Professional Development

Discovery Research K-12

Twelve fifth and sixth grade science teacher specialists and their students in a high needs district in Ohio are engaged in a design-based research project within a three-year professional development effort with faculty in several departments at the University of Cincinnati to study how the engineering design process can be used effectively as a pedagogical strategy in science instruction to improve student interest, learning and skill development.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1019672
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/15/2010 to Wed, 07/31/2013
Full Description: 

Ten fifth and sixth grade science teacher specialists and their students in a high needs district in Ohio are engaged in a design-based research project within a three-year professional development effort with faculty in several departments at the University of Cincinnati to study how the engineering design process can be used effectively as a pedagogical strategy in science instruction to improve student interest, learning and skill development. Stage 1 of the exploratory project is articulation of engineering design, science content, and scientific inquiry using teacher learning teams to identify effective curriculum structures and instructional strategies, including the development of instructional materials. Stage 2 focuses on student outcomes on standardized tests and authentic assessments and improved student problem solving skills. The project is embedded in a revision of the Ohio Science Standards in which science content is juxtaposed with 21st century skills and other content areas. Dissemination is through the Cincinnati STEM Network, the Ohio State STEM Learning Network and through professional organizations and publications. The University of Cincinnati Evaluation Services Center evaluates the processes and outcomes.

The research seeks to define STEM education and develop needed resources to support the teaching and learning of STEM. The operationalization of STEM education requires teachers to infuse engineering into the usual school subjects of mathematics and science. The research seeks to understand how STEM can be operationalized in the elementary classroom and focuses on investigating how a real-world, authentic approach articulating science and eventually mathematics with engineering does indeed increase student engagement and motivation for learning all three subjects. The research issues address what articulation of engineering design and science inquiry looks like in the classroom and the challenges to articulating them. The research also investigates the skills and habits of mind that can be taught this way and the impact on student achievement. The evaluation determines how well the research adheres to the processes and timeline developed and monitors impacts on teacher and students.

Articulating engineering design with science content and scientific inquiry emphasizes the authentic investigation and real world problem solving that increases student interest in STEM content and improves student learning and achievement in science and mathematics. The research will contribute to understanding of how this STEM education can be operationalized in the elementary classroom. This study takes into account the complexity of the classroom and provides a situated context that could be used to inform other school contexts.

Differentiated Professional Development: Building Mathematics Knowledge for Teaching Struggling Learners

This project is creating and studying a blended professional development model (face-to-face and online) for mathematics teachers and special educators (grades 4-7) with an emphasis on teaching struggling math students in the areas of fractions, decimals, and positive/negative numbers (Common Core State Standards). The model's innovative design differentiates professional learning to address teachers' wide range of prior knowledge, experiences, and interests.

Award Number: 
1020163
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Wed, 08/31/2011
Project Evaluator: 
Teresa Duncan
Full Description: 

This project under the direction of the Education Development Center is creating and studying a  professional development model for middle school mathematics teachers with an emphasis on teaching struggling math students in the areas of fractions and rational numbers. There are three components to the PD for teachers: online modules, professional learning communities, and face-to-face workshops. There are four online modules 1) Fraction sense: concepts, addition, and subtraction, 2) Fraction multiplication and division; 3) Decimal and percent operations; and 4) Positive/Negative including concepts and operations. Each module is one week long. There are common sessions and special emphasis ones depending on the needs of the teacher. The project addresses three research questions: 1) To what extent do participating teachers show changes in their knowledge of rational numbers and integers, pedagogical knowledge of and beliefs about instructional practices for struggling students and abilities to use diagnostic approaches to identify and address student difficulties?; 2) To what extent do students of participating teachers increase their mathematical understanding and skill?; and 3) To what extent do students of participating teachers show positive changes in their attitudes toward learning mathematics?

