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Multimedia Engineering Notebook Tools to Support Engineering Discourse in Urban Elementary School Classrooms (Collaborative Research: Paugh)

This collaborative, exploratory, learning strand project focuses on improving reflective decision-making among elementary school students during the planning and re-design activities of the engineering design process. Five teacher researchers in three elementary schools provide the classroom laboratories for the study. Specified units from Engineering is Elementary, a well-studied curriculum, provide the engineering content.

Award Number: 
1316762
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2013 to Sun, 07/31/2016
Full Description: 

This collaborative, exploratory, learning strand project focuses on improving reflective decision-making among elementary school students during the planning and re-design activities of the engineering design process. Five teacher researchers in three elementary schools provide the classroom laboratories for the study. Specified units from Engineering is Elementary, a well-studied curriculum, provide the engineering content. In year one, the qualitative research observes student discourse as students develop designs. Based on the results, a paper engineering note book with prompts is designed for use in year two while a digital notebook is developed. In year three, the students use the digital notebook to develop their designs and redesigns.

The research identifies patterns of language that contribute to the reflective discourse and determines how the paper and electronic versions of the notebook improve the discourse. An advisory committee provides advice and evaluation. The notebooks are described in conference proceedings and made available online.

This work synthesizes what is known about the use of the notebooks in science and engineering education at the elementary school and investigates how to improve their use through digital media.

QuEST: Quality Elementary Science Teaching

This project is examining an innovative model of situated Professional Development (PD) and the contribution of controlled teaching experiences to teacher learning and, as a result, to student learning. The project is carrying out intensive research about an existing special PD summer institute (QuEST) that has been in existence for more than five years through a state Improving Teacher Quality Grants program.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316683
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/15/2013 to Mon, 07/31/2017
Full Description: 

The University of Missouri-Columbia is examining an innovative model of situated Professional Development (PD) and the contribution of controlled teaching experiences to teacher learning and, as a result, to student learning. The project is carrying out intensive research about an existing special PD summer institute (QuEST) that has been in existence for more than five years through a state Improving Teacher Quality Grants program. The project will do the following: (1) undertake more in-depth and targeted research to better understand the efficacy of the PD model and impacts on student learning; (2) develop and field test resources from the project that can produce broader impacts; and (3) explore potential scale-up of the model for diverse audiences. The overarching goals of the project are: (a) Implement a high-quality situated PD model for K-6 teachers in science; (b) Conduct a comprehensive and rigorous program of research to study the impacts of this model on teacher and student learning; and (c) Disseminate project outcomes to a variety of stakeholders to produce broader impacts. A comparison of two groups of teachers will be done. Both groups will experience a content (physics) and pedagogy learning experience during one week in the summer. During a second week, one group will experience "controlled teaching" of elementary students, while the other group will not. Teacher and student gains will be measured using a quantitative and qualitative, mixed-methods design.

Undergraduate Biology Education Research Program

The goals of this nine-week summer program are to develop undergraduates' knowledge and skills in biology education research, encourage undergraduates to pursue doctoral study of biology teaching and learning, expand the diversity of the talent pool in biology education research, strengthen and expand collaborations among faculty and students in education and life sciences, and contribute to the development of theory and knowledge about biology education in ways that can inform undergraduate biology instruction.

Award Number: 
1262715
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2013 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

The Undergraduate Biology Education Research (UBER) REU Site engages undergraduates in studying important issues specific to the teaching and learning of biology, with mentorship from faculty in the Division of Biological Sciences and the Mathematics and Science Education Department at the University of Georgia. The goals of this nine-week summer program are to develop undergraduates' knowledge and skills in biology education research, encourage undergraduates to pursue doctoral study of biology teaching and learning, expand the diversity of the talent pool in biology education research by strategically recruiting and mentoring underrepresented and disadvantaged students, strengthen and expand collaborations among faculty and students in education and life sciences, and contribute to the development of theory and knowledge about biology education in ways that can inform undergraduate biology instruction.

