Professional Development

CAREER: Noticing and Using Students' Prior Knowledge in Problem-Based Instruction

This project will develop and study a professional development framework that is designed to help high school geometry teachers attend more carefully to student prior knowledge, interpret the learning implications of student prior knowledge, and adjust teaching practices accordingly. Participating teachers will participate in study groups that analyze animations of productive teaching practices; they will collaborate in planning, implementing, and analyzing geometry lessons; and they will critique videos of their own classroom instruction.

Award Number: 
1253081
Funding Period: 
Wed, 05/15/2013 to Tue, 04/30/2019
Full Description: 

Advocates of problem-based instruction argue that the approach can help students develop a deeper understanding of mathematics, acquire more positive attitudes toward mathematics, and gain experience with more authentic applications of mathematics. Engaging students in problem-based instruction, however, increases challenges to teachers who must attend to the influence of student prior knowledge and adjust instruction accordingly. The proposed project will develop and study a professional development framework that is designed to help high school geometry teachers attend more carefully to student prior knowledge, interpret the learning implications of student prior knowledge, and adjust teaching practices accordingly. Participating teachers will learn to perform these complex tasks by participating in study groups to analyze animations of productive teaching practices; to collaborate in planning, implementing, and analyzing geometry lessons; and to critique videos of their own classroom instruction. Prior research has shown that collective examination of videos can help teachers increase attention on student thinking, a key to noticing and accommodating student prior knowledge.

A key, innovative feature of the professional development framework for this study is the use of animated vignettes of classroom instruction to prepare teachers to examine videos of their own practice. The advantage of using cartoon-based animations of classroom practices is that they can be designed to depict specific teaching actions while excluding the usual distractions in videos, such as physical features, clothing, or individual mannerisms. Also, teachers can develop a critical eye for relevant interactions without feeling the need to be overly polite when discussing fictional scenarios portrayed by cartoon characters. This preliminary practice will also enable teachers to develop a common language about noticing and responding to student prior knowledge before critiquing videos of their own classroom practices.

This project advances knowledge of professional development experiences that help teachers notice and take into account the prior knowledge that students bring to the classroom. Results from studying the effects of coupling analysis of animated vignettes of classroom practices with critiquing videos on one's own classroom practices have the potential to significantly enhance professional development practices among mathematics teachers, as well as teachers in general. Results from the project will be broadly disseminated via conference presentations, articles in diverse media outlets, and a project website that will make project products available, be a location for information about the project for the press and the public, and be a tool to foster teacher-to-teacher communication. The results of this study, as well as the protocols and instruments developed during the research project, will inform and support the researcher's own efforts to better understand and improve teacher learning. The education plan of the researcher focuses on translating the outcomes of this study to the practices of preservice teacher education by connecting instructional decision-making more explicitly to research on student learning, thereby promoting learning trajectory based instruction.

Center for the Study of Mathematics Curriculum

This project will advance the research base and leadership capacity supporting K-12 mathematics curriculum design, analysis, implementation and evaluation. It will serve the K-12 educational community by focusing scholarly inquiry and professional development around the issues of mathematics curriculum, examining and characterizing their role and influence on both teaching and student learning. The Center will test strategies and produce new knowledge about the impact of curriculum materials on student and teacher learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0333879
Funding Period: 
Thu, 01/01/2004 to Sun, 06/30/2013
Full Description: 

The "Center for the Study of Mathematics Curriculum (CSMC)" will advance the research base and leadership capacity supporting K-12 mathematics curriculum design, analysis, implementation and evaluation. It will serve the K-12 educational community by focusing scholarly inquiry and professional development around the issues of mathematics curriculum, examining and characterizing their role and influence on both teaching and student learning. The Center partners are: Michigan State University; University of Missouri; Western Michigan University; Battle Creek Public Schools; Columbia Public Schools; Kalamazoo Public Schools; Novi Public Schools; the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project Group; and Horizon Research, Inc.

