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Teaching Science Outdoors: A Next Generation Approach for Advancing Elementary Science Teaching in Urban Communities

This project project is designed to enhance the capacity of elementary teachers in high-poverty urban communities for enacting Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned science approaches using the outdoors as part of their classroom. The goal of the project is to advance elementary teachers' pedagogical practices and determine how this affects cognitive and non-cognitive learning outcomes of their students, particularly those who are traditionally marginalized in science classrooms.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907506
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Project Evaluator: 
Full Description: 

This project addresses a long-standing challenge in science education centered on providing meaningful science education opportunities to students living in communities of high poverty and attending under-resourced elementary schools. These students are significantly less likely to receive high-quality science learning opportunities and to be encouraged to engage in (rather than simply learn about) science. This Michigan State University research project is designed to enhance the capacity of elementary teachers in high-poverty urban communities for enacting Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned science approaches using the outdoors as part of their classroom. It builds on and advances prior outdoor education work for the current context of science education that requires elementary teachers to engage students in making sense of phenomena using next generation science and engineering practices. The goal of this project is to advance elementary teachers' pedagogical practices and determine how this affects cognitive and non-cognitive learning outcomes of their students, particularly those who are traditionally marginalized in science classrooms. It also will advance knowledge on ways to bridge informal and formal learning environments. To achieve these goals, the project will develop, enact and study a program that involves a scaffolded series of summer professional development sessions focused on outdoor learning and school year follow-up meetings and classroom-based coaching for elementary teachers and informal educators from two high-need districts.

Design-based research will be utilized to: 1) foster teacher practices and study how these develop over time, 2) work with teachers to measure student outcomes, and 3) determine what aspects of this formal/informal approach are productive, measures of student engagement and student learning artifacts--will be analyzed. The project will serve as a model for developing partnerships between informal science organizations, educators, and K-12 programs. Revised measures and outcomes of teacher practices and student learning; outdoor-focused lesson plans; cases illustrating how elementary teachers develop and enact NGSS-aligned outdoor lessons; a revised informal-formal theoretical model; and information about dissemination of products including facilitation guidelines and coaching approaches will be developed and disseminated.

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Ed+gineering: An Interdisciplinary Partnership Integrating Engineering into Elementary Teacher Preparation Programs

In this project, over 500 elementary education majors will team with engineering majors to teach engineering design to over 1,600 students from underrepresented groups. These standards-based lessons will emphasize student questioning, constructive student-to-student interactions, and engineering design processes, and they will be tailored to build from students' interests and strengths.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908743
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2019 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

Engineering education, with its emphasis on developing creative solutions to relevant problems, is a promising approach to increasing elementary students' interest in scientific fields. Despite its potential, engineering education is often absent from elementary classes because many teachers feel underprepared to integrate it into their instruction. This project addresses this issue through an innovative approach to undergraduate elementary education programs. In this approach, called Ed+gineering, undergraduate elementary education majors team with undergraduate engineering majors to develop and teach engineering lessons to elementary students in out-of-school settings. In this project, over 500 elementary education majors will team with engineering majors to teach engineering design to over 1,600 students from underrepresented groups. These standards-based lessons will emphasize student questioning, constructive student-to-student interactions, and engineering design processes, and they will be tailored to build from students' interests and strengths. The research team will study whether Ed+gineering is correlated with positive outcomes for the elementary education majors. They will also study whether and how the elementary education majors subsequently provide engineering instruction during their first year of licensed teaching. This project will advance knowledge by resulting in a model for teacher education that has the potential to improve future elementary teachers' confidence and ability to teach engineering. In turn, more elementary students may have opportunities to experience engineering as they discover how innovative applications of science can be used to solve problems in the world around them.

Researchers at Old Dominion University will study whether a teacher preparation model is associated with positive outcomes for pre-service teachers while they are undergraduates and in their first year as professional teachers. Undergraduate elementary education majors and undergraduate engineering majors will work in interdisciplinary teams, comprised of four to six people, in up to three mandatory collegiate courses in their respective disciplinary programs. Each semester, these interdisciplinary teams will develop and teach a culturally responsive, engineering-based lesson with accompanying student materials during a field trip or after-school program attended by underrepresented students in fourth, fifth, or sixth grade. Using a quasi-experimental design with treatment and matched comparison groups, researchers will identify whether the teacher preparation model is associated with increased knowledge of engineering, beliefs about engineering integration, self-efficacy for engineering integration, and intention to integrate engineering, as determined by existing validated instruments as well as by new instruments that will be adapted and validated by the research team. Additionally, the researchers will follow program participants using surveys, interviews, and classroom observations to determine whether and how they provide engineering instruction during their first year as licensed teachers. Constant comparative analyses of these data will indicate barriers and enablers to engineering instruction among beginning teachers who participated in the Ed+gineering program. This project will result in an empirically-based model of teacher preparation, a predictive statistical model of engineering integration, field-tested engineering lesson plans, and validated instruments that will be disseminated widely to stakeholders.