A programmatic effort to introduce undergraduates to the discipline of biology education research is unprecedented nationwide. Biology education research as a discipline is quite young, and systematic involvement of undergraduates has not been part of the culture or practice in biology or education. UBER aims to promote cultural change that expands the involvement of undergraduates in biology education research and raises awareness among undergraduates that biology teaching and learning are compelling foci for study that can be pursued at the graduate level and via various career paths. UBER utilizes a combined strategy of broad and strategic recruiting to attract underrepresented minority students as well as students who do not have access to biology education research opportunities at their own institutions. Evaluation plans involve tracking UBER participants over time to understand the trajectories of students who complete undergraduate training in biology education research.

Significant co-funding of this project is provided by the Division of Biological Infrastructure in the NSF Directorate for Biological Sciences in recognition of the importance of educational research in the discipline of biology. The Division of Undergraduate Education and the Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings also provides co-funding.

CAREER: Investigating Differentiated Instruction and Relationships Between Rational Number Knowledge and Algebraic Reasoning in Middle School

The proposed project initiates new research and an integrated education plan to address specific problems in middle school mathematics classrooms by investigating (1) how to effectively differentiate instruction for middle school students at different reasoning levels; and (2) how to foster middle school students' algebraic reasoning and rational number knowledge in mutually supportive ways.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1252575
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2013 to Tue, 07/31/2018
Full Description: 

Middle school mathematics classrooms are marked by increasing cognitive diversity and students' persistent difficulties in learning algebra. Currently middle school mathematics instruction in a single classroom is often not differentiated for different thinkers, which can bore some students or overly challenge others. One way schools often deal with different thinkers at the same grade level is by tracking, which has also been shown to have deleterious effects on students, both cognitively and affectively. In addition, students continue to struggle to learn algebra, and increasing numbers of middle school students are receiving algebra instruction. The proposed project initiates new research and an integrated education plan to address these problems by investigating (1) how to effectively differentiate instruction for middle school students at different reasoning levels; and (2) how to foster middle school students' algebraic reasoning and rational number knowledge in mutually supportive ways. Educational goals of the project are to enhance the abilities of prospective and practicing teachers to teach cognitively diverse students, to improve doctoral students' understanding of relationships between students' learning and teachers' practice, and to form a community of mathematics teachers committed to on-going professional learning about how to differentiate instruction.

Three research-based products are being developed: two learning trajectories, materials for differentiating instruction developed collaboratively with teachers, and a written assessment to evaluate students' levels of reasoning. The first trajectory, elaborated for students at each of three levels of reasoning, focuses on developing algebraic expressions and solving basic equations that involve rational numbers; the second learning trajectory, also elaborated for students at each of three levels of reasoning, focuses on co-variational reasoning in linear contexts. In addition, the project investigates how students' classroom experience is influenced by differentiated instruction, which will allow for comparisons with research findings on student experiences in tracked classrooms. Above all, the project enhances middle school mathematics teachers' abilities to serve cognitively diverse students. This aspect of the project has the potential to decrease opportunity gaps. Finally, the project generates an understanding of the kinds of support needed to help prospective and practicing teachers learn to differentiate instruction.

The project advances discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning by (a) integrating research into the teaching of middle school mathematics, (b) fostering the learning of all students by tailoring instruction to their cognitive needs, (c) partnering with practicing teachers to learn how to implement this kind of instruction, (d) improving the training of prospective mathematics teachers and graduate students in mathematics education, and (e) generating a community of mathematics teachers who engage in on-going learning to differentiate instruction. The project broadens participation by including students from underrepresented groups, particularly those with learning disabilities. Results from the project will be broadly disseminated via conference presentations; articles in diverse media outlets; and a project website that will make project products available, be a location for information about the project for the press and the public, and be a tool to foster teacher-to-teacher communication.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Differentiating Mathematics Instruction for Middle School

Presenter(s): Amy Hackenberg, Rebecca Borowski, Mihyun Jeon, Robin Jones, & Rob Matyska


Multiple Instrumental Case Studies of Inclusive STEM-Focused High Schools: Opportunity Structures for Preparation and Inspiration (OSPrl)

The aim of this project is to examine opportunity structures provided to students by inclusive STEM-focused high schools, with an emphasis on studying schools that serve students from underrepresented groups. The project is studying inclusive STEM-focused high schools across the United States to determine what defines them. The research team initially identified ten candidate critical components that define STEM-focused high schools and is refining and further clarifying the critical components through the research study.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1118851
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Mon, 08/31/2015
Full Description: 

