Learning Progression

Designing an Integrated Framework for Genetics Education to Develop Innovative Curricula and Assessments

This project is developing a model for integrating best practices in technology-supported instructional design and formative assessment for genetics instruction in upper elementary, middle and high school. Using the Web-based Inquiry Science Environment platform, the project is developing school curriculum that scaffold and model scientific practices, enable students to interface with real-world problems, provide opportunities for students to make connections between visible phenomena and underlying genetic processes, and promote student monitoring and reflection on learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1119055
Funding Period: 
Mon, 08/15/2011 to Tue, 07/31/2012
Full Description: 

Michigan State University is developing a model for integrating best practices in technology-supported instructional design and formative assessment for genetics instruction in upper elementary, middle and high school. The project partners with an urban school district in Texas and a suburban school district in Michigan. The objectives are: (1) to articulate a detailed standards- and research-base conceptual framework for describing students' conceptions of genetics and how students develop a full understanding of genetics across grade spans (upper elementary, middle and high school); (2) to develop innovative instructional materials and embedded assessments that provide richer information about students' conceptual understanding of genetics and help practitioners make decisions about what to do next in instruction; and (3) to examine the implementation of these instructional materials and assessments to investigate students' understanding of genetics concepts.

Using the Web-based Inquiry Science Environment (WISE) 4.0 platform (a technology-rich learning environment), the project is developing a 5-week elementary, middle, and secondary school curriculum models that scaffold and model scientific practices, enable students to interface with real-world problems, provide opportunities for students to make connections between visible phenomena and underlying genetic processes, and promote student monitoring and reflection on their learning. Each module will include animation- and stimulation-based contexts in WISE to provide rich occasions to press for building and developing reasoning and explanations. To promote teachers' use of student responses in formative ways, the materials will offer clear guidance about how to make evidence-based instructional decisions as well as provide options for contingent instruction activities that can be used to address persistent or common non-normative ways of reasoning.

The research offers generalizable approaches on the principled design of embedded assessments in WISE 4.0 and on using these assessments formatively. A quasi-experimental study employing a cross-sectional and longitudinal comparison design will investigate the development of students' understanding of genetics-related ideas from upper elementary to the high school years.

Project ATOMS: Accomplished Elementary Teachers of Mathematics and Science

The project is studying the impact of the mathematics and science intensive pre-service preparation program for elementary school teachers.  The project includes assessments of pre-service teachers' math and science content, teacher performance, self-report surveys, and teacher interviews. Each of the study dimensions (Knowledge Dimension, Teaching Performance, and Perspectives on the Program) will be assessed at three time points across this longitudinal study, providing a model for elementary teacher development of STEM teaching.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1118894
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

The project is studying the impact of the mathematics and science intensive pre-service preparation program for elementary school teachers at North Carolina State University called the Accomplished Elementary Teachers of Mathematics and Science (ATOMS). Faculty in NCSU's Department of Elementary Education, researchers at the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy's Education Research Data Center and the NC State College Professional Education Office are involved in conducting this project.

The project includes assessments of pre-service teachers' math and science content, teacher performance, self-report surveys, and teacher interviews. Researchers are also tracking participants' perspectives on the program and comparing knowledge dimensions and teaching performance of a sub-sample of ATOMS teachers to a similar group of non-ATOMS teachers. Each of the study dimensions (Knowledge Dimension, Teaching Performance, and Perspectives on the Program) will be assessed at three time points across this longitudinal study, providing a model for elementary teacher development of STEM teaching.

The study has potential to advance current understanding regarding teacher preparation, especially in terms of supporting elementary teachers' instruction in science and math. The project is also innovative and potentially transformative by asking interesting and pertinent questions of how teachers can affect the learning of their students. Besides generating new knowledge, this project also has the potential to impact STEM education research. The ATOMS pre-service teacher preparation program may serve as a model for effective pre-service teacher education across the nation if the researchers can clearly demonstrate the effect of participating in the program in changing teachers' knowledge, attitudes, and skills, as well as their students' achievement. Investigators propose the dissemination of findings to both K-12 audiences and institutions of higher education. Additionally, key findings will be bulleted for policy makers in brief reports or brochures sent to deans of Colleges of Education nationwide, highlighting recommendations based on the findings.

