Instructional Practice

Building Middle School Students' Understanding of Heredity and Evolution

This project will develop and test the impact of heredity and evolution curriculum units for middle school grades that are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The project will advance science teaching by investigating the ways in which two curriculum units can be designed to incorporate science and engineering practices, cross-cutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas, the three dimensions of science learning described by the NGSS. The project will also develop resources to support teachers in implementation of the new modules.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1814194
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project will develop and test the impact of heredity and evolution curriculum units for middle school grades that are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The project will advance science teaching by investigating the ways in which two curriculum units can be designed to incorporate science and engineering practices, cross-cutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas, the three dimensions of science learning described by the NGSS. The project will also develop resources to support teachers in implementation of the new modules. The planned research will also examine whether student understanding of evolution depends on the length and time of exposure to learning about heredity prior to learning about evolution.

This Early Stage Design and Development project will develop two new 3-week middle school curriculum units, with one focusing on heredity and the other focusing on evolution. The units will include embedded formative and summative assessment measures and online teacher support materials. These units will be developed as part of a curriculum learning progression that will eventually span the elementary grades through high school. This curriculum learning progression will integrate heredity, evolution, data analysis, construction of scientific explanations, evidence-based argumentation, pattern recognition, and inferring cause and effect relationships. To inform development and iterative revisions of the units, the project will conduct nation-wide beta and pilot tests, selecting schools with broad ranges of student demographics and geographical locations. The project will include three rounds of testing and revision of both the student curriculum and teacher materials. The project will also investigate student understanding of evolution in terms of how their understanding is impacted by conceptual understanding of heredity. The research to be conducted by this project is organized around three broad research questions: (a) In what ways can two curriculum units be designed to incorporate the three dimensions of science learning and educative teacher supports to guide students' conceptual understanding of heredity and evolution? (b) To what extent does student understanding of evolution depend on the length and timing of heredity lessons that preceded an evolution unit? And (c) In what ways do students learn heredity and evolution?

Supporting Teachers in Responsive Instruction for Developing Expertise in Science (Collaborative Research: Riordan)

This project takes advantage of advanced technologies to support science teachers to rapidly respond to diverse student ideas in their classrooms. Students will use web-based curriculum units to engage with models, simulations, and virtual experiments to write multiple explanations for standards-based science topics. The project will also design planning tools for teachers that will make suggestions relevant research-proven instructional strategies based on the real-time analysis of student responses.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1812660
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

Many teachers want to adapt their instruction to meet student learning needs, yet lack the time to regularly assess and analyze students' developing understandings. The Supporting Teachers in Responsive Instruction for Developing Expertise in Science (STRIDES) project takes advantage of advanced technologies to support science teachers to rapidly respond to diverse student ideas in their classrooms. In this project students will use web-based curriculum units to engage with models, simulations, and virtual experiments to write multiple explanations for standards-based science topics. Advanced technologies (including natural language processing) will be used to assess students' written responses and summaries their science understanding in real-time. The project will also design planning tools for teachers that will make suggestions relevant research-proven instructional strategies based on the real-time analysis of student responses. Research will examine how teachers make use of the feedback and suggestions to customize their instruction. Further we will study how these instructional changes help students develop coherent understanding of complex science topics and ability to make sense of models and graphs. The findings will be used to refine the tools that analyze the student essays and generate the summaries; improve the research-based instructional suggestions in the planning tool; and strengthen the online interface for teachers. The tools will be incorporated into open-source, freely available online curriculum units. STRIDES will directly benefit up to 30 teachers and 24,000 students from diverse school settings over four years.

Leveraging advances in natural language processing methods, the project will analyze student written explanations to provide fine-grained summaries to teachers about strengths and weaknesses in student work. Based on the linguistic analysis and logs of student navigation, the project will then provide instructional customizations based on learning science research, and study how teachers use them to improve student progress. Researchers will annually conduct at least 10 design or comparison studies, each involving up to 6 teachers and 300-600 students per year. Insights from this research will be captured in automated scoring algorithms, empirically tested and refined customization activities, and data logging techniques that can be used by other research and curriculum design programs to enable teacher customization.

