Mixed Methods

Using Animated Contrasting Cases to Improve Procedural and Conceptual Knowledge in Geometry

This project aims to support stronger student outcomes in the teaching and learning of geometry in the middle grades through engaging students in animated contrasting cases of worked examples. The project will design a series of animated geometry curricular materials on a digital platform that ask students to compare different approaches to solving the same geometry problem. The study will measure changes in students' procedural and conceptual knowledge of geometry after engaging with the materials and will explore the ways in which teachers implement the materials in their classrooms.

Award Number: 
1907745
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project aims to support stronger student outcomes in the teaching and learning of geometry in the middle grades through engaging students in animated contrasting cases of worked examples. Animated contrasting cases are a set of two worked examples for the same geometry problem, approached in different ways. The animations show the visual moves and annotations students would make in solving the problems. Students are asked to compare and discuss the approaches. This theoretically-grounded approach extends the work of cognitive scientists and mathematics educators who have shown this approach supports strong student learning in algebra. The project will design a series of animated geometry curricular materials on a digital platform that ask students to compare different approaches to solving the same geometry problem. The study will measure changes in students' procedural and conceptual knowledge of geometry after engaging with the materials and will explore the ways in which teachers implement the materials in their classrooms. This work is particularly important as geometry is an understudied area in mathematics education, and national and international assessments at the middle school level consistently identify geometry as a mathematics content area in which students score the lowest.

This project draws on prior work that documents the impact of comparison on students' learning in algebra. Providing students with opportunities to compare multiple strategies is recommended by a range of mathematics policy documents, as research has shown this approach promotes flexibility and enhances conceptual knowledge and procedural fluency. More specifically, the approach allows students to compare the effectiveness and efficiency of mathematical arguments in the context of problem solving. An initial pilot study on non-animated contrasting cases in geometry shows promise for the general approach and suggests that animating the cases has the potential for stronger student learning gains. This study will examine the extent to which the animated cases improve students' conceptual and procedural knowledge of geometry and identify factors that relate to changes in knowledge. The project team will develop 24 worked example contrasting cases based on design principles from the prior work in algebra. The materials will be implemented in four treatment classrooms in the first cycle, revised, and then implemented in eight treatment classrooms. Students' written work will be collected along with data on the nature of the classroom discussions and small-group interviews with students. Teachers' perspectives on lessons will also be collected to support revision and strengthening of the materials. Assessments of students' geometry knowledge will be developed using measures with demonstrated validity and reliability to measure changes in student learning.

Developing Organizational Capacity to Improve K-8 Mathematics Teaching and Learning

This project will develop and test a leadership model to improve K-8 mathematics teaching and learning by involving stakeholders across the K-8 spectrum. The project will support teachers, teacher leaders, and administrators in collectively identifying and addressing problems of practice in the teaching and learning of mathematics, and in turn develop plans to improve school and district organizational capacities to support stronger mathematics teaching.

Award Number: 
1907681
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Sun, 06/30/2024
Full Description: 

The Developing Organizational Capacity to Improve K-8 Mathematics Teaching and Learning is a 4-year implementation and improvement project. The project will develop and test a leadership model to improve K-8 mathematics teaching and learning by involving stakeholders across the K-8 spectrum. The project will support teachers, teacher leaders, and administrators in collectively identifying and addressing problems of practice in the teaching and learning of mathematics, and in turn develop plans to improve school and district organizational capacities to support stronger mathematics teaching. At the heart of the project is the Elementary Mathematics Leadership (EML) model, which is designed to improve stakeholder understandings of effective math teaching practices. The EML model involves collaboratively identifying classroom-based problems of practice with school and district personnel, designing and implementing professional development aligned with the problems of practice, and iterating those cycles of development, implementation, and revision to assess the model's effectiveness.