Developing Teaching Expertise in K-5 Mathematics

This project designs materials and an accompanying support system to enable the development of expertise in the teaching of mathematics at the elementary level. The project has four main components: online professional development modules; practice-based assessments; resources for facilitators; and web-based technologies to deliver module content to diverse settings. Three modules are being developed and focus on fractions, reasoning and explanation, and geometry. Each module is organized into ten 1.5 hour sessions.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
1118745
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Project Evaluator: 
American Institutes for Research
Full Description: 

Developers and researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of Denver are engaged in a project to design materials and an accompanying support system to enable the development of expertise in the teaching of mathematics at the elementary level. The project has four main components: a set of online professional development modules; practice-based assessments; a set of resources for facilitators; and web-based technologies to deliver module content to diverse settings. Three modules are planned: one focused on fractions and one focused on reasoning and explanation designed by Deborah Ball, Hyman Bass and the University of Michigan development team; and one on geometry developed by Douglas Clements and Julie Sarama at the University of Denver. Each module is organized into ten 1.5 hour sessions. 

Each module goes through a two-year design and development process that includes initial design, piloting, revision, and dissemination. Modules are piloted in a variety of settings, including university based courses for practicing teachers and district based in-service activities. These contexts include face-to-face professional development, real-time distance learning, and combinations of the two. Data are collected on participant engagement with the modules, on teacher classroom practice, and on mathematical knowledge for teaching.

The modules and associated materials will be widely available and will be free to schools. The materials can be imported into any learning management system, such as Blackboard, Moodle, and others.

Levels of Conceptual Understanding in Statistics (LOCUS)

LOCUS (Levels of Conceptual Understanding in Statistics) is an NSF Funded DRK12 project (NSF#118618) focused on developing assessments of statistical understanding. These assessments will measure students’ understanding across levels of development as identified in the Guidelines for Assessment and Instruction in Statistics Education (GAISE). The intent of these assessments is to provide teachers and researchers with a valid and reliable assessment of conceptual understanding in statistics consistent with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1118168
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
TERC, Jim Hammerman
Full Description: 

The goal of this project is to develop two tests (instruments) to assess conceptual understanding of statistics. The instruments are based on the levels A/B and on level C of statistical understanding development as described in the American Statistical Association Guidelines for Assessment and Instruction of Statistics Education (GAISE) framework. These instruments will be used to assess knowledge of statistics by grades 6-12 students. The instruments will have multiple-choice and constructed response (CR) items. The CR items will have scoring rubrics. The assessments will be pilot tested in school districts in six states. The instruments will be used by teachers to analyze students' growth in understanding of statistics and will be useable for both formative and summative purposes. An assessment blueprint will be developed based on the GAISE framework for selecting and constructing both fixed-choice and open-ended items. An evidenced-based designed process will be used to develop the assessments. The blueprint will be used by the test development committee to develop items. These items will be reviewed by the advisory board considering the main statistics topics to be included on the assessments. Through a layering process, the assessments will be piloted, revised, and field tested with students in grades 6-12 in six states. A three-parameter IRT model will be used in analyzing the items. The work will be done by researchers at the University of Florida with the support of those at the University of Minnesota, the Educational Testing Service, and Kenyon College. Researchers from TERC will conduct a process evaluation with several feedback and redesign cycles.

The assessments will be aligned with the Common Core State Standards for mathematics (CCSSM) and made available as open-source to teachers through a website. The research team will interact with the state consortia developing assessments to measure students' attainment of the CCSSM. As such, the assessments have the potential of being used by a large proportion of students in the country. The more conceptually-based items will provide teachers with concrete examples of what statistics students in grades 6-12 should know.

Continuous Learning and Automated Scoring in Science (CLASS)

This five-year project investigates how to provide continuous assessment and feedback to guide students' understanding during science inquiry-learning experiences, as well as detailed guidance to teachers and administrators through a technology-enhanced system. The assessment system integrates validated automated scorings for students' written responses to open-ended assessment items into the "Web-based Inquiry Science Environment" (WISE) program.