GeoHazard: Modeling Natural Hazards and Assessing Risks

This project will develop and test a new instructional approach that integrates a data analysis tool with Earth systems models in a suite of online curriculum modules for middle and high school Earth science students. The modules will facilitate development of rich conceptual understandings related to the system science of natural hazards and their impacts.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1812362
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

As human populations grow and spread into areas where extreme natural events impact lives, there is increasing need for innovative Earth science curriculum materials that help students interpret data and and understand the factors and risks associated with natural hazards. Studying the processes underlying these naturally occurring events and the relationships between humans and their environments would enrich the standard Earth science curriculum by providing students with valuable insights about the potential impacts of extreme natural events. This project will respond to that need by developing and testing a new instructional approach that integrates a data analysis tool with Earth systems models in a suite of online curriculum modules for middle and high school Earth science students. Each module will be designed as a sequence of activities lasting approximately 7-10 class periods. These will be stand-alone modules so each teacher can implement just one module or several modules. The modules will facilitate development of rich conceptual understandings related to the system science of natural hazards and their impacts. Students will develop scientific arguments that include risk assessment based on their understanding of real-world data and the particular Earth system being studied. The project will develop a set of computational models designed specifically to explore geoscience systems responsible for natural hazards. An open-source data analysis tool will also be modified for students to create and analyze visualizations of the magnitude, frequency, and distribution of real-world hazards and the impact of those hazards on people. Students will compare data generated from the Earth systems models with real-world data in order to develop an understanding of the cause and progression of natural hazards, as well as to make predictions and evaluate future risks.

The four-year, early stage design and development project will be conducted in two phases. In Phase 1, design-based research will be used to iteratively design and test Earth systems models. A team of five lead teachers will field test modules and provide focus group feedback during the development phase of the curricula. These lead teachers will provide input into the design and development of the tools, the organization and structure of the curriculum, and provide suggestions about classroom implementation to support the development of teacher support materials. After the models are developed, four curriculum modules related to hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and wildfires will be developed, tested, and revised. In Phase 2, a group of 30 teachers will participate in implementation studies that will test usability of the modules across students from diverse backgrounds and feasibility of implementation across a range of classroom settings. Research will focus on understanding how to support student analysis of real-world datasets in order to improve their conceptual understanding of complex Earth systems associated with natural hazards. The project will also examine the role of uncertainty when students make scientific arguments that include predictions about the behaviors of complex systems and the uncertainties related to risk assessment. The project aims to clarify student views of uncertainty and how teachers can better support student understanding of the inherently uncertain nature of systems, models, and natural hazards, while understanding that models can be used to reduce impact. Questions guiding project research include: (1) How do students use flexible data visualizations to make sense of data and build and refine conceptual models about natural hazards? (2) How do students incorporate data from models and the real world in formulating scientific arguments; how do students use scientific uncertainty to assess risks based on their understanding of a natural hazard system; and how do students quantify and explain risks to humans and compare different sources of risks? And (3) Do GeoHazard curriculum modules help students make gains in risk-infused scientific argumentation practice and conceptual understanding underlying natural hazards? To what extent, for whom, and under what conditions is the GeoHazard curriculum useful in developing risk-infused scientific argumentation practice and conceptual understanding?

