Middle School

Developing the Science Comprehensive Online Learning Platform for Rural School Science Teacher Development

This project will develop, evaluate, and compare the effectiveness of newly-designed online learning platform with traditional face-to-face PD in supporting rural high school science teachers' implementation of an existing biology curriculum aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908937
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2019 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

Rural school districts in the US face unique challenges: isolation in small farm communities, significant distances between communities, minimal funding, and low teacher salaries. They also serve high numbers of diverse and low-income students, who deserve equitable access to high quality science learning opportunities. Effective online professional development (PD) is needed for teachers working in isolated rural communities where high quality face-to-face PD may be economically impractical for districts to offer. This project will develop, evaluate, and compare the effectiveness of newly-designed online learning platform with traditional face-to-face PD in supporting rural high school science teachers' implementation of an existing biology curriculum aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The online learning platform will be modeled after successful face-to-face PD features: (1) job-embedded - learning occurs within the context of teachers' classroom instruction, (2) collaborative - teachers share experiences in implementing new practices, and (3) content-specific - teachers develop disciplinary content and instructional practices that support students' understanding of science. Once developed and refined, the online PD platform can be used broadly across other contexts and content areas.

Over a three year period, this project will develop, evaluate, and then compare an online PD platform for supporting rural science teachers in implementing the Towards High School Biology (THSB) curriculum with a traditional face-to-face PD. In year one, the research team will iteratively develop the online platform and adapt the already developed face-to-face PD for implementing THSB to an online format. Utilizing Curator, a social learning platform developed by HT2Labs, project researchers will embed teacher learning that is situated with their own classroom contexts, is asynchronously and synchronously collaborative, and is focused on the THSB curriculum content. In years two and three, forty eight rural middle-school science educators will be recruited from southwest Kansas and randomly assigned to online PD (treatment) or face-to-face PD (comparison). Using mixed methodology, the project will examine if differences exist between the conditions in regards to teacher content knowledge, teacher self-efficacy in using new practices, teacher classroom practices, and student learning outcomes. It is hypothesized that there should be no differences between conditions in fostering successful implementation of evidence-based science practices and student outcomes, demonstrating the success of an online modality to support deep conceptual change in teachers' instructional practices. Furthermore, lessons learned in developing and investigating a science comprehensive online learning platform can inform application to other disciplinary content (e.g., physics, chemistry, Earth and space sciences) and across other grade level and school contexts.

 

Invigorating Statistics Teacher Education Through Professional Online Learning (InSTEP)

This project seeks to strengthen the teaching of statistics and data science in grades 6-12 through the design and implementation of an online professional learning environment for teachers. The professional learning environment aims to support in-service teachers in developing stronger content knowledge related to statistics, and knowledge of how to effectively teach statistics in their classrooms.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
1908760
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Mon, 07/31/2023
Project Evaluator: 
Full Description: 

Implementing meaningful statistics education in middle and high schools has been a persistent challenge in the United States. Statistics and data science are critical domains for STEM careers and the general data literacy of the citizenry. This project seeks to strengthen the teaching of statistics and data science in grades 6-12 through the design and implementation of an online professional learning environment for teachers. The professional learning environment aims to support in-service teachers in developing stronger content knowledge related to statistics, and knowledge of how to effectively teach statistics in their classrooms. The project will also evaluate a model of professional development that integrates personalized online learning and microcredentialing (earning small-scale certifications) to better understand its effectiveness in supporting teacher learning. The project will draw from previous work to assemble online modules that engage teachers in doing high-quality statistics and data science tasks, the analysis of video of teachers' and students' work with those tasks, learning a pedagogical framework for teachers to implement the tasks, and exploring guidelines for identifying and developing high-quality statistics and data science tasks. The project will study teacher learning through the use of these modules, and the pathways that teachers choose through them to understand the effectiveness of the model.

The project builds on previous work by the investigators to develop research-based teacher professional development modules that support learning about statistics and statistics education in grades 6-12. Materials currently developed include a series of microcredentials with design features consistent with research on effective teacher professional development. They include opportunities for teachers to engage with statistics content appropriate to the target grade levels they teach, active learning opportunities that engage them with teachers in similar contexts, and a coherent focus that builds on the knowledge and experience teachers bring to the table. The project will take place in iterative phases, beginning with focus groups of middle and high school teachers and district leaders based on first drafts of the materials. This will be followed by cognitive interviews with teachers who engage in the microcredential ecosystem which will inform modifications to the system. Following this phase, cohorts of teachers (25 in the first cohort, 75 in the second) will participate in scaffolded professional development engagement with the materials, and will be assessed with respect to changes in their knowledge and practice. The project will assess changes in teacher knowledge using reliable and valid measures of statistics knowledge and practice. Data will be collected from the online platform regarding teacher engagement and usage to better understand usage and pathways through the materials. The professional learning platform will be made available as a free and open online source at the close of the project.

