Achievement/Growth

EarSketch: An Authentic, Studio-based STEAM Approach to High School Computing Education

This project will study the influence on positive student achievement and engagement (particularly among populations traditionally under-represented in computer science) of an intervention that integrates a computational music remixing tool -EarSketch- with the Computer Science Principles, a view of computing literacy that is emerging as a new standard for Advanced Placement and other high school computer science courses.

Award Number: 
1417835
Funding Period: 
Fri, 08/01/2014 to Tue, 07/31/2018
Project Evaluator: 
Mary Moriarity
Full Description: 

This project will study the influence on positive student achievement and engagement (particularly among populations traditionally under-represented in computer science) of an intervention that integrates a computational music remixing tool -EarSketch- with the Computer Science Principles, a view of computing literacy that is emerging as a new standard for Advanced Placement and other high school computer science courses. The project is grounded on the premise that EarSketch, a STEM + Art (STEAM) learning environment, embodies authenticity (i.e., its cultural and industry relevance in both arts and STEM domains), along with a context that facilitates communication and collaboration among students (i.e., through a studio-based learning approach). These elements are critical to achieving successful outcomes across diverse student populations. Using agent-based modeling, the research team will investigate what factors enhance or impede implementation of authentic STEAM tools in different school settings.

The researchers will be engaged in a multi-stage process to develop: a) an implementation-ready, web-based EarSketch learning environment that integrates programming, digital audio workstation, curriculum, audio loop library, and social sharing features, along with studio-based learning functionality to support student presentation, critique, discussion, and collaboration; and b) an online professional learning course for teachers adopting EarSketch in Computer Science Principles courses. Using these resources, the team will conduct a quasi-experimental study of EarSketch in Computer Science Principles high school courses across the state of Georgia; measure student learning and engagement across multiple demographic categories; and determine to what extent an EarSketch-based CS Principles course promotes student achievement and engagement across different student populations. The project will include measures of student performance, creativity, collaboration, and communication in student programming tasks to determine the extent to which studio-based learning in EarSketch promotes success in these important areas. An agent-based modeling framework in multiple school settings will be developed to determine what factors enhance or impede implementation of EarSketch under conditions of routine practice.

DIMEs: Immersing Teachers and Students in Virtual Engineering Internships

This project will provide curricular and pedagogical support by developing and evaluating teacher-ready curricular Digital Internship Modules for Engineering (DIMEs). DIMES will be designed to support middle school science teachers in providing students with experiences that require students to use engineering design practices and science understanding to solve a real-world problem, thereby promoting a robust understanding of science and engineering, and motivating students to increased interest in science and engineering.

Award Number: 
1417939
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) outline the science competencies students should demonstrate through their K-12 years and represent a commitment to integrate engineering design into the structure of science education. However, achieving this new ideal of teaching and learning will require new curricular and pedagogical supports for teachers as well as new and time-efficient assessment methods. This project will provide such curricular and pedagogical support by developing and evaluating teacher-ready curricular Digital Internship Modules for Engineering (DIMEs). DIMES will be designed to support middle school science teachers in providing students with experiences that require students to use engineering design practices and science understanding to solve a real-world problem, thereby promoting a robust understanding of science and engineering, and motivating students to increased interest in science and engineering. The modules will also assess students' ability to apply their science knowledge in solving the engineering problem, thereby providing teachers with actionable data about the depth of their students' science and engineering understanding. The DIMEs will be environments where students work as interns at a simulated engineering firm. 

The Digital Internship Modules for Engineering will provide immersive experiences that simultaneously serve as learning and assessment opportunities. DIMEs will assess not only whether students understand NGSS science and engineering concepts, but also whether they can use them in the context of real-world problem solving. Teachers will orchestrate DIMEs using a custom-designed teacher interface that will show student work, auto-generated assessments, and reports on each student's learning progress. This project will build on prior work on NSF-funded computer-based STEM learning environments called epistemic games. Epistemic games are computer role-playing games that have been successfully used in both undergraduate engineering courses and informal settings for K-12 populations to teach students to think like STEM professionals, thereby preparing them to solve 21st century problems. The project will create six ten-day activities, two each in Physical Science, Life Science and Earth Science units that are typically taught in middle school. An iterative research and design process is used to conduct pilot tests of the six DIMEs in local classrooms, field test a beta version of each DIME with 15 teachers and up to 1500 students in national classrooms, and then implement final versions of each DIME in research trials with 30 teachers and up to 3000 students in national classrooms. By bringing cutting-edge developments in learning science and undergraduate engineering education to middle school STEM education, the project aims to improve educational practice, and enhance assessment of learning outcomes in middle school science classroom settings.

