Instructional Practice

Sensing Science through Modeling: Developing Kindergarten Students' Understanding of Matter and Its Changes

This project will develop a technology-supported, physical science curriculum that will facilitate kindergarten students' conceptual understanding of matter and how matter changes. The results of this investigation will contribute important data on the evolving structure and content of children's physical science models as well as demonstrate children's understanding of matter and its changes.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621299
Funding Period: 
Sat, 10/01/2016 to Wed, 09/30/2020
Full Description: 

Despite recent research demonstrating the capacity of young children to engage deeply with science concepts and practices, challenging science curriculum is often lacking in the early grades. This project addresses this gap by developing a technology-supported, physical science curriculum that will facilitate kindergarten students' conceptual understanding of matter and how matter changes. To accomplish these goals, the curriculum will include opportunities for students to participate in model-based inquiry in conjunction with the use of digital probeware and simulations that enable students to observe dynamic visualizations and make sense of the phenomena. To support the capacity of kindergarten teachers, a continuous model of teacher development will be implemented.

Throughout development, the project team will collaborate with kindergarten teachers and more than 300 demographically diverse students across eight classrooms in Massachusetts and Indiana. A design based research approach will be used to iteratively design and revise learning activities, technological tools, and assessments that meet the needs and abilities of kindergarten students and teachers. The project team will: 1) work with kindergarten teachers to modify an existing Grade 2 curricular unit for use with their students; 2) design a parallel curricular unit incorporating technology; 3) evaluate both units for feasibility and maturation effects; and 4) iteratively revise and pilot an integrated unit and assess kindergarten student conceptual understanding of matter and its changes. The results of this investigation will contribute important data on the evolving structure and content of children's physical science models as well as demonstrate children's understanding of matter and its changes.

Strengthening Mathematics Intervention: Identifying and Addressing Challenges to Improve Instruction for Struggling Learners

This project's first goal is to study the national landscape of mathematics intervention classes, which are additional classes provided to struggling students, including learners with and without identified disabilities. We administered a survey to a nationally representative sample of 2,024 urban and suburban public schools with grades 6-8 to find out how these classes are being implemented and the types of challenges faced.

Award Number: 
1621294
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

Across the nation, schools face a pressing need to improve instruction for middle grades students who are not reaching proficiency on standardized assessments. One approach is to schedule additional mathematics classes to provide struggling learners with more time for instruction and support. For our study, we defined mathematics interventional classes as classes taken by struggling students during the regular school day in addition to their general education mathematics classes. These classes are for students who have difficulties learning mathematics, including learners who do not have identified disabilities and those with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). 

While recommendations for intervention practices are present in the research literature, little is known about how schools are actually implementing intervention classes, including how often the classes meet, the number of students enrolled, who teaches them and the content focus. To address this gap in the knowledge base, we conducted an observational study and a national survey of current practices and challenges in mathematics intervention classes. The survey was administered to a nationally representative sample of 2,024 urban or suburban public schools with grades 6-8.  Approximately, 43% of schools (876 schools) responded; the findings revealed widespread implementation of mathematics intervention classes and variations in class structures and practices. 

The final aspect of the project involves the design of professional development for mathematics intervention teachers based on the needs identified in the earlier phases of the project. We are developing and testing a blended professional development course to help teachers build the knowledge and practices needed to provide high-quality, targeted instruction to struggling learners in mathematics intervention classes.

Related Resource:

Building a Next Generation Diagnostic Assessment and Reporting System within a Learning Trajectory-Based Mathematics Learning Map for Grades 6-8

This project will build on prior funding to design a next generation diagnostic assessment using learning progressions and other learning sciences research to support middle grades mathematics teaching and learning. The project will contribute to the nationally supported move to create, use, and apply research based open educational resources at scale.

Award Number: 
1621254
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

This project seeks to design a next generation diagnostic assessment using learning progressions and other research (in the learning sciences) to support middle grades mathematics teaching and learning. It will focus on nine large content ideas, and associated Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. The PIs will track students over time, and work within school districts to ensure feasibility and use of the assessment system.

