STEM Practices

Tools for Teaching and Learning Engineering Practices: Pathways Towards Productive Identity Work in Engineering

Identifying with engineering is critical to help students pursue engineering careers. This project responds to this persistent large-scale problem. The I-Engineering framework and tools address both the learning problem (supporting students in learning engineering design) and the identity problem (supporting students in recognizing that they belong in engineering). 

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1502755
Funding Period: 
Fri, 05/01/2015 to Tue, 04/30/2019
Full Description: 

The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. Identifying with engineering is critical to help students pursue engineering careers. This project responds to this persistent large-scale problem. The I-Engineering framework and tools address both the learning problem (supporting students in learning engineering design) and the identity problem (supporting students in recognizing that they belong in engineering). I-Engineering will support identity development as a part of learning two core practices in engineering: 1) defining problems and 2) designing solutions. In particular, the I-Engineering framework and tools will help middle grades teachers and students engage in the engineering design process using meaningful, authentic and often youth-driven contexts. The project will ground this work in two engineering design challenges: 1) safe and green commutes and 2) portable energy, both of which exemplify engineering for sustainable communities. The objectives are to: 1) To develop research-based understandings of how to support identity development among middle school students from underrepresented backgrounds in the context of learning engineering. 2) To develop and refine a framework and tools (I-Engineering) in support of student learning and identity development in engineering with a focus on sustainability. 3) To collaborate with grades 6 and 7 teachers to implement and refine I-Engineering for classroom use. 4) To study whether the I-Engineering framework/tools support identity development in engineering among middle school students from underrepresented backgrounds. 

The project draws upon design-based implementation research to develop and test the I-Engineering framework and tools among students and teachers in grades 6 and 7. Using social practice theory, how aspects of the learning environment shape identity development will be identified, yielding information on the impact of the instructional tools generated. The research questions are grounded in two areas: supporting identity development in engineering, understanding how students progress in their engineering development and patterns across implementation of the I-Engineering resources. Studies will shed light on mechanisms that support identity development in engineering, how that might be scaffolded, and how such scaffolds can transport across context. The mixed-method student- and classroom-level studies will allow for empirical claims regarding how and under what conditions youth from underrepresented backgrounds may progress in their identity development in engineering. The research plan includes student case studies drawing on task-based interviews, observations and student work and classroom studies using observations, student and teacher interviews, an engineering identity survey, student work and formative assessments of engineering practices. I-Engineering will reach over 500 students and their teachers in schools that serve predominantly underrepresented populations. The project team will disseminate the findings, framework and tools in support of teaching engineering practices, and promoting understanding of the importance of identity development in broadening participation.

Thinking Spatially about the Universe: A Physical and Virtual Laboratory for Middle School Science (Collaborative Research: Goodman)

This project will develop and study three week-long middle school lab units designed to teach spatial abilities using a blend of physical and virtual (computer-based) models. "ThinkSpace" labs will help students explore 3-dimensional astronomical phenomena in ways that will support both understanding of these topics and a more general spatial ability. Students will learn both through direct work with the lab unit interface and through succeeding discussions with their peers.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1503395
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2015 to Sat, 06/30/2018
Full Description: 

Critical breakthroughs in science (e.g., Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, and Watson & Crick's discovery of the structure of DNA), originated with those scientists' ability to think spatially, and research has shown that spatial ability correlates strongly with likelihood of entering a career in STEM. This project will develop and study three week-long middle school lab units designed to teach spatial abilities using a blend of physical and virtual (computer-based) models. "ThinkSpace" labs will help students explore 3-dimensional astronomical phenomena (moon phases and eclipses; planetary systems around stars other than the Sun; and celestial motions within the broader universe) in ways that will support both understanding of these topics and a more general spatial ability. Students will learn both through direct work with the lab unit interface and through succeeding discussions with their peers. The research program will determine which elements in the labs best promote both spatial skills and understanding of core ideas in astronomy; and how then to optimize interactive dynamic visualizations toward these ends. Virtual models of the sky and universe will be created using WorldWide Telescope, a free visualization tool that runs on desktop computers, tablets, and mobile devices. The ThinkSpace lab materials will be available at no cost on popular curriculum-sharing sites, including PBS Learning Media and BetterLesson.

