Middle School

Building on Cross-national Comparisons to Improve the Preparation and Support of Teachers of Mathematics

This bilateral workshop examines the preparation of mathematics teachers in the United States and China. It will initiate knowledge exchanges among teacher educators in both countries and forge a joint research agenda. Objectives include increasing the comparative knowledge base in both nations about promising practices in and existing challenges to mathematics teacher preparation and mathematics instruction, and promoting the exchange of ideas and exploration of questions and points for possible collaborative research in mathematics education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0738019
Funding Period: 
Thu, 05/01/2008 to Sun, 10/31/2010
Full Description: 

This award supports a bilateral workshop to examine the preparation of mathematics teachers in the United States and in China. The workshop is co-organized by The University of Pennsylvania (Penn) Graduate School of Education (GSE) and two partner institutions in China, Beijing Normal University (BNU) and East China Normal University (ECNU). The workshop will initiate knowledge exchanges among teacher educators in both countries and forge a joint research agenda. Specific objectives include a) increasing the comparative knowledge base in both nations about promising practices in and existing challenges to mathematics teacher preparation and mathematics instruction, and b) promoting the cross-cultural exchange of ideas and the exploration of questions and points for possible international collaborative research in mathematics education. Major activities include an expert s workshop at Penn GSE in Philadelphia (fall 2008) and structured exchanges between nationally recognized master middle school teachers from both countries. The exchange includes 15 U.S. early-career researchers and 5 graduate students in mathematics education.

Collaborative Online Projects for ELL Students (COPELLS)

This project is studying effects of linguistically sensitive science instructional materials by translating, enhancing, and evaluating culturally relevant and linguistically appropriate Collaborative Online Projects (originally written in Spanish) for middle school Spanish-speaking English Language Learners.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918832
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Sat, 08/31/2013
Project Evaluator: 
Kari Nelsestuen
Full Description: 

Project COPELLS is a research and development project implemented by University of Oregon's Center for Advanced Technology in Education (CATE) and the Instituto Latinamericano de la Communicacion Educativa (ILCE). ILCE is a division of the Department of Education in Mexico that designs relevant collaborative online projects (COPs) for students K through 12.

 

Project COPELLS has selected, translated, and enhanced culturally relevant and linguistically appropriate COPs designed by ILCE to teach science to middle school, Spanish-speaking, English Language Learners. These COPs were aligned to both National Science Education Standards and Oregon secondary science standards by Oregon State Department of Education Science Curriculum educators. In addition, they were enhanced with supportive resources (etext supports) that promote bilingual use of the materials and increase science literacy in both English and Spanish.

 

The Center for Advanced Technology in Education has research-based experience enriching online reading materials with content-specific multimedia supports designed to scaffold text comprehension and content learning for struggling students. Specific etext supports identified as potentially useful for this population include: alternative text, audio, and video definitions of terms, translations, and enhanced illustrations that become available only when clicked to open by the reader.

 

The project's two major goals are to (a) facilitate and improve science content-area learning for Spanish-speaking ELL students and (b) facilitate their acquisition of Academic English while learning science content. Feasibility and usability of the Collaborative Online Projects is being classroom tested. The project is gathering information on the impact of the bilingual online science materials for improving science content-area learning, student attitude toward scientific learning, student and teacher satisfaction, and science academic language proficiency (ALP) of ELL students.

 

Key people:
Dr. Carolyn Knox, Principal Investigator
Dr. Kenneth Doxsee, Co-Principal Investigator
Dr. Fatima Terrazas-Arellanes, Co-Principal Investigador
Dr. Patricia Cabrera Muñoz, ILCE Partner

SPIRIT 2.0: Silicon Prairie Initiative for Robotics in Information Technology 2.0

This project creates materials for grades 5-8 that address and assess STEM concepts through a robotics curriculum. The curriculum addresses STEM standards through such documents as the NCTM Focal Points and the Atlas of Science Literacy. Students can use the TekBot robotics platform in three problem-based ways: building, moving, and programming. The intent is to scale up to a cyber-infrastructure that supports the national distribution and implementation of the curriculum.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0733228
Funding Period: 
Tue, 01/01/2008 to Sat, 12/31/2011

