Case Study

Developing Teaching Expertise in K-5 Mathematics

This project designs materials and an accompanying support system to enable the development of expertise in the teaching of mathematics at the elementary level. The project has four main components: online professional development modules; practice-based assessments; resources for facilitators; and web-based technologies to deliver module content to diverse settings. Three modules are being developed and focus on fractions, reasoning and explanation, and geometry. Each module is organized into ten 1.5 hour sessions.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
1118745
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Project Evaluator: 
American Institutes for Research
Full Description: 

Developers and researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of Denver are engaged in a project to design materials and an accompanying support system to enable the development of expertise in the teaching of mathematics at the elementary level. The project has four main components: a set of online professional development modules; practice-based assessments; a set of resources for facilitators; and web-based technologies to deliver module content to diverse settings. Three modules are planned: one focused on fractions and one focused on reasoning and explanation designed by Deborah Ball, Hyman Bass and the University of Michigan development team; and one on geometry developed by Douglas Clements and Julie Sarama at the University of Denver. Each module is organized into ten 1.5 hour sessions. 

Each module goes through a two-year design and development process that includes initial design, piloting, revision, and dissemination. Modules are piloted in a variety of settings, including university based courses for practicing teachers and district based in-service activities. These contexts include face-to-face professional development, real-time distance learning, and combinations of the two. Data are collected on participant engagement with the modules, on teacher classroom practice, and on mathematical knowledge for teaching.

The modules and associated materials will be widely available and will be free to schools. The materials can be imported into any learning management system, such as Blackboard, Moodle, and others.

Continuous Learning and Automated Scoring in Science (CLASS)

This five-year project investigates how to provide continuous assessment and feedback to guide students' understanding during science inquiry-learning experiences, as well as detailed guidance to teachers and administrators through a technology-enhanced system. The assessment system integrates validated automated scorings for students' written responses to open-ended assessment items into the "Web-based Inquiry Science Environment" (WISE) program.

Award Number: 
1119670
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Mon, 08/31/2015
Full Description: 

This five-year project investigates how to provide continuous assessment and feedback to guide students' understanding during science inquiry-learning experiences, as well as detailed guidance to teachers and administrators through a technology-enhanced system. The assessment system integrates validated automated scorings for students' written responses to open-ended assessment items (i.e., short essays, science narratives, concept mapping, graphing problems, and virtual experiments) into the "Web-based Inquiry Science Environment" (WISE) program. WISE is an online science-inquiry curricula that supports deep understanding through visualization of processes not directly observable, virtual experiments, graphing results, collaboration, and response to prompts for explanations. In partnership with Educational Testing Services (ETS), project goals are: (1) to develop five automated inquiry assessment activities that capture students' abilities to integrate their ideas and form coherent scientific arguments; (2) to customize WISE by incorporating automated scores; (3) to investigate how students' systematic feedback based on these scores improve their learning outcomes; and (4) to design professional development resources to help teachers use scores to improve classroom instruction, and administrators to make better informed decisions about teacher professional development and inquiry instruction. The project targets general science (life, physical, and earth) in three northern California school districts, five middle schools serving over 4,000 6th-8th grade students with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and 29 science teachers. It contributes to increase opportunities for students to improve their science achievement, and for teachers and administrators to make efficient, evidence-based decisions about high-quality teaching and learning.

A key research question guides this effort: How automated scoring of inquiry assessments can increase success for diverse students, improve teachers' instructional practices, and inform administrators' decisions about professional development, inquiry instruction, and assessment? To develop science inquiry assessment activities, scoring written responses include semantic, syntax, and structure of meaning analyses, as well as calibration of human-scored items with a computer-scoring system through the c-rater--an ETS-developed cyber learning technology. Validity studies are conducted to compare automated scores with human-scored items, teacher, district, and state scores, including sensitivity to the diverse student population. To customize the WISE curriculum, the project modifies 12 existing units and develops nine new modules. To design adaptive feedback to students, comparative studies explore options for adaptive guidance and test alternatives based on automated scores employing linear models to compare student performance across randomly assigned guidance conditions; controlling for covariates, such as prior science scores, gender, and language; and grouping comparison studies. To design teacher professional development, synthesis reports on auto-scored data are created to enable them to use evidence to guide curricular decisions, and comments' analysis to improve feedback quality. Workshops, classroom observations, and interviews are conducted to measure longitudinal teachers' change over time. To empower administrators' decision making, special data reports, using-evidence activities, individual interviews, and observation of administrators' meetings are conducted. An advisory board charged with project evaluation addresses both formative and summative aspects.

