Action Research

Professional Development for Teaching and Learning about Energy and Equity in High School Physics (Collaborative Research: Scherr)

This project will research and develop instructional materials and conduct professional development for teachers to help students understand energy flow. The project will create a model for secondary science teacher professional development that integrates science concepts with equity education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907815
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

This project will research and develop instructional materials and conduct professional development for teachers to help students understand energy flow, an important scientific concept with economic and social implications. This energy learning is the foundation for informed decision-making about sustainable and just use of energy resources. Energy issues are not only issues of science and technology, but must be integrated with civics, history, economics, sociology, psychology, and politics to understand and solve modern energy problems. Placing the scientific concept of energy in this social context presents an opportunity to advance science education as equitable and culturally responsive.

This project will create a model for secondary science teacher professional development that integrates science concepts with equity education. This model promotes a key epistemological issue: that science concepts are not culture-free or socially neutral ideas, but rather are concepts created and sustained by people in specific times and places for the purposes of (1) addressing specific social needs and (2) empowering people or groups of people. The two major components of the project are (1) the professional development experience, including both an intensive in-person summer workshop and an online professional learning community, and (2)an energy and equity portal, including an instructional materials library, an action research exchange, and a community forum for teacher discussions. The portal will provide technical resources to support the PLC, including support for sharing instructional materials and reporting on action research. The research plan includes exploratory, development and application phases. The researchers will identify teacher learning in the first iteration of PD, collect and analyze the instructional artifacts to inform how teacher engage with, participate in, and build an understanding energy as a historically and politically situated science concept. A team of scholar-videographers will observe, taking real-time field notes and making daily memos. The research team will use the instructional artifacts, video recordings, field notes, and memos as a basis for analysis through the next academic year. The result will be a nationally significant community of teacher-leaders and library of research-tested instructional materials that are responsive to students' scientific ideas, relevant to socio-political concerns about energy sustainability, respectful of students' cultures, and open to all students no matter their cultural background. Teachers participating in the project will learn to explain how scientific concepts of energy reflect culturally specific values, analyze socio-politically relevant energy scenarios, learn the historic and present-day inequities in the energy industry and in science participation, and be supported in preparing instruction for secondary students that is culturally responsive and relevant to their students' communities.

Professional Development for Teaching and Learning about Energy and Equity in High School Physics (Collaborative Research: Mason)

This project will research and develop instructional materials and conduct professional development for teachers to help students understand energy flow. The project will create a model for secondary science teacher professional development that integrates science concepts with equity education.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907950
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

This project will research and develop instructional materials and conduct professional development for teachers to help students understand energy flow, an important scientific concept with economic and social implications. This energy learning is the foundation for informed decision-making about sustainable and just use of energy resources. Energy issues are not only issues of science and technology, but must be integrated with civics, history, economics, sociology, psychology, and politics to understand and solve modern energy problems. Placing the scientific concept of energy in this social context presents an opportunity to advance science education as equitable and culturally responsive.

This project will create a model for secondary science teacher professional development that integrates science concepts with equity education. This model promotes a key epistemological issue: that science concepts are not culture-free or socially neutral ideas, but rather are concepts created and sustained by people in specific times and places for the purposes of (1) addressing specific social needs and (2) empowering people or groups of people. The two major components of the project are (1) the professional development experience, including both an intensive in-person summer workshop and an online professional learning community, and (2)an energy and equity portal, including an instructional materials library, an action research exchange, and a community forum for teacher discussions. The portal will provide technical resources to support the PLC, including support for sharing instructional materials and reporting on action research. The research plan includes exploratory, development and application phases. The researchers will identify teacher learning in the first iteration of PD, collect and analyze the instructional artifacts to inform how teacher engage with, participate in, and build an understanding energy as a historically and politically situated science concept. A team of scholar-videographers will observe, taking real-time field notes and making daily memos. The research team will use the instructional artifacts, video recordings, field notes, and memos as a basis for analysis through the next academic year. The result will be a nationally significant community of teacher-leaders and library of research-tested instructional materials that are responsive to students' scientific ideas, relevant to socio-political concerns about energy sustainability, respectful of students' cultures, and open to all students no matter their cultural background. Teachers participating in the project will learn to explain how scientific concepts of energy reflect culturally specific values, analyze socio-politically relevant energy scenarios, learn the historic and present-day inequities in the energy industry and in science participation, and be supported in preparing instruction for secondary students that is culturally responsive and relevant to their students' communities.

