Instructional Practice

Project MAPLE: Makerspaces Promoting Learning and Engagement

The project plans to develop and study a series of metacognitive strategies that support learning and engagement for struggling middle school students during makerspace experiences. The study will focus narrowly on establishing a foundational understanding of how to ameliorate barriers to engaging in design learning through the use of metacognitive strategies.

Award Number: 
1721236
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

The project plans to develop and study a series of metacognitive strategies that support learning and engagement for struggling middle school students during makerspace experiences. The makerspace movement has gained recognition and momentum, which has resulted in many schools integrating makerspace technologies and related curricular practices into the classroom. The study will focus narrowly on establishing a foundational understanding of how to ameliorate barriers to engaging in design learning through the use of metacognitive strategies. The project plans to translate and apply research on the use of metacognitive strategies in supporting struggling learners to develop approaches that teachers can implement to increase opportunities for students who are the most difficult to reach academically. Project strategies, curricula, and other resources will be disseminated through existing outreach websites, research briefs, peer-reviewed publications for researchers and practitioners, and a webinar for those interested in middle-school makerspaces for diverse learners.

The research will address the paucity of studies to inform practitioners about what pedagogical supports help struggling learners engage in these makerspace experiences. The project will focus on two populations of struggling learners in middle schools, students with learning disabilities, and students at risk for academic failure. The rationale for focusing on metacognition within makerspace activities comes from the literature on students with learning disabilities and other struggling learners that suggests that they have difficulty with metacognitive thinking. Multiple instruments will be used to measure metacognitive processes found to be pertinent within the research process. The project will tentatively focus on persistence (attitudes about making), iteration (productive struggle) and intentionality (plan with incremental steps). The work will result in an evidence base around new instructional practices for middle school students who are struggling learners so that they can experience more success during maker learning experiences.

Integrating Chemistry and Earth Science

This project will design, develop, and test a new curriculum unit for high school chemistry courses that is organized around the question, "How does chemistry shape where I live?" The new unit will integrate relevant Earth science data, scientific practices, and key urban environmental research findings with the chemistry curriculum to gain insights into factors that support the approach to teaching and learning advocated by current science curriculum standards.

Award Number: 
1721163
Funding Period: 
Tue, 08/15/2017 to Wed, 07/31/2019
Full Description: 

This Integrating Chemistry and Earth science (ICE) project will design, develop, and test a new curriculum unit for high school chemistry courses that is organized around the question, "How does chemistry shape where I live?" The new unit will integrate relevant Earth science data, scientific practices, and key urban environmental research findings with the chemistry curriculum to gain insights into factors that support the approach to teaching and learning advocated by current science curriculum standards. The overarching goal of the project is to develop teacher capacity to teach and evaluate student abilities to use the practices of scientists and concepts from Earth science and chemistry to understand important phenomena in their immediate, familiar environments. The project has the potential to serve as a model for how to make cutting edge science directly accessible to all students. The project is a collaborative effort that engages scientists, science education researchers, curriculum developers, school curriculum and instruction leaders, and science teachers in the longer term challenge of infusing Earth science concepts and practices across the core high school science courses.

Current guidelines and standards for science education promote learning that engages students in three interrelated dimensions: disciplinary core ideas, scientific practices, and crosscutting ideas. This project is guided by the hypothesis that when provided sustained opportunities to engage in three-dimensional learning experiences, in an integrated Earth science and chemistry context, students will improve in their ability to demonstrate the coordination of disciplinary core ideas, scientific practices, and crosscutting concepts when solving problems and developing explanations related to scientific phenomena. This project will employ a design based research approach, and during the two development-enactment-analysis-and-redesign cycles, the project team will collect student assessment data, teacher interview data, observational data from lessons, teacher surveys, and reflective teacher logbooks. These collected data will provide information about how teachers implement the lessons, what students do during the lessons, and what students learn from them that will lead to better design and a better understanding of student learning. This information will be used to inform the modification of lessons from cycle to cycle, and to inform the professional development materials for teachers. The research agenda for the project is guided by the following questions: 1. What are the design features of ICE lessons that support teachers in enacting three-dimensional instruction within the context of their classroom? 2. What are the design features of embedded three-dimensional assessments that yield useful classroom data for teachers and researchers regarding their students' abilities to integrate core ideas, scientific practices, and crosscutting concepts? 3. What is the nature of student learning related to disciplinary core ideas, scientific practices, and crosscutting concepts that results from students' engagement in ICE lesson sets? 4. What differences emerge in student engagement and learning outcomes for ICE lessons that incorporate local phenomena or data sets as compared to lessons that do not? 5. What contextual factors (i.e., school context, administrative support, time constraints, etc.) influence teachers' implementation of three-dimensional instruction embedded within ICE lessons?


