Instructional Practice

A Digital Resource for Developing Mathematics Teachers' TPCK

This project aims to advance the preparation of preservice teachers in middle school mathematics, specifically on the topic of proportionality, a centrally important and difficult topic in middle school mathematics that is essential to students’ later success in algebra. To address the need for a workforce of high-quality teachers to teach this mathematics, the project is developing a digital text that could be widely used to communicate the unique transitional nature of middle school mathematics.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918339
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Mark St. John, Inverness

Chemistry Facets: Formative Assessment to Improve Student Understanding in Chemistry

This project implemented a facets-of-thinking perspective to design tools and practices to improve high school chemistry teachers' formative assessment practices. Goals are to identify and develop clusters of facets related to key chemistry concepts; develop assessment items; enhance the assessment system for administering items, reporting results, and providing teacher resource materials; develop teacher professional development and resource materials; and examine whether student learning in chemistry improves in classes that incorporate a facet-based assessment system.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0733169
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/15/2007 to Wed, 08/31/2011
Project Evaluator: 
Heller Research Associates
Full Description: 

Supported by research on students' preconceptions, particularly in chemistry, and the need to build on the knowledge and skills that students bring to the classroom, this project implements a facets-of-thinking perspective for the improvement of formative assessment, learning, and instruction in high school chemistry. Its goals are: to identify and develop clusters of facets (students' ideas and understandings) related to key high school chemistry concepts; to develop assessment items that diagnose facets within each cluster; to enhance the existing web-based Diagnoser assessment system for administering items, reporting results, and providing teacher resource materials for interpreting and using the assessment data; to develop teacher professional development and resource materials to support their use of facet-based approaches in chemistry; and to examine whether student learning in chemistry improves in classes that incorporate a facet-based assessment system.

The proposed work builds on two previously NSF-funded projects focused on designing Diagnoser (ESI-0435727) in the area of physics and on assessment development to support the transition to complex science learning (REC-0129406). The work plan is organized in three strands: (1) Assessment Development, consisting of the development and validation of facet clusters related to the Atomic Structure of Matter and Changes in Matter and the development and validation of question sets related to each facet cluster, including their administration to chemistry classes; (2) Professional Development, through which materials will be produced for a teacher workshop focused on the assessment-for-learning cycle; and (3) Technology Development, to upgrade the Diagnoser authoring system and to include chemistry facets and assessments.

Anticipated products include: (1) 8-10 validated facet clusters related to the Atomic Structure of Matter and Changes in Matter; (2) 12-20 items per facet cluster that provide diagnostic information about student understanding in relation to the facet clusters; (3) additional instructional materials related to each facet cluster, including 1-3 questions to elicit inital student ideas, a developmental lesson to encourage students' exploration of new concepts, and 3-5 prescriptive lessons to address persistent problematic ideas; and (4) a publically-available web-based Diagnoser for chemistry (www.Diagnoser.com), including student assessments and instructional materials.

Honing Diagnostic Practice: Toward a New Model of Teacher Professional Preparation and Development

This project is developing a science teacher education model focused on the establishment of a diagnostic learning environment through formative assessment as a powerful instructional practice for promoting learning of all students (grades 5–12) on the topic of energy with the goal of increasing the understanding of the processes through which teachers develop the requisite knowledge, skills, and dispositions for effective deployment of a formative assessment instructional cycle.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0822342
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2008 to Sat, 08/31/2013
Project Evaluator: 
Horizon Research Inc.

An Investigation of the Impact of Strengthening the "T" and "E" Components of STEM in High School Biology and Chemistry Courses

The overriding goal of this project is to strengthen the “T” and “E” components of STEM in high school courses taken by a majority of students. Our hypothesis is that increasing the presence of engineering and technological design at the high school level, specifically by incorporating engineering activities in high school biology and chemistry classes, will improve students’ understanding of science concepts and strengthen students’ 21st century skills more than traditional methods.
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0917540
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2012

Connected Chemistry as Formative Assessment

This project is developing, validating, and evaluating computer modeling-based formative assessments to improve student learning in chemistry. Activities include developing a series of computer models related to key topics in high school chemistry, developing questions to probe student understanding of matter and energy, identifying teaching and learning resources appropriate for different levels of student conceptual understanding, and developing professional development resources on integrating formative assessments into high school chemistry courses.

Project Email: 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918295
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
William Boone

Developing Contingent Pedagogies: Integrating Technology-enhanced Feedback into a Middle School Science Curriculum to Improve Conceptual Teaching and Learning

SRI International developed a formative assessment intervention that integrates classroom network technologies and contingent curriculum activities to help middle school teachers adjust instruction to improve student learning of Earth science concepts. The intervention was tested as part of a quasi-experimental study within an urban school district in Colorado that includes ethnically and economically diverse student populations. Findings indicate significant student learning gains for students in implementation classes as compared to students in comparison classes.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0822314
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2008 to Tue, 08/31/2010
Project Evaluator: 
Christy Kim Boscardin
Full Description: 