Award Number: 
1119670
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Mon, 08/31/2015
Full Description: 

This five-year project investigates how to provide continuous assessment and feedback to guide students' understanding during science inquiry-learning experiences, as well as detailed guidance to teachers and administrators through a technology-enhanced system. The assessment system integrates validated automated scorings for students' written responses to open-ended assessment items (i.e., short essays, science narratives, concept mapping, graphing problems, and virtual experiments) into the "Web-based Inquiry Science Environment" (WISE) program. WISE is an online science-inquiry curricula that supports deep understanding through visualization of processes not directly observable, virtual experiments, graphing results, collaboration, and response to prompts for explanations. In partnership with Educational Testing Services (ETS), project goals are: (1) to develop five automated inquiry assessment activities that capture students' abilities to integrate their ideas and form coherent scientific arguments; (2) to customize WISE by incorporating automated scores; (3) to investigate how students' systematic feedback based on these scores improve their learning outcomes; and (4) to design professional development resources to help teachers use scores to improve classroom instruction, and administrators to make better informed decisions about teacher professional development and inquiry instruction. The project targets general science (life, physical, and earth) in three northern California school districts, five middle schools serving over 4,000 6th-8th grade students with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and 29 science teachers. It contributes to increase opportunities for students to improve their science achievement, and for teachers and administrators to make efficient, evidence-based decisions about high-quality teaching and learning.

A key research question guides this effort: How automated scoring of inquiry assessments can increase success for diverse students, improve teachers' instructional practices, and inform administrators' decisions about professional development, inquiry instruction, and assessment? To develop science inquiry assessment activities, scoring written responses include semantic, syntax, and structure of meaning analyses, as well as calibration of human-scored items with a computer-scoring system through the c-rater--an ETS-developed cyber learning technology. Validity studies are conducted to compare automated scores with human-scored items, teacher, district, and state scores, including sensitivity to the diverse student population. To customize the WISE curriculum, the project modifies 12 existing units and develops nine new modules. To design adaptive feedback to students, comparative studies explore options for adaptive guidance and test alternatives based on automated scores employing linear models to compare student performance across randomly assigned guidance conditions; controlling for covariates, such as prior science scores, gender, and language; and grouping comparison studies. To design teacher professional development, synthesis reports on auto-scored data are created to enable them to use evidence to guide curricular decisions, and comments' analysis to improve feedback quality. Workshops, classroom observations, and interviews are conducted to measure longitudinal teachers' change over time. To empower administrators' decision making, special data reports, using-evidence activities, individual interviews, and observation of administrators' meetings are conducted. An advisory board charged with project evaluation addresses both formative and summative aspects.

A research-informed model to improve science teaching and learning at the middle school level through cyber-enabled assessment is the main outcome of this effort. A total of 21 new, one- to three-week duration standards-based science units, each with four or more automatically scored items, serve as prototypes to improve students' performance, teachers' instructional approaches, and administrators' school policies and practices.

Development of a Cognition-Guided, Formative-Assessment-Intensive, Individualized Computer-Based Dynamic Geometry Learning System for Grades 3-8

This project is focused on creating, testing, refining, and studying a computer-based, individualized, interactive learning system for intermediate/middle school students or by teachers in classrooms. This learning system is called Individualized Dynamic Geometry Instruction and will contain four instructional modules in geometry and measurement that reflect the recommendations of the Common Core State Standards.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1119034
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Mon, 08/31/2015
Project Evaluator: 
Jeff Shih
Full Description: 

Developers and researchers at Ohio State University and KCP Technologies are creating, testing, refining, and studying a computer-based, individualized, interactive learning system for intermediate/middle school students that can be used by them independently (online or offline) or by teachers in classrooms. This learning system is called Individualized Dynamic Geometry Instruction (iDGi) and will contain four instructional modules in geometry and measurement that reflect the recommendations of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). iDGi courseware fully integrates research-based Learning Progressions (LPs) for guiding students' reasoning; formative-assessment linked to LPs; instructional sequencing that interactively adapts to students' locations in LPs; built-in student monitoring, feedback, and guidance; and research-based principles of educational media into the modules. The software platform for iDGi development is an extended version of the dynamic geometry computer environment, The Geometer's Sketchpad.

