Hispanics/Latinos

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.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Transforming Engineering Education for Middle School (TEEMS)

Presenter(s): Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh, Sonia Ellis, & Crystal Ford


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.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Transforming Engineering Education for Middle School (TEEMS)

Presenter(s): Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh, Sonia Ellis, & Crystal Ford


Science Communities of Practice Partnership

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

Integrating Chemistry and Earth Science

This project will design, develop, and test a new curriculum unit for high school chemistry courses that is organized around the question, "How does chemistry shape where I live?" The new unit will integrate relevant Earth science data, scientific practices, and key urban environmental research findings with the chemistry curriculum to gain insights into factors that support the approach to teaching and learning advocated by current science curriculum standards.

Award Number: 
1721163
Funding Period: 
Tue, 08/15/2017 to Wed, 07/31/2019
Full Description: 

This Integrating Chemistry and Earth science (ICE) project will design, develop, and test a new curriculum unit for high school chemistry courses that is organized around the question, "How does chemistry shape where I live?" The new unit will integrate relevant Earth science data, scientific practices, and key urban environmental research findings with the chemistry curriculum to gain insights into factors that support the approach to teaching and learning advocated by current science curriculum standards. The overarching goal of the project is to develop teacher capacity to teach and evaluate student abilities to use the practices of scientists and concepts from Earth science and chemistry to understand important phenomena in their immediate, familiar environments. The project has the potential to serve as a model for how to make cutting edge science directly accessible to all students. The project is a collaborative effort that engages scientists, science education researchers, curriculum developers, school curriculum and instruction leaders, and science teachers in the longer term challenge of infusing Earth science concepts and practices across the core high school science courses.

Current guidelines and standards for science education promote learning that engages students in three interrelated dimensions: disciplinary core ideas, scientific practices, and crosscutting ideas. This project is guided by the hypothesis that when provided sustained opportunities to engage in three-dimensional learning experiences, in an integrated Earth science and chemistry context, students will improve in their ability to demonstrate the coordination of disciplinary core ideas, scientific practices, and crosscutting concepts when solving problems and developing explanations related to scientific phenomena. This project will employ a design based research approach, and during the two development-enactment-analysis-and-redesign cycles, the project team will collect student assessment data, teacher interview data, observational data from lessons, teacher surveys, and reflective teacher logbooks. These collected data will provide information about how teachers implement the lessons, what students do during the lessons, and what students learn from them that will lead to better design and a better understanding of student learning. This information will be used to inform the modification of lessons from cycle to cycle, and to inform the professional development materials for teachers. The research agenda for the project is guided by the following questions: 1. What are the design features of ICE lessons that support teachers in enacting three-dimensional instruction within the context of their classroom? 2. What are the design features of embedded three-dimensional assessments that yield useful classroom data for teachers and researchers regarding their students' abilities to integrate core ideas, scientific practices, and crosscutting concepts? 3. What is the nature of student learning related to disciplinary core ideas, scientific practices, and crosscutting concepts that results from students' engagement in ICE lesson sets? 4. What differences emerge in student engagement and learning outcomes for ICE lessons that incorporate local phenomena or data sets as compared to lessons that do not? 5. What contextual factors (i.e., school context, administrative support, time constraints, etc.) influence teachers' implementation of three-dimensional instruction embedded within ICE lessons?


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Integrating Chemistry and Earth Science (ICE)

Presenter(s): Alan Berkowitz, Vonceil Anderson, Bess Caplan, Kevin Garner, & Jonathon Grooms


Building a Community of Science Teacher Educators to Prepare Novices for Ambitious Science Teaching

This conference will bring together a group of teacher educators to focus on preservice teacher education and a shared vision of instruction called ambitious science teaching. It is a critical first step toward building a community of teacher educators who can collectively share and refine strategies, tools, and practices for preparing preservice science teachers for ambitious science teaching.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1719950
Funding Period: 
Tue, 08/01/2017 to Tue, 07/31/2018
Full Description: 