In the first year of work on the professional development program, fifty-five teachers will test the initial components of the differentiated modules. In years two and three an additional 160 teachers will participate in the professional development and research to test efficacy of the professional development model. In addition to this testing, twelve teachers will be selected for intensive case studies. Teacher content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and attitudes will be assessed by various well-validated instruments, and changes in their classroom practice will be assessed by classroom observations. Effects of the teacher professional development on student learning will be evaluated by analysis of data from state assessments and by performance on selected items from NAEP and other standardized tests.

This project will result in a tested innovative model for professional development of mathematics teachers to help them with the critical challenge of assisting students who struggle in learning the core concepts and skills of rational numbers and integers. Deliverables will include the on-line modules, materials for workshop and professional learning community work, new research instruments, and research reports.

Using PISA to Develop Activities for Teacher Education (UPDATE)

This project uses items and data from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) to develop two kinds of resources for preparation and professional development of secondary mathematics teachers: one in the form of prototype professional learning materials and a second in the form of PISA-based, research-grounded articles written for mathematics teachers and teacher educators. Work on both resources will focus on algebra and quantitative literacy and on factors influencing educational equity.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1019513
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Full Description: 

The UPDATE project seeks to enable significant advances in K-12 teacher and student learning of mathematics by using of items and data from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in ways that enhance the work of mathematics teachers and teacher educators. We hypothesize that PISA can be useful to the field in much the same way as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which has long served as a key source of information for the mathematics education community. In contrast to NAEP and TIMSS, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in the area of mathematics has received little or no attention within the U.S. mathematics education community, beyond noting that the performance of U.S. students is mediocre compared to that of students in many other countries in Asia and Europe. A consequence of the lack of attention to PISA in the U.S. is that we have underutilized a potentially valuable source of information for improvement of mathematics education.

In this project we use PISA as a base to develop resources for mathematics educators to use in teacher education settings. One type of resource comes in the form of prototype professional learning materials that provide opportunities for teachers and students to analyze complex mathematical tasks and student responses to those tasks, focusing on both the mathematics entailed in the task and the understandings of mathematics reflected in students’ responses. The materials will be designed to engage teachers in individual and collaborative inquiry aimed at developing their specialized content knowledge and their pedagogical content knowledge. Materials will be field tested in preservice and inservice teacher professional education settings and also shared at regional and national meetings. A second type of resource comes in the form of PISA-based, research-grounded articles written specifically for mathematics teachers and teacher educators and published in journals that reach these audiences. The articles will be informed not only by our experiences in developing and using the prototype materials, but also by the findings of selected secondary analyses of data collected in the 2003 PISA assessment.

Our work is organized around three distinct focus areas: (1) Algebra – a traditional content topic familiar to mathematics teachers that can be approached in a novel way through PISA tasks; (2) Quantitative Literacy – a nontraditional content topic less familiar to mathematics teachers that can be accessed directly through PISA tasks, and (3) Equity – an issue of import to mathematics educators that can be examined carefully using PISA data. In each component our work blends research inquiry and development, integrating the analysis of tasks and data from the PISA mathematics assessment with the creation of prototype teacher education materials and the preparation of PISA-based, research-grounded articles for teachers and teacher educators.

The results of this exploratory study will be disseminated broadly, and they are likely to generate new activity in research and development related to PISA. Mirroring the tradition of the interpretive reports of NAEP results, we will produce PISA-based resources that can have a significant impact on the mathematics education community as teachers, teacher educators, and graduate students examine the materials and reports we produce and use them to improve the quality of teacher and student learning of mathematics.

This exploratory project led by faculty from the University of Michigan uses items and data from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) to develop two kinds of resources for preparation and professional development of secondary mathematics teachers. One type of resource comes in the form of prototype professional learning materials that provide opportunities for teachers and students to analyze complex mathematical tasks and student responses to those tasks, focusing on both the mathematics entailed in the task and the understandings of mathematics reflected in students' responses. A second type of resource comes in the form of PISA-based, research-grounded articles written specifically for mathematics teachers and teacher educators. Work on both resources will focus on the critical content areas of algebra and quantitative literacy and on factors influencing educational equity.