SRI is developing a formative assessment intervention that integrates existing classroom network technologies (GroupScribbles and Classroom Performance Systems), interactive formative assessments, and contingent curriculum activities to help teachers adjust instruction to improve middle school student learning of selected Earth science concepts (the rock cycle, forces that shape Earth's surface, and plate tectonics). To test the hypothesis that integrating response system technology, assessment, and curriculum can improve K-12 science teaching and learning, the project is developing and testing (1) pedagogical routines for teachers to follow when using classroom network technologies, (2) diagnostic questions for teachers to elicit student preconceptions, (3) decision rules for teachers to use alternative learning activities that supplement an existing geoscience curriculum, (4) training materials that prepare teachers to enact the intervention, and (5) research- and classroom-based instruments that measure changes in teacher instructional practice, student thinking, and student achievement. The intervention is being tested in two urban school districts located in two western states (Colorado and California) that have ethnically and economically diverse student populations.

Identifying and Evaluating Adaptive Expertise in Teachers

This project examines the nature of adaptive expertise in mathematics education, exploring relationships between this concept from cognitive psychology and effective middle school mathematics instruction. One goal of the project is to operationalize adaptive expertise in mathematics classroom using three dimensions: cognitive models of professional competence, instructional practices, and professional learning. Then, researchers seek to determine whether teachers who are more effective at raising student achievement are more or less adaptive.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0732074
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2007 to Tue, 08/31/2010

Learning in Practice: New Possibilities for Teacher Professional Education in Science

This project promotes teacher "learning in practice" to bring out and build on the cognitive strengths of their students for science learning in the classroom. Understanding the broader contexts of their student’s lives will enable teachers to make teaching more effective and relevant for their students. Teachers and researchers collaborate to develop theories of action, document and disseminate practices that support teacher learning, and design a model for sustainable, school-wide improvement of science education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0353341
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/15/2004 to Sat, 07/31/2010

Talk Science: Scalable, Web-Based Professional Learning to Improve Science Achievement

This project is designed to enhance and study the development of elementary science teachers’ skills in managing productive classroom talk in inquiry-based physical science studies of matter. The project hypothesizes that aligning professional learning with conceptually-driven curricula and emphasizing the development of scientific discourse changes classroom culture and increases student learning. The project is developing new Web-based resources, Talk Science PD, to help elementary teachers facilitate scientific discourse.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918435
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Katherine Paget
Full Description: 

 TALK SCIENCE!

Scalable, Web-based Professional Learning to Improve Science Achievement

 

      In spite of its centrality in science, genuine scientific argumentation is rarely observed in classrooms. Instead, most of the talk comes from teachers, and it seems oriented primarily toward persuading students of the validity of the scientific worldview…if the educational goal is to help students understand not just the conclusions of science, but also how one knows and why one believes, then talk needs to focus on how evidence is used in science for the construction of explanations. (Duschl, Schweingruber et al. 2007)

Research from the learning sciences, classroom research, and the National Research Council’s consensus reports on teaching and learning science are clear: talk is central to doing and learning science well (Duschl and Osborne 2002; Duschl, Schweingruber et al. 2007; Michaels, Shouse et al. 2008). Discussion is essential to inquiry, enabling students to compare and evaluate observations and data, raise questions, develop hypotheses and explanations, debate and explore alternative interpretations, develop insight into reasoning they may not have considered, and “make meaning” of inquiry experiences. In fact, mastery of science is to a large extent mastery of its specialized uses of language (Lemke 1993).

            Yet effective scientific discourse is mostly absent in classrooms (Barnes 1992; Lemke 1993; Alexander 2001; Cazden 2001). Few teachers are sufficiently prepared to manage classroom talk or effectively improvise and facilitate dialogue in the unpredictable flow of classroom discussion. Thus, despite well-designed curricula and well-intentioned teachers, students are failing to obtain a deep understanding of science and to develop critical 21st century skills, such as negotiating shared meaning and co-construction of problem resolution (Dede 2007). This is the challenge we are addressing.

TERC, in close collaboration with the Mason School in Roxbury, MA, the Benjamin A. Banneker School in Cambridge, MA, Newton Massachusetts Schools, Lamoille North Schools in Vermont, and scientists and linguists from three Boston area universities, is:   

1.     developing and pilot-testing Talk Science!, a web-enabled collection of rich, multimedia professional learning resources for 4th and 5th grade teachers that supports the NSF-funded Inquiry Curriculum and that is focused on promoting scientific discourse in the classroom. These resources are being deployed on the Inquiry Project web site (inquiryproject.terc.edu). This effort is resulting in a model of web-based professional learning that is scalable, accessible and of consistent quality.

2.     investigating the development of teachers' skills with regard to facilitating productive discourse in the science classroom. We hypothesized that aligning professional learning with conceptually-driven curriculum and emphasizing development of scientific discourse would promote changes in classroom culture and increased student learning. We further hypothesized that as teachers implement strategies for scientific discourse, the nature of talk in classrooms and classroom culture will shift toward shared scientific meaning-making. This research is currently underway with results expected by December 2012.

