Middle School

Design and Development of Transmedia Narrative-based Curricula to Engage Children in Scientific Thinking and Engineering Design (Collaborative Research: Ellis)

This project will address the need for engineering resources by applying an innovative pedagogy called Imaginative Education (IE) to create middle school engineering curricula. In IE, developmentally appropriate narratives are used to design learning environments that help learners engage with content and organize their knowledge productively. This project will combine IE with transmedia storytelling.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1814033
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/15/2018 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Full Description: 

Engineering is an important component of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). However, resources for supporting teachers in implementing these standards are scarce. This project will address the need for resources by applying an innovative pedagogy called Imaginative Education (IE) to create middle school engineering curricula. In IE, developmentally appropriate narratives are used to design learning environments that help learners engage with content and organize their knowledge productively. To fully exploit the potential of this pedagogy, this project will combine IE with transmedia storytelling. In transmedia storytelling, different elements of a narrative are spread across a variety of formats (such as books, websites, new articles, videos and other media) in a way that creates a coordinated experience for the user. Once created, the curricula will be implemented in classrooms to research its impact on (1) increasing learners' capacities to engage in both innovative and direct application of engineering concepts, and (2) improving learners' science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) identity. 

This research will be led by Smith College and Springfield Technical Community College in collaboration with Springfield (MA) Public Schools (SPS). Additional expertise in evaluating the findings will be provided by the Collaborative for Educational Services and an external advisory board of leaders in STEM education and transmedia storytelling. The project will result in the development of a transmedia learning environment that includes two NGSS-aligned, interdisciplinary engineering units and seven lessons that integrate science and engineering. The research study will be implemented in four phases in eight SPS middle schools. Approximately 900 students will participate each year. In Phase 1, the project team will collaborate with SPS teachers to create engineering units, lessons, and standards-based achievement measures. In Phase 2, teachers in the treatment group will participate in professional development (PD) workshops covering IE, transmedia learning environments, structure of the curriculum, and connections to NGSS. In Phase 3 the curricula will be implemented in treatment classrooms and both treatment and control group students will be assessed. In Phase 4, testing and assessment will continue in SPS schools and will be expanded to rural and suburban classrooms. Teachers in these classrooms will use online multimedia PD that will ensure scalability and mirrors the structure and content of in-person PD. Data analysis will provide evidence of whether this imaginative and transmedia educational approach improves students' capacities for using engineering concepts and enhances their STEM identity.

Design and Development of Transmedia Narrative-based Curricula to Engage Children in Scientific Thinking and Engineering Design (Collaborative Research: McGinnis-Cavanaugh)

This project will address the need for engineering resources by applying an innovative pedagogy called Imaginative Education (IE) to create middle school engineering curricula. In IE, developmentally appropriate narratives are used to design learning environments that help learners engage with content and organize their knowledge productively. This project will combine IE with transmedia storytelling.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813572
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/15/2018 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Project Evaluator: 
Collaborative for Educational Services (CES)
Full Description: 

Engineering is an important component of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). However, resources for supporting teachers in implementing these standards are scarce. This project will address the need for resources by applying an innovative pedagogy called Imaginative Education (IE) to create middle school engineering curricula. In IE, developmentally appropriate narratives are used to design learning environments that help learners engage with content and organize their knowledge productively. To fully exploit the potential of this pedagogy, this project will combine IE with transmedia storytelling. In transmedia storytelling, different elements of a narrative are spread across a variety of formats (such as books, websites, new articles, videos and other media) in a way that creates a coordinated experience for the user. Once created, the curricula will be implemented in classrooms to research its impact on (1) increasing learners' capacities to engage in both innovative and direct application of engineering concepts, and (2) improving learners' science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) identity. 

This research will be led by Smith College and Springfield Technical Community College in collaboration with Springfield (MA) Public Schools (SPS). Additional expertise in evaluating the findings will be provided by the Collaborative for Educational Services and an external advisory board of leaders in STEM education and transmedia storytelling. The project will result in the development of a transmedia learning environment that includes two NGSS-aligned, interdisciplinary engineering units and seven lessons that integrate science and engineering. The research study will be implemented in four phases in eight SPS middle schools. Approximately 900 students will participate each year. In Phase 1, the project team will collaborate with SPS teachers to create engineering units, lessons, and standards-based achievement measures. In Phase 2, teachers in the treatment group will participate in professional development (PD) workshops covering IE, transmedia learning environments, structure of the curriculum, and connections to NGSS. In Phase 3 the curricula will be implemented in treatment classrooms and both treatment and control group students will be assessed. In Phase 4, testing and assessment will continue in SPS schools and will be expanded to rural and suburban classrooms. Teachers in these classrooms will use online multimedia PD that will ensure scalability and mirrors the structure and content of in-person PD. Data analysis will provide evidence of whether this imaginative and transmedia educational approach improves students' capacities for using engineering concepts and enhances their STEM identity.

