Elementary School

Science Communities of Practice Partnership

This project will study implementation of an effective professional learning model for elementary science teachers that includes teacher leaders, administrators and university educators in a system perspective for improving science instruction in ways that make it sustainable.

Award Number: 
1813012
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project will study implementation of an effective professional learning model for elementary science teachers that includes teacher leaders, administrators and university educators in a system perspective for improving science instruction in ways that make it sustainable. The working model involves reciprocal communities of practice, which are groups of teachers, leaders and administrators that focus on practical tasks and how to achieve them across these stakeholder perspectives. The project will provide evidence about the specific components of the professional development model that support sustainable improvement in science teaching, will test the ways that teacher ownership and organizational conditions mediate instructional change, and will develop four tools for facilitating the teacher learning and the accompanying capacity building. In this way, the project will produce practical knowledge and tools necessary for other school districts nationwide to create professional learning that is tailored to their contexts and therefore sustainable.

This study posits that communication among district teachers, teacher leaders, and administrators, and a sense of ownership for improved instruction among teachers can support sustainable change. As such, it tests a model that fosters communication and ownership through three reciprocal communities of practice--one about district leadership including one teacher per school, coaches and university faculty; another about lesson study including teachers, coaches and faculty; and a third about instructional innovation including teachers and administrators, facilitated by coaches. The research design seeks to inform what the communities of practice add to the effects in a quasi-experimental study involving 72 third to fifth grade teachers and 6500 students in four urban school districts. Mixed methodologies will be used to examine shifts in science teaching over three years, testing the professional development model and the mediating roles of reform ownership and organizational conditions.

Critical Issues in Mathematics Education 2018

This conference will continue the workshop series Critical Issues in Mathematics Education (CIME). The topic for CIME 2018 will be "Access to mathematics by opening doors for students currently excluded from mathematics". The CIME workshops engage professional mathematicians, education researchers, teachers, and policy makers in discussions of issues critical to the improvement of mathematics education from the elementary grades through undergraduate years.

Award Number: 
1827412
Funding Period: 
Thu, 03/01/2018 to Thu, 02/28/2019
Full Description: 

This conference will continue the workshop series, Critical Issues in Mathematics Education (CIME) on teaching and learning mathematics, initiated by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) in 2004. The topic for CIME 2018 will be "Access to mathematics by opening doors for students currently excluded from mathematics". The CIME workshops engage professional mathematicians, education researchers, teachers, and policy makers in discussions of issues critical to the improvement of mathematics education from the elementary grades through undergraduate years. Sessions will share relevant programmatic efforts and innovative research that have been shown to maintain or increase students' engagement and interests in mathematics across K-12, undergraduate and graduate education. The sessions will focus particularly on reproducible efforts that affirm those students' identities and their diverse intellectual resources and lived experience.

The CIME workshops impact three distinct communities: research mathematicians, mathematics educators (K-16), and education researchers. Participants learn about research and development efforts that can enhance their own work and the contributions they can make to solving issues in mathematics education. Participants also connect with others concerned about those issues. This workshop will also focus on developing action plans that participants can implement once they return to their institutions. There is also a focus on recruitment of leaders of mathematics departments, teachers, and other leaders in mathematics education across K-12, undergraduate education and graduate education in order to examine systemic changes that can be made to increase access, engagement, and interest in mathematics.

Highly Adaptive Science Simulations for Accessible STEM Education

This project will research, design, and develop adaptive accessibility features for interactive science simulations. The proposed research will lay the foundation that advances the accessibility of complex interactives for learning and contribute to solutions to address the significant disparity in science achievement between students with and without disabilities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1814220
Funding Period: 
Sun, 04/15/2018 to Wed, 03/31/2021
Full Description: 

This project will research, design, and develop adaptive accessibility features for interactive science simulations. The proposed research will lay the foundation that advances the accessibility of complex interactives for learning and contribute to solutions to address the significant disparity in science achievement between students with and without disabilities. The PhET Interactive Simulations project at the University of Colorado Boulder and collaborators at Georgia Tech, with expertise in accessible technology and design, will form the project team. The project team will conduct design-based implementation research, where adaptive accessibility features for interactive science simulations are developed through co-design with students with disabilities and their teachers. Students will include those with dyslexia, visual impairments or blindness, and students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, ranging from 5th grade through high school, and recent high school graduates. The adaptive accessibility features will be implemented within a set of PhET interactive science simulations, and allow students with disabilities to access the science simulations with alternative input devices (such as keyboards, switches, and sip-and-puff devices), alter the visual display of the simulations (changing color contrast, zoom and enlarge, and simplify), hear different auditory representations of the visual display (descriptions, sonification, and text-to-speech), and control the rate of simulated events. All features will be capable of being turned on or off and modified on-the-fly by teachers or students through a global control panel that includes curated feature sets, resulting in highly flexible, highly accessible, interactive learning resources.

