Professional Development

Geniverse: A Student Collaboratory for Biology Cyberlearning

This project addresses biology teachers and students at the high school level, responding to the exponential increases occurring in biology knowledge today and the need for students to understand the experimental basis behind biology concepts. The project studies the feasibility of engaging students in an environment where they can learn firsthand how science knowledge develops in the fields of bioinformatics and DNA science by performing collaborative, simulated experiments to solve open-ended problems.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918642
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/15/2009 to Tue, 08/31/2010
Full Description: 

High Adventure Science

The High Adventure Science project is bringing some of the big unanswered questions in Earth and space science to middle and high school science classrooms. Students will explore the mechanisms of climate change, consider the possibility of life on other planets, and devise solutions to the impending shortage of fresh water. Each curriculum module features interviews with scientists currently working on the same unanswered question.
Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0929774
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/15/2009 to Tue, 08/31/2010

Scaffolding Teacher Learning in Support of Student Inquiry

This project is developing, piloting, and implementing online professional development in support of inquiry, focusing on facilitation of student research. The goal is to determine what types of Web-based experiences and resources most effectively support middle school teachers in overcoming the substantial hurdles inherent in enabling students to design and conduct their own scientific experiments. The project creates and tests a series of Web-based professional development experiences for 7th and 8th grade teachers.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0733143
Funding Period: 
Mon, 10/01/2007 to Thu, 09/30/2010
Full Description: 

This project is exploring what types of web-based resources and experiences can most effectively support middle school science teachers in overcoming the substantial hurdles inherent in facilitating student research. The investigation focuses on 7th and 8th grade teachers using BirdSleuth inquiry-based science units developed with NSF funding by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. The BirdSleuth curriculum is designed to engage students in authentic scientific research – making observations, collecting data, asking their own questions, drawing conclusions through research and observation, and publishing their results. We have seen that implementing genuine, open-ended inquiry projects presents formidable challenges to teachers who are not accustomed to conducting scientific research. However, BirdSleuth piloting also indicates that inquiry experiences provide motivation and excitement to science students of all ability levels, even drawing in those who are not excelling in more traditional forms of learning. Through collaboration with teachers, we are evaluating the efficacy of a new online course and a variety of web-based tools and experiences in support of teachers’ implementation of BirdSleuth investigations. Evaluation of the effectiveness of these tools and experiences will enable us to assemble permanent web-based resources in support of optimal student learning through BirdSleuth. The findings, although specific to BirdSleuth, will provide valuable insights applicable to student inquiry in other fields.

Formative Assessment in the Mathematics Classroom: Engaging Teachers and Students

This project is developing a two-year, intensive professional development model to build middle-grades mathematics teachers’ knowledge and implementation of formative assessment. Using a combination of institutes, classroom practice, and ongoing support through professional learning communities and web-based resources, this model helps teachers internalize and integrate a comprehensive understanding of formative assessment into daily practice.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
0918438
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/15/2009 to Tue, 08/31/2010
Project Evaluator: 
Cynthia Char
Full Description: 

Formative Assessment in the Mathematics Classroom: Engaging Teachers and Students (FACETS) 

This project is submitted as a full research and development project that addresses challenge #3, how can the ability of teachers to provide STEM education be enhanced?

The FACETS project will develop a 2-year, intensive professional development model to build middle grades mathematics teachers’ knowledge and implementation of formative assessment. Using a combination of institutes, classroom practice, and ongoing support through professional learning communities and web-based resources, this model will help teachers internalize and integrate a comprehensive understanding of formative assessment into daily practice. As part of the professional development model, we will create a variety of products:

  • a facilitator’s guide describing the components of the professional development model and suggestions for using the model to provide a professional development program,
  • cyberlearning products such as interactive forums and a vetted resource library, and
  • video and other materials for the professional development activities and resource library.

FACETS includes a formative research component centered on the following questions:

1. How do mathematics teachers’ knowledge and practice of formative assessment change as a result of participation in the proposed professional development?

2. What learning trajectory describes teachers’ learning about formative assessment, and what are common barriers to successful implementation?

Reports of research findings will include journal articles on teachers’ learning trajectory for formative assessment and common barriers to successful implementation faced by teachers.