The Center will test strategies and produce new knowledge about the impact of curriculum materials on student and teacher learning. The Center will examine the potential of curriculum materials as tools for teacher learning. The work of the center will contribute to teacher knowledge through the professional development activities while at the same time creating opportunities for research on these issues. The diversity that exists in the school partners will also provide opportunities to gain better understandings of ways instructional materials can be designed to improve learning among underserved groups.

Cyber-Enabled Learning: Digital Natives in Integrated Scientific Inquiry Classrooms (Collaborative Research: Campbell)

This project explores the potential of information and communications technologies (ICT) as cognitive tools for engaging students in scientific inquiry and for enhancing teacher learning. A comprehensive professional development program of over 240 hours, along with follow-up is used to determine how teachers can be supported to use ICT tools effectively in classroom instruction to create meaningful learning experiences for students, reduce the gap between formal and informal learning, and improve student learning outcomes.

Award Number: 
1401350
Funding Period: 
Mon, 10/01/2012 to Wed, 09/30/2015
Full Description: 

There is an increasing gap between the use of cyber-enabled resources in schools and the realities of their use by students in out of school settings. This project explores the potential of information and communications technologies (ICT) as cognitive tools for engaging students in scientific inquiry and for enhancing teacher learning. A comprehensive professional development program of over 240 hours, along with follow-up is used to determine how teachers can be supported to use ICT tools effectively in classroom instruction to create meaningful learning experiences for students, reduce the gap between formal and informal learning, and improve student learning outcomes. In the first year, six teachers from school districts in Utah and New York are prepared to become teacher leaders and advisors. Then three cohorts of 30 teachers matched by characteristics are provided professional development and field test units over two years in a delayed-treatment design. Biologists from Utah State University and New York College of Technology develop four modules that meet the science standards for both states -- the first being changes in the environment. Teachers are then guided to develop additional modules. The key technological resource to be used in the project is the Opensimulator 3D application Server (OpenSim), an open source, modular, expandable platform used to create simulated 3D spaces with customizable terrain, weather and physics.

The effects of the professional development program are measured by classroom observations using RTOP and Technology Use in Science Instruction (TUSI), selected interviews of teachers and students, and validated assessments of student learning. An external evaluator assesses the quality of the professional development activity and the quality of the cyber-enabled learning resources and reviews the research design and implementation. An advisory board will monitor the project.

The principal outcome of this project will be insight into the professional development needed to make teachers comfortable teaching with the kinds of multi-user simulations and communication technologies that students use everyday. The enactment with OpenSim also provides an opportunity to demonstrate the level of planning and preparation that go into fashioning modules with selected cyber-enabled cognitive tools such as GoogleEarth and Biologica.

This project was associated with the NSF award number 1258854 with the same title.

(Note: This project was originally awarded to the Lead Organization, Utah State University under the Award #1020086 and for the Funding Period:  Wed, 09/01/2010 - Mon, 08/31/2015. Due to a change in institution by the PI of the project, a new award was issued: Award # 1258854)

Spatial Mathematics, Engineering, and Science: Toward an Integrated STEM Education

The goal of this project is to develop a provisional learning progression spanning grades K-5 that articulates and tests the potential of experiencing, describing, and representing space as the core of an integrated STEM education. The science of space has an extensive scope within and across disciplinary boundaries of science, mathematics and engineering; the project will create a coherent approach to elementary instruction in which mathematical reasoning about space is systematically cultivated.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1252875
Funding Period: 
Mon, 10/01/2012 to Mon, 09/30/2013
Full Description: 

The goal of Spatial Mathematics, Engineering, and Science: Toward an Integrated STEM Education is to develop a provisional learning progression spanning grades K-5 that articulates and tests the potential of experiencing, describing, and representing space as the core of an integrated STEM education. The science of space has an extensive scope within and across disciplinary boundaries of science, mathematics and engineering, the project will create a coherent approach to elementary instruction in which mathematical reasoning about space is systematically cultivated. Simultaneously, researchers are exploring the potential of spatial mathematics as a resource for engineering design of kinematic machines and for the development of mechanistic reasoning about the behavior of these machines. Work across these disciplines situates and motivates the mathematical work and also provides opportunities to investigate the intersections and contrasts among signature disciplinary practices, such as definition and proof in mathematics, design in engineering, and modeling in science. The research and development is being conducted in a middle school which is a full partner in the project.