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Science Learning through Embodied Performances in Elementary and Middle School

This project's approach uses two types of embodied performances: experiential performances that engage learners in using their bodies to physically experience scientific phenomena (e.g., the increase of heart rate during exercise), and dramatic performances where learners act out science ideas (e.g., the sources and impact of air pollution) with gestures, body movement, dances, role-plays, or theater productions.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
1908272
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Project Evaluator: 
Full Description: 

There is a need to develop ways of making scientific ideas and practices more accessible to students, in particular students in elementary grades and from populations underrepresented in STEM disciplines. Learning science involves the construction of scientific knowledge and science identities, both of which can be supported by science instruction that integrates scientific practices with theater and literacy practices. This project's approach uses two types of embodied performances: experiential performances that engage learners in using their bodies to physically experience scientific phenomena (e.g., the increase of heart rate during exercise), and dramatic performances where learners act out science ideas (e.g., the sources and impact of air pollution) with gestures, body movement, dances, role-plays, or theater productions. Body movements, positions, and actions along with language and other modes of representation are employed as critical constituents of meaning making, which offer learners opportunities to understand science core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and scientific practices by dramatizing them for and with others. This project is adding to the limited science education literature on the use, value, and impact of embodied performances in science classrooms, and on the brilliance, ingenuity, and science knowledge that all youth, and particularly historically marginalized young people, have and can further develop in urban school classrooms.

This project's research focuses on understanding how embodied performances of science concepts and processes can shape classroom science learning, and how their impact is similar and/or different across science topics, elementary and middle school grade levels, and as the school year progresses. It explores the kinds of science ideas students learn, the multimodal literacy practices in which they engage, and the science identities they construct. The research attends to learning for all young people with a specific focus on children from historically marginalized groups in STEM. Using design-based research, the project team (students and teachers in Chicago Public Schools, teaching artists, and researchers) designs embodied performances that are implemented, studied, and revised throughout the project's duration. Ten teachers participate in professional development to learn relevant theater practices (including adaptation, workshopping, and inter- and intra-personal embodiment practices), to strengthen their science understandings, and to learn ways of intertwining both in their teaching. They are subsequently supported by teaching artists through the implementation of various activities in their classrooms, eventually implementing them without any scaffolding. Data sources include fieldnotes during classwork related to embodied performances; written materials, images, sound files, and other digital productions created to enhance, share, expand, and/or support performances; ongoing written student reflections on learning science and the role of embodied performances; regular assessments found in the science curriculum; reflective conversations with student teams about their embodied performances; one-on-one semi-structured interviews with 6 focal students per classroom about science identity development twice in a school year; video of classwork related to embodied performances; and video of science ideas performed by students to school and community audiences. Analyses include structured and focused coding of qualitative data, multimodal discourse analysis, and content analysis. The findings of this research are providing empirical evidence of the value and impact of integrating performing-arts practices into science teaching and learning and the potential of this approach to transform urban science classrooms into spaces where young people from marginalized groups find access to science to engage with it creatively and deeply.

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Case Studies of a Suite of Next Generation Science Instructional, Assessment, and Professional Development Materials in Diverse Middle School Settings

This project addresses a gap between vision and implementation of state science standards by designing a coordinated suite of instructional, assessment and teacher professional learning materials that attempt to enact the vision behind the Next Generation Science Standards. The study focuses on using state-of-the-art technology to create an 8-week long, immersive, life science field experience organized around three investigations.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907944
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

New state science standards are ambitious and require important changes to instructional practices, accompanied by a coordinated system of curriculum, assessment, and professional development materials. This project addresses a gap between vision and implementation of such standards by designing a coordinated suite of instructional, assessment and teacher professional learning materials that attempt to enact the vision behind the Next Generation Science Standards. The study focuses on the design of such materials using state-of-the-art technology to create an 8-week long, immersive, life science field experience organized around three investigations. Classes of urban students in two states will collect data on local insect species with the goal of understanding, sharing, and critiquing environmental management solutions. An integrated learning technology system, the Learning Navigator, draws on big data to organize student-gathered data, dialogue, lessons, an assessment information. The Learning Navigator will also amplify the teacher's role in guiding and fostering next generation science learning. This project advances the field through an in-depth exploration of the goals for the standards documents. The study begins to address questions about what works when, where, and for whom in the context of the Next Generation Science Standards.