Intellectual merit: Our field work, supported by existing research, has shown that math teachers have difficulty fully implementing formative assessment in their classroom. Existing professional development programs either present a comprehensive understanding without a focus on mathematics, or focus on mathematics but only emphasize some of the critical aspects needed to bring out the full potential of formative assessment. This project will develop a professional development model that a) presents a comprehensive understanding of formative assessment and b) focuses specifically on mathematics. Furthermore, this project proposes to contribute to the field of mathematics teacher education through a deeper insight into mathematics teachers’ learning and practice of formative assessment. This insight can be used by professional developers and teacher educators in mathematics to make decisions that help teachers progress more effectively in their learning. This project brings together a multi-disciplinary team with expertise in formative assessment, professional development, mathematics, mathematics education, and teacher education research.

Broader impacts: We anticipate that the professional development will have an immediate impact on participating teachers, and on their students, as they learn about and implement formative assessment in their classrooms. Individual districts and schools have expressed an interest in the FACETS professional development program. The New Hampshire State Department of Education also indicates support for statewide implementation. In addition, research results regarding teachers’ learning trajectories for formative assessment will be crucial to inform future professional development and teacher education programs, and to help teachers reflect on, and guide, their own learning. Data regarding the major barriers to teachers’ learning of formative assessment will also impact future professional development by identifying issues needing additional focus, as will data regarding the effect on those barriers of factors such as teaching experience and mathematical knowledge for teaching. Finally, as there is a paucity of video and other examples of formative assessment in mathematics classrooms, the resource library will make widely available a sorely needed resource to teachers grappling with understanding and implementing formative assessment in mathematics classrooms in a practical way.

Transition to Algebra: A Habits of Mind Approach

This research and development project provides resources for ninth-grade mathematics students and teachers by developing, piloting, and field-testing intervention modules designed as supplementary materials for Algebra 1 classes (e.g., double-period algebra). Rather than developing isolated skills and reviewing particular topics, these materials aim to foster the development of mathematical habits of mind—in particular, the algebraic habit of abstracting from calculations, a key unifying idea in the transition from arithmetic to algebra.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
0917958
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Sat, 08/31/2013
Project Evaluator: 
Jim Hammerman, TERC
Full Description: 

Transition to Algebra, A Habits of Mind Approach, is aimed at very quickly giving students the mathematical knowledge, skill, and confidence to succeed in algebra, and showing them that they can be good at things they believed they couldn't do. The students were all smart and intrepid when they were six. Even now, they are better and more persevering than we are about figuring out their smartphones and video games. Transition to Algebra aims to tap that smart, intrepid, persevering spirit of puzzling things out and making sense of them by presenting mathematics based in common sense, not arbitrary rules.

This project is developing a collection of modules introducing key ideas of algebra in ways that complement the core curriculum when a school is offering double period algebra. The key habit of mind being developed is abstracting from calculation. Modules deal with the transition from arithmetic to algebra, rational numbers, expressions/equations/word problems, graphs and equations, geometry of algebra, and proportional reasoning. The target population is students in urban high poverty schools with a significant ELL sector.

Our hypothesis is that instructional materials focused on developing conceptual understanding and mathematical habits of mind can complement traditional skill-focused algebra instruction in ways that are engaging to students. Furthermore, they argue that using materials with such meta-cognitive aims will actually strengthen the learning of core algebraic concepts and skills.

The supplementary algebra modules are being developed by a form of design research. Concurrent with development and field test of the student and teacher materials, the investigators are addressing four research questions. The first two questions are focused on the effects of the intervention in developing student habits of mind and in improving their competence and confidence in algebra. The other two address the feasibility of implementing the new approach to double-period algebra in a variety of school settings. A small-scale quasi-experimental field test is being used to give preliminary estimates of the effectiveness of the instructional materials and the implementation guidelines. The core purpose of these research activities is to inform development and refinement of the student and teacher instructional materials.

Products of this development effort will be a valuable resource to schools as they devise strategies for helping all students master the essentials of elementary algebra.

Resources for Supporting Lesson Study in Mathematics

This project creates professional development materials that support secondary mathematics teachers in improving teaching and learning through lesson study. Project resources support school districts in launching a lesson study program with a strong mathematical focus, an emphasis on teacher learning within the lesson study model and support for building the local lesson study leadership needed to implement and expand a lesson study program.