The project is driven by the hypothesis that PISA assessment instruments and findings can be useful to teachers in much the way that prior analyses of NAEP frameworks, items, and data have been. To address the first project objective, the research team will use selected PISA items and student responses to those items to design, develop, and test a collection of professional learning tasks that engage mathematics teachers in individual and collaborative inquiry aimed at enhancing their specialized content knowledge and their pedagogical content knowledge. To address the second project objective, the research team will prepare articles for practitioner journals that will be informed by experiences in developing and using the prototype materials, but also by the findings of selected secondary analyses of data collected in the 2003 PISA assessment.

The results of this work will be a collection of resources for use in various teacher preparation and professional development settings to stimulate thinking of secondary mathematics teachers about issues of curriculum content, student learning, teaching, and assessment.

Using Routines as an Instructional Tool for Developing Students' Conceptions of Proof

This project will develop and systematically investigate a teaching model to assist teachers in developing ideas about proof in grades 2-5. The teaching model provides both a tool for learning on the part of elementary teachers and a model of practice from which they can learn as they implement it.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1019482
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Megan Franke
Full Description: 

Developers and researchers at TERC, the Education Development Center, and Mount Holyoke College are participating in the development and systematic investigation of a teaching model to assist teachers in developing ideas about proof in grades 2-5. The teaching model provides both a tool for learning on the part of elementary teachers and a model of practice from which they can learn as they implement it.

The project is a teaching experiment in which the model is iteratively implemented and refined, first with teachers experienced in incorporating ideas about proof into their classroom instruction (Phase 1), then with teachers who are relatively inexperienced, both in their own understanding of proof and in their knowledge of how their students can learn about proof (Phase 2). Research questions focus on developing the components of the model, the learning of teachers as they implement the model, and the learning of students as they engage in the instruction that is guided by the model, with particular attention to students with varied histories of achievement in grade-level work on number and operations.

The expected outcome is a teaching model that can be tested on a larger scale as well as instruments for assessing student learning and teacher understanding of proof. The model includes printed material with descriptions of the routines and instructional sequences, guidelines for implementing each component, and a teaching framework as well as written and video case examples.

CAREER: Supporting Middle School Students' Construction of Evidence-Based Arguments

Doing science requires that students learn to create evidence-based arguments (EBAs), defined as claims connected to supporting evidence via premises. In this CAREER project, I investigate how argumentation ability can be enhanced among middle school students. The project entails theoretical work, instructional design, and empirical work, and involves 3 middle schools in northern Utah and southern Idaho.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0953046
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/15/2010 to Fri, 07/31/2015
Project Evaluator: 
David Williams
Full Description: 

Doing science requires that students learn to create evidence-based arguments (EBAs), defined as claims connected to supporting evidence via premises. The question chosen for study by a new researcher at Utah State University is: How can argumentation ability be enhanced among middle school students? This study involves 325 middle school students in 12 class sections from 3 school districts in Utah and Idaho. First, students in middle school science classrooms will be introduced to problem-based learning (PBL) units that allow them to investigate ill-structured science problems. These activities provide students with something about which to argue: something that they have explored personally and with which they have grappled. Next, they will construct arguments using a powerful computer technology, the Connection Log, developed by the PI. The Connection Log provides a scaffold for building arguments, allowing each student to write about his/her reasoning and compare it to arguments built by peers. The study investigates how the Connection Log improves the quality of students' arguments. It also explores whether students are able to transfer what they have learned to new situations that call for argumentation.

This study is set in 6th and 7th grade science classrooms with students of diverse SES, ethnicity, and achievement levels. The Connection Log software supports middle school students with written prompts on a computer screen that take students through the construction of an argument. The system allows students to share their arguments with other members of their PBL group. The first generation version of the Connection Log asks students to:

1. define the problem, or state the problem in their own words

2. determine needed information, or decide on evidence they need to find to solve the problem

3. find and organize needed information

4. develop a claim, or make an assertion stating a possible problem solution

5. link evidence to claim, linking specific, relevant data to assertions

The model will be optimized through a process of design-based research. The study uses a mixed methods research design employing argument evaluation tests, video, interviews, database information, debate ratings, and a mental models measure, to evaluate student progress.

