Instructional Practice

Supporting Students' Language, Knowledge, and Culture through Science

This project will test and refine a teaching model that brings together current research about the role of language in science learning, the role of cultural connections in students' science engagement, and how students' science knowledge builds over time. The outcome of this project will be to provide an integrated framework that can guide current and future science teachers in preparing all students with the conceptual and linguistic practices they will need to succeed in school and in the workplace.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010633
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Sat, 08/31/2024
Full Description: 

The Language, Culture, and Knowledge-building through Science project seeks to explore and positively influence the work of science teachers at the intersection of three significant and ongoing challenges affecting U.S. STEM education. First, U.S. student demographics are rapidly changing, with an increasing number of students learning STEM subjects in their second language. This change means that all teachers need new skills for meeting students where they currently are, linguistically, culturally, and in terms of prior science knowledge. Second, the needs and opportunities of the national STEM workforce are changing rapidly within a shifting employment landscape. This shift means that teachers need to better understand future job opportunities and the knowledge and skills that will be necessary in those careers. Third, academic expectations in schools have changed, driven by changes in education standards. These new expectations mean that teachers need new skills to support all students to master a range of practices that are both conceptual and linguistic. To address these challenges, teachers require new models that bring together current research about the role of language in science learning, the role of cultural connections in students' science engagement, and how students' science knowledge builds over time. This project begins with such an initial model, developed collaboratively with science teachers in a prior project. The model will be rigorously tested and refined in a new geographic and demographic context. The outcome will be to provide an integrated framework that can guide current and future science teachers in preparing all students with the conceptual and linguistic practices they will need to succeed in school and in the workplace.

This project model starts with three theoretical constructs that have been integrated into an innovative framework of nine practices. These practices guide teachers in how to simultaneously support students' language development, cultural sustenance, and knowledge building through science with a focus on supporting and challenging multilingual learners. The project uses a functional view of language development, which highlights the need to support students in understanding both how and why to make shifts in language use. For example, students' attention will be drawn to differences in language use when they shift from language that is suited to peer negotiation in a lab group to written explanations suitable for a lab report. Moving beyond a funds of knowledge approach to culture, the team view of integrating students' cultural knowledge includes strengthening the role of home knowledge in school, but also guiding students to apply school knowledge to their out-of-school interests and passions. Finally, the project team's view of cumulative knowledge building, informed by work in the sociology of knowledge, highlights the need for teachers and students to understand the norms for meaning making within a given discipline. In the case of science, the three-dimensional learning model in the Next Generation Science Standards makes these disciplinary norms visible and serves as a launching point for the project's work. Teachers will be supported to structure learning opportunities that highlight what is unique about meaning making through science. Using a range of data collection and analysis methods, the project team will study changes in teachers' practices and beliefs related to language, culture and knowledge building, as teachers work with all students, and particularly with multilingual learners. The project work will take place in both classrooms and out of class science learning settings. By working closely over several years with a group of fifty science teachers spread across the state of Oregon, the project team will develop a typology of teachers (design personas) to increase the field's understanding of how to support different teachers, given their own backgrounds, in preparing all students for the broad range of academic and occupational pathways they will encounter.

Responsive Instruction for Emergent Bilingual Learners in Biology Classrooms

This project seeks to support emergent bilingual students in high school biology classrooms. The project team will study how teachers make sense of and use an instructional model that builds on students' cultural and linguistic strengths to teach biology in ways that are responsive. The team will also study how such a model impacts emergent bilingual students' learning of biology and scientific language practices, as well as how it supports students' identities as knowers/doers of science.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010153
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2020 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