Enhancing Teacher and Student Understanding of Engineering in K-5 Bilingual Programs

This mixed-method exploratory study will examine how bilingual teachers working in elementary schools in Massachusetts and Puerto Rico understand the role and skills of engineers in society. In turn, it will examine how teachers adapt existing engineering lessons so that those activities and concepts are more culturally and linguistically accessible to their students.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1814258
Funding Period: 
Mon, 10/01/2018 to Thu, 09/30/2021
Full Description: 

Engineering is part of everyone's local community and daily activities yet opportunities to learn about engineering are often absent from elementary school classrooms. Further, little is known about how teachers' and students' conceptions of engineering relate to aspects of their local community such as language and culture. Knowing more about this is important because students' perceptions of mismatch between their personal culture and the engineering field contributes to the continued underrepresentation of minorities in the profession. This mixed-method exploratory study will examine how bilingual teachers working in elementary schools in Massachusetts and Puerto Rico understand the role and skills of engineers in society. In turn, it will examine how teachers adapt existing engineering lessons so that those activities and concepts are more culturally and linguistically accessible to their students.

Consistent with the aims of the DRK-12 program, this project will advance understanding of how engineering education materials can be adapted to the characteristics of teachers, students, and the communities that they reside in. Further, its focus on bilingual classrooms will bring new perspectives to characterizations of the engineering field and its role in different cultures and societies. Over a three-year period, the team will investigate these issues by collecting data from 24 teachers (12 from each location). Data will be collected via surveys, interviews, discussion of instructional examples, videos of teachers' classroom instruction and analysis of artifacts such as teachers' lesson plans. Teachers will collaborate and function as a professional co-learning community called instructional rounds by participating and providing feedback synchronously in face-to-face settings and via the use of digital apps. Project findings can lead to teaching guidelines, practices, and briefs that inform efforts to successfully integrate bilingual engineering curriculum at the elementary grades. This work also has the potential to create professional development models of success for K-5 teachers in bilingual programs and enhance engineering teaching strategies and methods at these early grade levels.

Understanding the Role of Simulations in K-12 Science and Mathematics Teacher Education

This project will develop and implement a working conference for scholars and practitioners to articulate current use cases and theories of action regarding the use of simulations in PreK-12 science and mathematics teacher education. The conference will be structured to provide opportunities for attendees to share their current research, theoretical models, conceptual views, and use cases focused on the design and use of digital and non-digital simulations for building and assessing K-12 science and mathematics teacher competencies.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813476
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

The recent emergence of updated learning standards in science and mathematics, coupled with increasingly diverse school students across the nation, has highlighted the importance of updating professional learning opportunities for science and mathematics teachers. One promising approach that has emerged is the use of simulations to engage teachers in approximations of practice where the focus is on helping them learn how to engage in ambitious content teaching. In particular, recent technological advances have supported the emergence of new kinds of digital simulations and have brought increased attention to simulations as a tool to enhance teacher learning. This project will develop and implement a working conference for scholars and practitioners to articulate current use cases and theories of action regarding the use of simulations in PreK-12 science and mathematics teacher education. The conference will be structured to provide opportunities for attendees to share their current research, theoretical models, conceptual views, and use cases focused on the design and use of digital and non-digital simulations for building and assessing K-12 science and mathematics teacher competencies.

While the use of simulations in teacher education is neither new nor limited to digital simulation, emerging technological capabilities have enabled digital simulations to become practical in ways not formerly available. The current literature base, however, is dated and the field lacks clear theoretic models or articulated theories of action regarding what teachers could or should learn via simulations, and the essential components of effective learning trajectories. This working conference will be structured to provide opportunities for attending, teacher educators, researchers, professional development facilitators, policy makers, preservice and inservice teachers, and school district leaders to share their current research, theoretical models, conceptual views, and use cases regarding the role of simulations in K-12 science and mathematics teacher education. The conference will be organized around four major goals, including: (1) Define how simulations (digital and non-digital) are conceptualized, operationalized, and utilized in K-12 science and mathematics teacher education; (2) Document and determine the challenges and affordances of the varied contexts, audiences, and purposes for which simulations are used in K-12 science and mathematics teacher education and the variety of investigation methods and research questions employed to investigate the use of simulations in these settings; (3) Make explicit the theories of action and conceptual views undergirding the various simulation models being used in K-12 science and mathematics teacher education; and (4) Determine implications of the current research and development work in this space and establish an agenda for studying the use of simulations in K-12 science and mathematics teacher education. The project will produce a white paper that presents the research and development agenda developed by the working conference, describes a series of use cases describing current and emergent practice, and identifies promising directions for future research and development in this area. Conference outcomes are expected to advance understanding of the varied ways in which digital and non-digital simulations can be used to foster and assess K-12 science and mathematics teacher competencies and initiate a research and development agenda for examining the role of simulations in K-12 science and mathematics teacher education.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Understanding the Role of Simulations in Teacher Preparation