Computer Science in Secondary Schools (CS3): Studying Context, Enactment, and Impact

This project will examine the relationships among the factors that influence the implementation of the Exploring Computer Science (ECS), a pre-Advanced Placement curriculum that prepares students for further study in computer science. This study elucidates how variation in curricular implementation influences student learning and determines not only what works, but also for whom and under what circumstances.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1418149
Funding Period: 
Fri, 08/01/2014 to Tue, 07/31/2018
Full Description: 

Computational thinking is an important set of 21st century knowledge and skills that has implications for the heavily technological world in which we live. Multiple industries indicate the under supply of those trained to be effective in the computer science workforce. In addition, there are increasing demands for broadening the participation in the computer science workforce by women and members of minority populations. SRI International will examine the relationships among the factors that influence the implementation of the Exploring Computer Science (ECS), a pre-Advanced Placement curriculum that prepares students for further study in computer science. SRI will work in partnership with the ECS curriculum developers, teachers, and the nonprofit Code.org who are involved in the scaling of ECS. This study elucidates how variation in curricular implementation influences student learning and determines not only what works, but also for whom and under what circumstances.

SRI will conduct a pilot study in which they develop, pilot, and refine measures as they recruit school districts for the implementation study. The subsequent implementation study will be a 2 year examination of curriculum enactment, teacher practice, and evidence of student learning. Because no comparable curriculum currently exists, the study will examine the conditions needed to implement the ECS curriculum in ways that improve student computational thinking outcomes rather than determine whether the ECS curriculum is more effective than other CS-related curricula. The study will conduct two kinds of analyses: 1) an analysis of the influence of ECS on student learning gains, and 2) an analysis of the relationship between classroom-level implementation and student learning gains. Because of the clustered nature of the data (students nested within classrooms nested within schools), the project will use hierarchical linear modeling to examine the influence of the curriculum.

Bio-Sphere: Fostering Deep Learning of Complex Biology for Building our Next Generation's Scientists

The goal of this project is to help middle school students, particularly in rural and underserved areas, develop deep scientific knowledge and knowledge of the practices and routines of science. Research teams will develop an innovative learning environment called Bio-Sphere, which will foster learning of complex science issues through hands-on design and engineering.

Award Number: 
1418044
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

Today's citizens face profound questions in science. Preparing future generations of scientists is crucial if the United States is to remain competitive in a technology-focused economy. The biological sciences are of particular importance for addressing some of today's complex problems, such as sustainability and food production, biofuels, and carbon dioxide and its effect on our environment. Although knowledge in the life sciences is of critical importance, this is an area in which there are significantly fewer studies examining students' conceptions than in physics and chemistry. The goal of this project is to help middle school students, particularly in rural and underserved areas, develop deep scientific knowledge and knowledge of the practices and routines of science. A major strength of Bio-Sphere is the inclusion of hands-on design and engineering in biology, a field in which there are fewer instances of curricula that integrate engineering design at the middle school level. The units will enable an in-depth, cohesive understanding of science content, and Bio-Sphere will be disseminated nationally and internationally through proactive outreach to teachers as well as scholarly publications.