In partnership, researchers and participating teachers are designing and implementing curricular approaches intended to support spatial knowledge and reasoning. Professional development will enhance and capitalize on teachers' roles as specialists in student thinking. The research consists of design studies conducted in 12 participating classrooms, K-5, and small-scale teaching experiments conducted with children across the same grade span. The research will establish provisional pathways and landmarks in learning about space, as well as the curricular activities and teacher practices necessary to support integrated STEM learning.

The project is novel in three ways. First, it provides children with early and systematic access to multiple geometries (e.g., plane, cylinder, sphere) to develop sophisticated understandings of powerful, yet experientally accessible concepts, such as straight, and STEM-related practices, such as model, definition and proof. Second, both the National Research Council Science/Engineering and the Common Core State Standards Mathematics highlight the role of practices in the development of disciplinary knowledge, and this project is providing a practical avenue for coordinating the co-development of disciplinary practices and knowledge. Third, the unifying theme of space is threaded through problems and contexts in mathematics, science and engineering, which provide a sound basis for generative STEM integration-integration that does not lose sight of the distinctive practices in different disciplines, but, instead, leverages these distinctions to produce multiple ways of knowing about space. Research and development is being conducted with underrepresented populations of students who are typically underserved in STEM education. Although the numbers of students reached in this phase of the work are relatively modest, the longer-term potential is great, because instruction anchored in space may be more accessible to students who struggle with traditional forms of mathematics education. The increased attention to integrated STEM education at the national level also ensures that this effort is likely to contribute to the knowledge base required to advance interdisciplinary forms of schooling.

Modeling in Primary Grades (MPG): Science Learning Through Content Rich Inquiry

This exploratory project examines how teachers of second grade students scaffold the development of student conceptual models and their understanding of the nature of scientific models and modeling processes in physical science conceptual areas associated with the particulate nature of matter. This foundational research provides descriptive exemplars that can be shared in both the research literature and in practitioner publications as examples of what cognitively rich pedagogy can achieve.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1222853
Funding Period: 
Mon, 10/01/2012 to Wed, 09/30/2015
Full Description: 

This exploratory project examines how teachers of second grade students scaffold the development of student conceptual models and their understanding of the nature of scientific models and modeling processes in physical science conceptual areas associated with the particulate nature of matter. Teachers receive professional development around ways in which they can facilitate productive disciplinary discussions with young children that result in students coming to understand core ideas in the Next Generation Science Standards. The project focuses on the topics of matter and sound based on the FOSS units "Solids and Liquids" and "Water," and the STC unit "Sound". It builds on an earlier project on life science for kindergarten teachers and students to expand the research communities understanding of how young children learn in science. Researchers from Purdue University are working with public schools in Lafayette that have high Hispanic populations and low SES, as well as a private school system with a more affluent population.

This project employs a mixed methodological research design that incorporates rich qualitative data collection and analysis combined with a quasi-experimental design that examines student learning across a treatment and comparison group with the same curricular materials but with differing support for teachers to engage students in disciplinary productive discussions about the science phenomena that they are studying. Research questions are designed to elicit descriptions of the differing aspects of learning that are evidenced by students together with rich descriptions of the teaching strategies that are associated with the classroom environments. Because this is an exploratory study, no causal comparisons between teacher practices and student outcomes are drawn, but the project provides the underpinnings that will support future research that would take a more rigorous approach. The project further develops the methodology of examining disciplinary rich description of student models to advance the understanding of how content and reasoning interact with young children.