The aim of this project is to examine opportunity structures provided to students by inclusive STEM-focused high schools, with an emphasis on studying schools that serve students from underrepresented groups. In contrast to highly selective STEM-focused schools that target students who are already identified as gifted and talented in STEM, inclusive STEM-focused high schools aim to develop new sources of STEM talent, particularly among underrepresented minority students, to improve workforce development and prepare STEM professionals. A new NRC report, Successful K-12 STEM Education (2011), identifies areas in which research on STEM-focused schools is most needed. The NRC report points out the importance of providing opportunities for groups that are underrepresented in the sciences, especially Blacks, Hispanics, and low-income students who disproportionately fall out of the high-achieving group in K-12 education. This project responds specifically to the call for research in the NRC report and provides systematic data to define and clarify the nature of such schools. 

The project is studying inclusive STEM-focused high schools across the United States to determine what defines them. The research team initially identified ten candidate critical components that define STEM-focused high schools and is refining and further clarifying the critical components through the research study. The first phase of the study is focusing on 12 well-established and carefully planned schools with good reputations and strong community and business support, in order to capture the critical components as intended and implemented. Case studies of these high-functioning schools and a cross-case analysis using a set of instruments for gauging STEM design and implementation are contributing toward building a theory of action for such schools that can be applied more generally to STEM education. The second phase of the study involves selecting four school models for further study, focusing on student-level experiences and comparing student outcomes against comprehensive schools in the same district. Research questions being studied include: 1) Is there a core set of likely critical components shared by well-established, promising inclusive STEM-focused high schools? Do other components emerge from the study? 2) How are the critical components implemented in each school? 3) What are the contextual affordances and constraints that influence schools' designs, their implementation, and student outcomes? 4) How do student STEM outcomes in these schools compare with school district and state averages? 5) How do four promising such schools compare with matched comprehensive high schools within their respective school districts, and how are the critical components displayed? 6) From the points of view of students underrepresented in STEM fields, how do education experiences at the schools and their matched counterparts compare? And 7) How do student outcomes compare?

The research uses a multiple instrumental case study design in order to describe and compare similar phenomena. Schools as critical cases are being selected through a nomination process by experts, followed by screening and categorization according to key design dimensions. Data sources include school documents and public database information; a survey, followed by telephone interviews that probe for elaborated information, to provide a systematic overview of the candidate components; on-site visitations to each school provide data on classroom observations at the schools; interviews with students, teachers and administrators in focus groups; and discussions with critical members of the school community that provide unique opportunities to learn such as mentors, business leaders, and members of higher education community that provide outside of school learning experiences. The project is also gathering data on a variety of school-level student outcome indicators, and is tracking the likely STEM course trajectories for students, graduation rates, and college admission rates for students in the inclusive STEM-focused schools, as compared to other schools in the same jurisdiction. Analysis of the first phase of the study aims to develop rich descriptions that showcase characteristics of the schools, using axial and open coding, to determine a theory of action that illustrates interconnections among context, design, implementation, and outcome elements. Analysis of the second phase of the study involves similar processes on four levels: school, student, databases, and a synthesis of the three. Evaluation of the project consists of an internal advisory board and an external advisory board, both of which provide primarily formative feedback on research procedures.

Research findings, as well as case studies, records of instrument and rubric development and use, annual reports, and conference proposals and papers are being provided on a website, in order to provide an immediate and ongoing resource for education leaders, researchers and policymakers to learn about research on these schools and particular models. An effort is also being made to give voice to the experiences of high school students from the four pairs of high schools studied in the second phase of the study. Findings are also being disseminated by more traditional means, such as papers in peer-reviewed journals and conference presentations.