The EML model operates at the teacher, school, and district level using a design-based implementation research approach. At the district level, leadership teams in conjunction with researchers will identify problems of practice for which work on those problems will lead to a more coherent mathematics instruction in the district. Following this, professional development and coaching at the teacher level will be designed and implemented to target the problem of practice, with a focus on big ideas within the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. This phase of the model also includes professional development aimed at school leaders and district administrators to strengthen organizational capacity to support and lead change related to the problem of practice. The final phase of the model calls on researchers, district, and school personnel to engage in an annual redesign of the intervention, making use of data gathered during the school year and evidence about what is happening in classrooms. This design acknowledges the broader policy context in which schools and districts operate as they work towards instructional change. To evaluate the effectiveness of the overall EML model, the project will collect a wide variety of data, including student achievement outcomes using standardized tests; assessments of teachers' mathematical knowledge, instructional practices, and efficacy measures; and measures of leader, administrator, and organizational capacities to support high-quality mathematics instruction. Four districts will be recruited to participate, enacting the model in pairs with a staggered start for one pair of districts to be able to measure treatment effects, using a variation of a switching replications design. Classroom practice and teacher outcomes will be assessed using a variety of MKT assessments, the Mathematical Quality of Instruction (MQI), and the Instructional Quality Assessment (IQA). School level outcomes will be collected via a leadership assessment and interview data, and district level outcomes will be assessed through the use of interview and documentary data. Analysis will include a statistical analysis of the EML model using hierarchical linear modeling, MANOVA/ANOVA, and regression as appropriate at the level of students and teachers, and qualitative analysis and descriptive statistics will be used at the school and district level due to small sample size.

Building Professional Capital in Elementary Science Teaching through a District-wide Networked Improvement Community Model

This project will focus on a networked improvement community (NIC) model of professional learning that shifts K-5 science instruction from traditional approaches to a three-dimensional design as outlined in the Next Generation Science Standards. The project will feature a multi-level model involving university educators and researchers and school district practitioners in an effort to co-defined problems of practice valuable to both parties.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907471
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Full Description: 

This project will focus on a networked improvement community (NIC) model of professional learning that shifts K-5 science instruction from traditional approaches to a three-dimensional design as outlined in the Next Generation Science Standards. The need to make this shift stems from the school district's decision to address inequities in science as some schools offer minimal to no science instruction during the elementary years. The NIC model will draw on expertise from school personnel and university partners to ensure that students will have access to and benefit from authentic model-based inquiry daily in the early grades. This model embraces the challenges of scale and sustainability by targeting the design and substance of professional learning and its organization within the district, balancing integration with existing system infrastructure, and shifting the system based on theory-driven practices. To prepare teachers for this major change, professional development will shift from: (1) training on the use of kit-based curricular materials to professional learning grounded in NGSS-inspired sets of practices and tools; (2) working as individual practitioners to teaching as collaborative investigations; (3) using centralized efforts to distributed knowledge-building and leadership; (4) learning science as decontextualized facts to deep engagement with real-world phenomena; and (5) teaching lessons as prescribed by curriculum to a focus on responsive teaching and building on students' funds of knowledge. The NIC model will provide a pathway for integrating and implementing these shifts via a multilevel, knowledge-building, problem-solving system. This system will go beyond a single focus on improving students' understanding of science content to incorporating teaching practices that advances knowledge about student's written and spoken scientific language and use of explanations and arguments. Through the NIC model all K-5 elementary students in the district will benefit from a rigorous and equitable approach to science learning.