Presenter(s): Lisa Dieker, Angelica Fulchini Scruggs, Heather Howell, Michael Hynes, & Jamie Mikeska


Prospective Elementary Teachers Making for Mathematical Learning

This study takes an innovative approach to documenting how teacher knowledge can be enhanced by incorporating a design experience into pre-service mathematics education. Teachers will use digital and fabrication technologies (e.g., 3D printers and laser cutters) to design and use manipulatives for K-6 mathematics learning. The goals of the project include describing how this experience influences the prospective teachers' knowledge and identities while creating curriculum for teacher education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1812887
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

What teachers know and believe is central to what they can do in classrooms. This study takes an innovative approach to documenting how teacher knowledge can be enhanced by incorporating a design experience into pre-service mathematics education. The study's participating prospective teachers will use digital and fabrication technologies (e.g., 3D printers and laser cutters) to design and use manipulatives for K-6 mathematics learning. The goals of the project include describing how this experience influences the prospective teachers' knowledge and identities while creating curriculum for teacher education. Also, because more schools and students have access to 3D fabrication capabilities, teacher education can utilize these capabilities to prepare teachers to take advantage of these resources. Prior research by the team demonstrated how the process of making a manipulative can support prospective teachers in learning about mathematics and how to teach elementary mathematics concepts. The project will generate resources for other elementary teacher education programs and research about how prospective elementary teachers learn mathematics for teaching.

The project includes three research questions. First, what forms of knowledge are brought to bear as prospective elementary teachers make new manipulatives and write corresponding tasks to support the teaching and learning of mathematics? Second, how does prospective elementary teachers' knowledge for teaching mathematics develop as they make new manipulatives and write tasks to support the teaching and learning of mathematics? Third, as prospective elementary teachers make new manipulatives and write tasks to support the teaching and learning of mathematics, how do they see themselves in relation to the making, the mathematics, and the mathematics teaching? The project will employ a design-based research methodology with cycles of design, enactment, analysis and redesign to create curriculum modules for teacher education focused on making mathematics manipulatives. Data collection will include video recording of class sessions, participant observation, field notes, artifacts from the participants' design of manipulatives, and assessments of mathematical knowledge for teaching. A qualitative analysis will use multiple frameworks from prior research on mathematics teacher knowledge and identity development.

Design and Development of a K-12 STEM Observation Protocol (Collaborative Research: Roehrig)

This project will design and develop a new K-12 classroom observation protocol for integrated STEM instruction (STEM-OP). The STEM-OP will inform the instruction of integrated STEM in many contexts with the goal of improving integrated STEM education.

Award Number: 
1813342
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project will design and develop a new K-12 classroom observation protocol for integrated STEM instruction (STEM-OP). The STEM-OP will be developed for use in K-12 STEM settings. While the importance of integrated STEM education is established, there remains disagreement on models and effective approaches for integrated STEM instruction. This issue is confounded by the lack of observation protocols sensitive to integrated STEM teaching and learning to inform research to the effectiveness of new models and strategies. Existing instruments were not developed for use in integrated STEM learning environments. The STEM-OP will be designed to be used effectively by multiple stakeholders in a variety of contexts. Researchers will benefit from having the STEM-OP available for them to carry out research and continue to improve STEM education in a variety of ways. Existing instruments were not developed for use in integrated STEM learning environments.  The STEM-OP and associated training materials will be available for use by other education stakeholders, such as K-12 teachers and district administrators, through a publicly available online platform. In brief, the STEM-OP will inform the instruction of integrated STEM in many contexts with the goal of improving integrated STEM education.