The population of students who are emergent bilinguals in the US is not only growing in number but also, historically, has been underrepresented in STEM fields. Emergent bilingual students have not had access to the same high-quality science education as their peers, despite bringing rich academic, linguistic and cultural strengths to their learning. Building on smaller pilot studies and ideas that have shown to be successful in supporting emergent bilingual students' learning of elementary science, this project seeks to support emergent bilingual students in high school biology classrooms. The project team will study how teachers make sense of and use an instructional model that builds on students' cultural and linguistic strengths to teach biology in ways that are responsive. The team will also study how such a model impacts emergent bilingual students' learning of biology and scientific language practices, as well as how it supports students' identities as knowers/doers of science. The collaboration will include two partner districts that will allow the project work to impact about 11,000 high school students and 30 biology teachers in Florida. Over time, the project team plans to enact and study three cohorts of teachers and students; use the information learned to improve the instructional model; and develop lessons, a website, and other materials that can be applied to other contexts to support emergent bilingual students' learning of biology. This project will increase emergent bilingual students' participation in biology classes, improve their achievement and engagement in science and engineering practices, extend current research-based practices, and document how to build on emergent bilingual students' strengths and prior experiences.

In two previous pilot studies through the collaboration of an interdisciplinary team, the project team developed an instructional model that they found supported emergent bilingual students to have high-quality opportunities for science learning. The model builds on research related to culturally responsive instruction; funds of knowledge (including work on identity affirmation and collaboration); and linguistically responsive instruction (including using students' home languages and multiple modalities, and explicit attention to academic language). Using design-based research, the project team will gather data from two primary settings: their professional development program and biology teachers' classrooms. They will use these data both to improve the instructional model and professional development for biology teachers. Additionally, the project team will study how teachers use the model to support emergent bilingual students' biology engagement and achievement, as well as study how biology teachers enact the instructional model in two school districts. The project will work toward three main outcomes: a) to develop new knowledge related to how diverse learners develop language and content knowledge in biology through engaging in science and engineering practices; b) to generate new knowledge about how biology teachers can adapt responsive instruction to local contexts and student populations; and c) to articulate an instructional model for biology teachers of emergent bilingual students that is rigorous, yet practical. The dissemination and sustainability include publishing and presenting findings at a range of conferences and journals; making available the refined instructional framework and professional development materials on a website; communication with district leaders and policymakers; and white papers that can be more widely distributed.

Pandemic Learning Loss in U.S. High Schools: A National Examination of Student Experiences

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across much of the U.S. have been closed since mid-March of 2020 and many students have been attempting to continue their education away from schools. Student experiences across the country are likely to be highly variable depending on a variety of factors at the individual, home, school, district, and state levels. This project will use two, nationally representative, existing databases of high school students to study their experiences in STEM education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2030436
Funding Period: 
Fri, 05/15/2020 to Fri, 04/30/2021
Full Description: 

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across much of the U.S. have been closed since mid-March of 2020 and many students have been attempting to continue their education away from schools. Student experiences across the country are likely to be highly variable depending on a variety of factors at the individual, home, school, district, and state levels. This project will use two, nationally representative, existing databases of high school students to study their experiences in STEM education during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study intends to ascertain whether students are taking STEM courses in high school, the nature of the changes made to the courses, and their plans for the fall. The researchers will identify the electronic learning platforms in use, and other modifications made to STEM experiences in formal and informal settings. The study is particularly interested in finding patterns of inequities for students in various demographic groups underserved in STEM and who may be most likely to be affected by a hiatus in formal education.

This study will collect data using the AmeriSpeak Teen Panel of approximately 2,000 students aged 13 to 17 and the Infinite Campus Student Information System with a sample of approximately 2.5 million high school students. The data sets allow for relevant comparisons of student experiences prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic and offer unique perspectives with nationally representative samples of U.S. high school students. New data collection will focus on formal and informal STEM learning opportunities, engagement, STEM course taking, the nature and frequency of instruction, interactions with teachers, interest in STEM, and career aspirations. Weighted data will be analyzed using descriptive statistics and within and between district analysis will be conducted to assess group differences. Estimates of between group pandemic learning loss will be provided with attention to demographic factors.