There is a growing consensus among science teacher educators of a need for a shared, research-based vision of accomplished instructional practice, and for teacher education pedagogies that can effectively prepare preservice science teachers to support the science learning of students from all backgrounds. This conference will bring together a group of teacher educators to focus on preservice teacher education and a shared vision of instruction called ambitious science teaching. This conference is a critical first step toward building a community of teacher educators who can collectively share and refine strategies, tools, and practices for preparing preservice science teachers for ambitious science teaching. The conference has two goals. The first goal is to develop a shared vision and language about effective pedagogy of science teacher preparation, focusing on ambitious science teaching and practice-based approaches to science teacher preparation. The second goal is to initiate a professional community that can generate, test, revise, and disseminate a set of resources (curriculum materials, tools, videos, models of teacher educator pedagogies, etc.) to support teacher educators.

There are immediate and long-term broader impacts that will result from this conference. One immediate impact is that this conference will set forth an actionable research agenda for the participants and the field to take up around ambitious science teaching and practice-based teacher education. Such an agenda will help shape new work, involving institutional collaborations,teacher preparation programs, and national organizations. Such an outcome has the potential to immediately impact the work of the conference participants and their own teacher preparation programs. In the long-term, this conference provides an opportunity for the participants to consider how to use ambitious science teaching to address issues of equity and social justice in science education and schools. In addition, the broader impacts of this conference will be to spread a vision of science teaching and practice-based teacher preparation in which students' ideas and experiences are the raw material of teachers' work.

Exploring the Potential of Tablets as Early Math Resources for Urban Kindergarteners in Schools and Homes

This project will examine the impact on mathematics learning of an initiative to provide kindergartners in an urban school district with personal tablet devices that include free, widely available digital mathematics resources. The research questions examine how teachers use table-based mathematics resources during instruction, how caregivers and children engage with table-based mathematics resources, and how the resources then relate to kindergartners mathematics learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1744202
Funding Period: 
Tue, 08/01/2017 to Tue, 07/31/2018
Full Description: 

This project will examine the impact on mathematics learning of an initiative to provide kindergartners in an urban school district with personal tablet devices that include free, widely available digital mathematics resources. An important question for schools as tablet devices become more accessible is how to effectively use them in primary grades, especially kindergarten. In addition, since the devices are portable, how children use the resources such as games for mathematics learning at home is also important to understand. This project is set in a high-needs school district with a large number of low-income children. The project provides an opportunity to learn about the potential role of tables and digital resources in early grades through the analysis of assessment data, user analytic data documenting how the resources were used, and survey data from teachers and families.

Most studies of digital learning resources have been small-scale or focused on engagement. This study offers the opportunity to investigate the relationship between the use of these resources and learning outcomes using a quasi-experimental design. The research questions examine how teachers use table-based mathematics resources during instruction, how caregivers and children engage with table-based mathematics resources and how the resources then relate to kindergartners mathematics learning. Assessments of students' learning will focus on number, geometry and measurement concepts. The learner analytic data from the tablets will document the use of the resources on the tablets. Surveys and demographic data will also be collected to document how the tablets were used. Results of the study should inform implementation of tablet use by schools with particular attention to how they are used across in-class and at-home settings.

Project Accelerate: University-High School AP Physics Partnerships

Project Accelerate blends the supportive structures of a student's home school, a rigorous online course designed specifically with the needs of under-served populations in mind, and hands-on laboratory experiences, to make AP Physics accessible to under-served students. The project could potentially lead to the success of motivated but under-served students who attend schools where the opportunity to engage in a rigorous STEM curriculum is not available.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720914
Funding Period: 
Tue, 08/01/2017 to Fri, 07/31/2020
Full Description: 