Recent research in cognition has demonstrated that young children reason in a more sophisticated manner than previously understood. The Next Generation Science Standards has a strong focus on student reasoning practices, and the development of student explanations of science phenomenon requires that students have the opportunity to experience classrooms in which discussions of scientific ideas are scaffolded. Teachers need examples of how to interact with young children and of how to interpret what students say in ways that move the understanding of scientific concepts forward. This foundational research provides descriptive exemplars that can be shared in both the research literature and in practitioner publications as examples of what cognitively rich pedagogy can achieve.

Activate Computational Thinking (ACT)

This project offers a two-year professional development model to support a cohort of 16 middle school science teachers of underrepresented students as the teachers gain computational thinking (CT) competencies and design and teach CT-integrated classroom science lessons that will provide students with CT learning experiences. The project will contribute to the understanding of what it takes to empower middle school science teachers as designers of CT learning opportunities for students from underrepresented groups.

Award Number: 
1223076
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/15/2012 to Mon, 06/30/2014
Full Description: 

The Activate Computational Thinking (ACT) exploratory research project of California State University-San Marcos is a two-year professional development model to support a cohort of 16 middle school science teachers of underrepresented students as the teachers gain computational thinking (CT) competencies and design and teach CT-integrated classroom science lessons that will provide students with CT learning experiences.

The design of the ACT professional development (PD) supports an iterative process where teacher training is followed by the cycle of design, field-test, and refinement of CT lessons. The overall PD is then refined before the next training begins. Close monitoring of teacher and student responses to project activities will show how (1) teachers gain understanding and knowledge of CT concepts and capabilities; (2) teachers design science lesson plans that integrate CT learning experiences; (3) teachers implement science CT-integrated science lessons; and (4) students exhibit the use of CT skills in the course of completing their class assignments. Training will occur over two years in two summers and after school. The project combines participant learning and team teaching of a cohort of middle school students by trained participants during the first summer term. This will be followed by yearly training and mentoring. Teachers will produce science lesson plans that incorporate computational thinking.

The project will contribute to the understanding of what it takes to empower middle school science teachers as designers of CT learning opportunities for students from underrepresented groups. With an estimate of 90 students per middle school teacher per year, the project is expected to impact more than 2,800 students as the 16 project teachers implement CT-integrated science lessons into classroom activities over two years.

Enhancing Mathematics Teaching and Learning in Urban Elementary Schools: A Cluster-Randomized Efficacy Trial of a Novel Professional Development Approach

This project is working with all teachers in grades three through five in the Portland, OR Public Schools in order to test the feasibility and efficacy of the Mathematics Studio Model of professional development. The model requires professional development to occur at the school level involving both teachers and principals. The goal of the project is to improve students' engagement and learning in mathematics by fostering effective instruction.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1223074
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/15/2012 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

The Enhancing Mathematics Teaching and Learning in Urban Elementary Schools project is working with all teachers in grades three through five in the Portland, OR Public Schools in order to test the feasibility and efficacy of the Mathematics Studio Model of professional development. The model requires professional development to occur at the school level involving both teachers and principals. The professional development is conducted at the school and is integrated with instruction. The goal of the project is to improve students' engagement and learning in mathematics by fostering effective instruction. Partners in the project include Teachers Development Group, Portland State University, Portland Public Schools and Horizon Research.

The researchers are identifying the key ingredients that make the professional development successful. They are using a cluster-randomized research design to examine the efficacy of their model. They are using observational measures to identify successful teaching practices as well as student discourse patterns. They are studying the fidelity of implementation of the model and are looking for specific variables that may be particularly helpful for students who have not been successful in learning mathematics.

It is difficult to implement professional development at a large enough scale to make a significant difference in student achievement within a district. This research is important because it tests the use of a practice-based, professional development model within a large, public school system, and documents the challenges of implementation as well as the variables that contribute to student learning of mathematics.