This RAPID award is made by the DRK-12 program in the Division of Research on Learning. The Discovery Research PreK-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics by preK-12 students and teachers, through the research and development of new innovations and approaches. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for the projects.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

 

 

 

 

Responding to a Global Pandemic: The Role of K-12 Science Teachers

This project will support a national research study on how teachers are helping students respond to COVID-19. The findings will inform the development of curriculum materials for teaching about COVID-19 and help science teachers to adapt their instruction as they help to fulfill a critical public health function. This study will enable a better understanding of the role that science teachers can play in a national response, both now and in future crises.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2027397
Funding Period: 
Fri, 05/01/2020 to Fri, 04/30/2021
Full Description: 

When a global health crisis emerges, students at all levels turn to their science teachers for information and, at times, reassurance, according to researchers at Horizon Research, Inc. (HRI). Science teachers serve a critically important public health function and become an important part of the nation's response efforts. Given the magnitude of the current COVID-19 crisis, it is likely that students are bringing their questions and concerns to their science teachers. As this award is made, nearly all K-12 school buildings in the U.S. are closed, and science teachers face unprecedented challenges in carrying out the instruction for which they are responsible while simultaneously addressing students' questions about COVID-19. Moreover, they must do this within new instructional formats. Education is crucial for helping students to understand the facts about the virus, despite much conflicting information and misinformation available. Education helps students understand and actively participate in measures to stop the spread of COVID-19. This award will support a national research study on how teachers are helping students respond to COVID-19. The findings will inform the development of curriculum materials for teaching about COVID-19, which are much needed right now, and help science teachers to adapt their instruction as they help to fulfill a critical public health function. This study will enable a better understanding of the role that science teachers can play in a national response, both now and in future crises.

The research will build on a study of science teachers conducted by HRI following the Ebola outbreak of 2014. Specifically, the research will investigate (1) where teachers of science get their information about coronavirus and COVID-19; (2) what types of resources teachers find most useful; (3) what factors influence whether science teachers address COVID-19 in their instruction; and (4) how science teachers adapt their teaching in response to COVID-19. HRI will recruit a nationally representative sample of several thousand K-12 teachers of science and invite them to complete a survey about their instruction related to COVID-19, both before school buildings closed and after. Using the Theory of Planned Behavior, the survey will be constructed to identify factors that predict whether teachers take up the topic. The survey will also collect data about how teachers address the virus and its transmission with their students. HRI will disaggregate survey data by school-, class-, student-, and teacher-level variables to identify patterns in student opportunities. Survey data will be supplemented by interviews with 50 survey respondents to gather more in-depth information related to the constructs of interest. Study findings will be immediately shared through a preliminary report that focuses on the survey data; mainstream print media using press releases; and social media partnering with the National Science Teaching Association. HRI also will publish policy briefs intended as guidance for schools, districts, and states; and research articles.

Leveraging Simulations in Preservice Preparation to Improve Mathematics Teaching for Students with Disabilities (Collaborative Research: Cohen)

This project aims to support the mathematics learning of students with disabilities through the development and use of mixed reality simulations for elementary mathematics teacher preparation. These simulations represent low-stakes opportunities for preservice teachers to practice research-based instructional strategies to support mathematics learning, and to receive feedback on their practices.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2009939
Funding Period: 
Fri, 05/01/2020 to Tue, 04/30/2024
Full Description: 

The preparation of general education teachers to support the mathematics learning of students with disabilities is critical, as students with disabilities are overrepresented in the lower ranks of mathematics achievement. This project aims to address this need in the context of elementary mathematics teacher preparation through the development and use of mixed reality simulations. These simulations represent low-stakes opportunities for preservice teachers to practice research-based instructional strategies to support mathematics learning, and to receive feedback on their practices. Learning units that use the simulations will focus on two high leverage practices: teacher modeling of self-monitoring and reflection strategies during problem solving and using strategy instruction to teach students to support problem solving. These high-leverage teaching practices will support teachers engaging all students, including students with disabilities, in conceptually sophisticated mathematics in which students are treated as sense-makers and empowered to do mathematics in culturally meaningful ways.