The primary product of this project is the new observation protocol called STEM-OP for K-12 classrooms implementing integrated STEM lessons. The project will use over 500 integrated STEM classroom videos to design the STEM-OP. Using exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, the STEM-OP will be a valid and reliable instrument for use in a variety of educational contexts. The research will explore the different ways that elementary, middle, and high school science teachers enact integrated STEM instruction. This study will shed light on the nature of STEM instruction in each of these grade bands and provide information building towards an understanding of learning progressions for engineering practices across grade bands. Research exploring how the nature of STEM integration changes from day to day over the course of a unit will provide critical information about the different sequencing and trajectories of STEM units. Examining how integrated STEM instruction unfolds over a full unit of instruction will inform the understanding of integrated STEM practices at both micro- and macro- levels of analysis. The STEM-OP and associated training materials will be available for use by other education stakeholders, such as K-12 teachers and district administrators, through a publicly available, which will be distributed via a publicly available, online platform that includes a training manual and classroom video for practice scoring.

Design and Development of a K-12 STEM Observation Protocol (Collaborative Research: Dare)

This project will design and develop a new K-12 classroom observation protocol for integrated STEM instruction (STEM-OP). The STEM-OP will inform the instruction of integrated STEM in many contexts with the goal of improving integrated STEM education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1854801
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project will design and develop a new K-12 classroom observation protocol for integrated STEM instruction (STEM-OP). The STEM-OP will be developed for use in K-12 STEM settings. While the importance of integrated STEM education is established, there remains disagreement on models and effective approaches for integrated STEM instruction. This issue is confounded by the lack of observation protocols sensitive to integrated STEM teaching and learning to inform research to the effectiveness of new models and strategies. Existing instruments were not developed for use in integrated STEM learning environments. The STEM-OP will be designed to be used effectively by multiple stakeholders in a variety of contexts. Researchers will benefit from having the STEM-OP available for them to carry out research and continue to improve STEM education in a variety of ways. Existing instruments were not developed for use in integrated STEM learning environments.  The STEM-OP and associated training materials will be available for use by other education stakeholders, such as K-12 teachers and district administrators, through a publicly available online platform. In brief, the STEM-OP will inform the instruction of integrated STEM in many contexts with the goal of improving integrated STEM education.

The primary product of this project is the new observation protocol called STEM-OP for K-12 classrooms implementing integrated STEM lessons. The project will use over 500 integrated STEM classroom videos to design the STEM-OP. Using exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, the STEM-OP will be a valid and reliable instrument for use in a variety of educational contexts. The research will explore the different ways that elementary, middle, and high school science teachers enact integrated STEM instruction. This study will shed light on the nature of STEM instruction in each of these grade bands and provide information building towards an understanding of learning progressions for engineering practices across grade bands. Research exploring how the nature of STEM integration changes from day to day over the course of a unit will provide critical information about the different sequencing and trajectories of STEM units. Examining how integrated STEM instruction unfolds over a full unit of instruction will inform the understanding of integrated STEM practices at both micro- and macro- levels of analysis. The STEM-OP and associated training materials will be available for use by other education stakeholders, such as K-12 teachers and district administrators, through a publicly available, which will be distributed via a publicly available, online platform that includes a training manual and classroom video for practice scoring.