A research-informed model to improve science teaching and learning at the middle school level through cyber-enabled assessment is the main outcome of this effort. A total of 21 new, one- to three-week duration standards-based science units, each with four or more automatically scored items, serve as prototypes to improve students' performance, teachers' instructional approaches, and administrators' school policies and practices.

School Organization and Science Achievement: Organization and Leadership Influences on Equitable Student Performance (Collaborative Research: Settlage)

This project will document factors explaining variations in science achievement across schools enrolling ethnically and linguistically diverse students. The research question is: what leadership and organizational features at the school level are associated with mitigating science achievement gaps? At the conclusion of the five-year project, the findings will take the form of recommendations about leadership practices and school organization that can be implemented in other school settings.

Award Number: 
1119349
Funding Period: 
Fri, 07/01/2011 to Sun, 06/30/2013
Project Evaluator: 
Katherine Paget, Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC)
Full Description: 

The School Organization and Science Achievement (SOSA) Project will document factors explaining variations in science achievement across schools enrolling ethnically and linguistically diverse students. The research question is: what leadership and organizational features at the school level are associated with mitigating science achievement gaps? Previous school effectiveness studies demonstrate school leadership and social capital influencing student achievement; the SOSA project is unique with its focus on science achievement. Researchers at the University of Connecticut and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, in collaboration with school districts in their respective states, will identify school leadership practices that can be connected with reductions in achievement gaps related to student ethnicity, English fluency, and social status. At the conclusion of the five-year project, the findings will take the form of recommendations about leadership practices and school organization that can be implemented in other school settings.

The project uses a mixed methods design by combining statistical modeling and qualitative data. Multiple regression analyses highlight those schools populated by fifth graders that have greater or lesser achievement gaps in science. Using social capital theory (i.e., school norms, communication channels, and trustworthiness) comparisons of positive and negative outlier schools will be made via interviews of building principals, classroom teachers and community representatives. The expectation is that schools providing more equitable science experiences to all students will exhibit stronger social capital compared to buildings with disparities in science test scores across demographic categories. These insights will be supplemented by multilevel structural equation modeling to determine the strength of association between various school climate measures (e.g., teacher-to-principal trust, correspondence between teacher and principal perceptions of leadership, and school/community ties) and science achievement as measured by statewide fifth grade science tests. In addition, growth analyses will be used to detect shifts over time and provide insights about the links between policy changes or leadership adjustments, inasmuch as science achievement gaps are affected.

By working with 150 schools in two states, this collaborative research project is designed to generate findings applicable in other school systems. Particularly in settings where science achievement gaps are large, and especially when such gaps vary between schools even when the student populations are similar, the findings from this study will have practical leadership implications. Expertise in this project includes science education, educational leadership, and statistical modeling. This complementary combination increases the depth of the project's efforts along with expanding its potential impacts. Key questions addressed by this project include: to what extent is leadership in science similar to or different from leadership in other subject areas? how do variations in leadership design (e.g., top-down versus distributed leadership) contribute to reductions in science achievement gaps? to what degree can effective leadership mitigate other factors that exacerbate the challenges of providing high quality science learning experiences for every child? Findings will be disseminated via the SOSA Project website, along with leadership development strategies. Deliverables include templates to replicate the study, case studies for professional development, and strategies for supporting the development of science teacher-leaders.