The project work encompasses three primary aims. The first aim is to develop a consensus around shared definitions of high-leverage practices across the mathematics education and special education communities. To accomplish this goal, the project will convene a series of consensus-building panels with mathematics education and special education experts to develop shared definitions of the two targeted high leverage practices. This work will include engaging with current research, group discussion, and production of documents with specifications for the practices. The second aim is to develop learning units for elementary mathematics methods courses grounded in mixed reality simulation. These simulations will allow teacher candidates to enact the high leverage practices with simulated students and to receive coaching on their practice from the research team. The impact of this work will be assessed through the analysis of interviews with teacher educators implementing the units and observations and artifacts from the implementations. The third aim will be to assess the effectiveness of the simulations on teacher candidates? practices and beliefs through small-scaled randomized control trials. Teacher candidates will be randomly assigned to conditions that address the practices and make use of simulations, and a business as usual condition focused on lesson planning, student assessment, and small group discussions of the high leverage practices. The impact of the work will be assessed through the analysis of baseline and exit simulations, measures of teacher self-efficacy for teaching students with disabilities, and observations of classroom teaching in their clinical placement settings.

Leveraging Simulations in Preservice Preparation to Improve Mathematics Teaching for Students with Disabilities (Collaborative Research: Jones)

This project aims to support the mathematics learning of students with disabilities through the development and use of mixed reality simulations for elementary mathematics teacher preparation. These simulations represent low-stakes opportunities for preservice teachers to practice research-based instructional strategies to support mathematics learning, and to receive feedback on their practices.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010298
Funding Period: 
Fri, 05/01/2020 to Tue, 04/30/2024
Full Description: 

The preparation of general education teachers to support the mathematics learning of students with disabilities is critical, as students with disabilities are overrepresented in the lower ranks of mathematics achievement. This project aims to address this need in the context of elementary mathematics teacher preparation through the development and use of mixed reality simulations. These simulations represent low-stakes opportunities for preservice teachers to practice research-based instructional strategies to support mathematics learning, and to receive feedback on their practices. Learning units that use the simulations will focus on two high leverage practices: teacher modeling of self-monitoring and reflection strategies during problem solving and using strategy instruction to teach students to support problem solving. These high-leverage teaching practices will support teachers engaging all students, including students with disabilities, in conceptually sophisticated mathematics in which students are treated as sense-makers and empowered to do mathematics in culturally meaningful ways.

The project work encompasses three primary aims. The first aim is to develop a consensus around shared definitions of high-leverage practices across the mathematics education and special education communities. To accomplish this goal, the project will convene a series of consensus-building panels with mathematics education and special education experts to develop shared definitions of the two targeted high leverage practices. This work will include engaging with current research, group discussion, and production of documents with specifications for the practices. The second aim is to develop learning units for elementary mathematics methods courses grounded in mixed reality simulation. These simulations will allow teacher candidates to enact the high leverage practices with simulated students and to receive coaching on their practice from the research team. The impact of this work will be assessed through the analysis of interviews with teacher educators implementing the units and observations and artifacts from the implementations. The third aim will be to assess the effectiveness of the simulations on teacher candidates? practices and beliefs through small-scaled randomized control trials. Teacher candidates will be randomly assigned to conditions that address the practices and make use of simulations, and a business as usual condition focused on lesson planning, student assessment, and small group discussions of the high leverage practices. The impact of the work will be assessed through the analysis of baseline and exit simulations, measures of teacher self-efficacy for teaching students with disabilities, and observations of classroom teaching in their clinical placement settings.

Bridging Science Teaching and Learning in Title 1 Schools

This project aims to expand opportunities for elementary science in Title 1 schools through the development, implementation, and evaluation of a professional development model that will prepare teachers to effectively utilize science education practices grounded in culturally responsive pedagogy. It provides a new science instruction model that intersects the best practices in science education with the theoretical principles of culturally relevant/responsive pedagogy found to influence students from low economic, diverse communities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010361
Funding Period: 
Fri, 05/01/2020 to Sat, 04/30/2022
Full Description: 