Award Number: 
0554527
Funding Period: 
Mon, 05/01/2006 to Fri, 04/30/2010

Supporting Staff Developers in the Implementation of Professional Development Programs to Improve Mathematics Education for Students with Disabilities

This project is (1) conducting a qualitative study on the way facilitators use Math for All (MFA), an NSF-supported set of professional development materials for teachers who teach elementary school students with disabilities; (2) developing resources based on that study for teacher leaders and other facilitators of professional development; and (3) conducting fieldtests of the resources to examine their usefulness and impact.

Award Number: 
0822313
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2008 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Teresa Duncan
Full Description: 

 

The Coaching Cycle: An Interactive Online Course for Mathematics Coaches

The Coaching Cycle project is creating an online course for K–8 mathematics instructional coaches. The project targets coaches in rural areas and small schools who do not have access to regular district-wide professional development. It provides training in the skills needed for effective instructional coaching in mathematics by using artifacts collected by practicing coaches to engage course participants in the practice of coaching skills.

Award Number: 
0732495
Funding Period: 
Mon, 10/01/2007 to Fri, 09/30/2011
Project Evaluator: 
Eduation Alliance at Brown University

Target Inquiry: Investigating the Teacher and Student Effects of a New Model in Chemistry Teacher Professional Development

This five-year research project has as its central aim the testing of the Target Inquiry (TI) model of teacher professional development with secondary school chemistry teachers. This model emphasizes the importance of the inquiry process in teaching and learning science by combining a research experience for teachers (RET) with curriculum adaptation and action research.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0553215
Funding Period: 
Mon, 05/01/2006 to Sat, 04/30/2011
Full Description: 

Inquiry is the foundation of teaching and learning and is therefore at the center of the TI model.  The features of the TI model are designed to encourage and improve inquiry instruction by impacting teachers’ beliefs and attitudes, and content and pedagogical knowledge, as well as providing adequate resources and materials.  The model integrates the core experiences (research experience for teachers (RET), materials adaptation, action research) with the central characteristics of high-quality PD programs (duration, cohort participation, active learning, coherence, and content-focus (Garet, et al., 2001)) in alignment with the National Science Education Professional Development Standards (NRC, 1996) (see TI model on website).

Although many teachers associate inquiry with research scientists, the underlying habits of mind by which one actively acquires new knowledge are the same for a scientist in a research laboratory, a student in a science classroom, or a teacher assessing student understanding (Llewellyn, 2005; AAAS, 1993).  The RET will allow teachers to further develop habits of mind central to inquiry such as curiosity, persistence, reflection, skepticism, and creativity while gaining firsthand experience in how chemistry research is conducted.  However, research has shown that affecting instructional change requires clear connections to classroom practices (Gess-Newsome, 2001), and many teachers have difficulty translating the laboratory research experience to classroom instruction that promotes inquiry habits of mind.  Thus, the other core experiences and supporting features of TI are designed to build upon the RET, facilitating connections between the research laboratory and classroom practices, so that teachers can effectively engage their students in authentic inquiry activities. 

At GVSU, the TI model has been translated into seven graduate chemistry education courses to be taken over three years, with a majority of work to be carried out over three summers.  A five year study of the program, consisting of data from two cohorts shows that teachers beliefs about science inquiry become more aligned with those of practicing scientists following the RET experience; both the RET and materials adaptation experiences are required for significant gains in reformed teaching practices as measured by the RTOP instrument; teachers feel they have developed the skills to help them continue to reform their teaching practices; teachers believe that the use of inquiry instruction engages more of their students and results in better student confidence and retention; and student outcome measures show overall improvement in student content gains as teachers progress through the program.

Investigating the Effect of Professional Development, Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching, and Instruction on Student Outcomes

To meet College and Career-Ready standards in mathematics, classroom instruction must change dramatically.  As in past reform efforts, many look to professional development as a major force to propel this transformation, yet not enough is known about mathematics professional development programs that operate at scale in the United States. In this project, we evaluated one such program.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918383
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Full Description: 

To meet College and Career-Ready standards in mathematics, classroom instruction must change dramatically.  As in past reform efforts, many look to professional development as a major force to propel this transformation, yet not enough is known about mathematics professional development programs that operate at scale in the United States. In this project, we evaluated one such program by randomly assigning 105 teachers to either an “as is” control group or to receive professional development designed to a) improve mathematical knowledge for teaching and b) help teachers revise their instruction to be more cognitively demanding and student-centered. We found positive impacts on teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching, but no effects on teaching or student outcomes, suggesting that a modest increment in mathematical knowledge may not by itself be sufficient to improve instruction or student outcomes.

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