This project addresses the need to inculcate deep learning of complex science by bringing complex socio-scientific issues into middle school classrooms, and providing students with instructional materials that allow them to practice science as scientists do. Research teams will develop, iteratively refine and evaluate an innovative learning environment called Bio-Sphere. Bio-Sphere combines the strengths of hands-on design and engineering, engages students in the practices of science, and fosters learning of complex science issues, especially among underserved populations. Each Bio-Sphere unit presents a complex science issue in the form of a design challenge that students solve by conducting experiments, using visualizations in an electronic textbook, and connecting with the community. The units, aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, provide greater coherence, continuity, and sustained instruction focused on uncovering and integrating key ideas over long periods of time. The project will follow a design-based research methodology. In Phase 1, the Bio-Sphere materials will be developed. Phase 2 will consist of studies in Wisconsin schools to generate existence proofs, i.e., examining enactments with respect to the designed objectives to understand how a design works. Phase 3 studies will focus on practical implementation: how to bring this innovative design to life in very different classroom contexts and without the everyday support of the design team, and will be conducted in rural schools in Alabama and North Carolina.

Assessing Student Engagement in Math and Science in Middle School: Classroom, Family, and Peer Effects on Engagement

The project will use a comprehensive mixed methods design to develop theoretically-grounded measures of student engagement in middle school math and science classes that reflect a multidimensional construct within an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse sample of urban youth. The project conceptualizes student engagement as a multidimensional construct including behavioral, emotional, and cognitive components. This multidimensional perspective of student engagement provides a rich characterization of how students act, feel, and think.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1315943
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2013 to Thu, 08/31/2017
Full Description: 

The proposed project uses a comprehensive mixed methods design to develop theoretically-grounded measures of student engagement in middle school math and science classes that reflect a multidimensional construct within an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse sample of urban youth. The project conceptualizes student engagement as a multidimensional construct including behavioral, emotional, and cognitive components. This multidimensional perspective of student engagement provides a rich characterization of how students act, feel, and think. The project has three aims which are to 1) develop reliable and valid measures of student engagement in middle school math and science classes for the use of teachers and researchers; 2) field test and validate these measures of student engagement in math and science classes; and 3) test a) whether classroom, peer, and family characteristics predict student engagement in math and science classes, which in turn, predicts their course enrollment patterns, academic achievement, and educational and career aspirations in math and science and b) whether these associations differ by gender, race, and socioeconomic status.

To meet these goals, the proposed project includes two studies. In study 1, twenty-five middle school students and 10 math and 10 science teachers participate in focus groups and individual interviews to inform the development of survey instruments in fulfillment of Aim 1. In study 2, 450 middle school students and their teachers and parents participate in a field study to test the psychometric quality of the newly developed instruments in fulfillment of Aims 2 and 3. The sample is recruited from four middle schools located in a socioeconomically and ethnically diverse community. Data to be collected includes information on math and science course enrollment, performance, educational and career aspirations, student engagement in math and science, and support from teachers, peers, and parents.

This project develops easily-administered and psychometrically sound instruments for teachers and researchers to assess student engagement in math and science classes, so they can identify groups of students who are at risk for disengagement and potentially turning away from STEM careers as a first step towards designing appropriate school interventions. It is anticipated that the project findings provide research-based solutions to some of the specific behaviors that influence youth motivation in math and science. Specifically, the project identifies family, peer, and classroom predictors and educational outcomes of student engagement in math and science classes that are amenable to future interventions, as well as examines differences in the relations between context, engagement, and educational outcomes by gender, race, and socioeconomic status. The study also yields information that can directly and immediately support teachers in the partner school districts to enhance the quality of math and science education. As findings are disseminated to math and science teachers, they are able to develop effective strategies to promote student engagement in math and science. This multidimensional approach will advance current scholarship and practice concerning middle school students' pursuit of math and science related fields.

Integrating Quality Talk Professional Development to Enhance Professional Vision and Leadership for STEM Teachers in High-Need Schools

This project expands and augments a currently-funded NSF Noyce Track II teacher recruitment and retention grant with Quality Talk (QT), an innovative, scalable teacher-facilitated discourse model. Over the course of four years, the work will address critical needs in physics and chemistry education in 10th through 12th grade classrooms by strengthening the capacity of participating teachers to design and implement lessons that support effective dialogic interactions.