PhET simulations are widely used in US classrooms, evidence-based, aligned with standards, and highly engaging and effective learning resources. With the proposed highly adaptive features and supporting resources, teachers will be able to quickly adapt the PhET simulations to meet the needs of many students with disabilities, simplifying the task of creating differentiated learning opportunities for students and supporting students with disabilities to engage in collaborative learning - a foundational component of a high-quality STEM education - alongside their non-disabled peers. To research, design, and develop the adaptive features and investigate their use by students, project team members will co-teach in classrooms with students with disabilities and conduct co-design activities with students, where students engage in design thinking to help design and refine the adaptive features to meet identified accessibility needs (their own and those of their peers). In addition, interviews with individual students with and without disabilities will also be conducted, to test early prototypes of individual features, to later refine the layering of the many different features, and to ensure the presence of adaptive features does not negatively impact traditional use of the simulations. The proposed work also includes surveys of teachers and students and analysis of teacher use, to refine global control features, develop curated feature sets, and develop supporting teacher resources. The project will address key questions at the heart of educational design for students with diverse needs, including how to make adaptive features that support student achievement of specific learning goals. The project will use design-based implementation research, with significant co-designing with students with disabilities (including visual impairments, cognitive disabilities, or dyslexia), interviews, case studies, and classroom implementation to design and evaluate the accessibility features. This will inform new models and theories of learning with technology. The project will investigate: 1) How students engage with, use, and learn from adaptive accessibility features, 2) how adaptive accessibility features can be designed to layer harmoniously together in a learning resource, and 3) how to effectively support access to rich, dynamic feature controls and curated feature sets for intuitive classroom use by students and teachers. The project will produce 8 PhET simulations with adaptive accessibility features and supporting teacher resources. The foundational research knowledge will result in effective design and implementation of adaptive accessibility features through the analysis of student engagement, usability, and learning from accessible simulations. Additionally, the project will provide technical infrastructure, exemplars, and software for use by other STEM education technology developers. The project team will work together to create a deep understanding of how to design adaptive science simulations with practical, usable, effective accessibility, so that learners with diverse needs can advance their science content knowledge and participate in science practices alongside their peers. The work has great potential to transform STEM learning for students with disabilities and to make simulations more effective for all learners. Results will provide insight into the effectiveness of accessible simulation-based activities and their corresponding teacher materials in engaging students in science practices and learning in the classroom.

Improving Multi-Dimensional Assessment and Instruction: Building and Sustaining Elementary Science Teachers' Capacity through Learning Communities (Collaborative Research: Lehman)

The main goal of this project is to better understand how to build and sustain the capacity of elementary science teachers in grades 3-5 to instruct and formatively assess students in ways that are aligned with contemporary science education frameworks and standards. To achieve this goal, the project will use classroom-based science assessment as a focus around which to build teacher capacity in science instruction and three-dimensional learning in science.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813938
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/01/2018 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Full Description: 

This is an Early-Stage Design and Development collaborative effort submitted to the assessment strand of the Discovery Research PreK-12 (DRK-12) Program. Its main goal is to better understand how to build and sustain the capacity of elementary science teachers in grades 3-5 to instruct and formatively assess students in ways that are aligned with contemporary science education frameworks and standards. To achieve this goal, the project will use classroom-based science assessment as a focus around which to build teacher capacity in science instruction and three-dimensional learning in science. The three dimensions will include disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts. These dimensions are described in the Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council; NRC, 2012), and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; NGSS Lead States, 2013). The project will work closely with teachers to co-develop usable assessments and rubrics and help them to learn about three-dimensional assessment and instruction. Also, the project will work with teachers to test the developed assessments in diverse settings, and to create an active, online community of practice.