This project will feature a multi-level model involving university educators and researchers and school district practitioners in an effort to co-defined problems of practice valuable to both parties. A mixed methods research design will examine how the NIC model develops professional capital through changes in implementation over multiple iterations. These changes will be captured through short and long-term instruments. Regarding the shorter term, practical measures sensitive to change and directly tied to small manageable, short-term goals will provide quick responses to everyday real-time questions. These measures will help assess specific improvement goals using language relevant and meaningful to researchers and practitioners. For longer term goals, in-depth case studies, interviews, observations, pre-posttests, surveys, and questionnaires will collect data on several variables critical to documenting improvements at the teacher and student levels. Both sets of data will generate knowledge about ambitious and equitable science teaching practices with a focus on students' cultural and linguistic resources and experiences. Through such pathways, knowledge will be generated on teachers' and students' growth as active builders and collaborators in the development of improved learning and experiences. The outcomes will identify critical facets that support advances and sustainability that illuminate variations within the district to better understand what works, for whom, and under what conditions. the research findings will also be used to inform decision making about teaching science at the elementary grades and to further refine equity-based practices, resources, and tools for building on students' funds of knowledge vital to supporting, sustaining, and scaling educational outcomes for all students in the district and beyond.

Investigating School District Resilience and the Impact of Hurricane Exposure on Student Outcomes

This Rapid Response Research (RAPID) project is an exploratory mixed methods study investigating the impact of vulnerability and resilience in the recovery of North Carolina schools affected by both Hurricanes Florence (2018) and Matthew (2016). Specifically, the study assesses whether schools that were impacted by both storms used organizational learning strategies to recover faster than schools that were impacted by either Hurricane Florence or Matthew alone.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
1904156
Funding Period: 
Tue, 01/01/2019 to Tue, 12/31/2019
Project Evaluator: 
Full Description: 

North Carolina has experienced 11 major disasters due to hurricanes or tropical storms over the past 20 years. Moreover, one tropical cyclone has hit the state every two years since 1851. Although natural disasters are frequent, efforts to understand and support public schools' responses to such disasters are rare. This Rapid Response Research (RAPID) project is an exploratory mixed methods study investigating the impact of vulnerability and resilience in the recovery of North Carolina schools affected by both Hurricanes Florence (2018) and Matthew (2016). Specifically, the study assesses whether schools that were impacted by both storms used organizational learning strategies to recover faster than schools that were impacted by either Hurricane Florence or Matthew alone. The project pursues three research questions: (1) What characteristics predict school district resilience? (2) How does prior disaster experience aid/hinder a resilient recovery? (3) Do students in resilient districts show less learning loss or rebound from learning loss more quickly?

This mixed methods project will involve interviews, focus groups and surveys with school and district personnel in a purposive sample of 15 districts across North Carolina that were heavily impacted by both storms and those that were affected by only one. These qualitative data will be used to derive markers of resilience that will then be used in quantitative analyses. Quantitative comparisons of state-wide data on student outcomes (e.g., achievement, attendance) will also be made across three kinds of districts: those that were affected by both storms, those that were affected by only one storm and those that were not affected at all. Quantitative data will be taken from an existing longitudinal database that includes individual student characteristics, attendance, suspensions and academic performance for all students in North Carolina. The purposive sampling of 15 districts in North Carolina allows for a novel comparison of impact, recovery and organizational learning across two disasters and over time. Disasters can create an opportunity for organizational change leading to greater resiliency in future crises; however, little extant research has focused on whether and how schools recover and remain resilient in the aftermath of natural disasters, such as hurricanes. This project can benefit schools in crisis by providing lessons learned and a roadmap for action to schools that are singularly and repeatedly impacted by natural disasters.

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Teacher Professional Learning to Support Student Motivational Competencies During Science Instruction (Collaborative Research: Linnenbrink-Garcia)

This project will bring together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and science teachers to identify a set of practices that science teachers can readily incorporate into their planning and instruction. The project will design, develop, and test a research-based professional learning approach to help middle school science teachers effectively support and sustain student motivational competencies during science instruction.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813047
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

Science teachers identify fostering student motivation to learn as a pressing need, yet teacher professional learning programs rarely devote time to helping teachers understand and apply motivational principles in their instruction. This project will bring together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and science teachers to identify a set of practices that science teachers can readily incorporate into their planning and instruction. The project will design, develop, and test a research-based professional learning approach to help middle school science teachers effectively support and sustain student motivational competencies during science instruction. The approach will include use of materials addressing student motivational processes and how to support them, evaluation tools to measure student motivational competencies, lesson planning tools, and instruments for teacher self-evaluation. The translation to practice will include recognition of student diversity and consider ways to facilitate context-specific integration of disciplinary and motivational knowledge in practice. The project will focus on middle school science classrooms because this period is an important motivational bridge between elementary and secondary science learning. This project will enhance understanding of teacher pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in that it frames knowledge about supporting motivational competencies in science as PCK rather than general pedagogical knowledge.