The ThinkSpace team will address two main research questions: 1) How can spatial tasks that blend physical and virtual models be embedded into a STEM curriculum in ways that lead to significant improvements in spatial thinking? and 2) How can practitioners optimize design of interactive, dynamic visualizations for teaching spatially complex concepts? The first year of the study will examine two of the lab units with four teachers and about 320 students. The second year of the study will be similar. The third year of the study will test all three lab units in 10 classrooms. Over this study, each week-long ThinkSpace Lab will be formatively tested, using pre/post written assessments of astronomy content and spatial thinking; pre/post interviews with students; and in-class video of students using the lab activities. Scaffolded learning designs will support students in making connections between different spatial views of the phenomena, and will guide them to construct explanations and argue from evidence about how various phenomena (e.g. moon phases) arise in the real Universe, as Next Generation Science Standards demand. The impact of the ThinkSpace labs will be felt far beyond astronomy because the learning models being tested can transfer to other fields where spatial models are critical, and findings on optimization of dynamic visualizations can help to inform instructional design in the age of online learning. The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

STEM Practice-Rich Investigations for NGSS Teaching (SPRINT)

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

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

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

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

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


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Immersed in Phenomena: Helping Teachers Transition to NGSS

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


SmartCAD: Guiding Engineering Design with Science Simulations (Collaborative Research: Xie)

This project investigates how real time formative feedback can be automatically composed from the results of computational analysis of student design artifacts and processes with the envisioned SmartCAD software. The project conducts design-based research on SmartCAD, which supports secondary science and engineering with three embedded computational engines capable of simulating the mechanical, thermal, and solar performance of the built environment.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1503196
Funding Period: 
Mon, 06/15/2015 to Fri, 05/31/2019
Full Description: 

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

In this project, SmartCAD: Guiding Engineering Design with Science Simulations, the Concord Consortium (lead), Purdue University, and the University of Virginia investigate how real time formative feedback can be automatically composed from the results of computational analysis of student design artifacts and processes with the envisioned SmartCAD software. Through automatic feedback based on visual analytic science simulations, SmartCAD is able to guide every student at a fine-grained level, allowing teachers to focus on high-level instruction. Considering the ubiquity of CAD software in the workplace and their diffusion into precollege classrooms, this research provides timely results that could motivate the development of an entire genre of CAD-based learning environments and materials to accelerate and scale up K-12 engineering education. The project conducts design-based research on SmartCAD, which supports secondary science and engineering with three embedded computational engines capable of simulating the mechanical, thermal, and solar performance of the built environment. These engines allow SmartCAD to analyze student design artifacts on a scientific basis and provide automatic formative feedback in forms such as numbers, graphs, and visualizations to guide student design processes on an ongoing basis. 

The research hypothesis is that appropriate applications of SmartCAD in the classroom results in three learning outcomes: 1) Science knowledge gains as indicated by a deeper understanding of the involved science concepts and their integration at the completion of a design project; 2) Design competency gains as indicated by the increase of iterations, informed design decisions, and systems thinking over time; and 3) Design performance improvements as indicated by a greater chance to succeed in designing a product that meets all the specifications within a given period of time. While measuring these learning outcomes, this project also probes two research questions: 1) What types of feedback from simulations to students are effective in helping them attain the outcomes? and 2) Under what conditions do these types of feedback help students attain the outcomes? To test the research hypothesis and answer the research questions, this project develops three curriculum modules based on the Learning by Design (LBD) Framework to support three selected design challenges: Solar Farms, Green Homes, and Quake-Proof Bridges. This integration of SmartCAD and LBD situate the research in the LBD context and shed light on how SmartCAD can be used to enhance established pedagogical models such as LBD. Research instruments include knowledge integration assessments, data mining, embedded assessments, classroom observations, participant interviews, and student questionnaires. This research is carried out in Indiana, Massachusetts, and Virginia simultaneously, involving more than 2,000 secondary students at a number of socioeconomically diverse schools. Professional development workshops are provided to familiarize teachers with SmartCAD materials and implementation strategies prior to the field tests. An external Critical Review Committee consisting of five engineering education researchers and practitioners oversee and evaluate this project formatively and summative. Project materials and results are disseminated through publications, presentations, partnerships, and the Internet.