The two research questions will be: (1) How well do these assessments function with respect to aspects of validity for classroom use, particularly in terms of indicators of student proficiency, and tools to support teacher instructional practice?; and (2) In what ways do providing these assessment tasks and rubrics, and supporting teachers in their use, advance teachers' formative assessment practices to support multi-dimensional science instruction? The research and development components of this project will produce assessments and rubrics, which can directly impact students and teachers in the districts and states that have adopted the NGSS, as well as those that have embraced the vision of science teaching and learning embodied in the NRC Framework. The project will consist of five major tasks. First, the effort will iteratively develop assessments and rubrics for formative use, using an evidence-centered design approach. Second, it will collect data from evidence-based revision and redesign of the assessments from teachers piloting the assessments and rubrics, project cognitive laboratory studies with students, and an external review of the assessments design products. Third, it will study teachers' classroom use of assessments to understand and document how they blend assessment and instruction. The project will use pre/post questionnaires, video recordings, observation field notes, and pre/post interviews. Fourth, the study will build the capacity of participating teachers. Teacher Collaborators (n=9) will engage in participatory design of the assessment tasks and act as technical assistants to the overall implementation process. Teacher Implementers (n=15) will use the assessments formatively as part of their instructional practice. Finally, the work will develop a community of learners through the development of a technical assistance infrastructure, and leveraging teacher expertise to formatively assess students' work, using the assessments designed to be diagnostic and instructionally informative. External reviewers and an advisory board will provide formative feedback on the project's processes and summative evaluation of the project's results. The main outcomes of this endeavor will be prototypes of elementary science multi-dimensional assessments and new knowledge for the field on the underlying theory for developing teachers' capacity for engaging in multi-dimensional science instruction, learning, and assessment.

Improving Multi-Dimensional Assessment and Instruction: Building and Sustaining Elementary Science Teachers' Capacity through Learning Communities (Collaborative Research: Pellegrino)

The main goal of this project is to better understand how to build and sustain the capacity of elementary science teachers in grades 3-5 to instruct and formatively assess students in ways that are aligned with contemporary science education frameworks and standards. To achieve this goal, the project will use classroom-based science assessment as a focus around which to build teacher capacity in science instruction and three-dimensional learning in science.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813737
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/01/2018 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Full Description: 

This is an Early-Stage Design and Development collaborative effort submitted to the assessment strand of the Discovery Research PreK-12 (DRK-12) Program. Its main goal is to better understand how to build and sustain the capacity of elementary science teachers in grades 3-5 to instruct and formatively assess students in ways that are aligned with contemporary science education frameworks and standards. To achieve this goal, the project will use classroom-based science assessment as a focus around which to build teacher capacity in science instruction and three-dimensional learning in science. The three dimensions will include disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts. These dimensions are described in the Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council; NRC, 2012), and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; NGSS Lead States, 2013). The project will work closely with teachers to co-develop usable assessments and rubrics and help them to learn about three-dimensional assessment and instruction. Also, the project will work with teachers to test the developed assessments in diverse settings, and to create an active, online community of practice.

The two research questions will be: (1) How well do these assessments function with respect to aspects of validity for classroom use, particularly in terms of indicators of student proficiency, and tools to support teacher instructional practice?; and (2) In what ways do providing these assessment tasks and rubrics, and supporting teachers in their use, advance teachers' formative assessment practices to support multi-dimensional science instruction? The research and development components of this project will produce assessments and rubrics, which can directly impact students and teachers in the districts and states that have adopted the NGSS, as well as those that have embraced the vision of science teaching and learning embodied in the NRC Framework. The project will consist of five major tasks. First, the effort will iteratively develop assessments and rubrics for formative use, using an evidence-centered design approach. Second, it will collect data from evidence-based revision and redesign of the assessments from teachers piloting the assessments and rubrics, project cognitive laboratory studies with students, and an external review of the assessments design products. Third, it will study teachers' classroom use of assessments to understand and document how they blend assessment and instruction. The project will use pre/post questionnaires, video recordings, observation field notes, and pre/post interviews. Fourth, the study will build the capacity of participating teachers. Teacher Collaborators (n=9) will engage in participatory design of the assessment tasks and act as technical assistants to the overall implementation process. Teacher Implementers (n=15) will use the assessments formatively as part of their instructional practice. Finally, the work will develop a community of learners through the development of a technical assistance infrastructure, and leveraging teacher expertise to formatively assess students' work, using the assessments designed to be diagnostic and instructionally informative. External reviewers and an advisory board will provide formative feedback on the project's processes and summative evaluation of the project's results. The main outcomes of this endeavor will be prototypes of elementary science multi-dimensional assessments and new knowledge for the field on the underlying theory for developing teachers' capacity for engaging in multi-dimensional science instruction, learning, and assessment.