Development and Validation of a Mobile, Web-based Coaching Tool to Improve PreK Classroom Practices to Enhance Learning

This project will promote pre-K teachers' use of specific teaching strategies that have been shown to enhance young children's learning and social skills. To enhance teachers' use of these practices, the project will develop a new practitioner-friendly version of the Classroom Quality Real-time Empirically-based Feedback (CQ-REF) tool for instructional coaches who work with pre-K teachers.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813008
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

Children from low-income families often enter kindergarten academically behind their more economically affluent peers. Advancing pre-kindergarten (pre-K) teachers' ability to provide all students with high-quality early math learning experiences has potential to minimize this gap in school readiness. This project will promote pre-K teachers' use of specific teaching strategies, such as spending more time on math content and listening to children during instructional activities, that have been shown to enhance young children's learning and social skills. To enhance teachers' use of these practices, the project takes a novel approach--a mobile website that helps instructional coaches who work with pre-K teachers. The Classroom Quality Real-time Empirically-based Feedback tool (CQ-REF) will guide coaches' ability to observe specific teacher practices in their classrooms and then provide feedback to help teachers evaluate their practices and set goals for improvement.  Practically, the CQ-REF addresses the need for accessible, real-time feedback on high quality pre-K classroom teaching.

This project focuses on developing a new practitioner-friendly version of the CQ-REF, originally designed as a research tool for evaluating the quality of classroom teaching, for use by coaches and teachers. At the beginning of the four-year project, the team will collect examples of high-quality classroom teaching and coaching strategies. These will be used to create a library of video and other materials that teachers and coaches can use to establish a shared definition of what effective pre-K teaching looks like. In year three of the project, the team will pilot the CQ-REF with a diverse range of pre-K teachers and their coaches to determine the tool's usability and relevance. In this validation study coaches will be randomly assigned to either use the CQ-REF tool or coach in their usual manner. After one year, the CQ-REF's impact on teacher practices and student outcomes will be assessed. Outcomes of interest include teacher and student classroom behavior and children's executive function and ability in mathematics, literacy and science. Concurrently, an external evaluation team will examine how the coaching is being conducted and used, and participants' impressions of the coaching process. In the fourth and final year, the team will focus on refining the tool based on results from prior work and on disseminating the findings to research and practitioner audiences.

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Participatory Science to Address Urban Heavy Metal Contamination

This project is focused on the work and learning of teachers as they engage youth from underrepresented groups in studying chemistry as a subject relevant to heavy metal contamination in their neighborhoods. The project will position Chicago teachers and students as Change Makers who are capable of addressing the crises of inequity in science education and environmental contamination that matter deeply to them, while simultaneously advancing their own understanding and expertise.

Award Number: 
1720856
Funding Period: 
Mon, 05/15/2017 to Thu, 04/30/2020
Full Description: 

This project is focused on the work and learning of teachers as they engage youth from underrepresented groups in studying chemistry as a subject relevant to heavy metal contamination in their neighborhoods. The project is a collaboration of teachers in the Chicago Public Schools, science educators, chemists, and environmental scientists from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University, Loyola University, and members of the Chicago Environmental Justice Network. The project is significant because it leverages existing partnerships and builds on pilot projects which will be informed by a corresponding cycle of research on teachers' learning and practice. The project will position Chicago teachers and students as Change Makers who are capable of addressing the crises of inequity in science education and environmental contamination that matter deeply to them, while simultaneously advancing their own understanding and expertise. The project will examine the malleable factors affecting the ability of teachers to engage underrepresented students in innovative urban citizen science projects with a focus on the synergistic learning that occurs as teachers, students, scientists, and community members work together on addressing complex socio-scientific issues.

The goal is to provide a network of intellectual and analytical support to high school chemistry teachers engaged in customizing curricula in response to urban environmental concerns. The project will use an annual summer institute where collaborators will develop curriculum and procedures for collecting soil and water samples. In the project, the teachers and students will work with university scientists to analyze these samples for heavy metals, and students will share their results in community settings. The study design will be multiple case and be used to study the content knowledge learned and mobilized by participating teachers as they develop these authentic projects. The project includes explicit focus on the professional development of high school science teachers while it also aims to create rich learning opportunities for underrepresented high school students in STEM fields. The contextualized science concepts within students' everyday experiences or socio-scientific issues will likely have a positive impact on student motivation and learning outcomes, but the experiences of urban students are less likely to be reflected by the curriculum, and the practices of effective secondary science teachers in these contexts are under-examined.

