Accessibility

Highly Adaptive Science Simulations for Accessible STEM Education

This project will research, design, and develop adaptive accessibility features for interactive science simulations. The proposed research will lay the foundation that advances the accessibility of complex interactives for learning and contribute to solutions to address the significant disparity in science achievement between students with and without disabilities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1814220
Funding Period: 
Sun, 04/15/2018 to Wed, 03/31/2021
Full Description: 

This project will research, design, and develop adaptive accessibility features for interactive science simulations. The proposed research will lay the foundation that advances the accessibility of complex interactives for learning and contribute to solutions to address the significant disparity in science achievement between students with and without disabilities. The PhET Interactive Simulations project at the University of Colorado Boulder and collaborators at Georgia Tech, with expertise in accessible technology and design, will form the project team. The project team will conduct design-based implementation research, where adaptive accessibility features for interactive science simulations are developed through co-design with students with disabilities and their teachers. Students will include those with dyslexia, visual impairments or blindness, and students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, ranging from 5th grade through high school, and recent high school graduates. The adaptive accessibility features will be implemented within a set of PhET interactive science simulations, and allow students with disabilities to access the science simulations with alternative input devices (such as keyboards, switches, and sip-and-puff devices), alter the visual display of the simulations (changing color contrast, zoom and enlarge, and simplify), hear different auditory representations of the visual display (descriptions, sonification, and text-to-speech), and control the rate of simulated events. All features will be capable of being turned on or off and modified on-the-fly by teachers or students through a global control panel that includes curated feature sets, resulting in highly flexible, highly accessible, interactive learning resources.

PhET simulations are widely used in US classrooms, evidence-based, aligned with standards, and highly engaging and effective learning resources. With the proposed highly adaptive features and supporting resources, teachers will be able to quickly adapt the PhET simulations to meet the needs of many students with disabilities, simplifying the task of creating differentiated learning opportunities for students and supporting students with disabilities to engage in collaborative learning - a foundational component of a high-quality STEM education - alongside their non-disabled peers. To research, design, and develop the adaptive features and investigate their use by students, project team members will co-teach in classrooms with students with disabilities and conduct co-design activities with students, where students engage in design thinking to help design and refine the adaptive features to meet identified accessibility needs (their own and those of their peers). In addition, interviews with individual students with and without disabilities will also be conducted, to test early prototypes of individual features, to later refine the layering of the many different features, and to ensure the presence of adaptive features does not negatively impact traditional use of the simulations. The proposed work also includes surveys of teachers and students and analysis of teacher use, to refine global control features, develop curated feature sets, and develop supporting teacher resources. The project will address key questions at the heart of educational design for students with diverse needs, including how to make adaptive features that support student achievement of specific learning goals. The project will use design-based implementation research, with significant co-designing with students with disabilities (including visual impairments, cognitive disabilities, or dyslexia), interviews, case studies, and classroom implementation to design and evaluate the accessibility features. This will inform new models and theories of learning with technology. The project will investigate: 1) How students engage with, use, and learn from adaptive accessibility features, 2) how adaptive accessibility features can be designed to layer harmoniously together in a learning resource, and 3) how to effectively support access to rich, dynamic feature controls and curated feature sets for intuitive classroom use by students and teachers. The project will produce 8 PhET simulations with adaptive accessibility features and supporting teacher resources. The foundational research knowledge will result in effective design and implementation of adaptive accessibility features through the analysis of student engagement, usability, and learning from accessible simulations. Additionally, the project will provide technical infrastructure, exemplars, and software for use by other STEM education technology developers. The project team will work together to create a deep understanding of how to design adaptive science simulations with practical, usable, effective accessibility, so that learners with diverse needs can advance their science content knowledge and participate in science practices alongside their peers. The work has great potential to transform STEM learning for students with disabilities and to make simulations more effective for all learners. Results will provide insight into the effectiveness of accessible simulation-based activities and their corresponding teacher materials in engaging students in science practices and learning in the classroom.

Measuring Early Mathematical Reasoning Skills: Developing Tests of Numeric Relational Reasoning and Spatial Reasoning

The primary aim of this study is to develop mathematics screening assessment tools for Grades K-2 over the course of four years that measure students' abilities in numeric relational reasoning and spatial reasoning. The team of researchers will develop Measures of Mathematical Reasoning Skills system, which will contain Tests of Numeric Relational Reasoning (T-NRR) and Tests of Spatial Reasoning (T-SR).