SimScientists Human Body Systems: Using Simulations to Foster Integrated Understanding of Complex, Dynamic, Interactive Systems

This project leverages curricular module development to design, develop, and test new cyberlearning modules that integrate multiple (circulation, respiration, and digestion) systems of the human body. The project aims to deepen science content knowledge, science inquiry skills, and model-based reasoning skills for high school biology students. The project will use simulations showing how individual systems function, how they work together, and how the integration of all three creates a dynamic and reactive biological system.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020264
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/15/2010 to Sun, 08/31/2014
Project Evaluator: 
Gargani + Company
Full Description: 

This research and development project leverages curricular module development to design, develop, and test new cyberlearning modules that integrate multiple (circulation, respiration, and digestion) systems of the human body. The project aims to deepen science content knowledge, science inquiry skills, and model-based reasoning skills for high school biology students. The project will use simulations showing how individual systems function, how they work together, and how the integration of all three creates a dynamic and reactive biological system. It is expected that the presentation of this dynamic system will result in a deeper understanding of the materials and enhanced performance on student achievement measures. The goals of the project are to: 1. Develop an integrated simulation of the human digestive, circulatory and respiratory systems that allows students to develop productive inquiry strategies. 2. Embed the simulation in online instructional modules that provide immediate, individualized coaching as students are challenged with a series of investigative tasks. 3. Provide reports of students' performances during the activities to students and teachers. 4. Develop follow-up online collaborative investigations that provide differentiated instruction to strengthen students' understanding and support transfer and opportunities to engage in scientific discourse. 5. Develop one benchmark assessment that measures outcomes across all three body systems and reports to students and teachers. 6. Develop and deploy professional development to support teachers as they use these materials. 7. Provide evidence of the technical quality, feasibility, and usability of the new materials. 8. Study the influence of these materials on complex science and inquiry learning of the integration of the three human body systems modeled. A small scale randomized, controlled trial will be performed at the end of the project. The project is grounded in model-based learning, cognitive learning research, and an evidence-centered design. Universal Design for Learning is factored into all simulation designs. Questions asked during the evaluation include: Is the project progressing as planned? Are the modules useable? Are the users satisfied? Are the modules used as intended in a typical high school setting? Does this improve teaching and learning of key content? The primary investigator is WestEd; the American Association for the Advancement of Science is a partner and three teachers from nearby schools serve as co-developers. The project has an external evaluator as well as a strong advisory board. The project will create multi-leveled instructional cyber-modules. These modules will contain embedded assessments that provide students and teachers immediate and individualized coaching. Professional development will also provide teachers tools and guidance to increase their learning of human body systems. Dissemination strategies include featuring the modules on WestEd's award-winning website as well as submission of academic papers to journals and national conferences targeted at science educators and education researchers. Because these modules supplement classroom curricula and use online technology, they could potentially be used to teach millions of high school biology students.

INK-12: Teaching and Learning Using Interactive Ink Inscriptions in K-12 (Collaborative Research: Koile)

This is a continuing research project that supports (1) creation of what are termed "ink inscriptions"--handwritten sketches, graphs, maps, notes, etc. made on a computer using a pen-based interface, and (2) in-class communication of ink inscriptions via a set of connected wireless tablet computers. The primary products are substantiated research findings on the use of tablet computers and inscriptions in 4th and 5th grade math and science, as well as models for teacher education and use.
Award Number: 
1020152
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Sun, 08/31/2014
Project Evaluator: 
David Reider, Education Design Inc.
Full Description: 

The research project continues a collaboration between MIT's Center for Educational Computing Initiatives and TERC focusing on the enhancement of K-12 STEM math and science education by means of technology that supports (1) creation of what are termed "ink inscriptions"--handwritten sketches, graphs, maps, notes, etc. made on a computer using a pen-based interface, and (2) in-class communication of ink inscriptions via a set of connected wireless tablet computers. The project builds on the PIs' prior work, which demonstrated that both teachers and students benefit from such technology because they can easily draw and write on a tablet screens, thus using representations not possible with only a typical keyboard and mouse; and they can easily send such ink inscriptions to one another via wireless connectivity. This communication provides teachers the opportunity to view all the students' work and make decisions about which to share anonymously on a public classroom screen or on every student's screen in order to support discussion in a "conversation-based" classroom. Artificial intelligence methods are used to analyze ink inscriptions in order to facilitate selection and discussion of student work.