Award Number: 
1316347
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/15/2013 to Fri, 06/30/2017
Full Description: 

This project expands and augments a currently-funded NSF Noyce Track II teacher recruitment and retention grant with Quality Talk (QT), an innovative, scalable teacher-facilitated discourse model. It is hypothesized that the QT model will enhance pre- and in-service secondary teachers' development of professional vision and leadership skills necessary for 21st century STEM education. Over the course of four years, the work will address critical needs in physics and chemistry education in 10th through 12th grade classrooms in five of Georgia's high-need school districts by strengthening the capacity of participating teachers to design and implement lessons that support effective dialogic interactions. As a result of such interactions, students' scientific literacy will be enhanced, including their ability to participate in content-rich discourse (i.e., QT) through effective disciplinary critical-analytic thinking and epistemic cognition. The contributions of this project, beyond the tangible benefits for teacher and student participants, include the development, refinement, and dissemination of an effective QT intervention and professional developmental framework that the entire science education community can use to promote scientific literacy and understanding.

The project goals are being achieved through a series of three studies employing complementary methods and data sources, and a focus upon dissemination of the model in the final project year. The first two years of the project focus on developing and refining the curricular and intervention efficacy materials using design-based research methods. In Year 3, the project engages in a quasi-experimental study of the refined QT model, followed by further refinements before disseminating the materials both within Georgia and throughout the national science education community in Year 4. Quantitative measures of teacher and student discourse and knowledge, as well as video-coding and qualitative investigations of intervention efficacy, are being analyzed using multiple methods. In collaboration with, but independent from project staff and stakeholders, the participatory and responsive evaluation utilizes a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods to conduct formative and summative evaluation.

Over the course of four years, the project will involve the participation of approximately 32 teachers in Georgia whose students include substantive percentages from populations underrepresented in the STEM fields. In addition to advancing their own students' scientific literacy, these participating teachers receive professional development on how to train other teachers, outside of the project, in using QT to promote scientific literacy. Further, the project will conduct a QT Summit for educational stakeholders and non-participant teachers to disseminate the intervention and professional development model. Finally, the project team will disseminate the findings widely to applied and scholarly communities through a website with materials and PD information (http://www.qualitytalk.org), professional journals, conferences, and NSF's DRK-12 Resource Network. This project, with its focus on teacher leadership and the pedagogical content knowledge necessary to use discourse to promote student science literacy, significantly advances the nation's goals of producing critical consumers and producers of scientific knowledge.

Promoting Students' Spatial Thinking in Upper Elementary Grades using Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

This project explores the potential for enhancing students' interest and ability in STEM disciplines by broadening fourth grade students' understanding and interest in the spatial perspectives inherent in geography and other science disciplines. The project tests a set of hypotheses that posit that the use of GIS in the classroom results in a measureable improvement in students' spatial reasoning and motivation.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316660
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2013 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

This project explores the potential for enhancing students' interest and ability in STEM disciplines by broadening fourth grade students' understanding and interest in the spatial perspectives inherent in geography and other science disciplines. The study incorporates the latest developments in the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) within the classroom. The project tests a set of hypotheses that posit that the use of GIS in the classroom results in a measureable improvement in students' spatial reasoning and motivation. Geography teachers in elementary schools are trained to use GIS software to create digital maps specific to the subject matter and projects on which their students work. Students then work in small collaborative groups and engage in open discussions designed to enhance the development and use of their spatial and multi-step causal reasoning.

GIS has been used in middle and high school settings. This project introduces GIS to upper elementary grades particularly to allow students an early opportunity to be involved in meaningful data and map-driven activities to promote their spatial skills. The proposal team predicts that the traditional gap between girls and boys in spatial skills will shrink with training thus will be strongly pronounced in the experimental relative to control groups. The project documents the effectiveness of instructional practices that are likely to enhance multistep reasoning, systems thinking, conceptual and spatial understanding, and motivation for learning while learning to work with maps to solve problems involving geography and ecological awareness. The project develops instructional methods that incorporate innovative tools for promoting problem solving to address real-life issues in this increasingly technology-driven era. The innovative tool is open-source and designed for professionals, but it can be modified to be child-friendly. Classroom activities are integrated with science and social studies curricula and content standards. Teachers are expected to find the curriculum attractive and easy to implement.