SmartCAD: Guiding Engineering Design with Science Simulations (Collaborative Research: Magana-de-Leon)

This project investigates how real time formative feedback can be automatically composed from the results of computational analysis of student design artifacts and processes with the envisioned SmartCAD software. The project conducts design-based research on SmartCAD, which supports secondary science and engineering with three embedded computational engines capable of simulating the mechanical, thermal, and solar performance of the built environment.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1503436
Funding Period: 
Mon, 06/15/2015 to Fri, 05/31/2019
Full Description: 

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

In this project, SmartCAD: Guiding Engineering Design with Science Simulations, the Concord Consortium (lead), Purdue University, and the University of Virginia investigate how real time formative feedback can be automatically composed from the results of computational analysis of student design artifacts and processes with the envisioned SmartCAD software. Through automatic feedback based on visual analytic science simulations, SmartCAD is able to guide every student at a fine-grained level, allowing teachers to focus on high-level instruction. Considering the ubiquity of CAD software in the workplace and their diffusion into precollege classrooms, this research provides timely results that could motivate the development of an entire genre of CAD-based learning environments and materials to accelerate and scale up K-12 engineering education. The project conducts design-based research on SmartCAD, which supports secondary science and engineering with three embedded computational engines capable of simulating the mechanical, thermal, and solar performance of the built environment. These engines allow SmartCAD to analyze student design artifacts on a scientific basis and provide automatic formative feedback in forms such as numbers, graphs, and visualizations to guide student design processes on an ongoing basis. 

The research hypothesis is that appropriate applications of SmartCAD in the classroom results in three learning outcomes: 1) Science knowledge gains as indicated by a deeper understanding of the involved science concepts and their integration at the completion of a design project; 2) Design competency gains as indicated by the increase of iterations, informed design decisions, and systems thinking over time; and 3) Design performance improvements as indicated by a greater chance to succeed in designing a product that meets all the specifications within a given period of time. While measuring these learning outcomes, this project also probes two research questions: 1) What types of feedback from simulations to students are effective in helping them attain the outcomes? and 2) Under what conditions do these types of feedback help students attain the outcomes? To test the research hypothesis and answer the research questions, this project develops three curriculum modules based on the Learning by Design (LBD) Framework to support three selected design challenges: Solar Farms, Green Homes, and Quake-Proof Bridges. This integration of SmartCAD and LBD situate the research in the LBD context and shed light on how SmartCAD can be used to enhance established pedagogical models such as LBD. Research instruments include knowledge integration assessments, data mining, embedded assessments, classroom observations, participant interviews, and student questionnaires. This research is carried out in Indiana, Massachusetts, and Virginia simultaneously, involving more than 2,000 secondary students at a number of socioeconomically diverse schools. Professional development workshops are provided to familiarize teachers with SmartCAD materials and implementation strategies prior to the field tests. An external Critical Review Committee consisting of five engineering education researchers and practitioners oversee and evaluate this project formatively and summative. Project materials and results are disseminated through publications, presentations, partnerships, and the Internet.

Precision Math: Using Interactive Gaming Technology to Build Student Proficiency in the Foundational Concepts and Problem Solving Skills of Measurement and Data Analysis

The purpose of this 4-year project is to improve student mathematics achievement by developing a mathematics intervention focused on key measurement and data analysis skills. The PM intervention will be designed for first and second grade students who are experiencing mathematics difficulties. To increase student mathematics achievement, the intervention will include: (a) a technology-based component and (b) hands-on activities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1503161
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2015 to Sun, 06/30/2019
Full Description: 

