Teachers

Understanding STEM Teaching through Integrated Contexts in Everyday Life (Collaborative Research: Marco-Bujosa)

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in STEM instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101144
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2021 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner. Socioscientific issues (SSI) can provide a powerful avenue for promoting the desired kinds of engagement. SSI are debatable and ill-defined problems that have a basis in science but necessarily include moral and ethical choices. SSI for economically disadvantaged, culturally diverse students in urban settings might include, for example, lead paint contamination, poor water or air quality, or the existence of “food deserts.” By integrating locally relevant SSI with the goals of social justice, the Social Justice STEM Pedagogies (SJSP) framework the project uses is intended to support students to use their scientific expertise to be agents of change. SJSP can be potentially transformative for teachers, students, schools, and the communities in which students live. For SJSP to effectively promote STEM learning, however, teachers must learn how to integrate STEM-concepts and practices into the various real-world SSI present in their students’ environment. This collaborative project is designed to implement and evaluate a comprehensive professional development plan for grades 7 –12 STEM teachers from economically disadvantaged school districts in Philadelphia and surrounding areas. Teachers will develop ways to incorporate SSI into their instruction that are grounded in standards to foster students’ STEM engagement. The instructional practices enacted by teachers will enhance students’ STEM literacy while utilizing their own knowledge and culture in solving complex and ethically challenging STEM issues, thus promoting students’ abilities to be change agents.

This collaborative research project involves Arcadia University, Mercyhurst University, LaSalle University, Villanova University, and St. Joseph’s University. It is designed to investigate the effectiveness of a professional development (PD) program for STEM teachers to develop their pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in teaching SSI and SJSP. Over four years, three cohorts of 25 grades 7-12 teachers will participate in about 200 hours of PD. The SSI and SJSP encompass authentic, complex real-world, STEM-based issues that are directly related to the inequities experienced by students and their communities that students can engage with in the classroom through the use of inquiry-based learning strategies. By promoting students’ engagement in and awareness of the relevance of STEM in everyday life, teacher participants in this PD will foster STEM learning, especially among students who have been historically marginalized from STEM disciplines, and who are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The research plan is designed to reveal elements of the PD program that are most effective in supporting teachers’ increased capacity to design and implement units of study that incorporate scientific, social, and discursive elements of SSI. Using predominantly qualitative methods, other outcomes include how teachers’ PCK change towards teaching with SSI/SJSP; what factors support and inhibit teacher’s abilities to promote SSI/SJSP; and how justice-centered STEM lessons help students to develop moral and ethical reasoning, scientific skepticism, STEM inquiry/modeling, and SSI discourse/argumentation.

Understanding STEM Teaching through Integrated Contexts in Everyday Life (Collaborative Research: Johnson)

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in STEM instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101287
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2021 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner. Socioscientific issues (SSI) can provide a powerful avenue for promoting the desired kinds of engagement. SSI are debatable and ill-defined problems that have a basis in science but necessarily include moral and ethical choices. SSI for economically disadvantaged, culturally diverse students in urban settings might include, for example, lead paint contamination, poor water or air quality, or the existence of “food deserts.” By integrating locally relevant SSI with the goals of social justice, the Social Justice STEM Pedagogies (SJSP) framework the project uses is intended to support students to use their scientific expertise to be agents of change. SJSP can be potentially transformative for teachers, students, schools, and the communities in which students live. For SJSP to effectively promote STEM learning, however, teachers must learn how to integrate STEM-concepts and practices into the various real-world SSI present in their students’ environment. This collaborative project is designed to implement and evaluate a comprehensive professional development plan for grades 7 –12 STEM teachers from economically disadvantaged school districts in Philadelphia and surrounding areas. Teachers will develop ways to incorporate SSI into their instruction that are grounded in standards to foster students’ STEM engagement. The instructional practices enacted by teachers will enhance students’ STEM literacy while utilizing their own knowledge and culture in solving complex and ethically challenging STEM issues, thus promoting students’ abilities to be change agents.