Strengthening STEM Teaching in Native American Serving Schools through Long-Term, Culturally Responsive Professional Development

This project will explore how a nationally implemented professional development model is applied in two distinct Indigenous communities, the impact the model has on teacher practice in Native-serving classrooms, and the model's capacity to promote the integration of culturally responsive approaches to STEM teaching.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908464
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2019 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Project Evaluator: 
Full Description: 

Although there is a long-established body of knowledge about effective professional development for STEM teachers, very little of it has been applied and studied with teachers in Native American-serving school districts. This project will explore how a nationally implemented professional development model is applied in two distinct Indigenous communities, the impact the model has on teacher practice in Native-serving classrooms, and the model's capacity to promote the integration of culturally responsive approaches to STEM teaching. This project will substantially grow the data and knowledge available within this unique context, which is critical given the persistent gaps in educational achievement and STEM career participation among Indigenous people in the U.S. K-12 teachers will participate in an 8-month cohort designed to increase their STEM content knowledge and facilitate their efforts to develop academically rigorous, culturally responsive STEM instructional units for use in their classrooms. The project will add to our knowledge about the transferability of a nationally-implemented professional development model within two specific Indigenous contexts, and it will grow our knowledge about how STEM professional development impacts teacher practice. Finally, the project will provide concrete examples and knowledge about the ways culturally responsive approaches to STEM professional development, curriculum development, and teacher practice are taken up in two distinct Native-student-serving contexts.

This project includes the development and implementation of professional development that is long-term, teacher-driven, collaborative across grade levels and content areas, and facilitated by university faculty with STEM expertise. The research will follow a collective case study methodology in order to establish a robust and nuanced understanding of (1) how a national professional development model operates within two specific and distinct Indigenous contexts; (2) how a professional development model impacts teachers' STEM instructional practice in Native-serving schools; and (3) how teachers in Native-serving schools engage culturally responsive approaches to STEM curriculum development and STEM instructional practice. Data will include interviews and focus groups with participating teachers, university faculty, and other stakeholders, classroom observations and "Scoop Notebook" artifacts of teacher practice, and the teacher-developed STEM instructional units. Data will be iteratively coded with a combination of open and focused coding using a constant comparative method with a specific emphasis on identifying the culturally responsive elements present across the data sources. Individual and cross-case comparisons will be conducted to reveal broader themes that address the research questions. Results and products will be disseminated to researchers, practitioners, and community members through peer-reviewed publications, conference presentations, annual partnership meetings, and posting of the teacher developed instructional units to a web-based, freely accessible clearing house.

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Science Learning through Embodied Performances in Elementary and Middle School

This project's approach uses two types of embodied performances: experiential performances that engage learners in using their bodies to physically experience scientific phenomena (e.g., the increase of heart rate during exercise), and dramatic performances where learners act out science ideas (e.g., the sources and impact of air pollution) with gestures, body movement, dances, role-plays, or theater productions.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
1908272
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Project Evaluator: 
Full Description: 

There is a need to develop ways of making scientific ideas and practices more accessible to students, in particular students in elementary grades and from populations underrepresented in STEM disciplines. Learning science involves the construction of scientific knowledge and science identities, both of which can be supported by science instruction that integrates scientific practices with theater and literacy practices. This project's approach uses two types of embodied performances: experiential performances that engage learners in using their bodies to physically experience scientific phenomena (e.g., the increase of heart rate during exercise), and dramatic performances where learners act out science ideas (e.g., the sources and impact of air pollution) with gestures, body movement, dances, role-plays, or theater productions. Body movements, positions, and actions along with language and other modes of representation are employed as critical constituents of meaning making, which offer learners opportunities to understand science core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and scientific practices by dramatizing them for and with others. This project is adding to the limited science education literature on the use, value, and impact of embodied performances in science classrooms, and on the brilliance, ingenuity, and science knowledge that all youth, and particularly historically marginalized young people, have and can further develop in urban school classrooms.