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

Strong knowledge of measurement and data analysis is essential to ensure competiveness of the nation as a whole and full access to educational and work opportunities for all students. Despite this importance, a considerable number of U.S. students, particularly students from poor and minority backgrounds, struggle with these two areas of mathematics. The purpose of this 4-year Research and Development project, Precision Mathematics (PM): Building Student Proficiency in the Foundational Concepts and Problem Solving Skills of Measurement and Data Analysis, is to improve student mathematics achievement by developing a mathematics intervention focused on key measurement and data analysis skills. The PM intervention will be designed for first and second grade students who are experiencing mathematics difficulties. To increase student mathematics achievement, the intervention will include: (a) a technology-based component that will provide students with individualized instruction and (b) hands-on activities that will offer opportunities for students to interact with their teacher and peers around critical measurement and data analysis concepts. Primary activities of the project will include intervention development, pilot testing, data analysis, and intervention revision. One primary benefit of PM is that it will provide struggling learners with meaningful access to critical concepts and skills identified in the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Another benefit is that will be designed to serve as a foundation for students to understand more advanced mathematical concepts introduced in the later grades. PM has the potential to address a concerning gap in U.S. education. To date, intervention research focused on measurement and data analysis is scant.

Proficiency with measurement and data analysis is essential for obtaining occupations in the STEM fields. A primary aim of this project is to develop PM, a mathematics intervention designed to teach key concepts of measurement and data analysis to at-risk 1st and 2nd grade students. Comprising the intervention will be technology-based and collaborative problem-solving activities. At each grade, the intervention will provide 20 hours of instruction focused on topics identified in the Common Core State Standards. A primary aim of the project is to develop the intervention using a design science approach, including a mix of qualitative and quantitative research methods that will guide iterative testing and revision cycles. A second primary aim is to test the promise of the intervention to improve student mathematics achievement. Rigorous pilot studies (i.e., randomized controlled trials) will be conducted in 1st and 2nd grade classrooms involving over 700 at-risk students. Within classrooms, students will be randomly assigned to treatment (PM) or control conditions (business as usual). Two research questions will be addressed: (a) What is the potential promise of the intervention when delivered in authentic education settings? (b) Based on empirical evidence, are revisions to the intervention's theory of change necessary? Tests of main effects of intervention effects will be conducted using analysis of covariance models, adjusting for pretest scores. Generated findings are anticipated to contribute to the knowledge base on early STEM learning for at-risk learners.

Fostering STEM Trajectories: Bridging ECE Research, Practice, and Policy

This project will convene stakeholders in STEM and early childhood education to discuss better integration of STEM in the early grades. PIs will begin with a phase of background research to surface critical issues in teaching and learning in early childhood education and STEM.  A number of reports will be produced including commissioned papers, vision papers, and a forum synthesis report.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1417878
Funding Period: 
Mon, 06/15/2015 to Tue, 05/31/2016
Full Description: 

Early childhood education is at the forefront of the minds of parents, teachers, policymakers as well as the general public. A strong early childhood foundation is critical for lifelong learning. The National Science Foundation has made a number of early childhood grants in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) over the years and the knowledge generated from this work has benefitted researchers. Early childhood teachers and administrators, however, have little awareness of this knowledge since there is little research that is translated and disseminated into practice, according to the National Research Council. In addition, policies for both STEM and early childhood education has shifted in the last decade. 

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center and the New America Foundation are working together to highlight early childhood STEM education initiatives. Specifically, the PIs will convene stakeholders in STEM and early childhood education to discuss better integration of STEM in the early grades. PIs will begin with a phase of background research to surface critical issues in teaching and learning in early childhood education and STEM. The papers will be used as anchor topics to organize a forum with a broad range of stakeholders including policymakers as well as early childhood researchers and practitioners. A number of reports will be produced including commissioned papers, vision papers, and a forum synthesis report. The synthesis report will be widely disseminated by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and the New America Foundation.