This collaborative research project involves Arcadia University, Mercyhurst University, LaSalle University, Villanova University, and St. Joseph’s University. It is designed to investigate the effectiveness of a professional development (PD) program for STEM teachers to develop their pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in teaching SSI and SJSP. Over four years, three cohorts of 25 grades 7-12 teachers will participate in about 200 hours of PD. The SSI and SJSP encompass authentic, complex real-world, STEM-based issues that are directly related to the inequities experienced by students and their communities that students can engage with in the classroom through the use of inquiry-based learning strategies. By promoting students’ engagement in and awareness of the relevance of STEM in everyday life, teacher participants in this PD will foster STEM learning, especially among students who have been historically marginalized from STEM disciplines, and who are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The research plan is designed to reveal elements of the PD program that are most effective in supporting teachers’ increased capacity to design and implement units of study that incorporate scientific, social, and discursive elements of SSI. Using predominantly qualitative methods, other outcomes include how teachers’ PCK change towards teaching with SSI/SJSP; what factors support and inhibit teacher’s abilities to promote SSI/SJSP; and how justice-centered STEM lessons help students to develop moral and ethical reasoning, scientific skepticism, STEM inquiry/modeling, and SSI discourse/argumentation.

Understanding STEM Teaching through Integrated Contexts in Everyday Life (Collaborative Research: Richardson)

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in STEM instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101324
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2021 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner. Socioscientific issues (SSI) can provide a powerful avenue for promoting the desired kinds of engagement. SSI are debatable and ill-defined problems that have a basis in science but necessarily include moral and ethical choices. SSI for economically disadvantaged, culturally diverse students in urban settings might include, for example, lead paint contamination, poor water or air quality, or the existence of “food deserts.” By integrating locally relevant SSI with the goals of social justice, the Social Justice STEM Pedagogies (SJSP) framework the project uses is intended to support students to use their scientific expertise to be agents of change. SJSP can be potentially transformative for teachers, students, schools, and the communities in which students live. For SJSP to effectively promote STEM learning, however, teachers must learn how to integrate STEM-concepts and practices into the various real-world SSI present in their students’ environment. This collaborative project is designed to implement and evaluate a comprehensive professional development plan for grades 7 –12 STEM teachers from economically disadvantaged school districts in Philadelphia and surrounding areas. Teachers will develop ways to incorporate SSI into their instruction that are grounded in standards to foster students’ STEM engagement. The instructional practices enacted by teachers will enhance students’ STEM literacy while utilizing their own knowledge and culture in solving complex and ethically challenging STEM issues, thus promoting students’ abilities to be change agents.

This collaborative research project involves Arcadia University, Mercyhurst University, LaSalle University, Villanova University, and St. Joseph’s University. It is designed to investigate the effectiveness of a professional development (PD) program for STEM teachers to develop their pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in teaching SSI and SJSP. Over four years, three cohorts of 25 grades 7-12 teachers will participate in about 200 hours of PD. The SSI and SJSP encompass authentic, complex real-world, STEM-based issues that are directly related to the inequities experienced by students and their communities that students can engage with in the classroom through the use of inquiry-based learning strategies. By promoting students’ engagement in and awareness of the relevance of STEM in everyday life, teacher participants in this PD will foster STEM learning, especially among students who have been historically marginalized from STEM disciplines, and who are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The research plan is designed to reveal elements of the PD program that are most effective in supporting teachers’ increased capacity to design and implement units of study that incorporate scientific, social, and discursive elements of SSI. Using predominantly qualitative methods, other outcomes include how teachers’ PCK change towards teaching with SSI/SJSP; what factors support and inhibit teacher’s abilities to promote SSI/SJSP; and how justice-centered STEM lessons help students to develop moral and ethical reasoning, scientific skepticism, STEM inquiry/modeling, and SSI discourse/argumentation.

Understanding STEM Teaching through Integrated Contexts in Everyday Life (Collaborative Research: Macalalag)

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in STEM instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101395
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2021 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner. Socioscientific issues (SSI) can provide a powerful avenue for promoting the desired kinds of engagement. SSI are debatable and ill-defined problems that have a basis in science but necessarily include moral and ethical choices. SSI for economically disadvantaged, culturally diverse students in urban settings might include, for example, lead paint contamination, poor water or air quality, or the existence of “food deserts.” By integrating locally relevant SSI with the goals of social justice, the Social Justice STEM Pedagogies (SJSP) framework the project uses is intended to support students to use their scientific expertise to be agents of change. SJSP can be potentially transformative for teachers, students, schools, and the communities in which students live. For SJSP to effectively promote STEM learning, however, teachers must learn how to integrate STEM-concepts and practices into the various real-world SSI present in their students’ environment. This collaborative project is designed to implement and evaluate a comprehensive professional development plan for grades 7 –12 STEM teachers from economically disadvantaged school districts in Philadelphia and surrounding areas. Teachers will develop ways to incorporate SSI into their instruction that are grounded in standards to foster students’ STEM engagement. The instructional practices enacted by teachers will enhance students’ STEM literacy while utilizing their own knowledge and culture in solving complex and ethically challenging STEM issues, thus promoting students’ abilities to be change agents.