Award Number: 
1721100
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/15/2017 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

Numeric relational reasoning and spatial reasoning are critical to success in later mathematics coursework, including Algebra 1, a gatekeeper to success at the post-secondary level, and success in additional STEM domains, such as chemistry, geology, biology, and engineering. Given the importance of these skills for later success, it is imperative that there are high-quality screening tools available to identify students at-risk for difficulty in these areas. The primary aim of this study is to develop mathematics screening assessment tools for Grades K-2 over the course of four years that measure students' abilities in numeric relational reasoning and spatial reasoning. The team of researchers will develop Measures of Mathematical Reasoning Skills system, which will contain Tests of Numeric Relational Reasoning (T-NRR) and Tests of Spatial Reasoning (T-SR). The measures will be intended for use by teachers and school systems to screen students to determine who is at-risk for difficulty in early mathematics, including students with disabilities. The measures will help provide important information about the intensity of support that may be needed for a given student. Three forms per grade level will be developed for both the T-NRR and T-SR with accompanying validity and reliability evidence collected. The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

The development of the T-NRR and T-SR measures will follow an iterative process across five phases. The phases include (1) refining the construct; (2) developing test specifications and item models; (3) developing items; (4) field testing the items; and (5) conducting validity studies. The evidence collected and evaluated during each phase will contribute to the overall evaluation of the reliability of the measures and the validity of the interpretations made using the measures. Item models, test specifications, and item development will be continuously evaluated and refined based on data from cognitive interviews, field tests, and reviews by mathematics educators, teachers of struggling students, teachers of culturally and linguistically diverse populations, and a Technical Advisory Board. In the final phase of development of the T-NRR and T-SR, reliability of the results will be estimated and multiple sources of validity evidence will be collected to examine the concurrent and predictive relation with other criterion measures, classification accuracy, and sensitivity to growth. Approximately 4,500 students in Grades K-2 will be involved in all phases of the research including field tests and cognitive interviews. Data will be analyzed using a two-parameter IRT model to ensure item and test form comparability.

BioGraph 2.0: Online Professional Development for High School Biology Teachers for Teaching and Learning About Complex Systems

This proposal will develop and test an open-access, online system of professional development for high school biology teachers in order to build pedagogical competencies for teaching about complex systems and to support the application of those competencies in high school biology classrooms.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1721003
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

This proposal will develop and test an open-access, online system of professional development for high school biology teachers in order to build pedagogical competencies for teaching about complex systems and to support the application of those competencies in high school biology classrooms. The online teacher professional development (PD) will be delivered through the edX open access platform.

This research project will include two cycles of design and development of the professional development experience. It will include mixed methods and a longitudinal examination of teacher and student learning fostered by professional development. The research for the first phase will be qualitative in nature and will result in a series of case studies that highlight different facets of the interactions that influence teachers' learning. Following this qualitative phase, through a field study that employs multivariate analysis of covariance and hierarchical linear models analytical techniques, the effectiveness of the design and development stages will be compared to an alternative professional development experience that is similar to the project's professional development but does not include collaborative design. The broad aim is to develop and test an open-access, online system of professional development (PD) that includes solutions for known challenges in teacher online PD. The project builds on a prior NSF-funded exploratory project. The project will employ a randomized control trial to assess the effectiveness of PD on improving teacher content knowledge and skills, changes in classroom practices and instruction, curriculum engagement by students and student achievement outcomes with an end goal to understand better what facilitates online PD and to create a low cost scalable and online version of the original NSF-funded BioGraph. This research will produce insights and guidelines that can immediately be incorporated into the emerging field of online professional development, and online education in general. The content goals are to build pedagogical competencies for teaching about complex systems and to support the application of those competencies in high school biology classrooms.

Project Accelerate: University-High School AP Physics Partnerships

Project Accelerate blends the supportive structures of a student's home school, a rigorous online course designed specifically with the needs of under-served populations in mind, and hands-on laboratory experiences, to make AP Physics accessible to under-served students. The project could potentially lead to the success of motivated but under-served students who attend schools where the opportunity to engage in a rigorous STEM curriculum is not available.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720914
Funding Period: 
Tue, 08/01/2017 to Fri, 07/31/2020
Full Description: 