This early stage design and development project will iteratively develop and study a model of teacher professional learning that will help middle school science teachers create, modify, and implement instruction that integrates support for students' motivational competencies with the science practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas specified in science curriculum standards. A design-based research approach will be used to develop and test four resources teachers will use to explicitly include attention to student motivational competencies in their lesson planning efforts. The resources will include: 1) educational materials about students' motivational processes with concrete examples of how to support them; 2) easy-to-implement student evaluation tools for teachers to gauge students' motivational competencies; 3) planning tools to incorporate motivational practices into science lesson planning; and 4) instruments for teacher self-evaluation. A collaborative group of educational researchers will partner with science teachers from multiple school districts having diverse student populations to jointly develop the professional learning approach and resources. This project will contribute to systemic change by moving motivational processes from an implicit element of educating students, to an explicit and intentional set of strategies teachers can enact. Research questions will focus on how teachers respond to the newly developed professional learning model, and how students respond to instruction developed through implementing the model.

Teacher Professional Learning to Support Student Motivational Competencies During Science Instruction (Collaborative Research: Marchand)

This project will bring together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and science teachers to identify a set of practices that science teachers can readily incorporate into their planning and instruction. The project will design, develop, and test a research-based professional learning approach to help middle school science teachers effectively support and sustain student motivational competencies during science instruction.

Award Number: 
1812976
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

Science teachers identify fostering student motivation to learn as a pressing need, yet teacher professional learning programs rarely devote time to helping teachers understand and apply motivational principles in their instruction. This project will bring together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and science teachers to identify a set of practices that science teachers can readily incorporate into their planning and instruction. The project will design, develop, and test a research-based professional learning approach to help middle school science teachers effectively support and sustain student motivational competencies during science instruction. The approach will include use of materials addressing student motivational processes and how to support them, evaluation tools to measure student motivational competencies, lesson planning tools, and instruments for teacher self-evaluation. The translation to practice will include recognition of student diversity and consider ways to facilitate context-specific integration of disciplinary and motivational knowledge in practice. The project will focus on middle school science classrooms because this period is an important motivational bridge between elementary and secondary science learning. This project will enhance understanding of teacher pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in that it frames knowledge about supporting motivational competencies in science as PCK rather than general pedagogical knowledge.

This early stage design and development project will iteratively develop and study a model of teacher professional learning that will help middle school science teachers create, modify, and implement instruction that integrates support for students' motivational competencies with the science practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas specified in science curriculum standards. A design-based research approach will be used to develop and test four resources teachers will use to explicitly include attention to student motivational competencies in their lesson planning efforts. The resources will include: 1) educational materials about students' motivational processes with concrete examples of how to support them; 2) easy-to-implement student evaluation tools for teachers to gauge students' motivational competencies; 3) planning tools to incorporate motivational practices into science lesson planning; and 4) instruments for teacher self-evaluation. A collaborative group of educational researchers will partner with science teachers from multiple school districts having diverse student populations to jointly develop the professional learning approach and resources. This project will contribute to systemic change by moving motivational processes from an implicit element of educating students, to an explicit and intentional set of strategies teachers can enact. Research questions will focus on how teachers respond to the newly developed professional learning model, and how students respond to instruction developed through implementing the model.

