Experimental

Engaging High School Students in Computer Science with Co-Creative Learning Companions (Collaborative Research: Magerko)

This research investigates how state-of-the-art creative and pedagogical agents can improve students' learning, attitudes, and engagement with computer science. The project will be conducted in high school classrooms using EarSketch, an online computer science learning environments that engages learners in making music with JavaScript or Python code.

Award Number: 
1814083
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/15/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 
This research investigates how state-of-the-art creative and pedagogical agents can improve students' learning, attitudes, and engagement with computer science. The project will be conducted in high school classrooms using EarSketch, an online computer science learning environments that engages over 160,000 learners worldwide in making music with JavaScript or Python code. The researchers will build the first co-creative learning companion, Cai, that will scaffold students with pedagogical strategies that include making use of learner code to illustrate abstraction and modularity, suggesting new code to scaffold new concepts, providing help and hints, and explaining its decisions. This work will directly address the national need to develop computing literacy as a core STEM skill.
 
The proposed work brings together an experienced interdisciplinary team to investigate the hypothesis that adding a co-creative learning companion to an expressive computer science learning environment will improve students' computer science learning (as measured by code sophistication and concept knowledge), positive attitudes towards computing (self-efficacy and motivation), and engagement (focused attention and involvement during learning). The iterative design and development of the co-creative learning companion will be based on studies of human collaboration in EarSketch classrooms, the findings in the co-creative literature and virtual agents research, and the researchers' observations of EarSketch use in classrooms. This work will address the following research questions: 1) What are the foundational pedagogical moves that a co-creative learning companion for expressive programming should perform?; 2) What educational strategies for a co-creative learning companion most effectively scaffold learning, favorable attitudes toward computing, and engagement?; and 3) In what ways does a co-creative learning companion in EarSketch increase computer science learning, engagement, and positive attitudes toward computer science when deployed within the sociocultural context of a high school classroom? The proposed research has the potential to transform our understanding of how to support student learning in and broaden participation through expressive computing environments.

Testing the Efficacy of the Strategic Observation and Reflection (SOAR) for Math Professional Learning Program

The purpose of this project is to develop, implement and test a professional development program, SOAR for Math, to build capacity for mentors and teachers to improve English learner's academic language development and mathematical content understanding.

Award Number: 
1814356
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 
Professional development is an important way for teachers who are currently in classrooms to learn about new best practices in mathematics teaching and learning and improve their practice. Little is known about what types of professional development (PD) and teacher mentoring programs support teachers' improved practices and ultimately lead to gains in student learning. The purpose of this project is to develop, implement and test a professional development program, SOAR for Math, to build capacity for mentors and teachers to improve English learner's academic language development and mathematical content understanding.
 
This study will test the efficacy of the Strategic Observation and Reflection (SOAR) for Math professional development program. The mixed methods study is designed to answer several research questions: (1) What is the impact of teachers' participation in SOAR for Math on student achievement outcomes for current and recent grade 3-6 English learner students in treatment schools? (2) What is the impact of SOAR for Math on treatment school teachers' knowledge and practices related to their academic language and literacy development instruction for current and recent English learner students, specifically scores on the Knowledge/Use Scale? (3) What is the impact of SOAR for Math on treatment mentors' knowledge and practices related to their academic language and math instruction? A randomized controlled trial will be conducted in 80 elementary schools in one California school district. Schools serving third- through sixth-grade general education students will be eligible to participate. The research team will randomly assign 40 schools to provide SOAR for Math training to mentor teachers and 40 schools to comprise a control group receiving business-as-usual professional development. Two mentors per school will participate in the study. Measures will include state math scores and a variety of observations and questionnaires to assess fidelity of implementation. Data will be analyzed using hierarchical linear modeling to account for the nested data structure.

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.

Extending and Investigating the Impact of the High School Model-based Educational Resource (Collaborative Research: Wilson)

This project builds on a line of work that has developed and studied the Model Based Educational Resource (MBER), a year-long curriculum for high school biology. The project will generate rigorous causal evidence on how this approach to biology teaching and learning can support student learning, and foundational information on how to support high school teachers in improving their teaching. It will also provide resources to expand and update MBER to reflect the changing high school science landscape by integrating Earth Science standards into the year long sequence.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813538
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project builds on a line of work that has developed and studied the Model Based Educational Resource (MBER), a year-long curriculum for high school biology. In classrooms using MBER, modeling serves as an anchoring practice that keeps the inquiry tied to the goal of making sense of the world, helping teachers to engage their students in a range of cognitive and social activities that lead to deep understanding of scientific ideas. This project will generate rigorous causal evidence on how this approach to biology teaching and learning can support student learning, and foundational information on how to support high school teachers in improving their teaching. This funding will also provide resources to expand and update MBER to reflect the changing high school science landscape by integrating Earth Science standards into the year long sequence. The study will address the general research question: What is the impact of the Model Based Educational Resource (MBER) on high school students' science achievement, and what factors influence that impact? In addition to generating important research findings, the materials revised and studied in this project will be open-source and freely available to teachers and schools.