Researching the Efficacy of the Science and Literacy Academy Model (Collaborative Research: Strang)

This project is studying three models of professional development (PD) to test the efficacy of a practicum for grade 3-5 in-service teachers organized in three cohorts of 25. There will be 75 teachers and their students directly impacted by the project. Additional impacts of the project are research results and professional development materials, including a PD implementation guide and instructional videos.

Award Number: 
1223021
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2012 to Sun, 07/31/2016
Full Description: 

This award is doing a research study of three models of professional development (PD) to test the efficacy of a practicum for grade 3-5 in-service teachers organized in three cohorts of 25. Model 1 is a one-week institute based on classroom discourse practices and a 2-week practicum (cohort 1). Model 2 is the one-week institute (cohort 2). Model 3 is a "business as usual" model (cohort 3) based on normal professional development provided by the school district. Cohorts 1 and 2 experience the interventions in year 1 with four follow-up sessions in each of years 2 and 3. In year 4 they receive no PD, but are being observed to see if they sustain the practices learned. Cohort 3 receives no treatment in years 1 and 2, but participates in a revised version of the institute plus practicum in year 3 with four follow up sessions in year 4. The Lawrence Hall of Science provides the professional development, and Stanford University personnel are conducting the research. The teachers come from the Oakland Unified School District. Science content is the GEMS Ocean Sciences Sequence.

There are 3 research questions;

1. In what ways do practicum-based professional development models influence science instructional practice?

2. What differences in student outcomes are associated with teachers' participation in the different PD programs?

3. Is the impact of the revised PD model different from the impact of the original model?

This is a designed-based research model. Teacher data is based on interviews on beliefs about teaching and the analysis of video tapes of their practicum and classroom performance using the Discourse in Inquiry Science Classrooms instrument. Student data is based on the GEMS unit pre- and post-tests and the California Science Test for 5th graders. Multiple analyses are being conducted using different combinations of the data from 8 scales across 4 years.

There will be 75 teachers and their students directly impacted by the project. Additional impacts of the project are research results and professional development materials, including a PD implementation guide and instructional videos. These will be presented in publications and conference presentations and be posted on linked websites at the Lawrence Hall of Science and the Center to Support Excellence in Teaching at Stanford University.

Learning Trajectories to Support the Growth of Measurement Knowledge: Pre-K Through Middle School

This project is studying measurement practices from pre-K to Grade 8, as a coordination of the STEM disciplines of mathematics and science. This research project tests, revises and extends learning trajectories for children's knowledge of geometric measurement across a ten-year span of human development. The goal will be to validate all components of each learning trajectory, goal, developmental progression, and instruction tasks, as well as revising each LT to reflect the outcomes of the experiments.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1222944
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2012 to Tue, 07/31/2018
Full Description: 

This project is studying measurement practices from pre-K to Grade 8, as a coordination of the STEM disciplines of mathematics and science. This four-year, mixed methods research project tests, revises and extends learning trajectories (LTs) for children's knowledge of geometric measurement across a ten-year span of human development. Specifically, research teams from Illinois State University and the University at Denver are working with children in urban and suburban schools to (1) validate and extend prior findings from previous NSF-funded research developing measurement learning trajectories with children in pre-K to Grade 5, and (2) generate and extend portions of trajectories for geometric measurement for Grades 6-8.

The project employs a form of microgenetic studies with 24-50 children per grade from pre-K through Grade 5 representing a stratified random sample from a specific set of suburban schools. These studies will test the validity, replicability and generalizability of the LTs for length, area, and volume. The goal will be to validate all components of each learning trajectory, goal, developmental progression, and instruction tasks, as well as revising each LT to reflect the outcomes of the experiments. Analysis of variance measures with pre/post assessments in an experimental/control design will complement the repeated sessions method of microgenetic analysis.

