Student Attitudes/Beliefs

Developing Critical Evaluation as a Scientific Habit of Mind: Instructional Scaffolds for Secondary Earth and Space Sciences

This exploratory project develops and tests graphical scaffolds which facilitate high school students' coordination of connecting evidence with alternative explanations of particular phenomena, as well as their collaborative argumentation about these phenomena. At the same time, the project examines how high school students use these tools to construct scientifically accurate conceptions about major topics in Earth and space sciences and deepens their abilities to be critically evaluative in the process of scientific inquiry.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316057
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2013 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

This exploratory project develops and tests graphical scaffolds, called model-evidence link (MEL) activities, which facilitate high school students' coordination of connecting evidence with alternative explanations of particular Earth and space sciences phenomena, as well as their collaborative argumentation about these phenomena. At the same time, the project examines how high school students use these tools to construct scientifically accurate conceptions about major topics in Earth and space sciences and deepens their abilities to be critically evaluative in the process of scientific inquiry. The project's research questions are: (1) how does year-long instruction using MEL activities change high school students' critical evaluation abilities; (2) how does use of critical evaluation promote judgment reappraisals about Earth and space science topics with large plausibility gaps; and (3) to what extent does promotion of plausibility reappraisal lead to high school students' construction and reconstruction of scientifically accurate conceptions about fundamental concepts in Earth and space sciences? The project develops three MEL activities that focus on important topics in Earth and space sciences. The topics will be hydraulic fracturing, wetlands, and lunar origin. These MELs were selected because they align with major topical units in Earth and space science (i.e., geology, water resources, and astronomy, respectively).

The project develops effective instructional tools (the MEL activities to stimulate collaborative argumentation) designed to increase high school students' critical evaluation abilities that that are central for fully engaging in these scientific and engineering practices and constructing scientifically accurate understanding. Science topics require students to effectively evaluate connections with evidence and alternative explanations. The development of MEL activities that cover major Earth and space sciences topics will assist teachers in increasing their students' critical evaluation abilities. These tools are developed in geographically diverse settings, including one school district with a Hispanic majority, to gauge their effectiveness in helping all students. Furthermore, the design-based research methods employed in the proposed study are focused on developing tools that can be easily integrated into a variety of science curricula to supplement and reinforce scientific and engineering practices, rather than wholesale replacement. The ability to be critically evaluative is essential for developing a society that characteristically exhibits scientific habits of mind and is equipped to deal with future challenges in a way that is beneficial to our nation.

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.

Engineering for All (EfA)

This project creates, tests and revises two-six week prototypical modules for middle school technology education classes, using the unifying themes and important social contexts of food and water. The modules employ engineering design as the core pedagogy and integrate content and practices from the standards for college and career readiness.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316601
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/15/2013 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

The Engineering for All project creates, tests and revises two-six week prototypical modules for middle school technology education classes, using the unifying themes and important social contexts of food and water. The modules employ engineering design as the core pedagogy and integrate content and practices from the standards for college and career readiness. Embedded assessments are developed and tested to make student learning visible to both teachers and students. Professional development for a limited group of teachers is used to increase their knowledge of engineering design and to test instruments being developed to measure (a) student and teacher capacity to employ informed design practices and (b) teacher design pedagogical content knowledge.

The project leadership is experienced at creating materials for engineering and technology and in providing professional development for teachers. The assessments and instruments are created by educational researchers. The advisory board includes engineers, science and engineering educators, and educational researchers to guide the development of the modules, the assessments and the instruments. An external evaluator reviews the protocols and their implementation.

This project has the potential to provide exemplary materials and assessments for engineering/technology education that address standards, change teacher practice, and increase the capacity of the engineering/technology education community to do research.

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.

Enhancing Teaching and Learning with Social Media: Supporting Teacher Professional Learning and Student Scientific Argumentation

This exploratory proposal is researching and developing professional learning activities to help high school teachers use available and emerging social media to teach scientific argumentation. The project responds to the growing emphasis on scientific argumentation in new standards.

Award Number: 
1316799
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2013 to Mon, 07/31/2017
Full Description: 

This exploratory proposal is researching and developing professional learning activities to help high school teachers use available and emerging social media to teach scientific argumentation. The project responds to the growing emphasis on scientific argumentation in new standards. Participants include a team of ninth and tenth grade Life Science teachers collaborating as co-researchers with project staff in a design study to develop one socially mediated science unit. It also produces strategies, tools and on-line materials to support teachers' development of the pedagogical, content, and technological knowledge needed to integrate emerging technologies into science instruction. This project focuses on the flexible social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that students frequently use in their everyday lives. Research questions explore the technology of social media and the pedagogy needed to support student engagement in scientific argumentation. The Year Three pilot analyses provide data on the professional learning model. The project provides a basis for scale-up with this instructional and professional learning model to other core science content, cross-cutting themes, and STEM practices.