Project Accelerate brings AP Physics 1 and, eventually, AP Physics 2 to students attending schools that do not offer AP Physics. The project will enable 249 students (mostly under-served, i.e., economically disadvantaged, ethnic minorities and racial minorities) to enroll in AP Physics - the students would otherwise not have access. These students either prepare for the AP Physics 1 exam by completing a highly interactive, conceptually rich, rigorous online course, complete with virtual lab experiments, or participate in an accredited AP course that also includes weekly hands-on labs. In this project, the model will be tested and perfected with more students and expanded to AP Physics 2. Further, model replication will be tested at an additional site, beyond the two pilot sites. In the first pilot year in Massachusetts at Boston University, results indicated that students fully engaged in Project Accelerate are (1) at least as well prepared as peer groups in traditional classrooms to succeed on the AP Physics 1 exam and (2) more inclined to engage in additional STEM programs and to pursue STEM fields and programs than they were prior to participating. In the second year of the pilot study, Project Accelerate doubled in size and expanded in partnership with West Virginia University. From lessons learned in the pilot years, key changes are being made, which are expected to increase success. Project Accelerate provides a potential solution to a significant national problem of too few under-served young people having access to high quality physics education, often resulting in these students being ill prepared to enter STEM careers and programs in college. Project Accelerate is a scalable model to empower these students to achieve STEM success, replicable at sites across the country (not only in physics, but potentially across fourteen AP subjects). The project could potentially lead to the success of tens of thousands of motivated but under-served students who attend schools where the opportunity to engage in a rigorous STEM curriculum is not available.

Project Accelerate blends the supportive structures of a student's home school, a private online course designed specifically with the needs of under-served populations in mind, and hands-on laboratory experiences, to make AP Physics accessible to under-served students. The goals of the project are: 1) have an additional 249 students, over three years, complete the College Board-accredited AP Physics 1 course or the AP Physics 1 Preparatory course; 2) add an additional replication site, with a total of three universities participating by the end of the project; 3) develop formal protocols so Project Accelerate can be replicated easily and with fidelity at sites across the nation; 4) develop formal protocols so the project can be self-sustaining at a reasonable cost (about $500 per student participant); 5) build an AP Physics 2 course, giving students who come through AP Physics 1 a second year of rigorous experience to help further prepare them for college and career success; 6) create additional rich interactive content, such as simulations and video-based experiments, to add to what is already in the AP Physics 1 prep course and to build the AP Physics 2 prep course - the key is to actively engage students with the material and include scaffolding to support the targeted population; 7) carry out qualitative and quantitative education research, identifying features of the program that work for the target population, as well as identifying areas for improvement. This project will support the growing body of research on the effectiveness of online and blended (combining online and in-person components) courses, and investigate the use of such courses with under-represented high school students.

Building Capacity to Retain Underrepresented Students in STEM Fields

This workshop provides minority serving institutions with an opportunity to engage in dialogue about effective ways to create, implement, and evaluate models of intervention that will advance knowledge about retaining underrepresented minorities in STEM fields. It will advance knowledge in life science and the biosciences for K-12 and undergraduate students attending local schools or eligible minority-serving institutions.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1741748
Funding Period: 
Mon, 05/01/2017 to Mon, 04/30/2018
Full Description: 

The NSF invests in a number of programs targeting underrepresented populations and institutions relative to its meeting its goals for broadening participation in STEM. This workshop provides minority serving institutions with an opportunity to engage in dialogue about effective ways to create, implement, and evaluate models of intervention that will advance knowledge about retaining underrepresented minorities in STEM fields. It will advance knowledge in life science and the biosciences for K-12 and undergraduate students attending local schools or eligible minority-serving institutions. The workshop will focus on assisting minority serving institutions with use of research designs, and review of best practices for intervention shown to be effective in helping underrepresented student cope with chronic stresses that interfere with their retention in STEM fields and careers. The target audience for the workshop will be the participating institutions and their undergraduate students, in partnership with local K-12 schools.

In collaboration with Quality Education for Minority and MERAssociates, Rutgers University Newark will provide a unique setting to convene more than 100 participants to attend the workshop. The participants will include deans and/or department chairs; STEM faculty; educational researchers, and institutional representatives such as Vice Presidents of Academic Affairs, Provosts, or other administrators. The participants will work in teams of 4-5 to address science research topics and activities related to curriculum development, teacher support, and student engagement. Outcomes from the workshops will provide insights about successful strategies, areas of future research, and awareness about the need for better intervention models that support underrepresented minority students in STEM.