This project addresses a long-standing challenge in science education centered on a national commitment to and interest in advancing the prosperity and welfare of young learners who have been historically underrepresented in science. It addresses challenges with broadening participation in science by providing equity and access to quality science instruction at Title 1 elementary schools in metro Atlanta, Georgia. Title 1 schools are schools with large concentrations of low-income students that receive supplemental funds to assist in meeting educational goals and educational needs of students living near poverty levels. Opportunities to learn science in elementary school are particularly limited; especially in those schools that serve racially and ethnically diverse children and children suffering from poverty. Interventions aimed at broadening participation have been limited in both impact and scope. This project is addressing this challenge through the development, implementation, and evaluation of a professional development model that will prepare teachers to effectively utilize science education practices grounded in culturally responsive pedagogy. It provides a new science instruction model that intersects the best practices in science education with the theoretical principles of culturally relevant/responsive pedagogy found to influence students from low economic, diverse communities. By focusing on both in-service and preservice teachers, the project will make a valuable contribution to the understanding of teacher education across the trajectory of educators' careers and deepen an understanding of how to prepare teachers to adopt and effectively utilize effective practices in their everyday classrooms, particularly in relation to science teaching and learning.

The project will involve 30 preservice and 20 in-service teachers participating in a summer academy and workshops introducing them to instructional features of the model that will later be used during instruction with the students. Instruction provided by the teachers will impact approximately 1,420 students. The goal of the project is to design and test an innovative science instruction model that intersects the best practices in science education with the principles of culturally responsive pedagogy. The two-year design and development project incorporate mixed methods to examine the three components of the model hypothesized as critical for improvements in teacher practice: culturally responsive classroom management, discourse, and anchoring. Use of qualitative and quantitative methods and measures during exploration provides critical information on how to support instruction in Title 1 STEM schools in ways that are feasible, yet effective.

Evolving Minds: Promoting Causal-Explanatory Teaching and Learning of Biological Evolution in Elementary School

Adopting a teaching and curricular approach that will be novel in its integration of custom explanatory storybook materials with hands-on investigations, this project seeks to promote third grade students' understanding of small- and large-scale evolution by natural selection. By studying students across multiple school districts, this research will shed light on the benefits to diverse students of instruction that focuses on supporting children's capacities to cogently explain aspects of the biological world rather than learn disparate facts about it.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2009176
Funding Period: 
Mon, 06/01/2020 to Fri, 05/31/2024
Full Description: 

Natural selection is a fundamental mechanism of evolution, the unifying principle of biology. It is central to understanding the functional specialization of living things, the origin of species diversity and the inherent unity of biological life. Despite the early emergence of tendencies that can make evolution increasingly challenging to learn over time, natural selection is currently not taught until middle or high school. This is long after patterns of misunderstanding are likely to have become more entrenched. The current research responds to this situation. It targets elementary school as the time to initiate comprehensive instruction on biological evolution. Adopting a teaching and curricular approach that will be novel in its integration of custom explanatory storybook materials with hands-on investigations, it seeks to promote third grade students' understanding of small- and large-scale evolution by natural selection. By studying students across multiple school districts, this research will shed light on the benefits to diverse students of instruction that focuses on supporting children's capacities to cogently explain aspects of the biological world rather than learn disparate facts about it. It will also illuminate the value of simple tools, like explanatory storybooks, for elementary school teachers who are often expected to teach counterintuitive topics such as natural selection while not feeling confident in their own understanding.

This project will investigate changes in Grade 3 students' learning and reasoning about living things during implementation of a guided inquiry curriculum unit on evolution by natural selection that emphasizes causal-mechanistic explanation. Classroom inquiry activities and investigations into a range of real-world phenomena will be framed by engagement with a sequence of innovative custom causal-explanatory storybook, animation and writing prompt materials that were developed under prior NSF support to promote transferable, scientifically accurate theory- and evidence-based reasoning about natural selection. In response to the distinctive challenges of life science and evolution learning, the project will integrate and thematically unify currently disparate Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) content and practice standards to create a comprehensive unit that addresses all three NGSS dimensions and is accompanied by evidence-based approaches to teacher professional development (PD). Using a design based research approach, and informed by cognitive developmental findings, this 4-year project will engage at least 700 students and their teachers and include partners from at least four school districts, Boston University, and TERC.