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Integrating Chemistry and Earth Science (ICE)

Presenter(s): Alan Berkowitz, Vonceil Anderson, Bess Caplan, Kevin Garner, & Jonathon Grooms


Engaging Students in Scientific Practices: Evaluating Evidence and Explanation in Secondary Earth and Space Science

This project will develop, implement, test, and revise instructional approaches and materials for high school students that focus on the links between scientific evidence and alternative explanations of phenomena relating to Earth and space education. Students will learn to construct diagrams showing the links between explanatory models of natural phenomena and lines of evidence, and then evaluate the plausibility of various alternative explanations for events.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1721041
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

This project will develop, implement, test, and revise instructional approaches and materials for high school students that focus on the links between scientific evidence and alternative explanations of phenomena relating to Earth and space education. Students will examine alternative explanations for natural phenomena associated with extreme weather events, freshwater resource availability, and related topics in learning how to evaluate scientifically valid lines of evidence and explanation. Students will learn to construct diagrams showing the links between explanatory models of natural phenomena and lines of evidence, and then evaluate the plausibility of various alternative explanations for events. It is expected that engagement in these activities will help students gain proficiency in model-based reasoning, critical thinking, planning and analyzing scientifically valid investigations, constructing plausible explanations, engaging in collaborative argumentation, and critically evaluating scientific information.

This 4-year Design and Development project will examine use of Model-Evidence Link (MEL) diagrams that are intended to help students cognitively construct mental scaffolds that assist their engagement in the practices of critical evaluation, plausibility appraisal, and knowledge construction related to science topics that are considered by some as controversial. Prior research has demonstrated the potential educational outcomes of using MEL diagrams, but this project will extend the previous work by examining an approach where students construct their own MEL diagrams (build-a-MELs, or baMELs). The project will examine the use of both pre-constructed MELs and baMELs for effectiveness in promoting student engagement in scientific reasoning and practices. The project will employ design-based research methodologies in pursuing answers to three research questions: (1) Do baMEL activities tested in multiple high school classroom settings promote critical evaluation, plausibility reappraisal, and  scientifically accurate knowledge construction about controversial Earth and space science topics? (2) How do these additional baMELs differ from pre-constructed MELs in promoting critical evaluation, plausibility reappraisal, and knowledge construction? And (3) To what extent does repeated use of both pre-constructed MELs and baMELs result in student engagement of scientific practices (i.e., asking critical questions, using model-based reasoning, planning and analyzing scientifically valid investigations, constructing plausible explanations, engaging in collaborative argumentation, and critically evaluating scientific information)? The project will engage high school students taking Earth and space classes in selected schools of Georgia, New Jersey, and within Philadelphia. Teacher professional development opportunities associated with the project will include summer institutes, classroom supports, and mentoring sessions.

Building a Community of Science Teacher Educators to Prepare Novices for Ambitious Science Teaching

This conference will bring together a group of teacher educators to focus on preservice teacher education and a shared vision of instruction called ambitious science teaching. It is a critical first step toward building a community of teacher educators who can collectively share and refine strategies, tools, and practices for preparing preservice science teachers for ambitious science teaching.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1719950
Funding Period: 
Tue, 08/01/2017 to Tue, 07/31/2018
Full Description: 

There is a growing consensus among science teacher educators of a need for a shared, research-based vision of accomplished instructional practice, and for teacher education pedagogies that can effectively prepare preservice science teachers to support the science learning of students from all backgrounds. This conference will bring together a group of teacher educators to focus on preservice teacher education and a shared vision of instruction called ambitious science teaching. This conference is a critical first step toward building a community of teacher educators who can collectively share and refine strategies, tools, and practices for preparing preservice science teachers for ambitious science teaching. The conference has two goals. The first goal is to develop a shared vision and language about effective pedagogy of science teacher preparation, focusing on ambitious science teaching and practice-based approaches to science teacher preparation. The second goal is to initiate a professional community that can generate, test, revise, and disseminate a set of resources (curriculum materials, tools, videos, models of teacher educator pedagogies, etc.) to support teacher educators.