The development process follows recommendations in Douglas Clements' Curriculum Research Framework and includes sequences of development, trials with students, data collection, and revision. The research and evaluation are based on random assignment of approximately 350 students to treatment and control groups. Achievement data are collected using developer-constructed instruments with items that reflect the mathematics topics in the CCSS. Researchers explore the variability at the student, teacher, and school levels using the appropriate level of hierarchical linear models.

Commercial publishers have expressed strong interest in publishing online and offline computer versions of iDGi, an iPad version of iDGi, an online management system for iDGi, and support materials for users and teachers.

Supporting Scientific Practices in Elementary and Middle School Classrooms

This project will develop a learning progression that characterizes how learners integrate and interrelate scientific argumentation, explanation and scientific modeling, building ever more sophisticated versions of practice over time using the three common elements of sense-making, persuading peers and developing consensus.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020316
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Full Description: 

Research on student learning has developed separate progressions for scientific argumentation, explanation and scientific modeling. Engaging Learners in Scientific Practices develops a learning progression that characterizes how learners integrate and interrelate scientific argumentation, explanation and scientific modeling, building ever more sophisticated versions of practice over time using the three common elements of sense-making, persuading peers and developing consensus. The learning progression is constructed through improvements in students' performance and understanding of scientific practice as measured by their attention to generality of explanation, attention to clarity of communication and audience understanding, attention to evidentiary support, and attention to mechanistic versus descriptive accounts. The project is led by researchers at Northwestern University, the University of Texas, Wright State University, Michigan State University, and the BEAR assessment group. Two cohorts of 180 students each are followed for two years from 4th to 5th grade in Illinois and two cohorts of 180 students each are followed for two years from 5th to 6th grade in Michigan The elementary school students will work with FOSS curriculum units modified to embed supports for scientific practices. Two cohorts of 500 middle school students are followed for three years from 6th to 8th grade as they work with coordinated IQWST units over three years. The outcome measures include analyses of classroom discourse, pre- and pos-test assessments of student learning, and reflective interviews grounded in students' own experiences with practices in the classroom to assess their growth across the dimensions. The BEAR team is responsible for validation and calibration of the frameworks and instruments, and design of the scheme for analysis of the data. Horizon Research performs the formative and summative evaluation. The project will produce an empirically-tested learning progression for scientific practices for grades 4-8 along with tested curriculum materials and validated assessment items that support and measure students' ability in the scientific practices of explanation, argumentation and modeling. In the process of development, an understanding is gained about how to design and test this learning progression. The framework is articulated on a website for use by other researchers and developers. The project also builds capacity by educating several graduate students.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Science Storylines

Presenter(s): Brian Reiser, Kelsey Edwards, Barbara Hug, Tara McGill, Jamie Noll, Michael Novak, Bill Penuel, Trey Smith, & Aliza Zivic


Reasoning Tools for Understanding Water Systems

This project builds on current learning progression research to study the effects of teaching Tools for Reasoning on development of middle school students' capacities to understand the Earth's hydrologic systems. The project applies a design-based research approach using iterative cycles of Tool design/revision, teacher workshops, and small-scale pilot tests of Tools through classroom experiments with teachers and students in Montana and Arizona.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020176
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/15/2010 to Sat, 08/31/2013
Full Description: 

This exploratory project, led by faculty at the University of Montana, Michigan State University, and the University of Arizona, collaborating with teachers from the Missoula, MT schools, builds on current learning progression research to study the effects of teaching Tools for Reasoning on development of middle school students' capacities to understand the Earth's hydrologic systems. The project applies a design-based research approach using iterative cycles of Tool design/revision, teacher workshops, and small-scale pilot tests of Tools through classroom experiments with teachers and students in Montana and Arizona.