The project is a series of design experiments beginning with the software that emerged from earlier exploratory work. The PIs conduct two cycles of experiments to examine how tablets affect students learning in 4th and 5th grade mathematics and science. The project research questions and methods focus on systematic monitoring of teachers' and students' responses to the innovation in order to inform the development process. The PIs collect data on teachers' and students' use of the technology and on student learning outcomes and use those data as empirical evidence about the promise of the technology for improving STEM education in K-12 schools. An external evaluator uses parallel data collection, conducting many of the same research activities as the core team and independently providing analysis to be correlated with other data. His involvement is continuous and provides formative evaluation reports to the project through conferences, site visits, and conference calls.

The primary products are substantiated research findings on the use of tablet computers, inscriptions, and networks in 4th and 5 grade classrooms. In addition the PIs develop models for teacher education and use, and demonstrate the utility of artificial intelligence techniques in facilitating use of the technology. With the addition of Malden Public Schools to the list of participating districts, which includes Cambridge Public Schools and Waltham Public Schools from earlier work, the project expands the field test sites to up 20 schools' classrooms.

Math Pathways and Pitfalls: Capturing What Works for Anytime Anyplace Professional Development

Math Pathways & Pitfalls lessons for students boost mathematics achievement for diverse students, including English Learners, English Proficient students, and Latino students. This project develops modules that increase teachers’ capacity to employ the effective and equitable principles of practice embodied by Math Pathways & Pitfalls and apply these practices to any mathematics lesson. This four-year project develops, field tests, and evaluates 10 online professional development modules.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918834
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/15/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Full Description: 

Researchers and developers at WestEd are developing, field-testing, and evaluating ten online professional development modules anchored in research-based teaching principles and achievement-boosting mathematics materials. The modules provide interactive learning opportunities featuring real classroom video demonstrations, simulations, and scaffolded implementation. The professional development module development builds on the Math Pathways and Pitfalls instructional modules for elementary and middle school students developed with NSF support. The professional development provided through the use of these modules is web-based (rather than face-to-face), is provided in chunks during the school year and immediately applied in the classroom (rather than summer professional development and school year application), and explicitly models ways to apply key teaching principles to regular mathematics lessons (rather than expecting teachers to extract and apply principles spontaneously).

The project studies the impact of the modules on teaching practice with an experimental design that involves 20 treatment teachers and 20 control teachers. Data are gathered from teacher questionnaires, classroom observations, and post-observation interviews.

Universal Design of Inquiry-based Middle and High School Science Curricula (Collaborative Research: Rose)

CAST, the University of Michigan, and EDC are collaborating to create heuristics for universally designed middle and high school science materials; to build an open-source UDL Inquiry Science System (ISS) that enables science curricula to be transformed into digitally supported versions that incorporate UDL features, to use the ISS to produce four UDL exemplars from tested instructional materials, and to evaluate the benefits of these exemplars for grades-5–12 students with and without learning disabilities.

Award Number: 
0730260
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/15/2007 to Tue, 08/31/2010
Project Evaluator: 
Dan Zalles, SRI

Developing, Researching, and Scaling Up SmartGraphs

SmartGraphs activities run in a web browser; there is no software to download or install. SmartGraphs allows students to interact with on-screen graphs to learn about linear equations, the motion of objects, population dynamics, global warming, or other STEM topics that use scatter plots or line graphs. Teachers and students may also use and share existing activities, which are released under a Creative Commons license (see http://www.concord.org/projects/smartgraphs#curriculum).

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918522
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/15/2009 to Tue, 07/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Sigmund Abeles
Full Description: 

SmartGraphs is a project that studies the educational value of digital objects embedded in graphs that “know” about themselves and that provide scaffolding to students to help them learn about graphs and the concepts conveyed in graphs. As planned, digital Smart Graphs can be authored or customized by teachers and accept inputs from students’ responses, sketches, functions, models, and probes. The software analyzes the graphs for the kinds of features that experts recognize and then engages students in conversations that instruct and assess student knowledge.

The project is guided by collaboration between the Concord Consortium and the Pennsylvania State Department of Education Classrooms for the Future program, through which 140,000 laptop computers are deployed to serve 500,000 students. The development of Smart Graphs is based on extensive prior research about students’ use and understanding of graphs (TEEMSS II and Science Universal Design for Learning projects) at the Concord Consortium.

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