There are immediate and long-term broader impacts that will result from this conference. One immediate impact is that this conference will set forth an actionable research agenda for the participants and the field to take up around ambitious science teaching and practice-based teacher education. Such an agenda will help shape new work, involving institutional collaborations,teacher preparation programs, and national organizations. Such an outcome has the potential to immediately impact the work of the conference participants and their own teacher preparation programs. In the long-term, this conference provides an opportunity for the participants to consider how to use ambitious science teaching to address issues of equity and social justice in science education and schools. In addition, the broader impacts of this conference will be to spread a vision of science teaching and practice-based teacher preparation in which students' ideas and experiences are the raw material of teachers' work.

Exploring the Potential of Tablets as Early Math Resources for Urban Kindergarteners in Schools and Homes

This project will examine the impact on mathematics learning of an initiative to provide kindergartners in an urban school district with personal tablet devices that include free, widely available digital mathematics resources. The research questions examine how teachers use table-based mathematics resources during instruction, how caregivers and children engage with table-based mathematics resources, and how the resources then relate to kindergartners mathematics learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1744202
Funding Period: 
Tue, 08/01/2017 to Tue, 07/31/2018
Full Description: 

This project will examine the impact on mathematics learning of an initiative to provide kindergartners in an urban school district with personal tablet devices that include free, widely available digital mathematics resources. An important question for schools as tablet devices become more accessible is how to effectively use them in primary grades, especially kindergarten. In addition, since the devices are portable, how children use the resources such as games for mathematics learning at home is also important to understand. This project is set in a high-needs school district with a large number of low-income children. The project provides an opportunity to learn about the potential role of tables and digital resources in early grades through the analysis of assessment data, user analytic data documenting how the resources were used, and survey data from teachers and families.

Most studies of digital learning resources have been small-scale or focused on engagement. This study offers the opportunity to investigate the relationship between the use of these resources and learning outcomes using a quasi-experimental design. The research questions examine how teachers use table-based mathematics resources during instruction, how caregivers and children engage with table-based mathematics resources and how the resources then relate to kindergartners mathematics learning. Assessments of students' learning will focus on number, geometry and measurement concepts. The learner analytic data from the tablets will document the use of the resources on the tablets. Surveys and demographic data will also be collected to document how the tablets were used. Results of the study should inform implementation of tablet use by schools with particular attention to how they are used across in-class and at-home settings.

Identifying Effective Instructional Practices that Foster the Development of Algebraic Thinking in Elementary School

This project seeks to identify teaching practices that can be linked to students' early algebra learning in grades three, four and five. The goal of the project is to use assessment data and videos of classroom teaching in order to create a tool that can be used to document effective instructional practices. This observation tool can then be used to support teacher professional development in early algebra and research about how teachers' actions can be linked to students' learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1721192
Funding Period: 
Thu, 06/01/2017 to Mon, 05/31/2021
Full Description: 

There is a critical need to better prepare all students for learning algebra. Part of this preparation involves developing a strong foundation for algebra in the elementary grades by building on students' informal intuitions about patterns, relationships and structure into more formalized ways of mathematical thinking. This project seeks to identify teaching practices that can be linked to students' early algebra learning in grades three, four and five. The goal of the project is to use assessment data and videos of classroom teaching in order to create a tool that can be used to document effective instructional practices. This observation tool can then be used to support teacher professional development in early algebra and research about how teachers' actions can be linked to students' learning. The project is unique in its work to link an early algebra curriculum with understanding of teachers' practices in implementing that curriculum and students' learning of mathematics.

The project aims to address two research questions. First, what profiles of instructional practice are associated with greater student performance in early algebra? Second, to what extent do these profiles of effective instructional practices vary by grade level? The primary product of the work is an early algebra observation protocol that will capture non-domain and non-grade level specific practices of effective teaching in combination with practices specific to early algebra. Videos of early algebra classrooms will be used to design the observation protocol, which in turn, will then be used along with student assessment data to identify profiles of instructional practices associated with students' learning. Multiple phases of testing and revision will be used to create the observation protocol. The observation protocol will also generate profiles of teacher practices that can be used to describe different models for effectively teaching early algebra. The project will also examine implications of their work for teacher preparation and professional development.