Developing a Generalized Storyline that Organizes the Supports for Evidence-based Modeling of Long-Term Impacts of Disturbances in Complex Systems

This project will support students to develop evidence-based explanations for the impact of disturbances on complex systems.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813802
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/15/2018 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Full Description: 

This project will support students to develop evidence-based explanations for the impact of disturbances on complex systems. The project will focus on middle school environmental science disciplinary core ideas in life, Earth, and physical sciences. There are a wide variety of complex systems principles at work in disturbance ecology. This project serves as a starting point on supporting students to coordinate different sources of information to parse out the direct and indirect effects of disturbances on components of a system and to examine the interconnections between components to predict whether a system will return to equilibrium (resilience) or the system will change into a new state (hysteresis). These same complex systems principles can be applied to other scientific phenomena, such as homeostasis and the spread of infectious disease. This project will bring the excitement of Luquillo Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) to classrooms outside of Puerto Rico, and has a special emphasis on low performing, low income, high minority schools in Chicago. Over 6000 students will directly benefit from participation in the research program. The units will be incorporated into the Journey to El Yunque web site for dissemination throughout Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the LTER network. The units will be submitted for review at the Achieve network, thus extending the reach to teachers around the country. The project will impact science teachers and curriculum designers through an online course on storyline development. This project aims to improve students' ability to engage in argument from evidence and address what the literature has identified as a significant challenge, namely the ability to evaluate evidence. Researchers will also demonstrate how it is possible to make progress on implementing Next Generation Science Standards in low performing schools. Through the web-based platform, these results can be replicated across many other school districts.

Researchers will to use the scientific context of the LTER program to develop a generalized storyline template for using evidence-based modeling to teach basic principles of disturbance ecology. Though a co-design process with middle school teachers in CPS, researchers will test the application of learning principles to a generalized storyline template by developing and evaluating three units on disturbance ecology - one life science, one Earth system science, and one physical science. Through a task analysis, researchers have identified three key areas of support for students to be successful at explaining how a system will respond to a disturbance. First, students need to be able to record evidence in a manner that will guide them to developing their explanation. Causal model diagrams have been used successfully in the past to organize evidence, but little is known about how students can use their causal diagrams for developing explanations. Second, there have been a wide variety of scaffolds developed to support the evaluation of scientific arguments, but less is known about how to support students in organizing their evidence to produce scientific arguments. Third, evidence-based modeling and scientific argumentation are not tasks that can be successfully accomplished by following a recipe. Students need to develop a task model to understand the reason why they are engaged in a particular task and how that task will contribute to the primary goal of explanation.

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.

Developing a Culturally Responsive Computing Instrument for Underrepresented Students

This EAGER project aims to conduct a study designed to operationalize a culturally responsive computing framework, from theory to empirical application, by exploring what factors can be identified and later used to develop items for an instrument to assess youths' self-efficacy and self-perceptions in computing and technology-related fields and careers.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1822346
Funding Period: 
Thu, 02/15/2018 to Fri, 01/31/2020
Project Evaluator: 
Full Description: 

This EAGER project aims to conduct a study designed to operationalize a culturally responsive computing framework, from theory to empirical application, by exploring what factors can be identified and later used to develop items for an instrument to assess youths' self-efficacy and self-perceptions in computing and technology-related fields and careers. The project explores the constructs of culturally responsive computing across youths of diverse gender and racial identities (i.e., White, African American, Latino, Native American, Alaskan Native boys and girls) using a culturally responsive, participatory action research approach.

The project explores and develops the factor structure of an instrument on culturally responsive computing with diverse middle and high schoolers of intersecting identities. It uses culturally responsive methodologies to co-create an instrument for later validation that will assess youths' self-efficacy and self-perceptions in technology. The project will explore Culturally Response Computing constructs across variables by conducting observations, focus groups and interviews, and collect context data and information from teachers and students that will contribute to a series of case examples. The work involves a two-phase mixed-methods research study focused on assembling evidence to assess, design and validate a Culturally Responsive Computing Framework from theory to empirical application. A total of 50 students and teachers from four geographically diverse rural and urban areas and racial ethnic backgrounds will participate in co-creating constructs.

