Instructional Practice

Project Delta: Digital Environments for the Learning and Teaching of Algebra

The purpose of Project Delta is two-fold: (1) to extend an existing library of 17 interacting CD-ROM digital learning environments on numbers and operations by adding an algebra strand, and (2) to evaluate the impact of the new algebra materials on teacher development. Each of the digital environments features classroom sessions that allow for exploration of a mathematics topic, children learning over time, and teachers? instructional techniques.

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Funding Period: 
Fri, 08/15/2008 to Sat, 07/31/2010

CLUSTER: Investigating a New Model Partnership for Teacher Preparation (Collaborative Research: Steinberg)

This project integrates the informal and formal science education sectors, bringing their combined resources to bear on the critical need for well-prepared and diverse urban science teachers. The study is designed to examine and document the effect of this integrated program on the production of urban science teachers. This study will also research the impact of internships in science centers on improving classroom science teaching in urban high schools.

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Funding Period: 
Sat, 04/01/2006 to Thu, 03/31/2011
Full Description: 

            CLUSTER (Collaboration for Leadership in Urban Science Teaching, Evaluation and Research) is an NSF-funded TPC project. Its partners are The City College of New York (CCNY), New York Hall of Science (NYHS), and City University of New York’s Center for Advanced Study in Education (CASE). It aims to develop and research a model designed to increase and improve the pool of secondary science teachers who reflect the ethnic distribution of city students and who are prepared to implement inquiry-based science instruction.

            CLUSTER Fellows are undergraduate science majors in New York City. They are recruited, trained, and certified to teach science in New York City middle and high schools. They participate both as students in the CCNY Teacher Education Program and as Explainers in the NYHS Science Career Ladder. Their experiences in class and at the NYHS are integrated and guided by a conceptual framework, which emphasizes science as an active process of discovery where ideas are developed and constructed through meaningful experience.

            CLUSTER aims to produce generalizable knowledge of interest to the field regarding the growth and development of perspective teachers in an experiential training program and to assess the impact and value of the CLUSTER model.

Ecology Disrupted: Using Real Scientific Data About Daily Life to Link Environmental Issues to Ecological Processes in Secondary School Science Classrooms (Collaborative Research: Wyner)

We developed and tested two ecology case study units for urban high school students underserved in their connection to nature. The case studies, based on digital media stories about current science produced by the American Museum of Natural History, use current scientific data to link ecological principles to daily life and environmental issues. Preliminary testing results show that treatment students made significantly higher gains than the control students on the project's major learning goals.

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Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Tue, 08/31/2010
Full Description: 

We have refined and tested wo case study units on contemporary issues in ecology for urban middle and high school students underserved in their connection to nature. The case studies are based on two Science Bulletins, digital media stories about current science produced by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), which use current scientific data to link ecological principles to real-world environmental issues, and to link issues to human daily life. One unit asks the question, ‘How might snowy and icy roads affect Baltimore’s water supply?’ The other asks the question, ’How might being able to drive between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in just four hours put local bighorn sheep at risk?’ The units provide source material and real data for students to investigate these questions, video profiles of scientists that engage students in the science and the research, and the Museum Science Bulletins media for students to analyze and connect the questions to broader ecological principles and issues. We are using these modules to research the question, “Can curricular units that link environmental issues to ecological principles through analysis of real data from published research on the environmental impacts of familiar everyday activities improve student learning of ecological principles, personal and human environmental impacts and the nature of scientific activity?” 


Randomized control trials in the classrooms of 40 ninth grade NYC public school teachers are being used to evaluate the efficacy of the modules.  Assessment items from New York State Regents exams were reviewed and new assessment items were developed, field tested, and analyzed for validity and reliability. Students in the experimental and control classrooms were pre- and post-tested using the assessments.  In addition, teachers completed pre-post surveys, and stratified samples of teachers were observed and interviewed. To evaluate the effects of the intervention on student achievement and on instructional practices, descriptive and inferential statistics, including analysis of variance (ANOVA) models are being employed to addressing the core research question about student achievement. ANOVA models are also being used to measure main effects and interactions between the intervention and other variables as they relate to student achievement. Preliminary analysis indicates that treatments students showed signficantly higher gains than control students on learning of three major project learning goals: 1. Understanding of ecological principles in the context of human impact 2. Understanding daily life in the context of human impact 3. Understanding the nature of scientific evidence.