This project's research focuses on understanding how embodied performances of science concepts and processes can shape classroom science learning, and how their impact is similar and/or different across science topics, elementary and middle school grade levels, and as the school year progresses. It explores the kinds of science ideas students learn, the multimodal literacy practices in which they engage, and the science identities they construct. The research attends to learning for all young people with a specific focus on children from historically marginalized groups in STEM. Using design-based research, the project team (students and teachers in Chicago Public Schools, teaching artists, and researchers) designs embodied performances that are implemented, studied, and revised throughout the project's duration. Ten teachers participate in professional development to learn relevant theater practices (including adaptation, workshopping, and inter- and intra-personal embodiment practices), to strengthen their science understandings, and to learn ways of intertwining both in their teaching. They are subsequently supported by teaching artists through the implementation of various activities in their classrooms, eventually implementing them without any scaffolding. Data sources include fieldnotes during classwork related to embodied performances; written materials, images, sound files, and other digital productions created to enhance, share, expand, and/or support performances; ongoing written student reflections on learning science and the role of embodied performances; regular assessments found in the science curriculum; reflective conversations with student teams about their embodied performances; one-on-one semi-structured interviews with 6 focal students per classroom about science identity development twice in a school year; video of classwork related to embodied performances; and video of science ideas performed by students to school and community audiences. Analyses include structured and focused coding of qualitative data, multimodal discourse analysis, and content analysis. The findings of this research are providing empirical evidence of the value and impact of integrating performing-arts practices into science teaching and learning and the potential of this approach to transform urban science classrooms into spaces where young people from marginalized groups find access to science to engage with it creatively and deeply.

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CAREER: Bridging the Digital Accessibility Gap in STEM Using Multisensory Haptic Platforms

This project investigates how to use new touch technologies, like touchscreens, to create graphics and simulations that can be felt, heard, and seen. Using readily available, low-cost systems, the principal investigator will investigate how to map visual information to touch and sound for students with visual impairments.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1845490
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

Consider learning visual subjects such as math, engineering, or science without being able to see. Suddenly, the graphs, charts, and diagrams that provide a quick way to gather information are no longer effective. This is a challenge that students with visual impairments face in classrooms today as educational materials are most often presented electronically. The current way that individuals with visual impairments "read" graphics is through touch, feeling raised dots and patterns on paper that represent images. Creating these touch-based graphics requires extensive time and resources, and the output provides a static, hard-copy image. Lack of access to graphics in STEM subjects is one of the most pressing challenges currently facing individuals with visual impairments. This is a concern given the low representation of students with these disabilities in STEM fields and professions.

This project investigates how to use new touch technologies, like touchscreens, to create graphics and simulations that can be felt, heard, and seen. Using readily available, low-cost systems, the principal investigator will investigate how to map visual information to touch and sound. This research builds on prior research focused on representing the building blocks of graphics (points, lines, and shapes) nonvisually. In this project, the investigator will determine how to represent more challenging graphics such as charts, plots, and diagrams, nonvisually. The project will then explore the role of touch feedback in interactive simulations, which have moving elements that change with user input, making nonvisual access challenging. Finally, the projects extends the research to students with other disabilities, toward understanding the benefits and changes necessary for touch technologies to have broad impact. The project involves group and single-subject designs with approximately 65 students with visual impairments and focuses on the following outcomes of interest: students' graph literacy, percent correct on task assessments, time of exploration, response time, number of revisits to particular areas of the graphic, and number of switches between layers. Working closely with individuals with disabilities and their teachers, this work seeks to bridge the current graphical accessibility gap in STEM and raise awareness of universal design in technology use and development.

STEM Sea, Air, and Land Remotely Operated Vehicle Design Challenges for Rural, Middle School Youth

This project provides middle school students in a high poverty rural area in Northern Florida an opportunity to pursue post-secondary study in STEM by providing quality and relevant STEM design. The project will integrate engineering design, technology and society, electrical knowledge, and computer science to improve middle school students' spatial reasoning through experiences embedded within engineering design challenges.

Award Number: 
1812913
Funding Period: 
Mon, 04/01/2019 to Thu, 03/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project provides middle school students in a high poverty rural area in Northern Florida an opportunity to pursue post-secondary study in STEM by providing quality and relevant STEM design. The design challenges will be contextualized within a rural region (i.e., GIS mapping and drones used for surveying large ranches, farms, and forests), producing a series of six design challenge modules and two competition design challenges with accompanying teacher guides for preparing relevant STEM modules for 90 middle school aged students. The project will integrate 4 components: (a) engineering design, (b) technology and society, (c) electrical knowledge, and (d) computer science. The project aims to improve middle school students' spatial reasoning through experiences embedded within engineering design challenges.