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

Development of Language-Focused Three-Dimensional Science Instructional Materials to Support English Language Learners in Fifth Grade (Collaborative Research: Lee)

The main purpose of this project is to develop instructional materials for a year-long, fifth grade curriculum for all students, including ELLs. The planned curriculum will promote language-focused and three-dimensional science learning (through blending of science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas), aligned with the Framework for K-12 Science Education, the Next Generation Science Standards, and the Conceptual Framework for Language use in the Science Classroom.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1503330
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2015 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

This project was submitted to the Discovery Research K-12 (DRK-12) program that seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models, and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. The project is responsive to the societal challenges emerging from the nation's diverse and rapidly changing student demographics, including the rise of English language learners (ELLs), the fastest growing student population (see, for example, "U.S. school enrollment hits majority-minority milestone", Education Week, February 1, 2015). ELLs have grown exponentially: 1 in 5 students (21%) in the nation spoke a language other than English at home in 2011. The project's main purpose is to develop instructional materials for a year-long, fifth grade curriculum for all students, including ELLs. The planned curriculum will promote language-focused and three-dimensional science learning (through blending of science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas), aligned with the Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council, 2012), the Next Generation Science Standards (Achieve, 2013), and the Conceptual Framework for Language use in the Science Classroom (Lee, Quinn & Valdés, 2013). The grade-level science content will target topics, such as structure and properties of matter, matter and energy in organisms and ecosystems, and Earth's and space systems, with engineering design embedded in each topic. The language approach will emphasize analytical science tasks aimed at making sense of and constructing scientific knowledge; and receptive (listening and reading) and productive (speaking and writing) language functions. Products and research results from this project will help to reduce the science achievement gaps between ELLs and non-ELLs, and enable all students to attain higher levels of proficiency in subsequent grade levels.

After the curriculum has been developed and field-tested during Years 1-3, a pilot study will be conducted in Year 4 to investigate promise of effectiveness. Using a randomized controlled trial design, the pilot study will address three research questions: (1) What is the impact of the intervention on science learning and language development for all students, including ELLs and former ELLs?; (2) What is the impact of the intervention on teachers' instructional practices?; and (3) To what extent are teachers able to implement the instructional materials with fidelity? To address research question 1, a sequence of multi-level models (MLMs) in which the posttest score for each student measure (the state/district science test score, and the science score and the language score on the researcher-developed assessment) will be regressed on a dummy variable representing condition (treatment or control) and pretest covariates. To examine whether the intervention is beneficial for students of varying levels of English proficiency, subgroup analyses will be conducted comparing ELLs in the treatment group against ELLs in the control group; former ELLs in the treatment group against former ELLs in the control group; and non-ELLs in the treatment group against non-ELLs in the control group, using the same MLMs. Exploratory analyses will be employed to examine the extent to which the level of English proficiency moderates the impact of the intervention on ELLs. To address research question 2, a 2-level model (teachers as level-1, and schools as level-2) in which the post-questionnaire scale score will be regressed on a dummy variable representing condition (treatment or control) will be conducted. To address research question 3, plans are to analyze ratings on coverage, adherence, and quality of instruction from classroom observations, along with ratings on program differentiation and participant responsiveness from the implementation and feedback form.

Refining a Model with Tools to Develop Math PD Leaders: An Implementation Study

This project will work with middle school mathematics teachers in San Francisco Unified School District to develop their capacity to conduct professional development for the teachers in their schools. A central goal of this project is to develop models and resources for effective professional development and preparation of professional development leaders in mathematics with special attention to students who are English language learners.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1417261
Funding Period: 
Thu, 01/01/2015 to Tue, 12/31/2019
Full Description: 

There is increased demand for K-12 teacher professional development that yields improvements in student learning and achievement. This need is particularly high given widespread adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in mathematics which challenges teachers to incorporate mathematical thinking and problem solving into their instruction. The professional development challenge is exacerbated as our nation's demographics continue to shift, increasing the number of English language learners in school districts throughout the U.S. To meet this demand, the educational community must develop large-scale, system-level professional development programs aligned with the CCSS that are scalable and sustainable. The project team from Stanford University will work with middle school mathematics teachers in San Francisco Unified School District to develop their capacity to conduct professional development for the teachers in their schools. A central goal of this project is to develop models and resources for effective professional development and preparation of professional development leaders in mathematics with special attention to students who are English language learners. These models and resources will: provide school districts with the tools to build local capacity and provide sustainable professional development to all middle school mathematics teachers; improve the quality of teaching and, in turn, make important progress toward ensuring that all students in middle school can achieve the mathematical skills and understandings identified in the new standards; and meet the needs of English language learners. In addition, the Stanford team will contribute to the knowledge base in mathematics education, professional development and English language learners.