 

Talk Science! PD is comprised of two nine-week professional development courses of study (i.e. professional pathways), aligned with the 4th and 5th grade web-based, Inquiry Curriculum. Thus, curriculum and professional learning “live” together side-by-side within the same web site so teachers can shift seamlessly between the curriculum and their own professional learning as they prepare to teach. The professional development is comprised of three main components: classroom cases, scientist cases, and talk strategies.

 

We are using a pedagogical approach in which teachers strengthen their understanding of science, develop specific pedagogical skills, and implement skills into their teaching through a cognitive apprenticeship model (Collins, Brown et al). This involves 1) modeling, coaching, and scaffolding that help teachers acquire professional skills and scientific understanding through observation (in our case video) and guided practice, 2) articulation and reflection in which teachers articulate their understanding and questions, and 3) exploration in which they incorporate new practices into their teaching.

 

Talk Science! is based on four major principles that effectively change teacher practice and student learning:

  1. Close alignment between professional learning and specific curriculum offers a relevant context for teacher learning and ensures transfer from professional learning to classroom application.
  2. Understanding science as a knowledge-generating enterprise helps teachers facilitate student learning that deepens understanding of core concepts and blends the development of conceptual understanding and disciplinary practice.
  3. Developing abilities to facilitate productive academic talk in the classroom helps teachers establish a classroom culture where norms of discourse are in place and students make claims based on evidence and advance toward deeper understanding of scientific ideas.
  4. Providing opportunity for teachers to work together and learn from each other while using the affordances of web-based technologies to exploit the power of professional learning communities.

Dynamic Geometry in Classrooms

This project is conducting repeated randomized control trials of an approach to high school geometry that utilizes Dynamic Geometry (DG) software and supporting instructional materials to supplement ordinary instructional practices. It compares effects of that intervention with standard instruction that does not make use of computer drawing tools.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918744
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Sat, 08/31/2013
Project Evaluator: 
Ed Dickey
Full Description: 

The project is conducting repeated randomized control trials of an approach to high school geometry that utilizes dynamic geometry (DG) software and supporting instructional materials to supplement ordinary instructional practices.  It compares effects of that intervention with standard instruction that does not make use of computer drawing/exploraction tools. The basic hypothesis of the study is that use of DG software to engage students in constructing mathematical ideas through experimentation, observation, data recording, conjecturing, conjecture testing, and proof results in better geometry learning for most students. The study tests that hypothesis by assessing student learning in 76 classrooms randomly assigned to treatment and control groups. Student learning is assessed by a geometry standardized test, a conjecturing-proving test, and a measure of student beliefs about the nature of geometry and mathematics in general. Teachers in both treatment and control groups receive relevant professional development, and they are provided with supplementary resource materials for teaching geometry. Fidelity of implementation for the experimental treatment is monitored carefully. Data for answering the several research questions of the study are analyzed by appropriate HLM methods. Results will provide evidence about the effectiveness of DG approach in high school teaching, evidence that can inform school decisions about innovation in that core high school mathematics course. The main research question of the project is: Is the dynamic geometry approach better than the business-as-usual approach in facilitating the geometric learning of our students (and more specifically our economically disadvantaged students) over the course of a full school year?

The main resources/products include geometry teachers’ professional development training materials, suggested dynamic geometry instructional activities to supplement current high school geometry curriculum, instruments such as Conjecturing-Proving Test, Geometry Belief Instrument, Classroom Observation Protocols, DG Implementation Questionnaire and Student Interview Protocols. 

The general plan for the four-year project is as follows:

Year 1: Preparation (All research instruments, professional development training and resource materials, recruitment and training of participants, etc.); 

Year 2: The first implementation of the dynamic geometry treatment, and related data collection and initial data analysis; 

Year 3: The second implementation of the DG treatment, and related data collection and data analysis; 

Year 4: Careful and detailed data analysis and reporting.

We are now in project year 3. Data are collected for the second implementation of the DG treatment. For data collected during project year 2, some initial analysis (the analysis on the geometry pretest and posttest data and the psychometric analysis on the project developed instruments) has been conducted. More thorough analysis of the collected data is still on going. The analysis on the geometry test shows that the experimental group significantly outperformed the control group on geometry performance.

The evaluation will be implemented throughout the project’s four-year duration, with an evolving balance of formative and summative evaluation activities.  In the project’s first three years, the evaluation will emphasize formative functions, designed to inform the project research team of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the research design and execution, and target corrections and improvements of the research components. Summative evaluation activities will also take place in these years with the collection of data on student achievement and teacher change. Evaluation activities for year 4 will focus on the summative evaluation of the project’s accomplishment and especially its impact on participating teachers and students. Evaluation reports will be issued annually with a final summative report presented at the end of year 4.

The research results will be disseminated via the following efforts: 1) Creating and constantly updating the project web site; 2) Publishing the related research articles in research journals such as Journal for Research in Mathematics Education; 3) Presenting at state, regional, national, and international research and professional meetings; 4) Meeting with state and local education agencies, schools, and mathematics teacher educators at other universities for presenting the research findings and using the DG approach in more schools and more mathematics teacher education programs; and 5) Contacting more school districts, with a view to developing relationships and ties that would smooth the way to disseminate the research results.

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