Project Accelerate brings AP Physics 1 and, eventually, AP Physics 2 to students attending schools that do not offer AP Physics. The project will enable 249 students (mostly under-served, i.e., economically disadvantaged, ethnic minorities and racial minorities) to enroll in AP Physics - the students would otherwise not have access. These students either prepare for the AP Physics 1 exam by completing a highly interactive, conceptually rich, rigorous online course, complete with virtual lab experiments, or participate in an accredited AP course that also includes weekly hands-on labs. In this project, the model will be tested and perfected with more students and expanded to AP Physics 2. Further, model replication will be tested at an additional site, beyond the two pilot sites. In the first pilot year in Massachusetts at Boston University, results indicated that students fully engaged in Project Accelerate are (1) at least as well prepared as peer groups in traditional classrooms to succeed on the AP Physics 1 exam and (2) more inclined to engage in additional STEM programs and to pursue STEM fields and programs than they were prior to participating. In the second year of the pilot study, Project Accelerate doubled in size and expanded in partnership with West Virginia University. From lessons learned in the pilot years, key changes are being made, which are expected to increase success. Project Accelerate provides a potential solution to a significant national problem of too few under-served young people having access to high quality physics education, often resulting in these students being ill prepared to enter STEM careers and programs in college. Project Accelerate is a scalable model to empower these students to achieve STEM success, replicable at sites across the country (not only in physics, but potentially across fourteen AP subjects). The project could potentially lead to the success of tens of thousands of motivated but under-served students who attend schools where the opportunity to engage in a rigorous STEM curriculum is not available.

Project Accelerate blends the supportive structures of a student's home school, a private online course designed specifically with the needs of under-served populations in mind, and hands-on laboratory experiences, to make AP Physics accessible to under-served students. The goals of the project are: 1) have an additional 249 students, over three years, complete the College Board-accredited AP Physics 1 course or the AP Physics 1 Preparatory course; 2) add an additional replication site, with a total of three universities participating by the end of the project; 3) develop formal protocols so Project Accelerate can be replicated easily and with fidelity at sites across the nation; 4) develop formal protocols so the project can be self-sustaining at a reasonable cost (about $500 per student participant); 5) build an AP Physics 2 course, giving students who come through AP Physics 1 a second year of rigorous experience to help further prepare them for college and career success; 6) create additional rich interactive content, such as simulations and video-based experiments, to add to what is already in the AP Physics 1 prep course and to build the AP Physics 2 prep course - the key is to actively engage students with the material and include scaffolding to support the targeted population; 7) carry out qualitative and quantitative education research, identifying features of the program that work for the target population, as well as identifying areas for improvement. This project will support the growing body of research on the effectiveness of online and blended (combining online and in-person components) courses, and investigate the use of such courses with under-represented high school students.

Building Capacity to Retain Underrepresented Students in STEM Fields

This workshop provides minority serving institutions with an opportunity to engage in dialogue about effective ways to create, implement, and evaluate models of intervention that will advance knowledge about retaining underrepresented minorities in STEM fields. It will advance knowledge in life science and the biosciences for K-12 and undergraduate students attending local schools or eligible minority-serving institutions.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1741748
Funding Period: 
Mon, 05/01/2017 to Mon, 04/30/2018
Full Description: 

The NSF invests in a number of programs targeting underrepresented populations and institutions relative to its meeting its goals for broadening participation in STEM. This workshop provides minority serving institutions with an opportunity to engage in dialogue about effective ways to create, implement, and evaluate models of intervention that will advance knowledge about retaining underrepresented minorities in STEM fields. It will advance knowledge in life science and the biosciences for K-12 and undergraduate students attending local schools or eligible minority-serving institutions. The workshop will focus on assisting minority serving institutions with use of research designs, and review of best practices for intervention shown to be effective in helping underrepresented student cope with chronic stresses that interfere with their retention in STEM fields and careers. The target audience for the workshop will be the participating institutions and their undergraduate students, in partnership with local K-12 schools.

In collaboration with Quality Education for Minority and MERAssociates, Rutgers University Newark will provide a unique setting to convene more than 100 participants to attend the workshop. The participants will include deans and/or department chairs; STEM faculty; educational researchers, and institutional representatives such as Vice Presidents of Academic Affairs, Provosts, or other administrators. The participants will work in teams of 4-5 to address science research topics and activities related to curriculum development, teacher support, and student engagement. Outcomes from the workshops will provide insights about successful strategies, areas of future research, and awareness about the need for better intervention models that support underrepresented minority students in STEM.

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