The project uses a series of case studies to create, test, evaluate and refine the system of instructional, assessment and professional development materials as they are enacted in two distinct urban school settings. It is designed with 330 students and 22 teachers in culturally, racially and linguistically diverse, under-resourced schools in Pennsylvania and California. These schools are located in neighborhoods that are economically challenged and have students who demonstrate patterns of underperformance on state standardized tests. It will document the process of team co-construction of Next Generation Science-fostering instructional materials; develop assessment tasks for an instructional unit that are valid and reliable; and, track the patterns of use of the instructional and assessment materials by teachers. The study will also record if new misconceptions are revealed as students develop Next Generation Science knowledge,  comparing findings across two diverse school locations in two states. Data collection will include: (a) multiple types of data to establish validity and reliability of educational assessments, (b) the design, evaluation and use of a classroom observation protocol to gather information on both frequency and categorical degree of classroom practices that support the vision, and (c) consecutive years of ten individual classroom enactments through case studies analyzed through cross-case analyses. This should lead to stronger and better developed understandings about what constitutes strong Next Generation Science learning and the classroom conditions, instructional materials, assessments and teacher development that foster it.

Developing an Online Game to Teach Middle School Students Science Research Practices in the Life Sciences Collaborative Research: Metcalf)

This project will develop and research AquaLab 9, an online video game to engage middle school students in learning science research practices in life sciences content. By engaging in science research practices, students will develop intellectual skills that link directly to many state academic standards and are important for developing STEM literacy and pursuing STEM career pathways.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907398
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

The project will develop and research AquaLab 9, an online video game to engage middle school students in learning science research practices in life sciences content. By engaging in science research practices, students will develop intellectual skills that link directly to many state academic standards and are important for developing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) literacy and pursuing STEM career pathways. Learners will take on the role of a scientist working at an ocean-floor research station, cut off from the surface due to a catastrophe. They must identify problems, design experiments, create models, and argue from evidence to lead the station to survival. Learners will be challenged with highly relevant, contemporary issues such as waste management, energy use/production/storage, and ecological sustainability in the setting of a fantastical story. Designed for Grades 5-8, the game will be playable in 30-minute segments and will work on Chromebooks and tablet computers. The game will involve 40 educators in a yearlong fellowship where they will become co-designers, steer the project to serve the diverse students they represent, learn about games in education, facilitate playtests in their classrooms, and report their experiences to peers. The resulting game, in English and Spanish, will be utilized by at least 162,000 students by the end of the project and hundreds of thousands more after the project is completed. The project will broaden access through digital distribution and minimal technology requirements, which will create a low-cost opportunity for students to engage in science practices, even in schools where time, equipment, or expertise are not available.

Learning progressions are the steps that students go through when they are learning about a topic. The project will research how learning progressions can provide a framework for educational game design. These progressions will be empirically derived from large audience game play data. The game can thus be designed to create personalized interventions for students to improve learning outcomes. Project research will use an approach called stealth assessment, which analyzes data from students' game behavior without requiring a disruption or intervention in the game activities. This project will use this approach for developing empirically validated understandings of how different students develop their science practices. Based on this research, the game will be revised to improve student learning by providing individualized feedback to each student.

Developing an Online Game to Teach Middle School Students Science Research Practices in the Life Sciences (Collaborative Research: Baker)

This project will develop and research AquaLab 9, an online video game to engage middle school students in learning science research practices in life sciences content. By engaging in science research practices, students will develop intellectual skills that link directly to many state academic standards and are important for developing STEM literacy and pursuing STEM career pathways.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907437
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

The project will develop and research AquaLab 9, an online video game to engage middle school students in learning science research practices in life sciences content. By engaging in science research practices, students will develop intellectual skills that link directly to many state academic standards and are important for developing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) literacy and pursuing STEM career pathways. Learners will take on the role of a scientist working at an ocean-floor research station, cut off from the surface due to a catastrophe. They must identify problems, design experiments, create models, and argue from evidence to lead the station to survival. Learners will be challenged with highly relevant, contemporary issues such as waste management, energy use/production/storage, and ecological sustainability in the setting of a fantastical story. Designed for Grades 5-8, the game will be playable in 30-minute segments and will work on Chromebooks and tablet computers. The game will involve 40 educators in a yearlong fellowship where they will become co-designers, steer the project to serve the diverse students they represent, learn about games in education, facilitate playtests in their classrooms, and report their experiences to peers. The resulting game, in English and Spanish, will be utilized by at least 162,000 students by the end of the project and hundreds of thousands more after the project is completed. The project will broaden access through digital distribution and minimal technology requirements, which will create a low-cost opportunity for students to engage in science practices, even in schools where time, equipment, or expertise are not available.