Perceptual and Implementation Strategies for Knowledge Acquisition of Digital Tactile Graphics for Blind and Visually Impaired Students (Collaborative Research: Gorlewicz)

This project lays the foundation and framework for enabling digital, multimodal tactile graphics on touchscreens for individuals with visual impairments (VI). Given the low-cost, portability, and wide availability of touchscreens, this work promotes the use of vibrations and sounds on these readily available platforms for addressing the graphical access challenge for individuals with VI.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1644538
Funding Period: 
Sun, 01/15/2017 to Tue, 12/31/2019
Full Description: 

Students with disabilities often have fewer opportunities for experiential learning, an important component of quality STEM education. With continued shifts toward the use of digital media to supplement instruction in STEM classrooms, much of the content remains inaccessible, particular for students with visual impairments. The promise of technology and use of tactile graphics is an effective, emerging innovation for providing more complete access to important information and materials. Tactile graphics are images that use raised surfaces to convey non-textual information such as maps, paintings, graphs and diagrams. Touchscreen-based smart devices allow visual information to be digitally and dynamically represented via tactile, auditory, visual, and kinesthetic feedback. Tactile graphic technology embedded in touchscreen devices can be leveraged to make STEM content more accessible to blind and visually impaired students.

This project will develop a learner-centered, perceptually-motivated framework addressing the requirements for students with blindness and visual impairments to access graphical content in STEM. Using TouchSense technology, the investigators will create instructional materials using tactile graphics and test them in a pilot classroom of both sighted and BVI students. The investigators will work with approximately 150 students with visual impairments to understand the kind of feedback that is most appropriate for specific content in algebra (coordinate plane), cell biology, and geography. Qualitative research methods will be used to analyze the video-based data set.

Perceptual and Implementation Strategies for Knowledge Acquisition of Digital Tactile Graphics for Blind and Visually Impaired Students (Collaborative Research: Stefik)

This project lays the foundation and framework for enabling digital, multimodal tactile graphics on touchscreens for individuals with visual impairments (VI). Given the low-cost, portability, and wide availability of touchscreens, this work promotes the use of vibrations and sounds on these readily available platforms for addressing the graphical access challenge for individuals with VI.

Award Number: 
1644491
Funding Period: 
Sun, 01/15/2017 to Tue, 12/31/2019
Full Description: 

Students with disabilities often have fewer opportunities for experiential learning, an important component of quality STEM education. With continued shifts toward the use of digital media to supplement instruction in STEM classrooms, much of the content remains inaccessible, particular for students with visual impairments. The promise of technology and use of tactile graphics is an effective, emerging innovation for providing more complete access to important information and materials. Tactile graphics are images that use raised surfaces to convey non-textual information such as maps, paintings, graphs and diagrams. Touchscreen-based smart devices allow visual information to be digitally and dynamically represented via tactile, auditory, visual, and kinesthetic feedback. Tactile graphic technology embedded in touchscreen devices can be leveraged to make STEM content more accessible to blind and visually impaired students.

This project will develop a learner-centered, perceptually-motivated framework addressing the requirements for students with blindness and visual impairments to access graphical content in STEM. Using TouchSense technology, the investigators will create instructional materials using tactile graphics and test them in a pilot classroom of both sighted and BVI students. The investigators will work with approximately 150 students with visual impairments to understand the kind of feedback that is most appropriate for specific content in algebra (coordinate plane), cell biology, and geography. Qualitative research methods will be used to analyze the video-based data set.

Perceptual and Implementation Strategies for Knowledge Acquisition of Digital Tactile Graphics for Blind and Visually Impaired Students (Collaborative Research: Smith)

This project lays the foundation and framework for enabling digital, multimodal tactile graphics on touchscreens for individuals with visual impairments (VI). Given the low-cost, portability, and wide availability of touchscreens, this work promotes the use of vibrations and sounds on these readily available platforms for addressing the graphical access challenge for individuals with VI.

Award Number: 
1644476
Funding Period: 
Sun, 01/15/2017 to Tue, 12/31/2019
Full Description: 

Students with disabilities often have fewer opportunities for experiential learning, an important component of quality STEM education. With continued shifts toward the use of digital media to supplement instruction in STEM classrooms, much of the content remains inaccessible, particular for students with visual impairments. The promise of technology and use of tactile graphics is an effective, emerging innovation for providing more complete access to important information and materials. Tactile graphics are images that use raised surfaces to convey non-textual information such as maps, paintings, graphs and diagrams. Touchscreen-based smart devices allow visual information to be digitally and dynamically represented via tactile, auditory, visual, and kinesthetic feedback. Tactile graphic technology embedded in touchscreen devices can be leveraged to make STEM content more accessible to blind and visually impaired students.