Teacher Professional Learning to Support Student Motivational Competencies During Science Instruction (Collaborative Research: Harris)

This project will bring together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and science teachers to identify a set of practices that science teachers can readily incorporate into their planning and instruction. The project will design, develop, and test a research-based professional learning approach to help middle school science teachers effectively support and sustain student motivational competencies during science instruction.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907480
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

Science teachers identify fostering student motivation to learn as a pressing need, yet teacher professional learning programs rarely devote time to helping teachers understand and apply motivational principles in their instruction. This project will bring together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and science teachers to identify a set of practices that science teachers can readily incorporate into their planning and instruction. The project will design, develop, and test a research-based professional learning approach to help middle school science teachers effectively support and sustain student motivational competencies during science instruction. The approach will include use of materials addressing student motivational processes and how to support them, evaluation tools to measure student motivational competencies, lesson planning tools, and instruments for teacher self-evaluation. The translation to practice will include recognition of student diversity and consider ways to facilitate context-specific integration of disciplinary and motivational knowledge in practice. The project will focus on middle school science classrooms because this period is an important motivational bridge between elementary and secondary science learning. This project will enhance understanding of teacher pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in that it frames knowledge about supporting motivational competencies in science as PCK rather than general pedagogical knowledge.

This early stage design and development project will iteratively develop and study a model of teacher professional learning that will help middle school science teachers create, modify, and implement instruction that integrates support for students' motivational competencies with the science practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas specified in science curriculum standards. A design-based research approach will be used to develop and test four resources teachers will use to explicitly include attention to student motivational competencies in their lesson planning efforts. The resources will include: 1) educational materials about students' motivational processes with concrete examples of how to support them; 2) easy-to-implement student evaluation tools for teachers to gauge students' motivational competencies; 3) planning tools to incorporate motivational practices into science lesson planning; and 4) instruments for teacher self-evaluation. A collaborative group of educational researchers will partner with science teachers from multiple school districts having diverse student populations to jointly develop the professional learning approach and resources. This project will contribute to systemic change by moving motivational processes from an implicit element of educating students, to an explicit and intentional set of strategies teachers can enact. Research questions will focus on how teachers respond to the newly developed professional learning model, and how students respond to instruction developed through implementing the model.

This project was previously funded under award #1813086.

Professional Development Supports for Teaching Bioinformatics through Mobile Learning

This project will investigate the professional development supports needed for teaching bioinformatics at the high school level. The project team will work with biology and mathematics teachers to co-design instructional modules to engage students with core bioinformatics concepts and computational literacies, by focusing on local community health issues supported through mobile learning activities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1812738
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Mon, 02/28/2022
Full Description: 

Bioinformatics is an emerging area of research that develops new knowledge through computational analysis of vast biological and biomedical data. This project will investigate the professional development supports needed for teaching bioinformatics at the high school level. Building from a robust literature in professional development design research, project team will work with biology and mathematics teachers to co-design instructional modules to engage students with core bioinformatics concepts and computational literacies, by focusing on local community health issues supported through mobile learning activities. The overarching goal of the project is to help create an engage population of informatics-informed students who are capable of critically analyzing information and able to solve local problems related to their health and well-being.

The project team will use a design-based implementation research approach to identify the curricular and instructional supports needed to achieve the teaching and learning goals through iterative project revisions, employing mixed methods to evaluate teacher and student learning processes and outcomes. Teachers from local high needs schools will participate in a three-week summer workshop, where they will learn about state-of-the-art bioinformatics content, project-based pedagogies that promote computational literacy, and strategies integrate mobile technologies into instruction.  They will implement the instructional units during the year, and the summer workshop will be revised and delivered to an expanded cohort of teachers the following summer. The data collection and analysis conducted on teachers' enactment of these modules will reveal the professional development and implementation areas needed to support particular populations, specifically underrepresented groups in STEM, to engage with bioinformatics learning and take authentic action on local community issues.