Moving Beyond Pedagogy: Developing Elementary Teachers' Adaptive Expertise in Using the Epistemic Complexity of Science

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) emphasize the integration of scientific knowledge and the practices of science, a recognition that science classrooms are complex learning environments. Meeting this expectation requires teachers to move beyond traditional routines of practice to become adaptive experts who can adjust their teaching to maximize learning in varied classroom situations.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1812576
Funding Period: 
Tue, 05/15/2018 to Sat, 04/30/2022
Full Description: 

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) emphasize the integration of scientific knowledge and the practices of science, a recognition that science classrooms are complex learning environments. Meeting this expectation requires teachers to move beyond traditional routines of practice to become adaptive experts who can adjust their teaching to maximize learning in varied classroom situations. A teacher who has adaptive expertise is defined as someone who can self-assess and strategically adjust decision-making before, during and after teaching episodes. To become adaptive experts, teachers must understand the foundational ways that scientific knowledge is advanced and develop knowledge of, and practices related to, using argument, language, and dialogical environments--individually and collectively--as tools for learning science. To effectively use these tools requires teachers to shift from viewing science teaching as the transfer or replication of knowledge through routines of practices to one in which students are participants in a more cognitively based approach to learning. How teachers develop adaptive expertise for NGSS-aligned learning environments is still little understood. This project will examine the complex nature of the relationship between these learning tools and teacher orientation that enables teachers to develop adaptive expertise over the course of a multi-year professional development program.

The project will work with 150 Grade 3-5 teachers in Iowa and Alabama to implement a three-year professional development program to assist teachers develop adaptive expertise. Through implementation of an argument-based inquiry approach focused on development of adaptiveness, teachers will be supported as they shift their expertise from routine to adaptiveness. Project data will include teachers' implementation of the approach, their understanding of science argument, and their shifting epistemic orientation. The project will examine selected case studies of teachers to better understand the variations in development of adaptive expertise. The project outcome will be a model of adaptive expertise that can be used by in-service and pre-service educators to advance teacher practices towards adaptive expertise. The aim is to design ways to transfer adaptive expertise to students in STEM. The mixed-method project will integrate analyses with a focus on understanding complexity, using large-scale quantitative data.

CAREER: Supporting Elementary Science Teaching and Learning by Integrating Uncertainty Into Classroom Science Investigations

The goal of this study is to improve elementary science teaching and learning by developing, testing, and refining a framework and set of tools for strategically incorporating forms of uncertainty central to scientists' sense-making into students' empirical learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1749324
Funding Period: 
Fri, 06/01/2018 to Wed, 05/31/2023
Full Description: 

The goal of this study will be to improve elementary science teaching and learning by developing, testing, and refining a framework and set of tools for strategically incorporating forms of uncertainty central to scientists' sense-making into students' empirical learning. The framework will rest on the notion that productive uncertainty should be carefully built into students' empirical learning experiences in order to support their engagement in scientific practices and understanding of disciplinary ideas. To re-conceptualize the role of empirical investigations, the study will focus on the transitions between the experiences and processes students seek to understand, classroom investigations, evidence, and explanatory models as opportunities for sense-making, and how uncertainty can be built into these transitions. The project's underlying assumption is that carefully implementing these forms of uncertainty will help curriculum developers and teachers avoid the oversimplified investigations that are prevalent in K-8 classrooms that stand in stark contrast to authentic science learning and the recommendations of the Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council, 2012). Accordingly, the project will seek to develop curriculum design guidelines, teacher tools, professional development supports, and four elaborated investigations, including sets of lessons, videos, and assessments that embed productive uncertainty for second and fifth graders and designed for use with linguistically, culturally, and socio-economically diverse students.