CAREER: Reciprocal Noticing: Latino/a Students and Teachers Constructing Common Resources in Mathematics

The goal of this project is to extend the theoretical and methodological construct of noticing to develop the concept of reciprocal noticing, a process by which teacher and student noticing are shared. The researcher argues that through reciprocal noticing the classroom can become the space for more equitable mathematics learning, particularly for language learners.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1253822
Funding Period: 
Wed, 05/15/2013 to Mon, 04/30/2018
Full Description: 

The goal of this project is to extend the theoretical and methodological construct of noticing to develop the concept of reciprocal noticing, a process by which teacher and student noticing are shared. The researcher argues that through reciprocal noticing the classroom can become the space for more equitable mathematics learning, particularly for language learners. Thus, the focus of the project is on developing the concept of reciprocal noticing as a way to support better interactions between teachers and Latino/a students in elementary mathematics classrooms.

The project uses a transformative teaching experiment methodology and is guided by the initial conjectures that to make mathematics classrooms intellectually attractive places, Latino/a students and teachers need to learn to develop common resources for teaching and learning mathematics, and that reciprocal noticing as a process supports teachers and students in developing these common resources for teaching and learning mathematics. The project design centers around two research questions:How do teachers and Latino/a students tune to each other's mathematical ideas and explicitly indicate to one another how their ideas are important for discourse that promotes mathematical reasoning in classrooms characterized by reciprocal noticing? What patterns emerge across four classrooms when teachers and Latino/a students engage in reciprocal noticing?

The concept of reciprocal noticing can significantly enhance emerging research in mathematics education about the importance of teacher noticing. Further, this revised concept of noticing can transform mathematics classroom to better support English Language Learners.

The PI will incorporate project findings and videos into methods courses for preservice elementary teachers.

CAREER: Investigating Differentiated Instruction and Relationships Between Rational Number Knowledge and Algebraic Reasoning in Middle School

The proposed project initiates new research and an integrated education plan to address specific problems in middle school mathematics classrooms by investigating (1) how to effectively differentiate instruction for middle school students at different reasoning levels; and (2) how to foster middle school students' algebraic reasoning and rational number knowledge in mutually supportive ways.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1252575
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2013 to Fri, 07/31/2020
Full Description: 

Middle school mathematics classrooms are marked by increasing cognitive diversity and students' persistent difficulties in learning algebra. Currently middle school mathematics instruction in a single classroom is often not differentiated for different thinkers, which can bore some students or overly challenge others. One way schools often deal with different thinkers at the same grade level is by tracking, which has also been shown to have deleterious effects on students, both cognitively and affectively. In addition, students continue to struggle to learn algebra, and increasing numbers of middle school students are receiving algebra instruction. The proposed project initiates new research and an integrated education plan to address these problems by investigating (1) how to effectively differentiate instruction for middle school students at different reasoning levels; and (2) how to foster middle school students' algebraic reasoning and rational number knowledge in mutually supportive ways. Educational goals of the project are to enhance the abilities of prospective and practicing teachers to teach cognitively diverse students, to improve doctoral students' understanding of relationships between students' learning and teachers' practice, and to form a community of mathematics teachers committed to on-going professional learning about how to differentiate instruction.

Three research-based products are being developed: two learning trajectories, materials for differentiating instruction developed collaboratively with teachers, and a written assessment to evaluate students' levels of reasoning. The first trajectory, elaborated for students at each of three levels of reasoning, focuses on developing algebraic expressions and solving basic equations that involve rational numbers; the second learning trajectory, also elaborated for students at each of three levels of reasoning, focuses on co-variational reasoning in linear contexts. In addition, the project investigates how students' classroom experience is influenced by differentiated instruction, which will allow for comparisons with research findings on student experiences in tracked classrooms. Above all, the project enhances middle school mathematics teachers' abilities to serve cognitively diverse students. This aspect of the project has the potential to decrease opportunity gaps. Finally, the project generates an understanding of the kinds of support needed to help prospective and practicing teachers learn to differentiate instruction.