Learning progressions are the steps that students go through when they are learning about a topic. The project will research how learning progressions can provide a framework for educational game design. These progressions will be empirically derived from large audience game play data. The game can thus be designed to create personalized interventions for students to improve learning outcomes. Project research will use an approach called stealth assessment, which analyzes data from students' game behavior without requiring a disruption or intervention in the game activities. This project will use this approach for developing empirically validated understandings of how different students develop their science practices. Based on this research, the game will be revised to improve student learning by providing individualized feedback to each student.

Developing an Online Game to Teach Middle School Students Science Research Practices in the Life Sciences (Collaborative Research: Gagnon)

This project will develop and research AquaLab 9, an online video game to engage middle school students in learning science research practices in life sciences content. By engaging in science research practices, students will develop intellectual skills that link directly to many state academic standards and are important for developing STEM literacy and pursuing STEM career pathways.

Award Number: 
1907384
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

The project will develop and research AquaLab 9, an online video game to engage middle school students in learning science research practices in life sciences content. By engaging in science research practices, students will develop intellectual skills that link directly to many state academic standards and are important for developing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) literacy and pursuing STEM career pathways. Learners will take on the role of a scientist working at an ocean-floor research station, cut off from the surface due to a catastrophe. They must identify problems, design experiments, create models, and argue from evidence to lead the station to survival. Learners will be challenged with highly relevant, contemporary issues such as waste management, energy use/production/storage, and ecological sustainability in the setting of a fantastical story. Designed for Grades 5-8, the game will be playable in 30-minute segments and will work on Chromebooks and tablet computers. The game will involve 40 educators in a yearlong fellowship where they will become co-designers, steer the project to serve the diverse students they represent, learn about games in education, facilitate playtests in their classrooms, and report their experiences to peers. The resulting game, in English and Spanish, will be utilized by at least 162,000 students by the end of the project and hundreds of thousands more after the project is completed. The project will broaden access through digital distribution and minimal technology requirements, which will create a low-cost opportunity for students to engage in science practices, even in schools where time, equipment, or expertise are not available.

Learning progressions are the steps that students go through when they are learning about a topic. The project will research how learning progressions can provide a framework for educational game design. These progressions will be empirically derived from large audience game play data. The game can thus be designed to create personalized interventions for students to improve learning outcomes. Project research will use an approach called stealth assessment, which analyzes data from students' game behavior without requiring a disruption or intervention in the game activities. This project will use this approach for developing empirically validated understandings of how different students develop their science practices. Based on this research, the game will be revised to improve student learning by providing individualized feedback to each student.

Aligning the Science Teacher Education Pathway: A Networked Improvement Community

This project will study the activities of a Networked Improvement Community (NIC) as a vehicle to bridge gaps across four identified steps along the science teacher training and development pathways within local contexts of 8 participating universities. The overarching goal of the project is to strengthen the capacity of universities and school districts to reliably produce teachers of science who are knowledgeable about and can effectively enact the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), although prepared in varied organizational contexts.

Award Number: 
1908900
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

California State University will study the activities of a Networked Improvement Community (NIC) as a vehicle to bridge gaps across four identified steps along the science teacher training and development pathways within local contexts of 8 participating universities (NIC sites). Networked Improvement Community (NIC) will co-create a shared vision and co-defined research agenda between university researchers, science educators and school district practitioners working together to reform teacher education across a variety of local contexts. By studying outcomes of shared supports and teacher tools for use in multiple steps along the science teacher education pathway, researchers will map variation existing in the system and align efforts across the science teacher education pathway. This process will integrate an iterative nature of educational change in local contexts impacting enactment of the NGSS in both university teacher preparation programs and in school district professional training activities and classrooms.

The overarching goal of the project is to strengthen the capacity of universities and school districts to reliably produce teachers of science who are knowledgeable about and can effectively enact the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), although prepared in varied organizational contexts. The project will accomplish this goal 1) leveraging the use of an established Networked Improvement Community, composed of science education faculty from eight university campuses and by 2) improving and studying coherence in the steps along the science teacher education pathway within and across these universities and school districts. The project will use a mixed methods approach to data collection and analysis. Consistent with Improvement Science Theory, research questions will be co-defined by all stakeholders.