The hypothesis of this work is that if specific forms of scientific uncertainty are carefully selected, and if teachers can implement these forms of uncertainty, elementary students will have more robust opportunities to develop disciplinary practices and ideas in ways consistent with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) (Lead States, 2013). Employing Design-Based Research, the three research questions will be: (1) What opportunities for sense-making do elementary school empirical investigations afford where we might strategically build uncertainty?; (2) How can we design learning environments where uncertainty in empirical investigations supports opportunities for learning?; and (3) In classrooms with sustained opportunities to engage with uncertainty in empirical investigations, what progress do students make in content understandings and the practices of argumentation, explanation, and investigation? The work will consist of three design cycles: Design Cycle 1 will involve two small groups of six teachers in adapting their curricula to incorporate uncertainty, then describe how students engage around uncertainty in empirical investigations. Design Cycle 2 will involve the same small groups in implementing and refining task structures, tools, and teacher instructional strategies. In Design Cycle 3, teachers and researchers will further refine lesson materials, assessments, and supports. The project will partner with one school district and engage in design research with groups of teachers to develop: (1) a research-based description, with exemplars of opportunities for student sense-making within empirical investigations at both early and upper elementary grades; (2) a set of design principles and tools that allow teachers to elicit and capitalize on sense-making about uncertainty in investigations; and (3) four elementary investigations elaborated to incorporate and exemplify the first two products above. These materials will be disseminated through a website, and established networks for supporting implementation of the NGSS. An advisory board will oversee project progress and conduct both formative and summative evaluation.

Developing and Validating Assessments to Measure and Build Elementary Teachers' Content Knowledge for Teaching about Matter and Its Interactions within Teacher Education Settings (Collaborative Research: Hanuscin)

The fundamental purpose of this project is to examine and gather initial validity evidence for assessments designed to measure and build kindergarten-fifth grade science teachers' content knowledge for teaching (CKT) about matter and its interactions in teacher education settings.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1814275
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/01/2018 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Full Description: 

This is an Early-Stage Design and Development collaborative effort submitted to the assessment strand of the Discovery Research PreK-12 (DRK-12) Program. Its fundamental purpose is to examine and gather initial validity evidence for assessments designed to measure and build kindergarten-fifth grade science teachers' content knowledge for teaching (CKT) about matter and its interactions in teacher education settings. The selection of this topic will facilitate the development of a proof-of-concept to determine if and how CKT assessments can be developed and used to measure and build elementary teachers' CKT. Also, it will facilitate rapid and targeted refinement of an evidence-centered design process that could be applied to other science topics. Plans are to integrate CKT assessments and related resources into teacher education courses to support the ability of teachers to apply their content knowledge to the work of teaching and learning science. The project will combine efforts from prior projects and engage in foundational research to examine the nature of teachers' CKT and to build theories and hypotheses about the productive use and design of CKT assessment materials to support formative and summative uses. Likewise, the project will create a set of descriptive cases highlighting the use of these tools. Understanding how CKT science assessments can be leveraged as summative tools to evaluate current efforts, and as formative tools to build elementary teachers' specialized, practice-based knowledge will be the central foci of this effort.

The main research questions will be: (1) What is the nature of elementary science teachers' CKT about matter and its interactions?; and (2) How can the development of prospective elementary teachers' CKT be supported within teacher education? To address the research questions, the study will employ a mixed-methods, design-based research approach to gather various sources of validity evidence to support the formative and summative use of the CKT instrument, instructional tasks, and supporting materials. The project will be organized around two main research and development strands. Strand One will build an empirically grounded understanding of the nature of elementary teachers' CKT. Strand Two will focus on developing and studying how CKT instructional tasks can be used formatively within teacher education settings to build elementary teachers' CKT. In addition, the project will refine a conceptual framework that identifies the science-specific teaching practices that comprise the work of teaching science. This will be used as well to assess the CKT that teachers leverage when recognizing, understanding, and responding to the content-intensive practices that they engage in as they teach science. To that end, the study will build on two existing frameworks from prior NSF-funded work. The first was originally developed to create CKT assessments for elementary and middle school teachers in English Language Arts and mathematics. The second focuses on the content challenges that novice elementary science teachers face. It is organized by the instructional tools and practices that elementary science teachers use, such as scientific models and explanations. These instructional practices cut across those addressed in the Next Generation Science Standards' (NGSS; Lead States, 2013) disciplinary strands. The main project's outcomes will be knowledge that builds and refines theories about the nature of elementary teachers' CKT, and how CKT elementary science assessment materials can be designed productively for formative and summative purposes. The project will also result in the development of a suite of valid and reliable assessments that afford interpretations on CKT matter proficiency and can be used to monitor elementary teachers learning. An external advisory board will provide formative and summative feedback on the project's activities and progress.

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