Instructional Practice

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?

Design and Implementation of Immersive Representations of Practice

This project will address the potential positive and negative impacts of using 360-degree video for bridging the gap between theory and practice in mathematics instruction by investigating how preservice teachers' tacit and explicit professional knowledge are facilitated using immersive video technology and annotations.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908159
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2019 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

Various researchers have documented that a large proportion of preservice teachers (PSTs) demonstrate less sophisticated professional knowledge for teaching both fractions and multiplication/division. Use of representations of practice (i.e., video, animation), and accompanying annotation technology, are effective in improving such professional knowledge, but PSTs continue to demonstrate a lack of precision in attending to or noticing particular mathematics in classroom scenarios. Fortunately, a new technology, 360-degree video, has emerged as a means of training novices for professional practice. This project will address the potential positive and negative impacts of using 360-degree video for bridging the gap between theory and practice in mathematics instruction. Specifically, PSTs demonstrate difficulty in synthesizing explicit knowledge learned in the college classroom with tacit professional knowledge situated in professional practice. The initial pilot of the technology resulted in PSTs demonstrating specific attention to the mathematics. The purpose of the project will be to investigate how PSTs' tacit and explicit professional knowledge are facilitated using immersive video technology and annotations (technologically embedded scaffolds). To do this, the project will examine where and what PSTs attend to when viewing 360-degree videos, both at a single point in the classroom and through incorporating multiple camera-perspectives in the same class. Additionally, the project will examine the role of annotation technology as applied to 360-degree video and the potential for variations in annotation technology. Findings will allow for an improved understanding of how teacher educators may support PSTs' tacit and explicit knowledge for teaching. The project will make video experiences publicly available and the platform used in the project to create these video experiences for teacher educators to use, create, and share 360-degree video experiences.

The project will examine how representations of practice can facilitate preservice teachers' professional knowledge for teaching fractions and multiplication/division. The project will: examine the effect of single versus multiple perspective in PSTs' professional knowledge; examine how PSTs use annotation technology in immersive video experiences, and its effect on PSTs' professional knowledge for teaching fractions and multiplication/division; and design a platform for teacher educators to create their own 360 video immersive experiences. Using an iterative design study process, the project team will develop and pilot single and multi-perspective 360-degree video experiences in grade 3-5 classrooms including developing a computer program to join multiple 360-degree videos. They will also develop an annotation tool to allow PSTs to annotate the single and multi-perspective 360 video experiences. Using a convergent mixed methods design, the project team will analyze the quantitative data using multiple regressions of pre-post data on mathematical knowledge for teaching and survey data on PSTs reported immersion and presence in viewing the videos to compare single and multi-perspective 360-degree video data. They will also qualitatively analyze heat maps generated from eye tracking, written responses from PSTs' noticing prompts, and field notes from implementation to examine the effect of single versus multiple perspectives. The team will use similar methods to examine how PSTs use the annotation technology and its effect. The results of the research and the platform will be widely disseminated.


Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Use of 360 Video in Elementary Mathematics Teacher Education

Presenter(s): Karl Kosko, Christina Austin, Richard Ferdig, Enrico Gandolfi, Qiang Guan, Jennifer Heisler, Annette Kratcoski, Cheng-Chang Lu, Yuxin Yang, & Maryam Zolfaghari


Teaching Science Outdoors: A Next Generation Approach for Advancing Elementary Science Teaching in Urban Communities

This project project is designed to enhance the capacity of elementary teachers in high-poverty urban communities for enacting Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned science approaches using the outdoors as part of their classroom. The goal of the project is to advance elementary teachers' pedagogical practices and determine how this affects cognitive and non-cognitive learning outcomes of their students, particularly those who are traditionally marginalized in science classrooms.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907506
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