The research will build on prior funding by multiple funding agencies and address four major goals. The partnership seeks to address these goals: 1) revising and strengthening the diagnostic assessments in mathematics by adding new item types and dynamic tools for data gathering 2) studying alternative ways to use measurement models to assess student mathematical progress over time using the concept of learning trajectories, 3) investigating how to assist students and teachers to effectively interpret reports on math progress, both at the individual and the class level, and 4) engineering and studying instructional strategies based on student results and interpretations, as they are implemented within competency-based and personalized learning classrooms. The learning map, assessment system, and analytics are open source and can be used by other research and implementation teams. The project will exhibit broad impact due to the number of states, school districts and varied kinds of schools seeking this kind of resource as a means to improve instruction. Finally, the research project contributes to the nationally supported move to create, use, and apply research based open educational resources at scale.

Improving the Implementation of Rigorous Instructional Materials in Middle-Grades Mathematics: Developing a System of Practical Measures and Routines (Collaborative Research: Smith)

The goal of this project is to improve the implementation of rigorous instructional materials in middle-grades mathematics at scale through a system of practical measures and routines for collecting and using data that both assesses and supports implementation.

Award Number: 
1621238
Funding Period: 
Sat, 10/01/2016 to Thu, 09/30/2021
Full Description: 

The goal of this 5-year research project is to improve the implementation of rigorous instructional materials in middle-grades mathematics at scale. Many projects seek to improve mathematics instruction, but are not able to easily track their efforts at improvement. The primary product of this project will be a system of practical measures and routines for collecting and using data that both assesses and supports the implementation of rigorous instructional materials in middle-grades mathematics. In contrast to research and accountability measures, practical measures are assessments that require little time to administer and can thus be used frequently. The data can be analyzed rapidly so that teachers can receive prompt feedback on their progress, and instructional leaders can use the data to decide where to target resources to support improvement in the quality of instruction and student learning. The system of practical measures and routines will include 1) measures of high-leverage aspects of teachers' instructional practices that have been linked to student learning (e.g., rigor of tasks, quality of students' discourse) and attend to equitable student participation; and 2) measures of high-leverage aspects of key supports for improving the quality of teachers' practice (e.g., quality of professional development; coaching); and 3) a set of routines regarding how to use the resulting data to engage in rapid, improvement efforts. A key principle of the proposed project is that the system of measures and routines can be adapted to a wide range of school and district contexts. This project is supported by the Discovery Research preK-12 (DRK-12) program. The DRK-12 program supports research and development of STEM education innovations and approaches in assessment, learning, and teaching.

The project will establish three research-practice partnerships with five districts, in three different states, that are currently implementing rigorous instructional materials in middle-grades mathematics. Year 1 will focus on the development of a set of practical measures of classroom instruction. Year 2 will focus on testing the use of the classroom measures in the context of supports for teachers' learning, and the development of practical measures of key supports for teachers' learning. Years 3-4 will focus on how the project can "learn our way to scale" (Bryk et al., 2015), which requires strategically implementing measures and routines in increasingly diverse conditions. The project will engage in rapid improvement cycles in which researchers will work alongside district leaders and professional development (PD) facilitators to analyze the data from the measures of both classroom instruction and the quality of support for teacher learning to test the effectiveness of improvements in intended supports for teacher learning and to adjust the design of the support based on data. Across Years 1-4, the project will use recent developments in technology and information visualization to test and improve 1) the collection of practical measures in situ and 2) the design of data representations (or visualizations) that support teachers and leaders to make instructional improvement decisions. In Year 5, the project will conduct formal analyses of the relations between supports for teachers' learning; teachers' knowledge and classroom practices; and student learning.

Doing the Math with Paraeducators: A Research and Development Project

This project will design and pilot professional development that focuses on developing the confidence, mathematical knowledge, and teaching strategies of paraeducators using classroom activities that they are expected to implement. The planned professional development will enable them to make a greater difference in the classroom, but it will also increase their access to continuing education and workplace opportunities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621151
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

Over one million paraeducators (teaching assistants and volunteers) currently assist in classrooms, and another 100,000 are likely to be added in the next ten years. Paraeducators (paras) are often required to teach content, such as mathematics, but there are few efforts to provide them with the knowledge or supervision they need to be effective when working with a range of students, including those with disabilities and for whom English is a second language. The project will focus on developing the confidence, mathematical knowledge, and teaching strategies of paras using classroom activities that they are expected to implement. The planned professional development will enable them to make a greater difference in the classroom, but it will also increase their access to continuing education and workplace opportunities. The work will be conducted in the Boston Public Schools (BPS) and will focus on grades K-3, where the largest numbers of paras are employed. Given the importance of early math learning in predicting mathematical achievement, supporting paras who work in the early grades is particularly important.