Cyber-enabled Earth Exploration: Development of Materials for Middle School Earth Science Instruction

This project is developing new instructional materials for middle school earth science classes that incorporate emerging cyber-enabled technologies such as Google Earth as a transformative data analysis tool. The materials emphasize the use of claims, evidence, and reasoning in the exploration of volcanoes, earthquakes, and plate tectonics, leading students through a process of discovery to help them build a deeper understanding of the driving forces and resulting manifestations of plate tectonics.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918683
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2009 to Tue, 07/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Randy Knuth
Full Description: 

Cyber-Enabled Earth Exploration (CE3) is a research and development project aimed at motivating and challenging students in science, which has been identified as one of the reasons the U.S. lags behind other nations on an array of economic and educational indicators (National Center on Education and the Economy 2006). The project will develop new instructional materials for middle school science teachers that help create a compelling classroom culture of scientific discovery, engage students in the creative opportunities that abound in science, and inspire them to pursue the high school science coursework needed for future careers in science.

The materials will incorporate emerging and widely available technologies such as Google Earth to engage middle school students in exploring an essential science question, “Does the Earth’s structure affect you?”  The use of computer technologies has been shown to successfully motivate middle school students (Pelligrino 2000), and the use of an integrated Earth system science approach provides the knowledge base, methodologies, and global context to make science accessible, relevant and meaningful for middle school students.

A complete learning unit and teacher’s guide will be developed by a team of experts in K-12 curriculum design, geology, and geography, using a Learning-for-Use curriculum design framework.  The materials will be tested for ease-of-use and effectiveness in approximately ten classrooms across Montana, which include both large and small class sizes, urban and rural communities, and white and Native American students. Participating teachers will provide feedback to help guide revision of the materials, which will subsequently be disseminated to the national K-12 community.

The intellectual merits of CE3 include: (1) creation of an innovative, technology-rich curriculum that engages students and teachers in authentic scientific questions about essential Earth systems science concepts; (2) introduction of the use of Google Earth as a new and potentially transformative data analysis tool for teachers and students; and (3) strengthening of curriculum models that help students acquire skills in problem solving, information management, communication, the integration of quantitative and qualitative data, and critical and creative thinking skills.

The broader impacts include: (1) partnering among researchers and educators to develop, test, adapt, and disseminate new research-based approaches to science teaching, (2) participation of underserved rural and tribal schools in state-of-the-art educational practices, (3) development of next-generation instructional materials that will be made available to K-12 educators across the country, (4) dissemination of project results through several multidisciplinary conferences, and (5) geosciences learning materials that incorporate the societal implications of earth processes, which better prepare students to become engaged global citizens.

CAREER: Work Contexts, Teacher Learning Opportunities, and Mathematics Achievement of Middle School Students

This CAREER proposal has four objectives: 1) examine the nature of mathematics teachers' learning opportunities for instructional improvement, 2) examine how work contexts influence the quality of teacher learning opportunities, 3) examine the impact of teacher learning opportunities on changes in student mathematics achievement over four years, and 4) work with district and school administrators to promote instructional improvement and student achievement by effectively providing learning opportunities to mathematics teachers.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1305150
Funding Period: 
Sat, 12/15/2012 to Mon, 06/30/2014
Full Description: 

This CAREER proposal has four objectives: 1) examine the nature of mathematics teachers' learning opportunities for instructional improvement, 2) examine how work contexts influence the quality of teacher learning opportunities, 3) examine the impact of teacher learning opportunities on changes in student mathematics achievement over four years, and 4) work with district and school administrators to promote instructional improvement and student achievement by effectively providing learning opportunities to mathematics teachers. The PI will conduct a statewide survey of 1,047 mathematics teachers in 201 middle schools and their 35,304 students in grades 6-8 throughout the state of Missouri.

This project was originally funded under award # 0746936.