This project addresses a long-standing challenge in science education centered on providing meaningful science education opportunities to students living in communities of high poverty and attending under-resourced elementary schools. These students are significantly less likely to receive high-quality science learning opportunities and to be encouraged to engage in (rather than simply learn about) science. This Michigan State University research project is designed to enhance the capacity of elementary teachers in high-poverty urban communities for enacting Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned science approaches using the outdoors as part of their classroom. It builds on and advances prior outdoor education work for the current context of science education that requires elementary teachers to engage students in making sense of phenomena using next generation science and engineering practices. The goal of this project is to advance elementary teachers' pedagogical practices and determine how this affects cognitive and non-cognitive learning outcomes of their students, particularly those who are traditionally marginalized in science classrooms. It also will advance knowledge on ways to bridge informal and formal learning environments. To achieve these goals, the project will develop, enact and study a program that involves a scaffolded series of summer professional development sessions focused on outdoor learning and school year follow-up meetings and classroom-based coaching for elementary teachers and informal educators from two high-need districts.

Design-based research will be utilized to: 1) foster teacher practices and study how these develop over time, 2) work with teachers to measure student outcomes, and 3) determine what aspects of this formal/informal approach are productive, measures of student engagement and student learning artifacts--will be analyzed. The project will serve as a model for developing partnerships between informal science organizations, educators, and K-12 programs. Revised measures and outcomes of teacher practices and student learning; outdoor-focused lesson plans; cases illustrating how elementary teachers develop and enact NGSS-aligned outdoor lessons; a revised informal-formal theoretical model; and information about dissemination of products including facilitation guidelines and coaching approaches will be developed and disseminated.

Crowdsourcing Neuroscience: An Interactive Cloud-based Citizen Science Platform for High School Students, Teachers, and Researchers

This project will develop a cloud-based platform that enables high school students, teachers, and scientists to conduct original neuroscience research in school classrooms.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908482
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Mon, 07/31/2023
Full Description: 

Current priorities in school science education include engaging students in the practices of science as well as the ideas of science. This project will address this priority by developing a cloud-based platform that enables high school students, teachers, and scientists to conduct original neuroscience research in school classrooms. Before students and teachers initiate their own studies using the system, they will participate in existing research studies by contributing their own data and collaborating with researchers using the online, interactive system. When experienced with the system, students and teachers will become researchers by developing independent investigations and uploading them to the interactive platform. Both student-initiated and scientist-initiated proposals will be submitted to the platform, peer-reviewed by students and scientists, revised, and included in the online experimental bank. In addition to conducting their own studies using the platform, scientists will act as educators and mentors by populating the experiment bank with studies that can serve as models for students and provide science content for the educational resource center. This online system addresses a critical need in science education to involve students more fully and authentically in scientific inquiry where they gain experience in exploring the unknown rather than confirming what is already known.

This early stage design and development study is guided by three goals: 1) Develop an open-science citizen science platform for conducting human brain and behavior research in the classroom, 2) Develop a remote neuroscience Student-Teacher-Scientists (STS) partnership program for high schools, and 3) Evaluate the design, development, and implementation of the program and its impacts on students and tachers. In developing this project, the project team will link two quickly emerging trends, one in science education, and one in the sciences. Consistent with current priorities in science education, the project will engage students and their teachers in authentic, active inquiry where they learn scientific practices by using them to conduct authentic inquiry where a search for knowledge is grounded in finding evidence-based answers to original questions. On the science side, students and their science partners will participate in an open science approach by pre-registering their research and committing to an analysis plan before data are collected. In this project, students will primarily be using reaction time and online systems to do research that includes study of their own brain function. The project research is guided by three research questions. How does an online citizen neuroscience STS platform: a) impact students' understanding of, and abilities to apply neuroscience and experimental design concepts? b) Impact students' interests in, and attitudes toward science, including an awareness of science careers and applications? and c) Affect teachers' attitudes towards neuroscience teaching, and the use of inquiry-based strategies? A design-based research approach will be used to iteratively design a sustainable and scalable inquiry-based neuroscience curriculum with teachers as design partners.

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