Supporting Teachers in Responsive Instruction for Developing Expertise in Science (Collaborative Research: Linn)

This project takes advantage of advanced technologies to support science teachers to rapidly respond to diverse student ideas in their classrooms. Students will use web-based curriculum units to engage with models, simulations, and virtual experiments to write multiple explanations for standards-based science topics. The project will also design planning tools for teachers that will make suggestions relevant research-proven instructional strategies based on the real-time analysis of student responses.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813713
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

Many teachers want to adapt their instruction to meet student learning needs, yet lack the time to regularly assess and analyze students' developing understandings. The Supporting Teachers in Responsive Instruction for Developing Expertise in Science (STRIDES) project takes advantage of advanced technologies to support science teachers to rapidly respond to diverse student ideas in their classrooms. In this project students will use web-based curriculum units to engage with models, simulations, and virtual experiments to write multiple explanations for standards-based science topics. Advanced technologies (including natural language processing) will be used to assess students' written responses and summaries their science understanding in real-time. The project will also design planning tools for teachers that will make suggestions relevant research-proven instructional strategies based on the real-time analysis of student responses. Research will examine how teachers make use of the feedback and suggestions to customize their instruction. Further we will study how these instructional changes help students develop coherent understanding of complex science topics and ability to make sense of models and graphs. The findings will be used to refine the tools that analyze the student essays and generate the summaries; improve the research-based instructional suggestions in the planning tool; and strengthen the online interface for teachers. The tools will be incorporated into open-source, freely available online curriculum units. STRIDES will directly benefit up to 30 teachers and 24,000 students from diverse school settings over four years.

Leveraging advances in natural language processing methods, the project will analyze student written explanations to provide fine-grained summaries to teachers about strengths and weaknesses in student work. Based on the linguistic analysis and logs of student navigation, the project will then provide instructional customizations based on learning science research, and study how teachers use them to improve student progress. Researchers will annually conduct at least 10 design or comparison studies, each involving up to 6 teachers and 300-600 students per year. Insights from this research will be captured in automated scoring algorithms, empirically tested and refined customization activities, and data logging techniques that can be used by other research and curriculum design programs to enable teacher customization.

Building Middle School Students' Understanding of Heredity and Evolution

This project will develop and test the impact of heredity and evolution curriculum units for middle school grades that are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The project will advance science teaching by investigating the ways in which two curriculum units can be designed to incorporate science and engineering practices, cross-cutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas, the three dimensions of science learning described by the NGSS. The project will also develop resources to support teachers in implementation of the new modules.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1814194
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project will develop and test the impact of heredity and evolution curriculum units for middle school grades that are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The project will advance science teaching by investigating the ways in which two curriculum units can be designed to incorporate science and engineering practices, cross-cutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas, the three dimensions of science learning described by the NGSS. The project will also develop resources to support teachers in implementation of the new modules. The planned research will also examine whether student understanding of evolution depends on the length and time of exposure to learning about heredity prior to learning about evolution.

This Early Stage Design and Development project will develop two new 3-week middle school curriculum units, with one focusing on heredity and the other focusing on evolution. The units will include embedded formative and summative assessment measures and online teacher support materials. These units will be developed as part of a curriculum learning progression that will eventually span the elementary grades through high school. This curriculum learning progression will integrate heredity, evolution, data analysis, construction of scientific explanations, evidence-based argumentation, pattern recognition, and inferring cause and effect relationships. To inform development and iterative revisions of the units, the project will conduct nation-wide beta and pilot tests, selecting schools with broad ranges of student demographics and geographical locations. The project will include three rounds of testing and revision of both the student curriculum and teacher materials. The project will also investigate student understanding of evolution in terms of how their understanding is impacted by conceptual understanding of heredity. The research to be conducted by this project is organized around three broad research questions: (a) In what ways can two curriculum units be designed to incorporate the three dimensions of science learning and educative teacher supports to guide students' conceptual understanding of heredity and evolution? (b) To what extent does student understanding of evolution depend on the length and timing of heredity lessons that preceded an evolution unit? And (c) In what ways do students learn heredity and evolution?

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