This study addresses a significant gap in the research on next generation curriculum materials. While there is emerging agreement about the importance of instructional materials in supporting teachers in effectively engaging students in the practices of science, there is very little empirical evidence to support such claims. The goal of this project is to study the impact of the MBER program through a cluster randomized trial and expand the promise of efficacy and feasibility established in previous work. This study will be able to make causal claims by using an experimental design in which 32 high school teachers serve as their own controls, and by using multi-level modeling in the analysis. This study will advance the field's knowledge about the impact of innovative materials on student learning, measured by both project-level assessments and the state science test. Exploratory research questions will examine a) how using the MBER program develops teachers' vision of the Next Generation Science Standards, b) how student learning is mediated by the fidelity of implementation of the materials, c) how teachers interact with materials designed to be modified for their classroom context, and d) to what extent the MBER materials provide equitable opportunities to learn and close achievement gaps.

Networking Urban Resources with Teachers and University to Enrich Early Childhood Science (NURTURES) Phase II: Expansion and Evaluation

Building on successful prior work, this project simultaneously targets young children's teachers and families/caregivers in an effort to build both parties' capacity to promote student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1721059
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

Building on successful prior work, this University of Toledo project, Networking Urban Resources with Teachers and University to enRich Early Childhood Science (NURTURES): Researching the impact of teacher professional development and family engagement on PreK-3 achievement, simultaneously targets young children's teachers and families/caregivers in an effort to build both parties' capacity to promote student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning. Teachers participate in a two-week summer professional development program and receive support across the school year in the form of individualized coaching and participation in professional learning communities. Families receive science inquiry packets (sent home from school) four times a year and attend community STEM events throughout the year. Inquiry packets and community events encourage science inquiry, discourse, and further exploration of key science ideas. Project participants will include 120 teachers, 2,400 PreK-3 children and over 7,200 family members in Ohio and Michigan.

Extending the initial NURTURES project, developed with NSF Math and Science Partnership funding, this follow-up project aims to: 1) Transform early childhood science teaching based upon Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to measurably increase student science, literacy, and math achievement, and 2) Engage families of PreK-3 students in science inquiry practices to measurably improve student science, literacy, and math achievement. A particularly important facet of this follow-up project is the research effort to parse and understand how each component (teacher professional development versus family engagement) impacts student learning. The project will use a randomized control group research design (RCT) to compare student achievement outcomes among three groups: Children whose teachers received professional development and family engagement activities, children whose teachers received only professional development, and a control group. The project will use standardized tests (the TerraNova Complete Battery) to measure impact on learning gains in science, mathematics, reading, and early literacy for children in grades K- 3. The Lens on Science assessment will measure science learning in preschool children. This project will result in an NGSS-based program for teachers and families that has been systematically tested and may ultimately be scaled up to an impact study and dissemination at a broad level.

Promoting Scientific Explorers Among Students with Learning Disabilities: The Design and Testing of a Grade 2 Science Program Focused on Earth's Systems

The purpose of this project is to design and empirically evaluate a second grade science program, Scientific Explorers, aimed at promoting an early foundation for learning science among all students, including students at risk for or with learning disabilities in reading and mathematics.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720958
Funding Period: 
Thu, 06/01/2017 to Tue, 05/31/2022
Full Description: 

A robust understanding of core science concepts and practices is necessary for obtaining jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Despite these occupational and practical affordances, few effective instructional tools exist for the elementary science classroom. Moreover, early elementary school teachers have limited materials at their disposal to promote a rich knowledge of science among the full range of learners. The purpose of this project is to address this need by designing and empirically evaluating a second grade science program, Scientific Explorers, aimed at promoting an early foundation for learning science among all students, including students at risk for or with learning disabilities in reading and mathematics. Scientific Explorers will be designed to improve students' knowledge and understanding of core science concepts. Recognizing the important role of early literacy and mathematics in science learning and teaching, this project will integrate core disciplinary ideas with critical mathematics and literacy standards. To support students as they engage in scientific tasks associated with Earth's Systems, this project will engineer the Scientific Explorers program around a guided inquiry framework. Another aim of this project is to develop and empirically validate a science assessment that measures students' knowledge and application of core science concepts and practices related to Earth's Systems.

Employing a mixed-method approach, this project will investigate the feasibility and efficacy of the Scientific Explorers program. Additional research activities will include establishing the reliability and validity of a second grade science assessment. Approximately 40 second grade classrooms from two different geographical regions will participate in the project. Using multilevel modeling and item response theory techniques, this project will address five primary research questions: (1) To what extent can teachers feasibly implement the Scientific Explorers program in authentic education settings? (2) What is the impact of Scientific Explorers on the science achievement of students in participating classrooms? (3) Do early literacy skills at the beginning of second grade predict differential response to the Scientific Explorers program? (4) Does responsiveness to the Scientific Explorers program differ as a function of reading disability, mathematics disability, or a learning disability in reading and mathematics (comorbid LD)?, and (5) To what extent does the early science achievement measure demonstrate technical adequacy (reliability and validity)?