CAREER: Engaging Elementary Students in Data Analysis Through Study of Physical Activities

This project is investigating the learning that can take place when elementary school students are directly involved in the collection, sense-making, and analysis of real, personally-meaningful data sets. The hypotheses of this work are that by organizing elementary statistics instruction around the study of physical activities, students will have greater personal engagement in data analysis processes and that students will also develop more robust understandings of statistical ideas.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1054280
Funding Period: 
Fri, 07/01/2011 to Sat, 06/30/2018
Full Description: 

This CAREER awardee at Utah State University is investigating the learning that can take place when elementary school students are directly involved in the collection, sense-making, and analysis of real, personally-meaningful data sets. The project responds to increasing attention to data collection and analysis in elementary grades and aims to make important contributions to the knowledge base on effective approaches to these topics. The hypotheses of this work are that by organizing elementary statistics instruction around the study of physical activities, students will have greater personal engagement in data analysis processes and that students will also develop more robust understandings of statistical ideas. Students and teachers from fifth grade classrooms from several elementary schools from northern Utah, are participating in the project. This work is co-funded by the EPSCoR program.

Statistics topics include measures of center and variation. Students use pedometers, heart rate monitors, other probeware, and the TinkerPlots software. The research team investigates the influence of personal ownership and relationships to data on students' understanding of learning of elementary statistics concepts and their ability to analyze data. The research involves multi-year clinical interviews and video-recorded classroom design experiments.

Research results are expected to be published in appropriate journals and are expected to be presented at professional meetings. Lesson plans and student instructional materials related to physical activity, measures of center, and data distributions are made available for use in partner elementary schools.

CAREER: Noticing and Capitalizing on Important Mathematical Moments in Instruction

This project investigates the outcomes of a teacher education model designed to foster prospective mathematics teachers' abilities to notice and capitalize on important mathematical moments in instruction. The project engages prospective teachers in research-like analysis of unedited teacher-perspective classroom video early in their teacher education coursework in order to help them learn to identify, assess the mathematical potential of, and respond to important student ideas and insights that arise during instruction.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1052958
Funding Period: 
Fri, 04/15/2011 to Sat, 03/31/2012
Full Description: 

This CAREER awardee at Michigan Technological University is investigating the outcomes of a teacher education model designed to foster prospective mathematics teachers' abilities to notice and capitalize on important mathematical moments in instruction. The researcher engages prospective teachers in research-like analysis of unedited teacher-perspective classroom video early in their teacher education coursework in order to help them learn to identify, assess the mathematical potential of, and respond to important student ideas and insights that arise during instruction.

The research is based on a quasi-experimental design and involves three cohorts of prospective teachers. Practicing teachers from local schools collaborate with the research team. The data collected consists of classroom video. The video is coded and analyzed using Studiocode, which allows for real-time coding and for multiple users to code and annotate video segments.

The research findings are integrated into the institution's teacher education program and are also disseminated more broadly through publication and presentations at professional meetings.

Enhancing Games with Assessment and Metacognitive Emphases (EGAME)

This development and research project designs, develops, and tests a digital game-based learning environment for supporting, assessing and analyzing middle school students' conceptual knowledge in learning physics, specifically Newtonian mechanics. This research integrates work from prior findings to develop a new methodology to engage students in deep learning while diagnosing and scaffolding the learning of Newtonian mechanics.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1119290
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Mon, 08/31/2015
Full Description: 

This development and research project from Vanderbilt University, Facet Innovations, and Filament Games, designs, develops, and tests a digital game-based learning environment for supporting, assessing and analyzing middle school students' conceptual knowledge in learning physics, specifically Newtonian mechanics. This research integrates work from prior findings and refines computer assisted testing and Hidden Markov Modeling to develop a new methodology to engage students in deep learning while diagnosing and scaffolding the learning of Newtonian mechanics.

The project uses a randomized experimental 2 x 1 design comparing a single control condition to a single experimental condition with multiple iterations to test the impact of the game on the learning of Newtonian physics. Using designed based research with teachers and students, the researchers are iteratively developing and testing the interactions and knowledge acquisition of students through interviews, pre and post tests and stealth assessment. Student learner action logs are recorded during game-play along with randomized student interviews. Students' explanations and game-play data are collected and analyzed for changes in domain understanding using pre-post tests assessment.