This study is important because research has shown that students do not automatically come to school prepared to create evidence-based arguments. Middle school students face three major challenges in argumentation: adequately representing the central problem of the unit; determining and obtaining the most relevant evidence; and synthesizing gathered information to construct a sound argument. Argumentation ability is crucial to STEM performance and to access to STEM careers. Without the ability to formulate arguments based upon evidence, middle school students are likely to be left out of the STEM pipeline, avoid STEM careers, and have less ability to critically evaluate and understand scientific findings as citizens. By testing and refining the Connection Log, the project has the potential for scaling up for use in science classrooms (and beyond) throughout the United States.

CAREER: Supporting Students' Proof Practices Through Quantitative Reasoning in Algebra

The aim of this project is to explore the hypothesis that a curricular focus on quantitative reasoning in middle grades mathematics can enhance development of student skill and understanding about mathematical proof. The project is addressing that hypothesis through a series of studies that include small group teaching experiments with students, professional development work with teachers, and classroom field tests of curricular units that connect quantitative reasoning and proof in algebra.

Award Number: 
1743356
Funding Period: 
Mon, 03/15/2010 to Fri, 06/30/2017
Full Description: 

The aim of this CAREER project led by Amy Ellis at the University of Wisconsin is to explore the hypothesis that a curricular focus on quantitative reasoning in middle grades mathematics can enhance development of student skill and understanding about mathematical proof. The project is addressing that hypothesis through a series of studies that include small group teaching experiments with students, professional development work with teachers, and classroom field tests of curricular units that connect quantitative reasoning and proof in algebra.

Work of the project will produce: (a) insights into ways of unifying two previously disconnected lines of research on quantitative reasoning and proof; (b) models describing realistic ways to support development of students' proof competencies through quantitative reasoning; (c) improvement in students' understanding of algebra through engagement in proof practices based on quantitative reasoning; (d) insights into middle-school students' thinking as they negotiate the transition from elementary to more advanced mathematics; and (e) increased understanding of teachers' knowledge about proof and their classroom practices aimed at helping students progress towards understanding and skill in proof.

This project was previously funded under award #0952415.

CAREER: Creating Effective, Sustainable Inquiry-Based Instruction in Middle School Science Classrooms

The goal of this project is to improve the quality of middle school science in a select number of schools and to gain insight into effective science professional development practice more generally. The project will focus on the following objectives: (1) increasing the quantity and quality of inquiry-based instruction; (2) facilitating the development and implementation of inquiry-based instruction; and (3) improving student achievement in middle school science classrooms.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0952160
Funding Period: 
Mon, 02/15/2010 to Sat, 01/31/2015
Full Description: 

The goal of this project is to improve the quality of middle school science in a select number of schools within the Greenville County School District (GCSD) and to gain insight into effective science professional development practice more generally. To achieve this goal, the project will focus on the following objectives: (1) increasing the quantity and quality of inquiry-based instruction in the classroom of participating teachers; (2) facilitating the development and implementation of inquiry-based instruction that is tailored to the unique needs of each cohort school; and (3) improving student achievement in middle school science classrooms of participating teachers at cohort schools. In light of these objectives, long-term professional development (PD) will be the vehicle for transforming (and sustaining) inquiry-based instructional practices for more than 40 middle school science teachers. Through over 80 clock-hours of PD, teachers will engage in two major interventions. The first intervention will be a professional development institute (PDI-1) that will focus on classroom instruction, lesson development and refinement, assessment, and reflection. The second intervention will be another PD institute (PDI-2) that will provide advanced training and leadership opportunities for a select number of PDI-1 participants. The expected outcome is that teacher participation in these interventions will lead to changes in classroom instructional practices resulting in improved student achievement in science.