The following article is in press and will be available soon:

Morales-Doyle, D., Childress-Price, T., & Chappell, M. (in press). Chemicals are contaminants too: Teaching appreciation and critique of science in the era of NGSS. Science Education. https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.21546

An Online STEM Career Exploration and Readiness Environment for Opportunity Youth

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

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

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

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


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

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

Presenter(s): Tracey Hall

2018 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Bridging the Gap Between Ability and Opportunity in STEM

Presenter(s): Sam Johnston


Developing Formative Assessment Tools and Routines for Additive Reasoning

This design and development project is an expansion of the Ongoing Assessment Project (OGAP), an established model for research-based formative assessment in grades 3-8, to the early elementary grades. The project will translate findings from research on student learning of early number, addition, and subtraction into tools and routines that teachers can use to formatively assess their students' understanding on a regular basis and develop targeted instructional responses.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1620888
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2016 to Thu, 02/28/2019
Full Description: 

This design and development project is an expansion of the Ongoing Assessment Project (OGAP), an established model for research-based formative assessment in grades 3-8, to the early elementary grades. OGAP brings together two powerful ideas in mathematics education - formative assessment and research based learning trajectories - to enhance teacher knowledge, instructional practices, and student learning. Building on a proven track record of success with this model, the current project will translate findings from research on student learning of early number, addition, and subtraction into tools and routines that teachers can use to formatively assess their students' understanding on a regular basis and develop targeted instructional responses. The project involves a development component focused on producing and field testing new resources (including frameworks, item banks, pre-assessments and professional development materials) and a research component designed to improve the implementation of these resources in school settings. The materials that are developed from this project will help teachers be able to more precisely assess student understanding in the major mathematical work of grades K-2 in order to better meet the needs of diverse learners. With the addition of these new early elementary materials, OGAP formative assessment resources will be available for use from kindergarten through grade 8.

Although much attention has been paid to the improvement of early literacy, building strong mathematical foundations and early computational fluency is equally critical for later success in school and preparation for STEM careers. This project will develop and field test tools, resources, and routines that teachers can employ to help young students develop deeper conceptual understandings and more powerful and efficient strategies in the early grades. The project emerged from the needs of school-based practitioners looking for instructional support in the primary grades and uses design-based research methodology. The new materials will be developed, tested, and revised through multiple iterations of implementation in schools. Research-based learning trajectories will be consolidated into simplified frameworks that illustrate the overall progression of major levels of student thinking in the domains of counting, addition, and subtraction. A bank of formative assessment items will be developed, field tested, and refined through a three-phase validation process. Professional development modules will be designed and field tested to support teacher knowledge and effective use of the formative assessment tools and routines. Data collected on key activities in the formative assessment process (including teacher selection of items, analysis of student work, instructional implications, and enacted instructional response) will be used to continually inform development as well as illuminate the conditions under which formative assessment leads to productive changes in instruction and student learning in the classroom. The project will yield a set of field tested tools and resources ready for both broader dissemination and further research on the promise of the intervention, as well as an understanding of how to support effective implementation.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Scholars Teacher Academy Resident System

This project will investigate the effectiveness of a teacher academy resident model to recruit, license, induct, employ, and retain middle school and secondary teachers for high-need schools in the South. It will prepare new, highly-qualified science and mathematics teachers from historically Black universities in high-needs urban and rural schools with the goal of increasing teacher retention and diversity rates.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621325
Funding Period: 
Fri, 07/15/2016 to Wed, 06/30/2021
Full Description: 

This project at Jackson State University will investigate the effectiveness of a teacher academy resident model to recruit, license, induct, employ, and retain middle school and secondary science and mathematics teachers for high-need schools in the South. It will prepare new, highly-qualified science and mathematics teachers from historically Black universities in high-needs urban and rural schools. The project involves a partnership among three historically Black universities (Jackson, State University, Xavier University of Louisiana, and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff), and diverse urban and rural school districts in Jackson, Mississippi; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Pine Bluff Arkansas region that serve more than 175,000 students.