The central research question being addressed is: How can learning progression-based Reasoning Tools support students in using models and representations to engage in principled reasoning about hydrologic systems? This question will be answered by analysis of data from assessments of student learning, student clinical interviews, teacher assessments, classroom observations, and teacher focus groups.

The Reasoning Tools project will contribute insight into the challenge of developing students' environmental science literacy and the reasoning skills needed to make informed citizenship decisions about 21st century water issues. Project outcomes will include materials for teaching middle school students to reason about hydrologic systems, theoretical and practical insights into the effects of teaching Tools for Reasoning, strategies for supporting students and teachers in use of the Tools, and refinements of a water systems learning progression framework.

Measurement Approach to Rational Number (MARN)

This project is designing, developing, and testing an innovative approach to elementary students' learning in the critical areas of multiplicative reasoning, fractions, and proportional reasoning. The project is building on the successful El'Konin-Davydov (E-D) elementary mathematics curriculum that originated in Russia to develop a curriculum framework that can be implemented in U. S. schools. The ultimate product of the research will be a rational number learning progression consisting of carefully articulated and sequenced learning goals.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020154
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/15/2010 to Tue, 06/30/2015
Full Description: 

The Measurement Approach to Rational Number (MARN) project is a collaborative effort by faculty at New York University, Iowa State University, and the Illinois Institute of Technology that is designing, developing, and testing an innovative approach to elementary students' learning in the critical areas of multiplicative reasoning, fractions, and proportional reasoning. The project team is building on the successful El'Konin-Davydov (E-D) elementary mathematics curriculum that originated in Russia to develop a curriculum framework that can be implemented in U. S. schools.

The MARN project addresses five core research questions about how rational number learning can be developed from a measurement perspective and how sociocultural theory and constructivism can contribute to design of effective learning trajectories based on that perspective. The project begins with careful analysis of the E-D curriculum embodied in Russian mathematics materials, of classroom data from a Hawaii implementation of the E-D curriculum, and of relevant prior curriculum development projects in other U. S. contexts. Work is proceeding from development of an initial curriculum framework through intensive teaching experiments to implementation and modification of the framework in the course of classroom design experiments.

The ultimate product of the research and development effort will be a rational number learning progression consisting of carefully articulated and sequenced learning goals. The curriculum framework will also include mathematical tasks to foster learning of each concept, description of predicted student learning in the context of the tasks, a set of assessment items related to each concept, and guidelines for relevant teacher interventions. Thus, the framework will provide a foundation for development of curriculum units.

Rethinking How to Teach Energy: Laying The Foundations in Elementary School (Collaborative Research: Lacy)

This project is a collaborative effort that aims to develop a grade 3-5 Learning Progression that will provide a coherent approach to teaching energy in elementary school and lay a strong foundation for further learning in middle school. The project will identify a network of core concepts and principles about energy that are fundamental and general enough to be compatible with scientific ideas about energy, yet within reach of 5th graders.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020013
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Full Description: 

This project is a collaborative effort involving scientists, science educators, and teachers from TERC, Clark University, Tufts University,and urban Massachusetts schools that aims to develop a grade 3-5 Learning Progression that will provide a coherent approach to teaching energy in elementary school and lay a strong foundation for further learning in middle school. The work draws on and complements the learning progression and curriculum for matter developed and tested in the Inquiry Project (NSF award 0628245). The project will identify a network of core concepts and principles about energy that are fundamental and general enough to be compatible with scientific ideas about energy, yet within reach of 5th graders.

This project explores the hypothesis that, while the scientific concept of energy is too abstract and difficult to understand in early grades, useful foundations can be established early on by elaborating a learning progression for energy. Clinical interviews will be administered to 24 pairs of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders recruited from urban after-school programs, to identify precursors to the core ideas as well obstacles to learning them. This research will help the investigators design key learning experiences that could allow students to progress from initial ideas toward a scientific understanding of energy. Those learning designs will then be tested in teaching interviews with 3 small groups of students in the same settings.

The result of the project will be an outline for a grade 3-5 learning progression for energy taking into account the project research findings as well as relevant standards, curricula, and science education literature.

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