The project advances discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning by (a) integrating research into the teaching of middle school mathematics, (b) fostering the learning of all students by tailoring instruction to their cognitive needs, (c) partnering with practicing teachers to learn how to implement this kind of instruction, (d) improving the training of prospective mathematics teachers and graduate students in mathematics education, and (e) generating a community of mathematics teachers who engage in on-going learning to differentiate instruction. The project broadens participation by including students from underrepresented groups, particularly those with learning disabilities. Results from the project will be broadly disseminated via conference presentations; articles in diverse media outlets; and a project website that will make project products available, be a location for information about the project for the press and the public, and be a tool to foster teacher-to-teacher communication.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Differentiating Mathematics Instruction for Middle School

Presenter(s): Amy Hackenberg, Rebecca Borowski, Mihyun Jeon, Robin Jones, & Rob Matyska


Identifying and Measuring the Implementation and Impact of STEM School Models

The goal of this Transforming STEM Learning project is to comprehensively describe models of 20 inclusive STEM high schools in five states (California, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, and Texas), measure the factors that affect their implementation; and examine the relationships between these, the model components, and a range of student outcomes. The project is grounded in theoretical frameworks and research related to learning conditions and fidelity of implementation.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1238552
Funding Period: 
Mon, 10/01/2012 to Fri, 09/30/2016
Full Description: 

The goal of this Transforming STEM Learning project is to comprehensively describe models of 20 inclusive STEM high schools in five states (California, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, and Texas), measure the factors that affect their implementation; and examine the relationships between these, the model components, and a range of student outcomes. The project is grounded in theoretical frameworks and research related to learning conditions and fidelity of implementation.

The study employs a longitudinal, mixed-methods research design over four years. Research questions are: (1) What are the intended components of each inclusive STEM school model?; (2) What is the status of the intended components of each STEM school model?; (3) What are the contexts and conditions that contribute to and inhibit the implementation of components that comprise the STEM schools' models?; and (4) What components are most closely related to desired student outcomes in STEM schools? Data gathering strategies include: (a) analyses of school components (e.g., structures, interactions, practices); (b) measures of the actual implementation of components through teacher, school principals, and student questionnaires, observation protocols, teacher focus groups, and interviews; (c) identification of contextual conditions that contribute to or inhibit implementation using a framework inclusive of characteristics of the innovation, individual users, leadership, organization, and school environment using questionnaires and interviews; and (d) measuring student outcomes using four cohorts of 9-12 students, including standardized test assessment systems, grades, student questionnaires (e.g., students' perceptions of schools and teachers, self-efficacy), and postsecondary questionnaires. Quantitative data analysis strategies include: (a) assessment of validity and reliability of items measuring the implementation status of participating schools; (b) exploratory factor analysis to examine underlying dimensions of implementation and learning conditions; and (c) development of school profiles, and 2- and 3-level Hierarchical Linear Modeling to analyze relationships between implementation and type of school model. Qualitative data analysis strategies include:(a) descriptions of intra- and inter-school implementation and factor themes, (b) coding, and (c) narrative analysis.

Expected outcomes are: (a) research-informed characterizations of the range of inclusive STEM high school models emerging across the country; (b) identification of components of STEM high school models important for accomplishing a range of desired student achievement; (c) descriptions of contexts and conditions that promote or inhibit the implementation of innovative STEM teaching and learning; (d) instruments for measuring enactment of model components and the learning environments that affect them; and (e) methodological approaches for examining relationships between model components and student achievement.

Evaluation of the Sustainability and Effectiveness of Inquiry-Based Advanced Placement Science Courses: Evidence From an In-Depth Formative Evaluation and Randomized Controlled Study

This study examines the impact of the newly revised Advanced Placement (AP) Biology and Chemistry courses on students' understanding of and ability to utilize scientific inquiry, on students' confidence in engaging in college-level material, and on students’ enrollment and persistence in college STEM majors. The project provides estimates of the impact of students' AP-course taking on their progress into postsecondary educational experiences and their intent to continue to prepare to be future engineers and scientists.

Award Number: 
1220092
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/15/2012 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

This study examines the impact of the newly revised Advanced Placement (AP) Biology and Chemistry courses on students' understanding of and ability to apply scientific inquiry, on students' confidence in successfully engaging in college-level material, and on students enrollment and persistence in college STEM majors. AP Biology and Chemistry courses represent an important educational program that operates at a large scale across the country. The extent to which the AP curricula vary in implementation across the schools in the study is also examined to determine the range of students' opportunity to learn the disciplinary content and the knowledge and skills necessary to engage in inquiry in science. Schools that are newly implementing AP courses are participants in this research and the challenges and successes that they experience are also a component of the research plan. Researchers at the University of Washington, George Washington University and SRI International are conducting the study.

The research design for this study includes both formative components and a randomized control experiment. Formative elements include observations, interviews and surveys of teachers and students in the AP courses studied. The experimental design includes the random assignment of students to the AP offered and follows the performances of the treatment and control students in two cohorts into their matriculation into postsecondary educational experiences. Surveys measure students' experiences in the AP courses, their motivations to study AP science, the level of stress they experience in their high school coursework and their scientific inquiry skills and depth of disciplinary knowledge. The study examines the majors chosen by those students who enter into colleges and universities to ascertain the extent to which they continue in science and engineering.