Change Thinking for Global Science: Fostering and Evaluating Inquiry Thinking About the Ecological Impacts of Climate Change

This project draws from the expertise of a fully collaborative educator-scientist team to create learning progressions, curricular units and assessment instruments towards large scale research on the teaching and learning of climate change and impacts by 7-12th graders in primarily under-resourced schools. Products include eight week curricular units, IPCC-compliant simplified future scenarios, an online interface with guided predictive distribution modeling, and research results.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918590
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2009 to Wed, 07/31/2013
Project Evaluator: 
Dr. Amelia Gotwals
Full Description: 

Overview

It is increasingly important for all American students to become sophisticated thinkers of science. The Center for Essential Science at the University of Michigan is conducting educational research to engage and support complex thinkers of science and to improve science learning in high-poverty, urban, elementary and middle school classrooms, with particular focus on the Detroit Public Schools. Our previous work focused on fourth through sixth grades, a period when the performance of American science students falls significantly behind that of students in other countries. In this grant, we extend our learning progressions and associated curricular materials, visualization technologies and educational research from fourth to the tenth grade. In particular, this grant is focused in two areas:

  • the development and empirical evaluation of eight to twelve-week curricular units and associated technologies to promote students' deep understandings of the impact of climate change on ecosystems dynamics and animal interactions, and
  • the exploration of new ideas in educational assessment leading to tests that evaluate students' complex reasoning with science.

A Sense of Urgency on Learning Ecological Impacts of Global Climate Change

The modern world is experiencing substantial and rapid changes that are reshaping not only human societies but natural ecosystems worldwide. During the lifetimes of our current middle and high school students, it is likely that our planet will undergo more anthropogenic change than it has during all of human history to date.  While scientists from many disciplines are modeling, monitoring, predicting, and analyzing climate change, understanding the impacts and consequences of climate change cannot be left to scientists alone.

While scientists are aware of the sense of urgency to develop scientific understanding of the impacts of global climate changes, science education resources and sound research on students’ development of complex reasoning about ecological impacts of global climate change are scarce, despite recognition from scientists and policy makers of the importance of this topic. Several factors contribute to this absence. First, global climate change is an extremely multi-disciplinary domain that does not easily fit into existing K-12 disciplinary boundaries of earth science, life science, and physical science. The American Institute for Global Change Research defines global change as “the interactions of biological, chemical and physical processes that regulate changes in the function on the Earth system, including the particular ways in which these changes are influenced by human activities” (American Institute for Global Change Research, 2008). Second, scientific information associated with global climate change is relatively new and emergent, disallowing strong representation in science standards, high stakes tests, textbooks or curricular units utilized in classrooms. Our previous research suggests that the complexity of content coupled with almost no representation on high stakes tests leads to a low priority for many classroom teachers and consequently little to no classroom time. (S. Blum, personal communication 11.6.08). Third, global climate change is a dynamic topic that might be best addressed with resources that couple curricular activities which guide the development of complex inquiry reasoning and modeling/simulation resources to represent the dynamic nature of the science. While modeling and simulation resources exist for professional scientists (e.g., Lifemapper designed by proposal co-PI), neither the guided curricular activities nor the modeling and simulation resources are widely available for middle and high school audiences.

Together, a sense of urgency exists to build a solid, research-based foundation about a new and essential focus area within pre-college science education: students’ complex inquiry reasoning about the impact of global changes on ecosystem dynamics. This sense of urgency can be addressed through the combination of three research-based activities addressed in this proposal: (1) the extension of existing 4-6th grade curricular units towards the development and empirical evaluation of a 4-10th grade curricular progression focused on complex reasoning about biodiversity and the impact of global changes on populations of animals and ecosystem dynamics; (2) the development and evaluation of ecological simulation and modeling resources to accompany the middle and high school units; and (3) sound educational research to provide strong empirical evidence of both growth spurts and plateaus, as well as documentation of how and when complex inquiry reasoning occurs among middle and early high school students in these focus areas.

The program outlined will serve as the major research vehicle for research questions in several interrelated areas. We propose a research design with a series of quasi-experimental studies that will complement each other and provide multiple lenses for understanding complex questions such as these. Our research questions are:

1. Which scientific content and reasoning skills are essential for 7-10th graders’ complex reasoning and modeling of the ecological impacts of climate change? How are these manifested in content and inquiry reasoning progressions?

2. What dynamic visualization and modeling resources support the development of deep thinking about the ecological impacts of climate change?

