High School

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.

The Spectrum Laboratory: Towards Authentic Inquiry for All

This project proposes to design, implement, and investigate the impact on students of an innovative curriculum supplement called the Spectrum Laboratory. The Spectrum Lab will be an online, interactive learning environment that enables students to make use of the database of publicly available spectra from research scientists, as well as from students.

Award Number: 
1814077
Funding Period: 
Tue, 05/01/2018 to Fri, 04/30/2021
Full Description: 

This project addresses physics, astronomy, and chemistry education at the high-school level. Spectroscopy is the single most important diagnostic tool in the sciences, and is required for inquiry at the frontiers of science across many disciplines, yet is unavailable to most classrooms. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory proposes to design, implement, and investigate the impact on students of an innovative curriculum supplement called the Spectrum Laboratory. The Spectrum Lab will be an online, interactive learning environment that enables students to make use of the database of publicly available spectra from research scientists, as well as from students. The online learning resource and associated materials are purposefully being developed and tested with a demographically diverse set of schools. The project will determine how the design of a spectroscopy workspace can help students to use spectra while gaining fluency with a range of important science practices. The project's significance and importance is to greatly increase the opportunities for high school students to engage in authentic inquiry. Being able to evaluate and interpret real-world data is a hallmark of data literacy that is developed with Spectrum Lab. Project will potentially benefit the field through advances with respect to education and diversity, and benefit society by equipping high school students with the perceptual and cognitive factors that promote students' reasoning about spectra.

The Spectrum Lab's initial design applies research-based principles recommended for educational interfaces that engage students with graphical data advancing knowledge from prior research into understanding of how students make sense of spectroscopic data and its graphical representations. The project will be developed in collaboration with partner teachers in up to eight high school classrooms, representing a diverse population of learners, and then tested with a national group of 20 teachers with 600 to 800 students. A mix of quantitative and qualitative measures, including pre/post surveys and assessments, analysis of student project work, classroom video, and teacher surveys, will help address researcher's questions about students' experiences with the Spectrum Lab. The data to be gathered will be used to iteratively improve the design of the laboratory to aid students understand the source of these authentic data coming from spectroscopy to address real-world science questions of interest and importance to them. The Spectrum Lab will enable students to engage in a broad range of inquiry projects that were previously inaccessible, including projects near the frontiers of science. The students will become involved in their authentic inquiry projects, where each activity engages them in key science practices, including generating model spectrum plots to make predictions, assessing and interpreting data, and reasoning from evidence (and models) in support of a claim. The students will be using graphs of well-documented experiments and in physics, more challenging graphs of spectra of less familiar wavelength axis. The students in chemistry will learn how to relate the bright lines observed in an atom's spectrum to energy levels of the atom.  There will be studies that track students' eye movements show that students associate the peaks or valleys of a spectrum with individual atoms in a molecule, rather than with the overall properties of the molecule. The resources developed by the project will be freely available online for teachers and researchers. The Spectrum Lab is an advance in education technology that uses modern tools for enabling interactive data visualization. Its features enable students to integrate and apply the most important elements of science practice, such as the ability to draw evidence-based conclusions, as well as the ability to gather, evaluate and interpret data, intended to help students' science practice more closely resemble how research is done. The Spectrum Lab will modernize a critical part of high-school science classrooms, help teachers meet the expectations of the Next Generation Science Standards, and will better prepare students for college work.

Strengthening Data Literacy Across the Curriculum

This project will develop a set of statistics learning materials, with data visualization tools and an applied social science focus, to design applied data investigations addressing real-world socioeconomic questions with large-scale social science data. This project is designed to promote statistical understandings and interest in quantitative data analysis among high school students and engage students with content that resonates with their interests.

Award Number: 
1813956
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/01/2018 to Wed, 06/30/2021
Full Description: 

The Strengthening Data Literacy across the Curriculum (SDLC) project seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) high school students and teachers through the development of resources, models, and tools. This project is designed to promote statistical understandings and interest in quantitative data analysis among high school students. The project will target students outside mathematics and statistics classes who seldom have opportunities formally make sense of large-scale quantitative data. The population for the initial study will be humanities/social studies and mathematics/statistics high school teachers and their classes. The focus on social justice themes are intended to engage students with content that resonates with their interests. This strategy has the potential to demonstrate ways to provide rich, meaningful statistical instruction to a population that seldom has the opportunity for such learning. By capturing students' imagination and interest with social justice themes, this project has the potential of high impact in today's society where understanding and preparing statistical reports are becoming more critical to the general populace.

This project will build on prior theory and research to develop a new set of statistics learning materials, with data visualization tools and an applied social science focus to design three 2-week applied data investigations (self-contained modules) addressing real-world socioeconomic questions with large-scale social science data. The modules will be aligned with the high school Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and key statistical content for college students. The purpose of the study is to strengthen existing theories of how to design classroom learning materials to support two primary sets of outcomes for high school students, particularly among those historically underrepresented in STEM fields: 1) stronger understandings of important statistics concepts and data analysis practices, and 2) interest in statistics and working with data.  The modules will engage students in a four-step investigative process where they will (1) formulate questions that can be answered with data; (2) design and implement a plan to assemble appropriate data; (3) use numerical and graphical methods to explore the data; and (4) summarize conclusions relating back to the original questions and citing relevant components of the analysis that support their interpretation and acknowledging other interpretations.

The project will employ a Design-Based Implementation Research (DBIR) design using both quantitative and qualitative data to determine results of targeted outcomes (noted above) as well track whether there is any evidence to support the conjectures that key module components directly impact targeted student outcomes. Starting with a well-defined, preliminary conceptual framework for the study, the project team will conduct four cycles of iterative design and testing of the proposed SDLC modules over two academic years, with each cycle occurring during a fall or spring semester.