The project will afford the validation of EGAME as an enabler of new knowledge in the fields of cognition, conceptual change, computer adaptive testing and Hidden Markov Modeling as 90 to 300 middle school students learn Newtonian mechanics, and other science content in game-based learning and design. The design of this digital game platform encompasses a very flexible environment that will be accessible to a diverse group of audiences, and have a transformational affect that will advance theory, design and practice in game-based learning environments.

Implementing the Mathematical Practice Standards: Enhancing Teachers' Ability to Support the Common Core State Standards

This is a four-year project that is producing materials designed to help teachers see how the mathematical practices described in the Common Core State Standards for mathematics can be implemented in mathematics instruction. The goal of the improved instruction is to help students adopt and value these critical mathematical practices.

Award Number: 
1119163
Funding Period: 
Mon, 08/01/2011 to Tue, 07/31/2012
Full Description: 

The Implementing Mathematical Practices Standards (IMPS) is a four-year project that is producing materials designed to help teachers see how the mathematical practices described in the Common Core State Standards for mathematics can be implemented in mathematics instruction. The goal of the improved instruction is to help students adopt and value these critical mathematical practices. Researchers at the Education Development Center are developing videos and print materials that exemplify the mathematical practices and are working with teachers in grades 5-10 to help them use the materials effectively. The research questions of the project are focused on what features of the materials are most helpful to teachers and what professional development characteristics facilitate implementation of the mathematics practices in classroom instruction. The external evaluation of the project is being conducted by evaluators at TERC who are looking the process of developing materials and how the materials are used.

The materials will include professionally-produced videos exemplifying a particular mathematical practice being implemented in a classroom as well as printed dialogues that are designed to help teachers understand the practice and why it is critical for students to acquire that mathematical practice. The exemplars of mathematical practices are being developed based on pilot work and systematic advice from mathematicians, mathematics educators and mathematics teachers in grades 5-10. The design process is iterative and materials are refined based on feedback that is received. Facilitators are being prepared to conduct professional development and materials are being tested by more than 150 teachers in a variety of school districts.

Professional groups such as NCTM and NCSM have called for materials that exemplify the CCSS mathematical practices. They have argued that teachers need to understand how these standards can be achieved in classrooms. IMPS systematic effort to design materials that exemplify the standards and to test not only the materials but also the professional development associated with the materials is responding to the national need. The videos and dialogues will be available through broad dissemination.

Supporting Scientific Practices in Elementary and Middle School Classrooms

This project will develop a learning progression that characterizes how learners integrate and interrelate scientific argumentation, explanation and scientific modeling, building ever more sophisticated versions of practice over time using the three common elements of sense-making, persuading peers and developing consensus.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020316
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Full Description: 

Research on student learning has developed separate progressions for scientific argumentation, explanation and scientific modeling. Engaging Learners in Scientific Practices develops a learning progression that characterizes how learners integrate and interrelate scientific argumentation, explanation and scientific modeling, building ever more sophisticated versions of practice over time using the three common elements of sense-making, persuading peers and developing consensus. The learning progression is constructed through improvements in students' performance and understanding of scientific practice as measured by their attention to generality of explanation, attention to clarity of communication and audience understanding, attention to evidentiary support, and attention to mechanistic versus descriptive accounts. The project is led by researchers at Northwestern University, the University of Texas, Wright State University, Michigan State University, and the BEAR assessment group. Two cohorts of 180 students each are followed for two years from 4th to 5th grade in Illinois and two cohorts of 180 students each are followed for two years from 5th to 6th grade in Michigan The elementary school students will work with FOSS curriculum units modified to embed supports for scientific practices. Two cohorts of 500 middle school students are followed for three years from 6th to 8th grade as they work with coordinated IQWST units over three years. The outcome measures include analyses of classroom discourse, pre- and pos-test assessments of student learning, and reflective interviews grounded in students' own experiences with practices in the classroom to assess their growth across the dimensions. The BEAR team is responsible for validation and calibration of the frameworks and instruments, and design of the scheme for analysis of the data. Horizon Research performs the formative and summative evaluation. The project will produce an empirically-tested learning progression for scientific practices for grades 4-8 along with tested curriculum materials and validated assessment items that support and measure students' ability in the scientific practices of explanation, argumentation and modeling. In the process of development, an understanding is gained about how to design and test this learning progression. The framework is articulated on a website for use by other researchers and developers. The project also builds capacity by educating several graduate students.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Science Storylines