Reasoning Language for Teaching Secondary Algebra

This project proposes to study the teaching and learning of algebra in grades 7-9, with a specific focus on the ways in which classroom language explicitly describes properties of and relationships among algebraic objects. The project seeks to investigate the bi-directional relationship between reasoning-rich algebraic discourse and the mathematical meanings students hold for core algebraic concepts such as equations, the equation-solving process, and functions.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2001116
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2019 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

Decades of research have demonstrated that stronger mathematics classroom discourse, along with the use and connection of multiple mathematical representations, correlates positively with gains in student learning. This relationship is particularly salient in algebra, where diversifying the representations available to students can provide important supports for the development of conceptual understanding. The Reasoning Language for Teaching Secondary Algebra (ReLaTe-SA) project proposes to study the teaching and learning of algebra in grades 7-9, with a specific focus on the ways in which classroom language explicitly describes properties of and relationships among algebraic objects. The project seeks to investigate the bi-directional relationship between reasoning-rich algebraic discourse and the mathematical meanings students hold for core algebraic concepts such as equations, the equation-solving process, and functions. With a focus on the teacher, ReLaTe-SA will analyze classroom narratives about algebraic concepts and procedures and provide an 80-hour professional development program designed to support teachers in developing stronger explanations of algebraic objects, their properties, and their relationships.

The ReLaTe-SA project will investigate three aspects of teacher discourse practice related to algebra. First, the project will study the discourse and discourse routines that teachers use to explain algebraic objects, their properties, and their relationships. This will be accomplished through the development and deployment of an assessment called the Survey of Algebraic Language and Reasoning to identify teachers' discursive routines and narratives in the context of algebra. The instrument asks teachers to interpret student work and explanations by describing the student's mathematical reasoning and underlying mathematical understandings. Second, the project will support potential growth in teachers' algebraic discourse practices through an 80-hour professional development intervention focused on discourse in algebra. The impact of this intervention will be measured by changes to teachers' response patterns on the Survey of Algebraic Language and Reasoning, analyses of teachers' work within the professional development, and the analysis of classroom observations after the professional development has concluded. Third, the project will seek to understand the ways in which teachers develop lessons that explicitly focus on the development of students' algebraic reasoning and discourse. This goal will be realized through analyses of the tasks, plans, and implementations of mathematics lessons in participating teachers' classrooms. Three cohorts of 12 teachers each will be recruited for the project. Based on the results of this exploratory project, the team intends to follow up with a larger-scale study of the professional development and its impact on the teaching and learning of algebra.

This project was previously funded under award #1908825.

Getting Unstuck: Designing and Evaluating Teacher Resources to Support Conceptual and Creative Fluency with Programming

The project will create opportunities for teachers to develop programming content knowledge and new understandings of the creative possibilities in computer science education, thereby increasing opportunities for students to develop conceptual and creative fluency with programming.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908110
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Wed, 06/30/2021
Full Description: 

The project will create opportunities for teachers to develop programming content knowledge and new understandings of the creative possibilities in computer science education, thereby increasing opportunities for students to develop conceptual and creative fluency with programming. K-12 introductory programming experiences are often highly scaffolded, and it can be challenging for students to transition from constrained exercises to open-ended programming activities encountered later in-and out of-school. Teachers can provide critical support to help students solve problems and develop the cognitive, social, and emotional capacities required for conceptually and creatively complex programming challenges. Teachers - particularly elementary and middle school teachers, especially in rural and Title I schools - often lack the programming content knowledge, skills, and practices needed to support deeper and more meaningful programming experiences for students. Professional development opportunities can cultivate teacher expertise, especially when supported by curricular materials that bridge teachers' professional learning and students' classroom learning. This research responds to these needs, addressing key national priorities for increasing access to high-quality K-12 computer science education for all students through teacher professional development.

The project will involve the design and evaluation of (1) an online learning experience for teachers to develop conceptual and creative fluency through short, daily programming prompts (featuring the Scratch programming environment), and (2) educative curricular materials for the classroom (based on the online experience). The online experience and curricular materials will be developed in collaboration with three 4th through 6th-grade rural or Title I teachers. The project will evaluate teacher learning in the online experience using mixed-methods analyses of pre/post-survey data of teachers' perceived expertise and quantitative analyses of teachers' programs and evolving conceptual knowledge. Three additional 4th through 6th-grade teachers will pilot the curricular materials in their classrooms. The six pilot teachers will maintain field journals about their experiences and will participate in interviews, evaluating use of the resources in practice. An ethnography of one teacher's classroom will be developed to further contribute to understandings of the classroom-level resources in action, including students' experiences and learning. Student learning will be evaluated through student interviews and analyses of student projects. Project outcomes will inform how computer science conceptual knowledge and creative fluency can be developed both for teachers and their students' knowledge and fluency that will be critical for students' future success in work and life.

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