The main research questions include:

-What are the effects of the professional development experiences upon the quantity and quality of inquiry-based instruction in middle school science classrooms for participants in the first and second year PD experiences?

-Does the second year PD experience help sustain and continue to improve inquiry-based instructional practice within the participants? respective schools?

-Do students whose teachers participate in the program demonstrate greater academic growth in the science content and process knowledge? Is the growth different between students of first year and second year participants?

The study will build on several pilots administered through a longstanding partnership between Clemson University and GCSD. Classroom observations, surveys, review of lessons plans, interviews, focus group sessions, and scores from the Measures of Academic Progress tests will be used to collect data relative to the research questions. Approaches and instruments are in place to measure the impact of the interventions for teachers and students and both have been refined and/or tested for reliability and validity through a three-year pilot. Both approaches and instruments have the capacity to address and measure teacher change (e.g., overall lesson performance; constructs and individual indicators) as well as student growth (e.g., science content and process; weather, forces, systems) at the macro and micro levels, respectively. A quasi-experimental design will be used to study student growth using students taught by teachers participating in the study (more than 100 per teacher), a comparison group of students taught by teachers in the same district; and a virtual comparison group of students drawn from the Northwest Evaluation Growth Research Database. For both students and teachers, there are clear methods, instruments, and strategies for data collection and analysis.

The broader impacts of this study reside in the significance and importance of results that might show a clear link between the interventions and student performance in science. Few, if any studies have been able to clearly make this connection. Therefore, the fundamental issue that might be resolved through this study could be whether or not student performance in science can be directly linked to teacher interventions through PD institutes. This information could help policymakers make better decisions about science instruction at all levels. Lessons learned from this study will be disseminated through multiple channels and pathways available to education stakeholders nationally. Thus, this project could potentially add to research in this area, advance knowledge about science instruction, highlight the impact on student achievement, and provide tools for measuring inquiry-based science instruction.

The Bio-Math Connection

This project will develop 15 modules for high school students that connect biology, computation, and mathematics with corresponding teacher materials and professional development activities. The modules will draw on an approach to biological phenomena as involving information processing, in three illustrative areas conducive to learning at the high school level: Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, Mathematical Methods in Epidemiology, and Mathematical Methods in Ecology.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0628091
Funding Period: 
Sun, 10/15/2006 to Thu, 09/30/2010
Full Description: 

This project will develop 15 modules for high school students that connect biology, computation, and mathematics with corresponding teacher materials and professional development activities. The project will build on the extensive experience of and be conducted as collaboration among Rutgers University (New Brunswick), the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS), the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications (COMAP), and Colorado State University. The modules will draw on an approach to biological phenomena as involving information processing, in three illustrative areas conducive to learning at the high school level: Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, Mathematical Methods in Epidemiology, and Mathematical Methods in Ecology. These areas are likely to bring excitement about contemporary interconnections between the biological and mathematical sciences to the high school classrooms, hence increase student motivation to study both subjects. The modules will include self-contained text and problem situations (including web-based interactive materials) that can be used separately in high school mathematics courses or biology courses, as well as in Bio-Math integrated courses. Most modules will include about ten 40-minute class meetings, whereas a few will include 1-2 lessons that can be inserted into the existing curriculum. All modules will be developed within a four-phase process that includes pilot testing by teachers who are also involved in module development, field testing by teachers who received training workshops (at least five schools), evaluation and dissemination. Modules will be made available to high school mathematics/biology teachers, free of charge, during the first three years of the project (print and electronic formats). Both formative and summative evaluation will be conducted to examine the merit/impact of the project.