Presenter(s): Brian Reiser, Kelsey Edwards, Barbara Hug, Tara McGill, Jamie Noll, Michael Novak, Bill Penuel, Trey Smith, & Aliza Zivic


Teachers Empowered to Advance Change in Mathematics (TEACH MATH): Preparing Pre K-8 Teachers to Connect Children's Mathematical Thinking and Community-Based Funds of Knowledge

This project will modify the teacher preparation program for preK-8 teachers. The program is designed to help pre-service teachers learn mathematics well, learn to access students' cultural funds of knowledge, and learn to encourage students' mathematical thinking. The developers are designing (a) modules that can be used in teacher preparation courses, (b) a mentoring program for new teachers, and (c) on-line networks to facilitate collaboration among participating teachers and institutions.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1228034
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Thu, 08/31/2017
Project Evaluator: 
Research Institute for Studies in Education
Full Description: 

This research and development project will modify the teacher preparation program for preK-8 teachers at six universities located in different regions of the U.S. The new program is designed to help pre-service teachers learn mathematics well, learn to access students' cultural funds of knowledge in ways that will help them teach mathematics, and learn to encourage students' mathematical thinking. By integrating these important bodies of knowledge, pre-service teachers should be better prepared to teach mathematics to the variety of students in their classes. The developers are designing (a) modules that can be used in teacher preparation courses, (b) a mentoring program for new teachers, and (c) on-line networks to facilitate collaboration among participating teachers and institutions.

The project includes a study of how pre-service teachers learn to apply the knowledge they have gained in the program. The research team has planned a longitudinal collection of data that will track the pre-service teachers into their careers. Their goal is to document teachers' understandings of children's mathematical thinking and children's cultural funds of knowledge and to understand the relationship between teachers' understandings and the learning and disposition of preK-8 students. The study will be implemented at all six universities with staggered start dates allowing for analysis and revisions between cohorts.

These research and development efforts have the potential to impact preK-8 teacher preparation through (1) the development of modules that integrate several relevant proficiencies in mathematics teaching, and (2) the research that studies the impact of such a program on the mathematical learning and disposition of preK-8 students.

Professional Development for Culturally Relevant Teaching and Learning in Pre-K Mathematics

This project is creating and studying a professional development model to support preK teachers in developing culturally and developmentally appropriate practices in counting and early number. The proposed model is targeted at teachers of children in four-year-old kindergarten, and focuses on culturally relevant teaching and learning. The model stresses counting and basic number operations with the intention of exploring the domain as it connects to children's experiences in their homes and communities.

Award Number: 
1019431
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Project Evaluator: 
Victoria Jacobs
Full Description: 

Developers and researchers at the University of Wisconsin are creating and studying a professional development model that connects research in counting and early number (CGI), early childhood, and funds of knowledge. The proposed model is targeted at teachers of children in four-year-old kindergarten, and focuses on culturally relevant teaching and learning. The model stresses a specific, circumscribed content domain - counting and basic number operations - with the intention of exploring the domain in depth particularly as it connects to children's experiences in their homes and communities and how it is learned and taught through play.

The project designs, develops, and tests innovative resources and models for teachers to support ongoing professional learning communities. These learning communities are designed to identify and build on the rich mathematical understandings of all pre-K children. The project's specific goals are to instantiate a reciprocal "funds of knowledge" framework for (a) accessing children's out-of-school experiences in order to provide instruction that is equitable and culturally relevant and (b) developing culturally effective ways to support families in understanding how to mathematize their children's out-of-school activities. Teachers are observed weekly during the development and evaluation process and student assessments are used to measure students' progress toward meeting project benchmarks and the program's effectiveness in reducing or eliminating the achievement gap.

The outcome is a complete professional development model that includes written and digital materials. The product includes case studies, classroom video, examples of student work, and strategies for responding to students' understandings.

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