This project informs educators about the challenges and successes schools encounter when they expand access to AP courses. The experiences of the teachers who will be teaching students with variable preparation inform future needs for professional development and support. The project provides estimates of the impact of students' AP-course taking on their progress into postsecondary educational experiences and their intent to continue to prepare to be future engineers and scientists. It informs policy efforts to improve the access to more rigorous advanced courses in STEM and provides strong experimental evidence of the impact of AP course taking. The project has the potential to demonstrate to educational researchers how to study an educational program that operates at scale.

Assessing Secondary Teachers' Algebraic Habits of Mind (Collaborative Research: Stevens)

This collaborative project is developing instruments to assess secondary teachers' Mathematical Habits of Mind (MHoM). These habits bring parsimony, focus, and coherence to teachers' mathematical thinking and, in turn, to their work with students. This work fits into a larger research agenda with the ultimate goal of understanding the connections between secondary teachers' mathematical knowledge for teaching and secondary students' mathematical understanding and achievement.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1222496
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/15/2012 to Sun, 07/31/2016
Full Description: 

Boston University, Education Development Center, Inc., and St. Olaf College are collaborating on Assessing Secondary Teachers' Algebraic Habits of Mind (ASTAHM) to develop instruments to assess secondary teachers' Mathematical Habits of Mind (MHoM). These habits bring parsimony, focus, and coherence to teachers' mathematical thinking and, in turn, to their work with students. MHoM is a critical component of mathematical knowledge for teaching at the secondary level. Recognizing the need for a scientific approach to investigate the ways in which MHoM is an indicator of teacher effectiveness, the partnership is researching the following questions:

1. How do teachers who engage MHoM when doing mathematics for themselves also bring MHoM to their teaching practice?

2. How are teachers' engagement with MHoM and their use of these habits in teaching related to student understanding and achievement?

To investigate these questions, ASTAHM is developing two instruments: a paper and pencil (P&P) assessment and an observation protocol that measure teachers' knowledge and classroom use, respectively, of MHoM.

The work is being conducted in two phases: (1) an instrument-refinement and learning phase, and (2) an instrument-testing and research phase. Objectives of Phase 1 are to gather data to refine the project's existing instruments and to learn about the bridge factors that impact the relationship between teachers' knowledge and classroom use of MHoM. Specific research activities include: administering the pilot P&P assessment to 40 teachers, videotaping Algebra instructions of 8 teachers, performing initial testing and refinement of the instruments, and using the data to analyze the bridge factors. Phase 2 is a large-scale study involving field-testing the P&P assessment with 200 teachers, videotaping 20 teachers and studying them using the observation protocol, collecting achievement data from 3000 students, and checking P&P content validity with 200 mathematicians. With these validated instruments in hand, the project will then conduct an investigation into the above research questions. Lesley University's Program Evaluation and Research Group (PERG) is the external evaluator. PERG is assessing ASTAHM's overall success in developing valid and reliable instruments to investigate the extent to which a relationship exists between teachers' MHoM and their classroom practice, as well as student achievement. Evaluators are also investigating whether users' coding guides for both instruments enable field-testers to effectively use and adequately score them.

This work fits into a larger research agenda with the ultimate goal of understanding the connections between secondary teachers' mathematical knowledge for teaching and secondary students' mathematical understanding and achievement. The MHoM construct is closely aligned with the Common Core State Standards-Mathematics (CCSS-M); especially its Standards for Mathematical Practice. For example, both place importance on seeking and using mathematical structure. Thus the instruments this project produces can act as pre- and post-measures of the effectiveness of professional development programs in preparing teachers to implement the CCSS-M. Mathematics teacher knowledge at the secondary level is an understudied field. Through analyses of the practices and habits of mind that teachers bring to their work, ASTAHM is developing instruments that can be used to shed light on effective secondary teaching.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Studying Teachers' Mathematical Habits of Mind

Presenter(s): Sarah Sword, Eden Badertscher, Al Cuoco, Miriam Gates, Ryota Matsuura, & Glenn Stevens

2017 STEM for All Video Showcase
Title: Assessing Secondary Teachers' Algebraic Habits of Mind

Presenter(s): Sarah Sword, Courtney Arthur, Al Cuoco, Miriam Gates, Ryota Matsuura, & Glenn Stevens

2016 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Assessing Secondary Teachers' Algebraic Habits of Mind

Presenter(s): Ryota Matsuura, Al Cuoco, Glenn Stevens, & Sarah Sword


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