The project will design and pilot professional development that supports paraeducator knowledge development and addresses instructional challenges in teaching mathematics. The project will address the following goals: research the current roles of paras in mathematics instruction, the preparation of their collaborating teachers, and the opportunities for collaboration and planning between supervising teachers and paras in BPS; pilot, develop, implement, and research a model for professional development program for paras that targets specific activities they can implement that are key to student learning in number and operation in K-3; document how paras assume new roles that increase student engagement and empower them as mathematical learners; pilot, develop, implement, and research a supervisory component to help teachers set expectations, and structures for debriefing and reflecting along with their paras; and identify next steps for an early stage development study based on our findings. A needs assessment survey will investigate the context in which paras work. The iterative process of design-based research will develop, test, and implement the targeted professional development with paras, measuring how prepared they feel to implement new ideas and how they translate their learning into new pedagogical practices. Crosscase analyses, descriptive statistics, tallies and coded behaviors from observations, and themes from paras, and teacher and administrator interviews will be collected, coded, and analyzed. Furthermore, an efficacy survey will be administered periodically to document longitudinal changes in paras, which will be integrated in the crosscase analyses.

Organizing to Learn Practice: Teacher Learning in Classroom-Focused Professional Development

This project addresses the fundamental challenge of how to support teachers to improve their practice. The approach uses a "live mathematics classroom" as a common text for working on practice, where participants are not only watching and discussing but are engaged in developing and learning practice. The project will generate new knowledge regarding ways in which elementary teachers of mathematics can be supported to learn effective teaching practice.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621104
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

Growing evidence about the powerful effects of skillful teaching on students' learning creates a need to for professional development that impacts teachers' actual practice. Just as other professions (e.g., nursing, social work, law) have centered practitioners' learning in "live" practice with structures that support learning in context, the project will investigate whether and how this can be accomplished in teaching. The approach uses a "live mathematics classroom" as a common text for working on practice, where participants are not only watching and discussing but are engaged in developing and learning practice. The project also explores the following variations in practice-based professional development: (1) on-site and remote participation of teachers; and (2) the addition of supplementary practice-focused professional development. The project will generate new knowledge regarding ways in which elementary teachers of mathematics can be supported to learn effective teaching practice.

This project addresses a fundamental challenge for professional development, that is, how to support teachers to improve their practice. Teachers profit from well-designed opportunities to develop new visions for practice, learn more about students' thinking, or work on specific mathematical topics or tasks. Still, such opportunities are often insufficient to support teachers with the complexity of classroom teaching. These kinds of professional opportunities focus on critical resources for instruction but not on the details of teaching practice itself. This practice-centered professional development is situated within a summer mathematics program for fifth graders. The proposed research will explore the impact on teachers' practice, as well as on their knowledge and dispositions, from participating in these structured ways. Three studies will resolve the following three sets of questions: (1) What do teachers learn from structured participation in the class? Does their participation impact their own teaching practice, and if so, in what ways? (2) Does the setting of the peripheral participation matter? Does this form of participation impact their own teaching practice, and if so, in what ways? (3) Does the addition of professional development focused on a particular teaching practice impact teachers' own practice, and if so, in what ways? How does the addition of professional development focused on a specific instructional practice compare across the in-person and online forms of participation in terms of impact on teachers' own practice? The project will collect and analyze several types of data pre- and post-intervention, including measures of mathematical knowledge for teaching, measures of language for talking about the work of teaching and students, and skill with leading a mathematics discussion, and the mathematical quality of instruction. The project will generate new knowledge related to to organizing professional learning around supports that teachers need to learn practice as well as ways to study their learning of teaching practice.

Modest Supports for Sustaining Professional Development Outcomes over the Long-Term

This study will investigate factors influencing the persistence of teacher change after professional development (PD) experiences, and will examine the extent to which modest supports for science teaching in grades K-5 sustain PD outcomes over the long term.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1620979
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

This study will investigate factors influencing the persistence of teacher change after professional development (PD) experiences, and will examine the extent to which modest supports for science teaching in grades K-5 sustain PD outcomes over the long term. Fifty K-12 teachers who completed one of four PD programs situated in small, rural school districts will be recruited for the study, and they will participate in summer refresher sessions for two days, cluster meetings at local schools twice during the academic year, and optional Webinar sessions two times per year. Electronic supports for participants will include a dedicated email address, a project Facebook page, a biweekly newsletter, and access to archived Webinars on a range of topics related to teaching elementary school science. Modest support for replacement of consumable supplies needed for hands-on classroom activities will also be provided. The project will examine the extent to which these modest supports individually and collectively foster the sustainability of PD outcomes in terms of the instructional time devoted to science, teacher self-efficacy in science, and teacher use of inquiry-based instructional strategies. The effects of contextual factors on sustainability of PD outcomes will also be examined.