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Determining Teachers' Baseline Practice and Alignment Prior to a Systemic Curriculum Change

In this study, researchers will collaborate with Baltimore City Public Schools to collect and document teacher classroom practices prior to the implementation of an extended professional development model that targets pedagogical skills associated with the NGSS. The broad objective of the project is to characterize the benefits and limitations of utilizing controlled practice-teaching as a key component of teacher professional development for integrating NGSS aligned practices in middle school science classrooms.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1822029
Funding Period: 
Sun, 04/01/2018 to Sun, 03/31/2019
Full Description: 

The goal of this research is to document current teaching practices prior to the systemic integration of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in Baltimore City Public schools. In this study, UMBC will collaborate with Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools) to collect and document teacher classroom practices prior to the implementation of an extended professional development model that targets pedagogical skills associated with the Next Generation Science Standards. The broad objective of the project is to characterize the benefits and limitations of utilizing controlled practice-teaching as a key component of teacher professional development for integrating NGSS aligned practices in middle school science classrooms. Success will be measured by changes in teacher attitudes, enhancement of teacher pedagogical skills and student learning gains. Sixty teachers, and over 4,500 students in Baltimore City will be directly impacted through the professional development and curriculum enactment efforts proposed. As a full partner in the project, the City Schools' leadership will also learn what works, for whom, and under what conditions in schools that are representative of their diverse district. Lessons learned have the potential to inform the implementation of other new reform initiatives within City Schools and beyond. Findings from the proposed research have the potential to advance our understanding of innovative professional development strategies and their impact on classroom practices and student learning.

This project focuses on a national need of models for high quality professional development that directly tie specific strategies to classroom-based instructional changes and student learning outcomes. One particular shift in classroom practice that is fundamental for the classroom implementation of NGSS is scientific discourse and argumentation. One particular strategy that has shown promise for supporting teachers' use of strategies supporting argumentation is the use of controlled practice teaching. The proposed study explicitly attempts to determine the impact of the controlled practice-teaching using a quasi-experimental design. The research plan involves middle science teachers being assigned to one of two experimental conditions (PD including or excluding a controlled practice-teaching component) and then to investigate potential differences among the two treatments and control conditions related to changes in attitudes toward NGSS, classroom practices and impact on student learning. The researcher hypothesizes that the inclusion of control-practice teaching that is imbedded in a sustained professional development program will promote the development of teacher pedagogical skills aligned with NGSS more effectively than sustained professional development that does not include a control-practice component.

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.

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?

A Practice-based Online Learning Environment for Scientific Inquiry with Digitized Museum Collections in Middle School Classrooms

This project will develop and study a prototype online learning environment that supports student learning via Engaging Practices for Inquiry with Collections in Bioscience (EPIC Bioscience), which uses authentic research investigations with digitized collections from natural history museums. 

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1812844
Funding Period: 
Fri, 06/15/2018 to Mon, 05/31/2021
Full Description: 

There are an estimated 2-4 billion specimens in the world's natural history collections that contain the data necessary to address complex global issues, including biodiversity and climate. Digitized natural history collections present an untapped opportunity to engage learners in crucial questions of science with far-reaching potential consequences via object-based research investigations. This project will develop and study a prototype online learning environment that supports student learning via Engaging Practices for Inquiry with Collections in Bioscience (EPIC Bioscience). EPIC Bioscience uses authentic research investigations with digitized collections from natural history museums. The project team will create a curriculum aligned with the Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSS) for middle school students, emphasizing a major disciplinary core idea in grades 6-8 life science, Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics. The project has three major goals: 1) Develop an online learning environment that guides students through research investigations using digitized natural history collections to teach NGSS life science standards. 2) Investigate how interactive features and conversational scaffolds in the EPIC Bioscience learning environment can promote deeper processing of science content and effective knowledge building. 3) Demonstrate effective approaches to using digitized collections objects for contextualized, research-based science learning that aligns to NGSS standards for middle school classrooms.

The project will examine how and when interactive features of a digital learning environment can be combined with deep questions and effective online scaffolds to promote student engagement, meaningful collaborative discourse, and robust learning outcomes during research with digitized museum collections. Research activities will address: How can interactive features of EPIC Bioscience help students learn disciplinary core ideas and cross cutting concepts via science practices through collections-based research? How can effective patterns of collaborative scientific discourse be supported and enhanced during online, collections-based research? How does the use of digitized scientific collections influence students' levels of engagement and depth of processing during classroom investigations? A significant impact of the proposed work is expanded opportunities for research with authentic museum objects for populations who are traditionally underserved in STEM and are underrepresented in museum visitor demographics (Title I schools, racial/ethnic minorities, and rural school populations). Research activities will engage over 1,500 Title I and rural students (50 classes across three years) in meaningful research investigations with collections objects that address pressing global issues.

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