Participants will include 150 middle and secondary school teacher residents who will gain clinical mentored experience and develop familiarity with local schools. The 150 teacher residents supported by the program to National Board certification will obtain: state licensure/certification in science teaching, a master's degree, and initiation. The goal is to increase teacher retention and diversity rates. The research question guiding this focus is: Will training STEM graduates have a significant effect on the quality of K-12 instruction, teacher efficacy and satisfaction, STEM teacher retention, and students? Science and mathematics achievement? A quasi-experimental design will be used to evaluate project's effectiveness.

CAREER: Designing Learning Environments to Foster Productive and Powerful Discussions Among Linguistically Diverse Students in Secondary Mathematics

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1553708
Funding Period: 
Mon, 02/01/2016 to Sun, 01/31/2021
Full Description: 

The project will design and investigate learning environments in secondary mathematics classrooms focused on meeting the needs of English language learners. An ongoing challenge for mathematics teachers is promoting deep mathematics learning among linguistically diverse groups of students while taking into consideration how students' language background influences their classroom experiences and the mathematical understandings they develop. In response to this challenge, this project will design and develop specialized instructional materials and guidelines for teaching fundamental topics in secondary algebra in linguistically diverse classrooms. The materials will incorporate insights from current research on student learning in mathematics as well as insights from research on the role of language in students' mathematical thinking and learning. A significant contribution of the work will be connecting research on mathematics learning generally with research on the mathematics learning of English language learners. In addition to advancing theoretical understandings, the research will also contribute practical resources and guidance for mathematics teachers who teach English language learners. The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program is a National Science Foundation (NSF)-wide activity that offers awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

The project is focused on the design of specialized hypothetical learning trajectories that incorporate considerations for linguistically diverse students. One goal for the specialized trajectories is to foster productive and powerful mathematics discussions about linear and exponential rates in linguistically diverse classrooms. The specialized learning trajectories will include both mathematical and language development learning goals. While this project focuses on concepts related to reasoning with linear and exponential functions, the resulting framework should inform the design of specialized hypothetical learning trajectories in other topic areas. Additionally, the project will add to the field's understanding of how linguistically diverse students develop mathematical understandings of a key conceptual domain. The project uses a design-based research framework gathering classroom-based data, assessment data, and interviews with teachers and students to design and refine the learning trajectories. Consistent with a design-based approach, the project results will include development of theory about linguistically diverse students' mathematics learning and development of guidance and resources for secondary mathematics teachers. This research involves sustained collaboration with secondary mathematics teachers and the impacts will include developing capacity of teachers locally, and propagating the results of this work in professional development activities.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Fostering Math Discussions among English Learners

Presenter(s): William Zahner


Exploring Ways to Transform Teaching Practices to Increase Native Hawaiian Students' Interest in STEM

This project will integrate Native Hawaiian cross-cultural practices to explore ways to help teachers know about and know how to connect resources of students' familiar worlds to their science teaching. This project will transform the ways teachers orient their teaching at the upper elementary and middle grades through professional development courses offered at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1551502
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2015 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

This project will integrate Native Hawaiian cross-cultural practices to explore ways to help teachers know about and know how to connect resources of students' familiar worlds to their science teaching. This research is needed since Native Hawaiians are often stereotyped as poor learners; the available STEM workforce falls short of meeting the demands of STEM employers in the state; and as the largest group of public school enrollees, data show a greater decline in percent of students meeting or exceeding proficiency in science at higher grade levels. This project will address these issues by transforming the ways teachers orient their teaching at the upper elementary and middle grades through professional development courses offered at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The professional development model for teachers will be situated in the larger national and global contexts of an increasingly technology oriented, urbanized society with associated marginalization of indigenous people whose traditional ecological knowledge and indigenous languages are often overlooked. Guided by the cultural mental model theory and a mixed methods approach, data will be collected through document analysis, surveys, individual and focus group interviews, and pre-post assessments. This approach will capture initials findings about the influence of the professional development model on teaching and learning in science. The end products from this project will be an improved professional development model that is more sensitive to contexts that promote learning by Native Hawaiian students. It will also produce a survey instrument to assess student interest and engagement in science learning whose teachers will have participated in the professional development model being explored. Both outcomes will potentially be instrumental in changing the way approximately 2000 Native Hawaiian students learn about and become more interested in STEM fields through their natural world.

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