Examining Relationships Between Flipped Instruction and Students' Learning of Mathematics

This study can provide a basis for design research focused on developing effective materials and programs for flipped instruction in secondary mathematics, which is already occurring at an increasing rate, but it is not yet informed by empirical evidence. This project will result in a framework for flipped instruction robust enough to be useful at a variety of grade levels and contexts. The framework will provide a better understanding of the relationships among various implementations of flipped instruction and student learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1721025
Funding Period: 
Tue, 08/01/2017 to Fri, 07/31/2020
Full Description: 

Instead of presenting new material in class and then assigning problems to be completed outside of class, flipped instruction involves students watching videos or reading new material outside of class and then completing their "homework" in class. Teachers' implementation of flipped instruction has increased dramatically in recent years, with more than two-thirds of teachers now reporting flipping a lesson, if not an entire course. Although popular media and philanthropic organizations have given a great deal of attention and financial support to flipped instruction, little is known about how teachers implement it and what benefits and drawbacks flipped instruction has in contrast with non-flipped instruction. This study can provide a basis for design research focused on developing effective materials and programs for flipped instruction in secondary mathematics. This design and development is already occurring at an increasing rate, but it is not yet informed by empirical evidence. This project will result in a framework for flipped instruction robust enough to be useful at a variety of grade levels and contexts. The framework will provide a better understanding of the relationships among various implementations of flipped instruction and student learning. These findings can inform teacher educators in better aligning their instruction to instructional formats that correlate with increased student learning outcomes.

Using mixed-methods techniques, the study will look at the nature of the activities and interactions occurring in mathematics classrooms and assess their quality so that the researchers may distinguish high-quality from low-quality univocal discourse, high-quality from low-quality dialogic discourse, and high cognitive demand from low cognitive demand tasks. Working in 40 algebra classrooms -- 20 implementing some form of flipped instruction and 20 serving as a non-flipped basis for comparison -- the project will address the following research questions using a correlational design and multilevel modeling techniques: RQ1. What are salient factors entailed in flipped instruction in secondary algebra? RQ2. What associations, if any, exist among factors entailed in teachers' implementation of flipped algebra instruction and students' learning of algebra as measured on a state-mandated end-of-course assessment and on a concept-of-variable inventory?

Promoting Scientific Explorers Among Students with Learning Disabilities: The Design and Testing of a Grade 2 Science Program Focused on Earth's Systems

The purpose of this project is to design and empirically evaluate a second grade science program, Scientific Explorers, aimed at promoting an early foundation for learning science among all students, including students at risk for or with learning disabilities in reading and mathematics.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720958
Funding Period: 
Thu, 06/01/2017 to Mon, 05/31/2021
Full Description: 

A robust understanding of core science concepts and practices is necessary for obtaining jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Despite these occupational and practical affordances, few effective instructional tools exist for the elementary science classroom. Moreover, early elementary school teachers have limited materials at their disposal to promote a rich knowledge of science among the full range of learners. The purpose of this project is to address this need by designing and empirically evaluating a second grade science program, Scientific Explorers, aimed at promoting an early foundation for learning science among all students, including students at risk for or with learning disabilities in reading and mathematics. Scientific Explorers will be designed to improve students' knowledge and understanding of core science concepts. Recognizing the important role of early literacy and mathematics in science learning and teaching, this project will integrate core disciplinary ideas with critical mathematics and literacy standards. To support students as they engage in scientific tasks associated with Earth's Systems, this project will engineer the Scientific Explorers program around a guided inquiry framework. Another aim of this project is to develop and empirically validate a science assessment that measures students' knowledge and application of core science concepts and practices related to Earth's Systems.

Employing a mixed-method approach, this project will investigate the feasibility and efficacy of the Scientific Explorers program. Additional research activities will include establishing the reliability and validity of a second grade science assessment. Approximately 40 second grade classrooms from two different geographical regions will participate in the project. Using multilevel modeling and item response theory techniques, this project will address five primary research questions: (1) To what extent can teachers feasibly implement the Scientific Explorers program in authentic education settings? (2) What is the impact of Scientific Explorers on the science achievement of students in participating classrooms? (3) Do early literacy skills at the beginning of second grade predict differential response to the Scientific Explorers program? (4) Does responsiveness to the Scientific Explorers program differ as a function of reading disability, mathematics disability, or a learning disability in reading and mathematics (comorbid LD)?, and (5) To what extent does the early science achievement measure demonstrate technical adequacy (reliability and validity)?

Mobilizing Teachers to Increase Capacity and Broaden Women's Participation in Physics (Collaborative Research: Hannum)

This project assesses the impact of scaling-up the teaching of physics and engineering to women students in grade levels 11 and 12, particularly in reference to retention. The aim is to mobilize high school physics teachers to "attract and recruit" female students into physics and engineering careers. The project will advance physics identity research by testing research-based approaches/interventions with larger groups of teachers and connecting research to practice in ways that are both widely deployable and practical for teachers to implement.