Collaborative partners consisting of school level, college level, and STEM professionals will develop the design challenges, using best practices from STEM learning research, with the intent of advancing STEM pathway awareness and participation among historically underserved students in the rural, high-poverty region served by North Florida Community College. Data regarding student outcomes will be collected before and after implementation, including measures of content mastery, spatial reasoning skills, self-efficacy, attitudes and interests in STEM, and academic achievement in science courses. Assessment of the data will involve the research and development phases of six curriculum modules and (2) an intervention study following a delayed-treatment design model.

There is a growing need for the increased broadening of STEM by underserved groups. By increasing the number of rural students who participate in STEM hands on, interdisciplinary experiences, the project has the potential to expand interest and competency in mathematics and science and expand the number of students who are aware of STEM career pathways.

CAREER: Building on Diverse Students' Funds of Knowledge to Promote Scientific Discourse and Strengthen Connections to Science Learning in Urban Classrooms

This project will aim to investigate how to increase equitable and active participation of diverse students' science learning in middle schools. The central premise of this study will be that building upon and integrating diverse students' funds of knowledge into their learning opportunities would contribute to create equitable access to effective participation.

Award Number: 
1845048
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Sun, 06/30/2024
Full Description: 

Framed around existing inequities in science education, particularly within underserved student populations, the project will aim to investigate how to increase equitable and active participation of diverse students' science learning in middle schools. The central premise of this study will be that building upon and integrating diverse students' funds of knowledge into their learning opportunities would contribute to create equitable access to effective participation. Thus, the study will promote "authentic scientific discourse" as a critical feature of students' participation in science practices. In the context of this work, scientific discourse will refer to the spoken and written words, and gestures of students and teachers as they interact in science classrooms. This, in turn, would promote students' science learning at higher levels defined in the Next Generation Science Standards.

To achieve its goal of supporting authentic scientific discourse in diverse middle school classrooms, the work will address three research questions. (1) What funds of knowledge do students bring to bear, and how can these be productively integrated to support participation in authentic scientific discourse? (2) What are the ways in which students connect cognitively, motivationally, and socially to science learning when participating in authentic scientific discourse within urban classrooms? (3) What progress do students make in key aspects of scientific discourse and their science learning? The study will be conducted across approximately 15 middle schools and will employ a mixed-methods approach with a sample of teachers (n= 18) and students (n= 450). The work will be organized in three phases. Phase 1 will employ mixed methods, longitudinal approach to describe the complex interactions between students' funds of knowledge, disciplinary content and practices of authentic scientific discourse, and connections to science learning. Phase 2 will utilize design-based research cycles with teachers to apply and develop science instructional materials focused on improving opportunities for authentic scientific discourse by integrating students' funds of knowledge in urban classrooms using data from demographics, classroom videos, post-observation student-focus-group interviews, surveys, and science assessments. Phase 3 will focus on dissemination of research and educational findings. The main outcomes of this effort will include scholarly publications, an authentic scientific discourse framework, and instructional materials, such as lessons, videos, and student work for educators. An advisory board will provide both formative and summative evaluation feedback.

Using Technology to Capture Classroom Interactions: The Design, Validation, and Dissemination of a Formative Assessment of Instruction Tool for Diverse K-8 Mathematics Classrooms

This project will refine, expand, and validate a formative assessment tool called Math Habits Tool (MHT) for kindergarten through 8th grade classrooms. MHT is intended to capture and understand patterns of in-the-moment teacher-student and student-student classroom interactions in ways that can promote more equitable access to high quality math learning experiences for all students.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1814114
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/15/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

An important aspect of mathematics teaching and learning is the provision of timely and targeted feedback to students and teachers on the teaching and learning processes. However, many of the tools and resources focused on providing such feedback (e.g., formative assessment) are aimed at helping students. However, formative assessment of teaching can be equally transformative for teachers and school leaders and is a key component of improved teacher practice. This project will refine, expand and validate a formative assessment tool called Math Habits Tool (MHT) for kindergarten through 8th grade classrooms. MHT is intended to capture and understand patterns of in-the-moment teacher-student and student-student classroom interactions in ways that can promote more equitable access to high quality math learning experiences for all students. The tablet or computer-based tool is intended for use with teacher leaders, principals, coaches, and others interested in assessing teacher practice in a formative way.

