice and learning ecosystems within formal, informal, and community contexts. As such, this research in service to practice project will employ an innovative research approach to understand and advance knowledge on the short and long-term impacts of the program within different contexts. If proven effective, the LabVenture program will elucidate the potential benefits of a large-scale field trip program implemented systemically across a community over time and serve as a reputable model for statewide adoption of similar programs seeking innovative strategies to connect formal and informal science learning to achieve notable positive shifts in their local, statewide, or regional STEM learning ecosystems.

Over the four-year project duration, the project will reach all 16 counties in the State of Maine. The research design includes a multi-step, multi-method approach to gain insight on the primary research questions. The initial research will focus on extant data and retrospective data sources codified over the 12-year history of the program. The research will then be expanded to garner prospective data on current participating students, teachers, and informal educators. Finally, a community study will be conducted to understand the potential broader impacts of the program. Each phase of the research will consider the following overarching research questions are: (1) How do formal and informal practitioners perceive the value and purposes of the field trip program and field trip experiences more broadly (field trip ontology)? (2) To what degree do short-term field trip experiences in informal contexts effect cognitive and affective outcomes for students? (3) How are community characteristics (e.g., population, distance from GMRI, proximity to the coast) related to ongoing engagement with the field trip program? (4) What are aspects of the ongoing field trip program that might embed it as an integral element of community culture (e.g., community awareness of a shared social experience)? (5) To what degree does a field trip experience that is shared by schools across a state lead to a traceable change that can be measured for those who participated and across the broader community? and (6) In what ways, if at all, can a field trip experience that occurs in informal contexts have an influence on the larger learning ecosystem (e.g., the Maine education system)? Each phase of the research will be led by a team of researchers with the requisite expertise in the methodologies and contexts required to carry out that particular aspect of the research (i.e., retrospective study, prospective study, community study). In addition, evaluation and practitioner panels of experts will provide expertise and guidance on the research, evaluation, and project implementation. The project will culminate with a practitioner convening, to share project findings more broadly with formal and informal practitioners, and promote transfer from research to practice. Additional dissemination strategies include conferences, network meetings, and peer-reviewed publications.

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