3. What scaffolding and instructional activities support the development of deep thinking about the ecological impacts of climate change, including both content (ecological impacts) and complex reasoning components (science practices) of this knowledge, within cohorts of 7-10th graders in two new curricular units?

4. Utilizing quantitative (growth curve models, cross sectional studies) and qualitative (think aloud interviews) analyses, what learning outcomes and growth trajectories are realized by 7-10th intervention and control students as measured by both traditional standardized items and assessments focusing on complex thinking about ecological impacts of climate change?

We believe the greatest contribution of our work will be clear empirical information (growth spurts, growth plateaus and achievement information) associated with middle and high school students’ learning of complex and dynamic science associated with the ecological impacts of global climate change. We see the empirically driven development of learning progressions, curricular units, assessment instruments and professional development resources as important secondary contributions. The hypotheses we wish to test are the following:  Do Detroit, rural and small city students who work with coordinated scaffold-rich inquiry programs and visualization resources focusing on impacts of global climate change develop deep conceptual understandings as compared to matched cohorts students?  As determined by growth curve analyses, what do their learning trajectories look like? What new insights about the design of scaffold-rich curricular units and visualization technologies can be gleaned from an analysis of students’ growth trajectories and summative achievement results?  What kinds of assessment instruments are needed to provide reliable and valid measurement of learning progressions in these focus areas? What can we learn about the design of a series of multi-year, coordinated learning resources from the empirically driven development of learning progressions associated with an important emerging science, the ecological impacts of climate change? 

 

Developing Algebra-ready Students for Middle School: Exploring the Impact of Early Algebra

This project is developing and testing a curricular learning progression of early algebra objectives and activities for students in grades 3 - 5. The goal of the work is to provide teachers with curricular guidance and instructional resources that are useful in preparing students for success in study of algebra at the middle grade level. The project is also developing and validating assessment tools for evaluating student progress toward essential pre-algebra mathematical understandings.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1207945
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Sat, 08/31/2013
Full Description: 

 

Data Games—Tools and Materials for Learning Data Modeling (Collaborative Research: Konold)

This project is developing software and curriculum materials in which data generated by students playing computer games form the raw material for mathematics classroom activities. Students play a short video game, analyze the game data, conjecture improved strategies, and test their strategies in another round of the game.

Award Number: 
0918653
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Project Evaluator: 
Jim Hammerman
Full Description: 

Students playing computer games generate large quantities of rich, interesting, highly variable data that mostly evaporates into the ether when the game ends. What if in a classroom setting, data from games students played remained accessible to them for analysis? In software and curriculum materials being developed by the Data Games project at UMass Amherst and KCP Technologies, data generated by students playing computer games form the raw material for mathematics classroom activities. Students play a short video game, analyze the game data, conjecture improved strategies, and test their strategies in another round of the game.

 

The video games are embedded in TinkerPlots and Fathom, two data analysis learning environments widely used in grades 5–8 and 8–14 respectively. The game data appear in graphs in real time, allowing several cycles of strategy improvement in a short time. The games are designed so that these cycles im- prove understanding of specific data modeling and/or mathematics concepts. Lessons will be embedded in LessonLink from Key Curriculum Press to facilitate their integration into standard curricula. The three- year project expands research in students’ understanding of data modeling and their ability to learn mathematical content embedded in data-rich contexts.

Visual Modeling Strategies In Science Teaching

This project aims to find principles of instruction for developing students' visual models in science, including design principles for curriculum development, technological tools, and new pedagogical principles. The project concentrates on methods teachers use to guide class discussions while using innovative model-based curricula in middle school biology and in high school physical science.

Award Number: 
0723709
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/15/2007 to Sat, 07/31/2010

International Polar Year (IPY) STEM Polar Connections

This curriculum development and professional development program includes residential summer institutes with academic-year online communication for in-service teachers involved in professional development of their colleagues. During each summer institute, teachers will be introduced to sets of STEM Polar Connections Modules that will emphasize the process of scientific inquiry and will explore a variety of proven techniques for effective teaching, including inquiry-based teaching, cooperative learning, and methods for formative assessment of student learning.

Award Number: 
0732945
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2007 to Tue, 08/31/2010

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