Finally, we will apply our evaluation findings from testing the modules to develop a summative module on oyster fishing in the Chesapeake Bay. Also, in order to disseminate the materials online to a national audience, we will develop an online “kit of parts” of module components to enable teachers to create customized modules that target their students' specific instructional needs.

Inquiry-based Laboratories for Engaging Students of Creative and Performing Arts in STEM

This project develops, implements, and evaluates new multimedia laboratory activities designed to engage students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The project specifically targets artistically gifted students who are often steered towards more traditionally creative areas (e.g., arts and humanities) and away from STEM. The goals to help students understand that scientific principles permeate the creative and performing arts and that creativity and expression are also embraced by STEM.

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Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/15/2007 to Sat, 07/31/2010

Connecting Science and Literacy Program: Professional Development Resources for Elementary Teachers

This project is developing multi-media professional development resources that will enhance PreK-8 teachers' understanding of how to employ instructional strategies from the field of literacy in developing students' scientific understanding. Four modules are resources on specific uses of science literacy; four are case studies offering examples of best practices, including video components. The 9th module provides an introduction to the theoretical underpinnings and research studies that support linking science and literacy.

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Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2004 to Wed, 06/30/2010

Formative Assessment in the Mathematics Classroom: Engaging Teachers and Students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


An Examination of the Impact of Teachers' Domain as a Professional Development Tool on Teacher Knowledge and Student Achievement in Biology

Using an experimental design, this project examines the effects of online professional development courses on high school biology teachers' content and pedagogical knowledge, and on their students' knowledge. The project is testing the impact of using digital resouces and is using hierarchal linear modeling techniques to analyze data. It will contribute to the knowledge base of what impacts student achievement by testing the efficacy of online professional development for science teachers.

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Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2007 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Full Description: 

The goal of this project is to investigate what teachers learn from an online professional development course, and whether teacher learning impacts student learning. High school biology teachers were randomly assigned to take an online course designed to enhance the teaching of genetics and evolution. in the course, participants explore the “big ideas” of the hard-to-teach topics of genetics and evolution through an exploration of online media resources and reflection on a range of teaching strategies. The course was created by WGBH Teachers’ Domain, an online library of free media resources from public television with funding from NSF and is administered by PBS TeacherLine.

The Coaching Cycle: An Interactive Online Course for Mathematics Coaches

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

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

Fostering Mathematics Success in English Language Learners

This project is an efficacy study of the Fostering Geometrical Thinking Toolkit (FGTT) previously developed with NSF support. FGTT is a 40-hour professional development intervention focusing on properties of geometric figures, geometric transformations, and measurement of length, area, and volume. The study addresses four research questions, three examining participating teachers and one examining the impact of teachers' professional development on ELL students.

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Funding Period: 
Fri, 08/15/2008 to Sun, 07/31/2011
Full Description: 

Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), and Horizon Research, Inc., are conducting the DR-K12 research project, Fostering Mathematics Success of English Language Learners (ELLs): An Efficacy Study of Teacher Professional Development (FMSELL), a study of the effects of the Fostering Geometric Thinking

Toolkit professional development materials (FGTT) for teachers of ELLs. It will address four research questions:

1.     Does participation in FGTT increase teachers’ geometric content knowledge?

2.     How does teachers’ participation affect attention to students’ thinking and mathematical communication?

3.     How does participation affect instructional practices?

4.     What impact on ELLs’ problem-solving strategies is evident when teachers participate in FGTT?

FGTT is a 40-hour professional development intervention focusing on properties of geometric figures, geometric transformations, and measurement of length, area, and volume. The project tests the hypothesis that geometric problem solving invites diagramming, drawing, use of colloquial language, and gesturing to complement mathematical communication and affords teachers opportunities to support ELL learning. The research design uses a randomized block design with 25 pairs of professional development facilitators matched according to their districts’ demographic information.


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