This project will continue the development of the MHT through: (1) the integration of an access component; (2) analysis of videos collected during prior studies covering a diverse set of classrooms across the K-8 spectrum; (2) a validation study using validity-argument approach; and (3) the development, piloting, and refinement of professional development modules that will guide math educators, researchers, and practitioners in using the MHT effectively as a formative assessment of instruction. The revised MHT will be validated through analyses of video data from a range of K-8 classrooms with varying demographics and contexts such as socio-economic status, language backgrounds, gender, school settings (e.g., urban, rural, suburban), and race, with particular attention to increasing accessibility to mathematics learning by students who are traditionally underserved, including emergent bilingual students. The data analysis plan involves video coding with multiple checks on reliability, dimensionality analysis with optimal scaling, correlation analysis, and hierarchical linear modeling.

Accelerating Higher Order Thinking and STEM Content Learning Among Students with Learning Disabilities

The purpose of this project is to develop and refine an innovative Google-platform based application called CORGI for use with middle school students in physical, life, and earth science classrooms. The new version, CORGI_2, will include supports for content learning and higher order thinking and will pair with the cloud-based applications of the Google environment to offer multiple means of representation, response and engagement as well as videos, models, supports for decoding, and supports for background knowledge.

Award Number: 
1813556
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

The need for reduction in achievement gaps and the growing adoption of rigorous curriculum standards has raised expectations for all students, but especially for students with learning disabilities. Students are expected to learn science concepts and use their understanding to investigate the natural world through scientific inquiry. They must also develop higher-order reasoning skills, integrate knowledge and ideas using primary sources, use causal reasoning to understand the chain of events, delineate and evaluate claims, and assess the reasoning used in arguments. Lower participation and achievement in science courses makes students with learning disabilities less likely to pursue STEM degrees, STEM careers, and succeed in the labor market where higher order thinking skills and scientific literacy are increasingly important. It is important to develop innovative tools that build on evidence based practices in combination with promising new technologies to improve the academic trajectory in STEM disciplines. The purpose of this project is to develop and refine an innovative Google-platform based application called CORGI for use with middle school students in physical, life, and earth science classrooms. The new version, CORGI_2, will include supports for content learning and higher order thinking and will pair with the cloud-based applications of the Google environment to offer multiple means of representation, response and engagement as well as videos, models, supports for decoding, and supports for background knowledge. The team will refine CORGI to offer enhanced functionality and supports for scientific argumentation, concept mastery, collaboration strategies and social skills for cooperative groups.  Technology enhancements will include multimedia input and output, writing supports (e.g., sentence starters), discussion threads, and affective reactions to content/lessons.

The research team will work with both teachers and students to develop integrated units, new higher order thinking routines, learning and collaboration strategies, and new technological functionality in CORGI_2. Researcher-practitioner-student design teams will use Design-Based Intervention Research (DBR) methods to iteratively: (a) identify the science content for inclusion, (b) develop integrated content units in life, physical, and earth science, (c) integrate additional higher order thinking and learning strategies to promote higher-order thinking and reasoning, and (c) design and implement additional UDL and mobile functionality for CORGI_2. Participants will include 30 middle school teachers and approximately 200 students with learning disabilities, including reading disabilities. Researchers will collect formative evaluation data from teachers and students to examine the usability, science content learning, higher order thinking skills, engagement, and motivation of general education and special education students in middle school classrooms. Professional development modules will be developed to support the DBR cycles as well as to support wider scale adoption and use by all students.

Developing Preservice Teachers' Capacity to Teach Students with Learning Disabilities in Algebra I

Project researchers are training pre-service teachers to tutor students with learning disabilities in Algebra 1, combining principles from special education, mathematics education, and cognitive psychology. The trainings emphasize the use of gestures and strategic questioning to support students with learning disabilities and to build students’ understanding in Algebra 1.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813903
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Sat, 07/31/2021
Full Description: 

This project is implementing a program to train pre-service teachers to tutor students with learning disabilities in Algebra 1, combining principles from special education, mathematics education, and cognitive psychology. The project trains tutors to utilize gestures and strategic questioning to support students with LD to build connections between procedural knowledge and conceptual understanding in Algebra 1, while supporting students’ dispositions towards doing mathematics. The training will prepare tutors to address the challenges that students with LD often face—especially challenges of working memory and processing—and to build on their strengths as they engage with Algebra 1. The project will measure changes in tutors’ ability to use gestures and questioning to support the learning of students with LD during and after the completion of our training. It will also collect and analyze data on the knowledge and dispositions of students with LD in Algebra 1 for use in the ongoing refinement of the training and in documenting the impact of the training program.

 

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