In previous work, the team developed two interconnected models--the Problem-Solving Cycle (PSC) and the Mathematics Leadership Preparation (MLP) models for preparing professional development leaders. The PSC model consists of a series of interconnected workshops organized around a problem that can be solved using multiple representations and solutions and can be adapted for multiple grade levels. Each cycle focuses on a different math problem. During the first cycle, teachers collaboratively solve the focal math problem and develop plans for teaching it to their students. Teachers then teach the lesson in their classes and the lessons are videotaped. Subsequent workshops focus on participants' classroom experiences teaching the problem. The goals of these workshops are to help teachers learn how to build on student thinking and to explore a variety of instructional practices. They rely heavily on video clips from the PSC lesson to foster productive conversations and situate the conversations in teachers' classroom instruction. The MLP model is designed to prepare Math Leaders to facilitate the PSC. The MLP prepares teachers to lead professional development for their colleagues. These models showed promise of effectiveness in improving middle school mathematics teachers' knowledge and practice, developing math professional development leaders, and improving student achievement. Investigators intend to refine and test the design of the PSC and MLP models and develop resources that can be used by other schools and districts, as well as conduct an evaluation of the work.

Moving Next Generation Science Standards into Practice: A Middle School Ecology Unit and Teacher Professional Development Model

Schools and teachers face unprecedented challenges in meeting the ambitious goals of integrating core interdisciplinary science ideas with science and engineering practices as described in new standards. This project will develop a middle school ecology unit and related teacher professional development that will help high-need and urban middle school students, including English Language Learners, understand these ideas and related practices.

Award Number: 
1418235
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

Schools and teachers face unprecedented challenges in meeting the ambitious goals of integrating core interdisciplinary science ideas with science and engineering practices as described in new standards. The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), in collaboration with the University of Connecticut (UConn), and the Lawrence Hall of Science (the Hall), will develop a middle school ecology unit and related teacher professional development that will help high-need and urban middle school students, including English Language Learners, understand these ideas and related practices. Teachers will be supported through professional development that is directly linked to the curriculum and is designed to develop their science content knowledge as well as their knowledge of how to teach the curriculum. The project builds on existing AMNH resources that include video and text passages supported with literacy strategies, online interactive data tools to plan and carry out investigations, and prior research on these resources used with teachers in professional development and with students in classrooms. In addition to serving the schools, teachers and students who directly participate, the project's deliverables include the ecology unit, teacher professional development, assessment tools, and a model for designing such comprehensives science programs that relate to NGSS.

The curriculum unit will be modeled after the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) 5E model that will use the 5 Phases (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate) for students to work through with each of five themes: Ecological Communities, Food Webs, A River Ecosystem, Zebra Mussel Invasion, and Monitoring Human Impact. Teachers will participate in 12 days of professional development that will introduce the program's pedagogical approach (the 5E model) and how it reflects NGSS, with teachers having significant time to learn the science, try out the activities, learn how to facilitate the program, provide feedback on the program as part of the evaluation, and reflect on their practice. The initial approach to the curriculum and teacher professional development will be designed in Year 1 and then iteratively revised and evaluated in Years 2-4 through formative evaluation that focuses on curriculum PD, and measures of student and teacher outcomes. The evaluation will assess the contribution of teacher science and pedagogical knowledge to increases in student knowledge. The evaluation findings and assessment tools developed for the project will provide the foundation for a future efficacy study. The project is one of a relatively small number of projects funded through NSF's DRK-12 program that directly addresses the need for NGSS-related learning resources. The project's learning resources, assessment tools, and model for designing NGSS-related and comprehensive science programs will be shared through professional publications, conference and workshop presentations, and liaison with organizations active in developing new resources bring NGSS into practice.

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