Design and Development of a K-12 STEM Observation Protocol (Collaborative Research: Ring-Whalen)

This project will design and develop a new K-12 classroom observation protocol for integrated STEM instruction (STEM-OP). The STEM-OP will inform the instruction of integrated STEM in many contexts with the goal of improving integrated STEM education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1812794
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project will design and develop a new K-12 classroom observation protocol for integrated STEM instruction (STEM-OP). The STEM-OP will be developed for use in K-12 STEM settings. While the importance of integrated STEM education is established, there remains disagreement on models and effective approaches for integrated STEM instruction. This issue is confounded by the lack of observation protocols sensitive to integrated STEM teaching and learning to inform research to the effectiveness of new models and strategies. Existing instruments were not developed for use in integrated STEM learning environments. The STEM-OP will be designed to be used effectively by multiple stakeholders in a variety of contexts. Researchers will benefit from having the STEM-OP available for them to carry out research and continue to improve STEM education in a variety of ways. Existing instruments were not developed for use in integrated STEM learning environments.  The STEM-OP and associated training materials will be available for use by other education stakeholders, such as K-12 teachers and district administrators, through a publicly available online platform. In brief, the STEM-OP will inform the instruction of integrated STEM in many contexts with the goal of improving integrated STEM education.

The primary product of this project is the new observation protocol called STEM-OP for K-12 classrooms implementing integrated STEM lessons. The project will use over 500 integrated STEM classroom videos to design the STEM-OP. Using exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, the STEM-OP will be a valid and reliable instrument for use in a variety of educational contexts. The research will explore the different ways that elementary, middle, and high school science teachers enact integrated STEM instruction. This study will shed light on the nature of STEM instruction in each of these grade bands and provide information building towards an understanding of learning progressions for engineering practices across grade bands. Research exploring how the nature of STEM integration changes from day to day over the course of a unit will provide critical information about the different sequencing and trajectories of STEM units. Examining how integrated STEM instruction unfolds over a full unit of instruction will inform the understanding of integrated STEM practices at both micro- and macro- levels of analysis. The STEM-OP and associated training materials will be available for use by other education stakeholders, such as K-12 teachers and district administrators, through a publicly available, which will be distributed via a publicly available, online platform that includes a training manual and classroom video for practice scoring.

Promoting Engineering Problem Framing Skill-Development in High School Science and Engineering Courses

This project will develop curricular activities and assessment guidance for K-12 science and engineering educators who seek to incorporate engineering design content into their biology, chemistry, and physics classes.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1812823
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Sat, 07/31/2021
Full Description: 

This collaborative project involving Ohio Northern University, Ohio State University, and Olathe Northwest High School will develop curricular activities and assessment guidance for K-12 science and engineering educators who seek to incorporate engineering design content into their biology, chemistry, and physics classes. This work is important because students' limited exposure to engineering activities can negatively impact their decisions to enroll in STEM courses and to pursue engineering careers. Further, many states are adopting or considering adopting the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a set of classroom standards which integrate engineering content into traditional science disciplines. While high school teachers under these standards are expected to incorporate the cross-cutting engineering content into their courses, they generally receive little high-quality support for doing so. If successful, the project could provide a powerful model of how to support busy and resource-constrained STEM teachers, and create broader student interest in STEM careers.

Drawing from best practices on instructional design, the project's main objectives are to: (1) design, field-test, and evaluate the impact of 12 NGSS-aligned, engineering problem-framing design activities on students enrolled in grades 9-12 science courses and (2) design and conduct high-quality, sustained professional development that fosters participating high school science teachers' ability to deploy the NGSS concepts-linked activities. Data sources include student design artifacts, video of classroom instruction, and surveys assessing student and teacher attitudes toward engineering, student design self-efficacy and teacher self-efficacy for teaching engineering content. These data will be analyzed to determine what teachers learned from the professional development activities, how those activities informed their teaching and in turn, how students' engagement with the engineering activities relates to their engineering design skills and attitudes. In terms of intellectual merit, the project aims to develop a learning progression of students' engineering design problem-framing skills by characterizing any observed change in students' design work and attitudes over time.

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