This longitudinal study will seek answers to three research questions: 1) To what extent do modest supports foster the sustainability of professional development outcomes in: a) instructional time in science; b) teachers' self-efficacy in science; and c) teachers' use of inquiry-based instructional strategies? 2) Which supports are: a) the most critical for sustainability of outcomes; and b) the most cost-effective; and 3) What contextual factors support or impede the sustainability of professional development outcomes? The project will employ a mixed-methods research design to examine the effects of PD in science among elementary schoolteachers over a 10 to 12 year period that includes a 3-year PD program, a 4-6 year span after the initial PD program, and a 3-year intervention of modest supports. Quantitative and qualitative data will be collected from multiple sources, including: a general survey of participating teachers regarding their beliefs about science, their instructional practices, and their instructional time in science; a teacher self-efficacy measure; intervention feedback surveys; electronic data sources associated with Webinars; teacher interviews; school administrator interviews; and receipts for purchases of classroom supplies. Quantitative data from the teacher survey and self-efficacy measure will be analyzed using hierarchical modeling to examine growth rates after the original PD and the change in growth after the provision of modest supports. Data gathered from other sources will be tracked, coded, and analyzed for each teacher, and linked to the survey and self-efficacy data for analysis by individual teacher, by grade level, by school, by district, and by original PD experience. Together, these data will enable the project team to address the project's research questions, with particular emphasis on determining the extent to which teachers make use of the various supports offered, and identifying the most cost-effective and critical supports.

Synchronous Online Professional Learning Experiences for Middle Grades Mathematics Teachers in Rural Contexts

This project will develop and implement an innovative online mathematics professional development model designed to provide growth opportunities for teachers in rural districts who normally lack access to such opportunities. The project will focus on developing teacher capacity to enact ambitious, responsive instruction aligned with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM), and thus will be sustained, interactive, and of sufficient duration to help teachers transform their practices.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1620911
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

All teachers need access to high quality professional development in order to meet the needs of students and teach mathematics as outlined in college and career-ready standards. Online professional development has the potential to expand access to under-resourced areas, including urban districts, and teachers who wish to participate in communities of inquiry but do not have local access to such communities. Building on research on effective face-to-face professional development, including research from the emerging fields of content-focused coaching and video coaching, this project will design and study professional development for middle grades mathematics teachers in rural communities. As schools turn to digital learning contexts, it is inevitable that professional development will follow a similar trend. It is imperative to have research-based models that demonstrate how the features of high-quality face-to-face professional development can be matched or augmented in online contexts. The study has the potential to contribute to research on professional development, especially in the growing areas of online professional development and coaching, and will build from and contribute to the literature on the impact of multiple modalities and synchronicities in online contexts. The project will address the critical need for models of professional development for teachers in rural areas, which has a limited research base. This project is funded by the Discovery Research PreK-12 (DRK-12) Program. The DRK-12 program supports research and development on STEM education innovations and approaches to teaching, learning, and assessment.

The project will develop and implement an innovative online mathematics professional development model designed to provide growth opportunities for teachers in rural districts who normally lack access to such opportunities. The study will take place in two geographically disparate locations in order to research the effectiveness of the model across contexts and to explore the resources and constraints involved in scaling up the model. The project will focus on developing teacher capacity to enact ambitious, responsive instruction aligned with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM), and thus will be sustained, interactive, and of sufficient duration to help teachers transform their practices. In the design of the professional development, the project will leverage features of emerging technologies that are multimodal and involve a mix of synchronous/ asynchronous communication. The most innovative feature is the online video coaching in which a teacher and coach separately will view and notate video of the teacher's enactment of a collaboratively planned lesson as a precursor to the online post-lesson debriefing. Building from design-based research principles, the project will incorporate iterative cycles of data collection, analysis, reflection, and revision that will explore the effectiveness of the model and inform revisions.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Synchronous Online Professional Development Model

Presenter(s): Jeffrey Choppin, Julie Amador, Cynthia Carson, Ryan Gillespie, Stephanie Martin, & Kristana Textor


An Online STEM Career Exploration and Readiness Environment for Opportunity Youth

This project aims to create a web-based STEM Career Exploration and Readiness Environment (CEE-STEM) that will support opportunities for youth ages 16-24 who are neither in school nor are working, in rebuilding engagement in STEM learning and developing STEM skills and capacities relevant to diverse postsecondary education/training and employment pathways.