This project will develop a learner-centered, perceptually-motivated framework addressing the requirements for students with blindness and visual impairments to access graphical content in STEM. Using TouchSense technology, the investigators will create instructional materials using tactile graphics and test them in a pilot classroom of both sighted and BVI students. The investigators will work with approximately 150 students with visual impairments to understand the kind of feedback that is most appropriate for specific content in algebra (coordinate plane), cell biology, and geography. Qualitative research methods will be used to analyze the video-based data set.

Perceptual and Implementation Strategies for Knowledge Acquisition of Digital Tactile Graphics for Blind and Visually Impaired Students (Collaborative Research: Giudice)

This project lays the foundation and framework for enabling digital, multimodal tactile graphics on touchscreens for individuals with visual impairments (VI). Given the low-cost, portability, and wide availability of touchscreens, this work promotes the use of vibrations and sounds on these readily available platforms for addressing the graphical access challenge for individuals with VI.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1644471
Funding Period: 
Sun, 01/15/2017 to Tue, 12/31/2019
Full Description: 

Students with disabilities often have fewer opportunities for experiential learning, an important component of quality STEM education. With continued shifts toward the use of digital media to supplement instruction in STEM classrooms, much of the content remains inaccessible, particular for students with visual impairments. The promise of technology and use of tactile graphics is an effective, emerging innovation for providing more complete access to important information and materials. Tactile graphics are images that use raised surfaces to convey non-textual information such as maps, paintings, graphs and diagrams. Touchscreen-based smart devices allow visual information to be digitally and dynamically represented via tactile, auditory, visual, and kinesthetic feedback. Tactile graphic technology embedded in touchscreen devices can be leveraged to make STEM content more accessible to blind and visually impaired students.

This project will develop a learner-centered, perceptually-motivated framework addressing the requirements for students with blindness and visual impairments to access graphical content in STEM. Using TouchSense technology, the investigators will create instructional materials using tactile graphics and test them in a pilot classroom of both sighted and BVI students. The investigators will work with approximately 150 students with visual impairments to understand the kind of feedback that is most appropriate for specific content in algebra (coordinate plane), cell biology, and geography. Qualitative research methods will be used to analyze the video-based data set.

Algebra Project Mathematics Content and Pedagogy Initiative

This project will scale up, implement, and assess the efficacy of interventions in K-12 mathematics education based on the well-established Algebra Project (AP) pedagogical framework, which seeks to improve performance and participation in mathematics of students in distressed school districts, particularly low-income students from underserved populations.

Award Number: 
1621416
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

Algebra continues to serve as a gatekeeper and potential barrier for high school students. The Algebra Project Mathematics Content and Pedagogy Initiative (APMCPI) will scale up, implement and assess the efficacy of interventions in K-12 mathematics education based on the well-established Algebra Project (AP) pedagogical framework. The APMCPI project team is comprised of four HBCUs (Virginia State University, Dillard University, Xavier University, Lincoln University), the Southern Initiative Algebra Project (SIAP), and four school districts that are closely aligned with partner universities. The purpose of the Algebra Project is to improve performance and participation in mathematics by members of students in distressed school districts, particularly those with a large population of low-income students from underserved populations including African American and Hispanics. The project will provide professional development and implement the Algebra Project in four districts and study the impact on student learning. The research results will inform the nation's learning how to improve mathematics achievement for all children, particularly those in distressed inner-city school districts.

The study builds on a prior pilot project with a 74% increase in students who passed the state exam. In the early stages of this project, teachers in four districts closely associated with the four universities will receive Algebra Project professional development in Summer Teacher Institutes with ongoing support during the academic year, including a community development plan. The professional development is designed to help teachers combine mathematical problem solving with context-rich lessons, which both strengthen and integrate teachers' understanding of key concepts in mathematics so that they better engage their students. The project also will focus on helping teachers establish a framework for mathematically substantive, conceptually-rich and experientially-grounded conversations with students. The first year of the study will begin a longitudinal quasi-experimental, explanatory, mixed-method design. Over the course of the project, researchers will follow cohorts who are in grade-levels 5 through 12 in Year 1 to allow analyses across crucial transition periods - grades 5 to 6; grades 8 to 9; and grades 12 to college/workforce. Student and teacher data will be collected in September of Project Year 1, and in May of each project year, providing five data points for each student and teacher participant. Student data will include student attitude, belief, anxiety, and relationship to mathematics and science, in addition to student learning outcome measures. Teacher data will include content knowledge, attitudes and beliefs, and practices. Qualitative data will provide information on the implementation in both the experimental and control conditions. Analysis will include hierarchical linear modeling and multivariate analysis of covariance.

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