Award Number: 
1720869
Funding Period: 
Mon, 05/15/2017 to Fri, 04/30/2021
Full Description: 

This project assesses the impact of scaling-up the teaching of physics and engineering to women students in grade levels 11 and 12, particularly in reference to retention. The problem of low participation of women in physics and engineering has been a topic of concern for decades. The persistent underrepresentation of women in physics and engineering is not just an equity issue but also reflects an unrealized talent pool that can help respond to current and future challenges faced by society. The aim is to mobilize high school physics teachers to "attract and recruit" female students into science (physics) and engineering careers. The fundamental issues that the project seeks is to affect increases in the number of females in physics and engineering careers using research-informed and field-tested classroom practices that improve female students' physics identity. The project will advance science (physics) identity research by testing research-based approaches/interventions with larger groups of teachers and connecting research to practice in ways that are both widely deployable and practical for teachers to implement. The project will also affect female participation in engineering since developing a physics identity is strongly related to choosing engineering. The core area teachers will be trained in addressing student identity as a physicist or engineer.

In this project, two research universities (Florida International University, Texas A&M-Commerce) and the two largest national organizations in physics (American Physical Society and American Association of Physics Teachers) will work together using approaches/interventions drawn from prior research results that will be tested with teachers in three states (24 teachers, 8 in each state) using an experimental design with control and treatment groups. The project proposes three phases: 1. Refine already established interventions for improving female physics identity for use on a massive national level which will be assessed through previously validated and reliable surveys and sound research design; 2. Launch a massive national campaign involving workshops, training modules, and mass communication approaches to reach and attempt to mobilize 16,000 of the 27,000 physics teachers nationwide to attract and recruit at least one female student to physics using the intervention approaches refines in phase 1 and other classroom approaches shown to improve female physics identity; and 3. Evaluate of the success of the campaign through surveys of high school physics teachers (subjective data) and data from the Higher Education Research Institute to monitor female student increases in freshmen declaring a physics major during the years following the campaign (objective data). The interventions will focus on developing female students' physics identity, a construct which has been found to be strongly related to career choice and persistence in physics. The project has the potential to reduce or eliminate the gender gap in the field of physics. In addition, the increase in female physics identity is likely to also increase female representation in engineering majors. Therefore, the work will lay the groundwork for adapting similar methods for increasing under-representation of females in other disciplines. The societies involved (American Physical Society and American Association of Physics Teachers) are uniquely positioned within the discipline to ensure a successful campaign of information dissemination to physics teachers nationally and under-representation of females in other disciplines as well, engineering specifically.

Investigating Productive Use of High-Leverage Student Mathematical Thinking Collaborative Research: Stockero)

This project focuses on the teaching practice of building on student thinking, a practice in which teachers engage students in making sense of their peers' mathematical ideas in ways that help the whole class move forward in their mathematical understanding. The study examines how teachers incorporate this practice into mathematics discussions in secondary classrooms by designing tasks that generate opportunities for teachers to build on students' thinking and by studying teachers' orchestration of whole class discussions around student responses to these tasks.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720566
Funding Period: 
Thu, 06/01/2017 to Mon, 05/31/2021
Full Description: 

The project will examine how secondary mathematics teachers respond to and use students' thinking during whole class discussion. An ongoing challenge for teachers is making the best use of students' emerging mathematical ideas during whole class discussion. Teachers need to draw on the ideas students have developed in order to create opportunities for learning about significant mathematical concepts. This study will create tasks specifically designed to generate opportunities for teachers to build on students' thinking and then use classroom observation and analysis of classroom video to develop tools to support teachers in leading whole class discussion.

The project focuses on the teaching practice of building on student thinking, a practice in which teachers engage students in making sense of their peers' mathematical ideas in ways that help the whole class move forward in their mathematical understanding. This study examines how teachers incorporate this practice into mathematics discussions in secondary classrooms by designing tasks that generate opportunities for teachers to build on students' thinking and by studying teachers' orchestration of whole class discussions around student responses to these tasks. The project engages teacher-researchers in exploring the building practice. The teacher-researchers will use the project-designed tasks in their classrooms and then engage in a cycle of analysis of their own teaching with the research team. Data collection and analysis will rely on video analysis of classrooms, teachers' reflections on task enactment, and data collected during research team meetings convened with teacher-researchers to analyze practice.

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