Mobilizing Teachers to Increase Capacity and Broaden Women's Participation in Physics (Collaborative Research: Hannum)

This project assesses the impact of scaling-up the teaching of physics and engineering to women students in grade levels 11 and 12, particularly in reference to retention. The aim is to mobilize high school physics teachers to "attract and recruit" female students into physics and engineering careers. The project will advance physics identity research by testing research-based approaches/interventions with larger groups of teachers and connecting research to practice in ways that are both widely deployable and practical for teachers to implement.

Award Number: 
1720869
Funding Period: 
Mon, 05/15/2017 to Sat, 04/30/2022
Full Description: 

This project assesses the impact of scaling-up the teaching of physics and engineering to women students in grade levels 11 and 12, particularly in reference to retention. The problem of low participation of women in physics and engineering has been a topic of concern for decades. The persistent underrepresentation of women in physics and engineering is not just an equity issue but also reflects an unrealized talent pool that can help respond to current and future challenges faced by society. The aim is to mobilize high school physics teachers to "attract and recruit" female students into science (physics) and engineering careers. The fundamental issues that the project seeks is to affect increases in the number of females in physics and engineering careers using research-informed and field-tested classroom practices that improve female students' physics identity. The project will advance science (physics) identity research by testing research-based approaches/interventions with larger groups of teachers and connecting research to practice in ways that are both widely deployable and practical for teachers to implement. The project will also affect female participation in engineering since developing a physics identity is strongly related to choosing engineering. The core area teachers will be trained in addressing student identity as a physicist or engineer.

In this project, two research universities (Florida International University, Texas A&M-Commerce) and the two largest national organizations in physics (American Physical Society and American Association of Physics Teachers) will work together using approaches/interventions drawn from prior research results that will be tested with teachers in three states (24 teachers, 8 in each state) using an experimental design with control and treatment groups. The project proposes three phases: 1. Refine already established interventions for improving female physics identity for use on a massive national level which will be assessed through previously validated and reliable surveys and sound research design; 2. Launch a massive national campaign involving workshops, training modules, and mass communication approaches to reach and attempt to mobilize 16,000 of the 27,000 physics teachers nationwide to attract and recruit at least one female student to physics using the intervention approaches refines in phase 1 and other classroom approaches shown to improve female physics identity; and 3. Evaluate of the success of the campaign through surveys of high school physics teachers (subjective data) and data from the Higher Education Research Institute to monitor female student increases in freshmen declaring a physics major during the years following the campaign (objective data). The interventions will focus on developing female students' physics identity, a construct which has been found to be strongly related to career choice and persistence in physics. The project has the potential to reduce or eliminate the gender gap in the field of physics. In addition, the increase in female physics identity is likely to also increase female representation in engineering majors. Therefore, the work will lay the groundwork for adapting similar methods for increasing under-representation of females in other disciplines. The societies involved (American Physical Society and American Association of Physics Teachers) are uniquely positioned within the discipline to ensure a successful campaign of information dissemination to physics teachers nationally and under-representation of females in other disciplines as well, engineering specifically.

Designing a Middle Grades Spatial Skills Curriculum

This project will create a portable training system that can be easily deployed in middle grades (5th-7th grade) as a prototype for increasing students' spatial reasoning skills. The project will study gender differences in spatial reasoning and examine how learning experiences can be designed to develop spatial skills using Minecraft as a platform.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720801
Funding Period: 
Sat, 07/01/2017 to Tue, 06/30/2020
Full Description: 

The ability to make spatial judgements and visualize has been shown to be a strong indicator of students' future success in STEM-related courses. The project is innovative because it uses a widely available gaming environment, Minecraft, to examine spatial reasoning. Finding learning experiences which support students' spatial reasoning in an authentic and engaging way is a challenge in the field. This project will create a portable training system that can be easily deployed in middle grades (5th-7th grade) as a prototype for increasing students' spatial reasoning skills. The project will study gender differences in spatial reasoning and examine how learning experiences can be designed to develop spatial skills using Minecraft as a platform. The resources will incorporate hands-on learning and engage students in building virtual structures using spatial reasoning. The curriculum materials are being designed to be useful in other middle grades contexts.

The study is a design and development study that will design four training modules intended to improve spatial reasoning in the following areas: rotation, mental slicing, 2D to 3D transformation and perspective taking. The research questions are: (1) Does a Minecraft-based intervention that targets specific spatial reasoning tasks improve middle grade learners' spatial ability? (2) Does spatial skills growth differ by gender? The experimental design will compare the influence of the virtual spatial learning environment alone vs. the use of design challenges designed specifically for the spatial skills. The data collected will include assessments of spatial reasoning and feedback from teachers' who use the materials. The spatial skills measures will be administered as a pre-test, post-test, and six-month follow-up assessment to measure long term effects.


Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Building Spatial Skills with Minecraft

Presenter(s): Nick Lux, Barrett Frank, & Bryce Hughes


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.

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