QuEST: Quality Elementary Science Teaching

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

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

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

Testing a Professional Development Model for High School Science Reform and the Relationship of Key Variables to Student Achievement

This project tests the efficacy of an intensive, three year professional development program, the BSCS National Academy for Curriculum Leadership (NACL) on student science achievement in the state of Washington. The goal of the NACL is to develop the capacity of district-based secondary science leadership teams to sustain the implementation of research-based science instructional materials that promote improvement in teaching and learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316202
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/15/2013 to Mon, 08/31/2015
Full Description: 

This project conducted by the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study(BSCS) tests the efficacy of an intensive, three year professional development program, the BSCS National Academy for Curriculum Leadership (NACL) on student science achievement in the state of Washington. The goal of the NACL is to develop the capacity of district-based secondary science leadership teams to sustain the implementation of research-based science instructional materials that promote improvement in teaching and learning. This study examines the influence of the program on student achievement after the schools and districts have had sufficient time for the effects to take hold.

The project uses existing data gathered from two cohorts of Washington-based NACL teams and archived student achievement data from Washington State?s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). Additional data are collected NACL-participating districts and personnel through surveys and interviews. The project compares student achievement between the 27 districts that participated in the NACL, and a minimum of 27 carefully matched, non-NACL districts using propensity-scoring methodology. Districts have experienced different dosages of the NACL, and the project examines the differential effects of being involved in the NACL over time.

This research study provides an opportunity for multiple stakeholders including NSF, other corporate foundations that have funded the development and implementation of the NACL, BSCS, and participating school districts to determine the extent to which professional development promotes the improvement student science achievement results. The broader impact of the research is testing the extent to which basic elements of teacher professional development models correlate with student achievement and to do so in a way that could be replicated by others in similar contexts. The proposed work would inform educators about the research-based approaches to professional development that has evidence of efficacy. Moreover, by determining the time-scales by which professional development programs might be shown to influence student achievement, the findings provide new information to policymakers and researchers regarding the amount of time that could be required to see a positive impact from new educational policies and programs.

CAREER: Scaffolding Engineering Design to Develop Integrated STEM Understanding with WISEngineering

The development of six curricular projects that integrate mathematics based on the Common Core Mathematics Standards with science concepts from the Next Generation Science Standards combined with an engineering design pedagogy is the focus of this CAREER project.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1253523
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2013 to Sun, 06/30/2019
Full Description: 

The development of six curricular projects that integrate mathematics based on the Common Core Mathematics Standards with science concepts from the Next Generation Science Standards combined with an engineering design pedagogy is the focus of this DRK-12 CAREER project from the University of Virginia. Research on the learning sciences with a focus on a knowledge integration perspective of helping students build and retain connections among normative and relevant ideas and existing knowledge structures the development of the WiseEngineering learning environment, an online learning management system that scaffolds engineering design projects. WiseEngineering provides support for students and teachers to conduct engineering design projects in middle and high school settings. Dynamic virtualizations that enable learners to observe and experiment with phenomena are combined with knowledge integration patterns to structure a technology rich learning environments for students. The research focuses on the ways in which metacognition, namely self-knowledge and self-regulation interact with learning in these technology-enhanced environments.Embedded assessments and student pre and post-testing of key science and mathematics constructs provide evidence of the development of student understanding.A rubric that examines knowledge integration is used to examine the extent wo which students understand how multiple concepts interact in a given context. A mixed-methods research design will examines how students and teachers in middle school mathematics and science courses develop understanding of the underlying principles in STEM. The PI of this award has integrated research and education in this proposal by connecting her research on engineering design and technology-enabled learning environments with the preservice secondary education methods course that she teachs. In addition, she has folded the research into the instructional technology graduate courses of which she is the instructor.

Engineering design is a key area of the Next Generation Science Standards that requires additional curricular materials development and research on how students integrate concepts across mathematics and science to engage in these engineering practices. The technology-rich learning environment, WISEngineering, provides the context to examine how student engineering design principles evolve over time. The opportunitiy for students to provide critiques of each others' work provides the context in which to examine crucial metacognitive principles. Classroom observations and teacher interviews provides the opportunity to examine how the technology-rich engineering design learning environment integrates STEM knowledge for teachers as well as students.

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