Award Number: 
1620904
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

CAST, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and YouthBuild USA aim to create a web-based STEM Career Exploration and Readiness Environment (CEE-STEM). This will support opportunities for youth ages 16-24 who are neither in school nor are working, in rebuilding engagement in STEM learning and developing STEM skills and capacities relevant to diverse postsecondary education/training and employment pathways. The program will provide opportunity youth with a personalized and portable tool to explore STEM careers, demonstrate their STEM learning, reflect on STEM career interests, and take actions to move ahead with STEM career pathways of interest.

The proposed program addresses two critical and interrelated aspects of STEM learning for opportunity youth: the development of STEM foundational knowledge; and STEM engagement, readiness and career pathways. These aspects of STEM learning are addressed through an integrated program model that includes classroom STEM instruction; hands-on job training in career pathways including green construction, health care, and technology.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Building a Diverse STEM Talent Pipeline: Finding What Works

Presenter(s): Tracey Hall

2018 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Bridging the Gap Between Ability and Opportunity in STEM

Presenter(s): Sam Johnston


Improving the Implementation of Rigorous Instructional Materials in Middle Grades Mathematics: Developing a System of Practical Measures and Routines (Collaborative Research: Ahn)

The goal of this project is to improve the implementation of rigorous instructional materials in middle-grades mathematics at scale through a system of practical measures and routines for collecting and using data that both assesses and supports implementation.

Award Number: 
1911492
Funding Period: 
Sat, 10/01/2016 to Thu, 09/30/2021
Full Description: 

The goal of this 5-year research project is to improve the implementation of rigorous instructional materials in middle-grades mathematics at scale. Many projects seek to improve mathematics instruction, but are not able to easily track their efforts at improvement. The primary product of this project will be a system of practical measures and routines for collecting and using data that both assesses and supports the implementation of rigorous instructional materials in middle-grades mathematics. In contrast to research and accountability measures, practical measures are assessments that require little time to administer and can thus be used frequently. The data can be analyzed rapidly so that teachers can receive prompt feedback on their progress, and instructional leaders can use the data to decide where to target resources to support improvement in the quality of instruction and student learning. The system of practical measures and routines will include 1) measures of high-leverage aspects of teachers' instructional practices that have been linked to student learning (e.g., rigor of tasks, quality of students' discourse) and attend to equitable student participation; and 2) measures of high-leverage aspects of key supports for improving the quality of teachers' practice (e.g., quality of professional development; coaching); and 3) a set of routines regarding how to use the resulting data to engage in rapid, improvement efforts. A key principle of the proposed project is that the system of measures and routines can be adapted to a wide range of school and district contexts. This project is supported by the Discovery Research preK-12 (DRK-12) program. The DRK-12 program supports research and development of STEM education innovations and approaches in assessment, learning, and teaching.

The project will establish three research-practice partnerships with five districts, in three different states, that are currently implementing rigorous instructional materials in middle-grades mathematics. Year 1 will focus on the development of a set of practical measures of classroom instruction. Year 2 will focus on testing the use of the classroom measures in the context of supports for teachers' learning, and the development of practical measures of key supports for teachers' learning. Years 3-4 will focus on how the project can "learn our way to scale" (Bryk et al., 2015), which requires strategically implementing measures and routines in increasingly diverse conditions. The project will engage in rapid improvement cycles in which researchers will work alongside district leaders and professional development (PD) facilitators to analyze the data from the measures of both classroom instruction and the quality of support for teacher learning to test the effectiveness of improvements in intended supports for teacher learning and to adjust the design of the support based on data. Across Years 1-4, the project will use recent developments in technology and information visualization to test and improve 1) the collection of practical measures in situ and 2) the design of data representations (or visualizations) that support teachers and leaders to make instructional improvement decisions. In Year 5, the project will conduct formal analyses of the relations between supports for teachers' learning; teachers' knowledge and classroom practices; and student learning.

This project was previously funded under award #1620900 and 1719744.

 

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