Improving the Teaching of Genetics in High School to Avoid Instilling Misconceptions about Gender Differences (Collaborative Research: Riegle-Crumb)

This project will study the aspects of genetics instruction that affect students' beliefs in neurogenetic essentialism, which is implicated in lowering girls' sense of STEM abilities, feeling of belonging in STEM classes, and interest in pursuing further education in STEM fields. The goal of the project is to answer important questions about how to teach genetics at the high school level in a manner that is scientifically accurate but does not have these detrimental side effects.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1956119
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2020 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

Recent research suggests that learning about genetics during high school biology can lead to a belief that inherent differences in the genes and brains of men and women are the main causes of gender differences in behavior and intellectual abilities (a belief known as neurogenetic essentialism). This belief is implicated in lowering girls' sense of their own STEM abilities, their feelings of belonging in STEM classes, and their interest in pursuing further education in STEM fields. The goal of this project, led by a team of researchers at Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, the University of Texas, Austin, and New York University is to answer important questions about how to teach genetics at the high school level in a manner that is scientifically accurate, but does not have these detrimental side effects. Specifically, this new line of experimental research will identify and revise the content in common genetics instruction that promotes the belief in neurogenetic essentialism. The proposed experiments will also explore how the beliefs of peers and teachers contribute to changes in such beliefs in students. This work has further implications for how the topic of differences between men and women is addressed during high school biology education. Furthermore, the research findings will advance theory on factors that contribute to gender disparities in STEM attitudes and aspirations.

Building on preliminary evidence, this project aims to accomplish four key goals. First, the project will study which specific aspects of genetics instruction affect students' beliefs in neurogenetic essentialism. Second, the project will identify the cognitive mechanisms through which these effects occur. Third, the project will uncover the downstream effects of revised genetics instructional materials on a broad range of motivational variables relevant to STEM pursuit, such as implicit person theories, sense of belonging in STEM, and interest in this domain. Fourth, the project will explore the contextual factors (e.g., teacher and peer beliefs) that may moderate or mediate how students respond to the instructional materials. The research team will develop and iteratively refine genetics educational materialsthat teach about genetic, neurological, and behavioral variation within and between sexes, as well as the social causes of such differences. The research team will then test the effectiveness of these revised materials through two large-scale randomized control trials, one targeting students directly and one targeting students' learning via their teachers. The results of this project will produce generalizable knowledge regarding the cognitive, sociological, and educational factors that contribute to STEM gender disparities.

Looking Back and Looking Forward: Increasing the Impact of Educational Research on Practice

The focus of this conference is to carefully examine past and current research with an eye toward improving its impact on practice and to create concrete steps that could shape the nature and impact of mathematics education research.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1941494
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2019 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

The focus of the proposed conference is to carefully examine past and current research with an eye toward improving its impact on practice. This conference is designed to create concrete steps that could shape the nature and impact of mathematics education research for years to come. A diverse group of 50 participants will be invited to participate. Participants include 10 experienced K-12 educators whose perspectives will be used to anchor the conference in problems of practice. Other participants represent senior through more junior scholars who have demonstrated a commitment to addressing the disconnect between research and practice, along with technology experts to advise participants on capabilities and innovative uses of modern technologies for instruction, assessment and data management.

The overarching goal for the conference is to help the field of mathematics education think deeply about the most productive ways to answer the following questions: [1] Why hasn't past research had a more direct impact on practice? What can be learned from this historical analysis for future research? [2] What is a possible vision for research that would have a more direct impact on practice? What questions should be asked? What methods should be used? What concrete steps can be taken to launch the new research programs? [3] What are the implications of adopting new kinds of research programs? If they gain traction, how will such changes affect the broader education community and infrastructure, including preservice teacher education, teacher professional development, and the training of future researchers? How should the roles of researchers and teachers change? What incentive structures might motivate these changes? How will new programs of research interact with existing programs?

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