NCLT: A Center to Develop Nanoscale Science and Engineering Educators with Leadership Capabilities

The Nanoscale Science and Engineering Education (NSEE) Center for Learning and Teaching (NCLT) would focus on the research and development of nano-science instructional resources for grades 7-16, related professional development opportunities for 7-12 teachers, and programs infused with nano-science content for education doctoral students.
Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0426328
Funding Period: 
Fri, 10/01/2004 to Thu, 09/30/2010
Full Description: 

The Nanoscale Science and Engineering Education (NSEE) Center for Learning and Teaching (NCLT) would focus on the research and development of nano-science instructional resources for grades 7-16, related professional development opportunities for 7-12 teachers, and programs infused with nano-science content for education doctoral students.

The Center would bring together educators and scientists from several areas of nano-science and engineering research to collaborate with science teachers and doctoral candidates in education on both the development of the resources and research on their efficacy. The PI has prior experience as director of the Materials World Modules project, an NSF-funded curriculum currently in use in several secondary schools across the country. Lead partners in the proposed Center are Northwestern University, Purdue University, University of Michigan, University of Illinois at Chicago and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Additional partners include Argonne National Laboratory, West Point Military Academy, Alabama A & M University, Fisk University, Hampton University, Morehouse College and University of Texas at El Paso. The additional partners will widen the geographic range of the project, expanding opportunities to reach a diverse and currently underrepresented population of graduate students, teachers and ultimately students.

STEM and Education faculty and researchers from the partner institutions would participate in interdisciplinary teams to address the Center's mission:

  • Provide national education leadership and resources for advancing NSEE
  • Create and implement professional development programs in NSEE
  • Use innovative ideas in learning to design instructional materials for grades 7-16
  • Conduct research relating to integration of NSEE into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

Mathematics and Culture in Micronesia: Integrating Societal Experiences (Macimise)

Founded on ethnomathematics research findings, this project aims to increase the mathematics learning of first-, fourth-, and seventh-grade elementary school Micronesian students. Plans are to develop and field-test culturally and linguistically sensitive grade-level curriculum units in specific mathematics topics, such as number and counting, division of whole numbers and fractions, and elements of geometry, focused on the indigenous mathematics learning experiences of eight distinct islands in the Pacific region.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
0918309
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Sun, 08/31/2014
Project Evaluator: 
Joan LaFrance
Full Description: 

Founded on ethnomathematics research findings, this project--a collaborative research and development effort between Pacific Resources for Education and Learning and the University of Hawaii-Manoa--aims to increase the mathematics learning of first-, fourth-, and seventh-grade elementary school Micronesian students. Plans are to develop and field-test culturally and linguistically sensitive grade-level curriculum units in specific mathematics topics, such as number and counting, division of whole numbers and fractions, and elements of geometry, focused on the indigenous mathematics learning experiences of eight distinct islands in the Pacific region. A team of mathematicians, mathematics educators, mathematics teachers, graduate students, curriculum and assessment experts, and quantitative and qualitative methodologists will develop and implement approximately 24 curriculum units (8 for each grade level).

The hypothesis that inclusion of indigenous ways of knowing into the mathematics curriculum may enhance students' NCTM standards-based mathematics learning and meaning making drives the proposed scope of work. Thus, the main research question is: Does knowledge of recovered culturally based mathematics significantly improve indigenous student scores on standardized mathematics tests at grades 1, 4, and 7? The specific setting of the study comprises eight islands included in the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, and American Samoa. Participants include 2,304 first- , fourth- , and seventh-grade students: 24 experimental and 24 control groups, two of each grade level on each of the eight U.S.-affiliated islands of the Pacific region.

Qualitative data gathering strategies, such as interviews with local informants, teachers, and students; and classroom observations are used to document indigenous ways of knowing, mathematical content, assessment practices, and cultural practices. Quantitative data gathering and interpretation strategies using pre-and post-test scores, as well as scores from standardized assessments, will include statistical analyses to determine the effect of the curricular units on participating students' grade-level mathematics achievement.

The evaluation plan comprises both formative and summative components, including implementation evaluation and progress evaluation. Grade-level curriculum units, three publications on findings, a professional development model for teachers through graduate courses, and a cadre of masters' and doctoral degrees in mathematics education are among the main products of this effort.

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