To explore and extend LTs for children in Grade 6-8, the project employs teaching experiments. This design is used to generate and extend portions of trajectories for geometric measurement, and to explore critical aspects of measurement in clinical and classroom contexts. This work is coordinated with the teaching and learning standards issued by the Council of Chief State School Officials/National Governors Association, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association of the Advancement of Science, and the National Research Council with cognitive and mathematics/science education literature. Emerging constructs for the hypothetical LT levels in relation to relevant frameworks generated by other researchers and those implied by standards documents to establish ongoing sequences of the experimental interventions for grades 6-8 are being compared, critiqued and evaluated.

This project provides a longitudinal account of pre-K to Grade 8 children's ways of thinking and understanding mathematical and scientific concepts of measurement based upon empirical analysis. The resulting learning trajectory will represent state of the art integrated, interdisciplinary, theoretically- and empirically-based descriptions of increasingly sophisticated and complex levels of thinking in the domain of measurement (albeit, more tentative for Grades 6-8). This account will be used to verify and/or modify existing accounts of children's development of reasoning from short-term analyses of learning or cross-sectional studies. There are not yet integrative longitudinal studies describing this cognitive domain for area or volume measurement. This trajectory-based analysis of development and instruction supports the design and testing of integrative, formative assessment of individuals and groups of children. Such learning trajectories will be useful in implementing the standard-focused curriculum described in the Common Core State Standards Mathematics and in supporting the multiple large assessment projects currently underway

Assessing, Validating, and Developing Content Knowledge for Teaching Energy (Collaborative Research: Gitomer)

This project develops an instrument to measure the content knowledge that teachers need to teach about energy in high school classroom instruction that focuses on mechanical energy. The project uses a framework that includes tasks based on instructional practices in the classroom that can identify the extent to which the teacher understands both the disciplinary knowledge and the appropriate teaching processes that support student learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1222777
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2012 to Thu, 08/31/2017
Full Description: 

This project develops an instrument to measure the content knowledge that teachers need to teach about energy in high school classroom instruction that focuses on mechanical energy. There is significant research that indicates that teacher content knowledge differs from what people in other professions need to know about particular domains such as mathematics, and the development of a Content Knowledge of Teaching Energy in mechanics is an extension of those research and development efforts. The project embeds the development of the instrument in a program of measuring effective teaching of physics in the classroom and develops a strong validity argument for the resulting assessment based on its use as a measure in a professional development project that intends to improve teachers' understanding of energy in physics. The research team consists of experts in physics, assessment and classroom teaching of physics. The collaborative project includes researchers at Rutgers, University of Maine, Seattle Pacific University, Facets Innovation, and the Educational Testing Service.

The project uses a framework for effective teaching developed in the Measures of Effective Teaching project funded by the Gates Foundation to construct a theoretical framework for the teaching of mechanical energy. That framework includes items and tasks based on instructional practices in the classroom that can identify the extent to which the teacher understands both the disciplinary knowledge and the appropriate teaching processes that support student learning. A strong framework of validation based on multiple lines of evidence of the relationship between the items developed for the study and observations, analysis of video, and artifacts from the classroom is one element of the study. Another element of the study examines multiple psychometric lines of evidence to determine the reliability of the instruments and the validity of the inferences drawn from them. The resulting instruments will be used in the measurement of changes of teacher content knowledge for teaching in professional development programs as another source of validation.

The improvement of teachers' content knowledge for teaching is an important intermediary goal of professional development of teachers. Without adequate understanding of the gaps in teacher knowledge and precise evidence of the improvement through professional development, the efficacy of different professional development projects is not possible. This project develops a model of teacher assessment instrument development that addresses a cross-cutting theme in the Next Generation Science Standards and contributes an important tool to the research and evaluation processes that are needed to make those standards a reality in the classroom. Findings from the use of the instruments across multiple projects inform policy decisions on local, state and federal levels.

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