Professional Development for K-12 Science Teachers in Linguistically Diverse Classrooms

This project will engage science teachers in a sustained professional development (PD) program embedded in an afterschool science program designed for a linguistically diverse group of English learners (ELs).

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813937
Funding Period: 
Tue, 05/01/2018 to Sat, 04/30/2022
Full Description: 

This project will engage science teachers in a sustained professional development (PD) program embedded in an afterschool science program designed for a linguistically diverse group of English learners (ELs). The project targets science teachers (chemistry, physics, biology, and earth science) who teach in a high school that includes refugees from Myanmar, Central America, and Africa. Roughly 20% of the students are classified as ELs, representing almost 20 different linguistic groups, including a variety of Asian, Spanish, and Arabic languages. The fundamental issue that the project seeks to address is the design of science learning environments to facilitate ELs' learning in linguistically diverse high school classrooms. Research on science education for ELs has recommended several effective teaching approaches, such as building on students' diverse and rich resources, engaging students in authentic science learning practices, and encouraging and valuing flexible use of multiple languages. However, previously most research has focused on teaching speakers of Spanish in elementary and middle school level science classrooms in which a majority of ELs speak the same language. Furthermore, while many PD programs supporting science education for ELs provide a short-term workshop and/or newly designed curriculum and curriculum guide, there is a lack of PD models that engage teachers in a sustained community of practice through collaboration between researchers and teachers.

The project's primary goal includes broadening participation with direct impact on 14 science teachers, who will impact over 2000 students, including over 450 ELs, during the project implementation period. The project provides a sustained model of the PD program which further impacts EL students of teachers who participated in the various phases of the project. The project has a potential to make an impact on ELs and high school science teachers of ELs in three different ways. First, by generating PD materials that include effective teaching materials and instructional practices for ELs, which can be used by other educators situated in similar educational contexts. Second, by giving presentations and publish papers that communicate findings of the project to academic communities. These outputs can impact other researchers who would like to design PD programs to foster ELs' science learning. Third, by implementing the developed and tested PD program in a larger scale. The implementation of the project will build capacity to conduct a larger PD project to impact more teachers and students. These anticipated outputs and outcomes will provide valuable resources for researcher and practitioners looking to support ELs' science learning and steps forward to equity. Finally, the project team and two cohorts of science teachers will co-design a school-wide science teacher PD to transform science teaching materials and practices of non-participating teachers.

Investigating Impact of Different Types of Professional Development on What Aspects Mathematics Teachers Take Up and Use in Their Classroom

This project will study the design and development of PD that supports teacher development and student learning, and provide accumulation of evidence to inform teacher educators, administrators, teachers, and policymakers of factors associated with successful PD experiences and variation across teachers and types of PDs.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813439
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/01/2018 to Wed, 06/30/2021
Full Description: 

Professional development is a critical way in which teachers who are currently in classrooms learn about changes in mathematics teaching and learning and improve their practice. Little is known about what types of professional development (PD) support teachers' improved practice and student learning. However, federal, state, and local governments spend resources on helping teachers improve their teaching practice and students' learning. PD programs vary in their intent and can fall on a continuum from highly adaptive, with great latitude in the implementation, to highly specified, with little ability to adapt the program during implementation. The project will study the design and development of PD that supports teacher development and student learning, and provide accumulation of evidence to inform teacher educators, administrators, teachers, and policymakers of factors associated with successful PD experiences and variation across teachers and types of PDs. The impact study will expand on the evidence of promise from four 2015 National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded projects - two adaptive, two specified - to provide evidence of the impact of the projects on teachers' instructional practice over time. Although the four projects are different in terms of structure and design elements, they all share the goal to support challenging mathematics content, practice standards, and differentiation techniques to support culturally and linguistically diverse, underrepresented populations. Understanding the nature of the professional development including structure and design elements, and unpacking what teachers take up and use in their instructional practice potentially has widespread use to support student learning in diverse contexts, especially those serving disadvantaged and underrepresented student populations.

This study will examine teachers' uptake of mathematics content, pedagogy and materials from different types of professional development in order to understand and unpack the factors that are associated with what teachers take up and use two-three years beyond their original PD experience: Two specified 1) An Efficacy Study of the Learning and Teaching Geometry PD Materials: Examining Impact and Context-Based Adaptations (Jennifer Jacobs, Karen Koellner & Nanette Seago), 2) Visual Access to Mathematics: Professional Development for Teachers of English Learners (Mark Driscoll, Johanna Nikula, & Pamela Buffington), two adaptive: 3) Refining a Model with Tools to Develop Math PD Leaders: An Implementation Study (Hilda Borko & Janet Carlson), 4), TRUmath and Lesson Study: Supporting Fundamental and Sustainable Improvement in High School Mathematics Teaching (Suzanne Donovan, Phil Tucher, & Catherine Lewis). The project will utilize a multi-case method which centers on a common focus of what content, pedagogy and materials teachers take up from PD experiences. Using a specified sampling procedure, the project will select 8 teachers from each of the four PD projects to serve as case study teachers. Subsequently, the project will conduct a cross case analysis focusing on variation among and between teachers and different types of PD. The research questions that guide the project's impact study are: RQ1: What is the nature of what teachers take up and use after participating in professional development workshops? RQ2: What factors influence what teachers take up and use and in what ways? RQ3: How does a professional development's position on the specified-adaptive continuum affect what teachers take up and use?

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