This collaborative research project involves Arcadia University, Mercyhurst University, LaSalle University, Villanova University, and St. Joseph’s University. It is designed to investigate the effectiveness of a professional development (PD) program for STEM teachers to develop their pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in teaching SSI and SJSP. Over four years, three cohorts of 25 grades 7-12 teachers will participate in about 200 hours of PD. The SSI and SJSP encompass authentic, complex real-world, STEM-based issues that are directly related to the inequities experienced by students and their communities that students can engage with in the classroom through the use of inquiry-based learning strategies. By promoting students’ engagement in and awareness of the relevance of STEM in everyday life, teacher participants in this PD will foster STEM learning, especially among students who have been historically marginalized from STEM disciplines, and who are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The research plan is designed to reveal elements of the PD program that are most effective in supporting teachers’ increased capacity to design and implement units of study that incorporate scientific, social, and discursive elements of SSI. Using predominantly qualitative methods, other outcomes include how teachers’ PCK change towards teaching with SSI/SJSP; what factors support and inhibit teacher’s abilities to promote SSI/SJSP; and how justice-centered STEM lessons help students to develop moral and ethical reasoning, scientific skepticism, STEM inquiry/modeling, and SSI discourse/argumentation.

Teacher Collaborative for Culturally Relevant Mathematics and Science Curricula

Culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP) is a framework that puts students and their experiences at the center of teaching. Culturally relevant math and science teaching (CRMST), more specifically, describes equitable science and math teaching practices that support student success in schools. This project involves elementary teachers in a 3-day conference focusing on CRP and CRMST. The conference is designed to form a teacher collaborative to share experiences and resources, learn from one another, and create their own culturally relevant science and math units for use in their classrooms.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101532
Funding Period: 
Tue, 06/15/2021 to Tue, 05/31/2022
Full Description: 

To be effective, teachers need a strong theoretical understanding of the frameworks that support success for all students, especially those students historically underserved by schools. Culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP) is a framework that puts students and their experiences at the center of teaching. Culturally relevant math and science teaching (CRMST), more specifically, describes equitable science and math teaching practices that support student success in schools. This project involves elementary teachers in a 3-day conference focusing on CRP and CRMST. The conference is designed to form a teacher collaborative to share experiences and resources, learn from one another, and create their own culturally relevant science and math units for use in their classrooms. To boost teacher learning, the conference includes a variety of workshops and activities led by local and national content area experts, teacher educators, and STEM teacher-leaders who use culturally relevant science/math curricula in their classrooms. In the year following the conference, teachers will be strategically supported to continue designing and implementing CRMST through monthly teacher collaborative meetings and in-classroom support. At the end of the project year, teachers will participate in a public curriculum fair that showcases their projects and allows them to share what they have learned.

The research component of this project will use culturally relevant pedagogy and a framework that describes trajectories of development for CRMST as theoretical and analytical frameworks. In particular, the latter framework describes levels of engagement with key ideas from CRP and attends to, for example, whether teachers engage with transformative decision making, grapple with issues from an individual or structural perspective, and recognize tensions and discomfort in their learnings about CRMST. The research will focus on learning more about how teachers benefit from collaborative opportunities and how they develop understandings about CRMST.  Data sources will include: culturally relevant mathematics and science curricula (CR-MASC) units, classroom observations, field notes, and surveys collected from the teacher participants. Findings about practices and structures that support teachers’ movement towards CRMST, as well as exemplary CR-MASC units, will contribute to research and practice in teacher education aimed at improving science and math learning experiences for marginalized learners.

Facilitating Formative Feedback: Using Simulations to Impact the Capability of Novice Mathematics Teachers

This project explores the ways in which thoughtfully designed simulations can provide preservice teachers with formative assessment opportunities that serve as a complement to, or alternative to as needed, feedback derived from field placement contexts. A set of simulations will be designed with a focus on eliciting and interpreting student thinking. These simulations will be used with preservice teachers in three elementary teacher preparation programs of varying size and demographics.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101343
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2021 to Sun, 08/31/2025
Full Description: 

During their initial teacher preparation experiences, preservice teachers need meaningful formative assessment that can support them in developing their skills and practices as new teachers of mathematics. While field placements offer some such opportunities, too often preservice teachers are not able to see, experience, and enact a full range of research-based effective mathematics teaching practices. This level II four-year design and development study in the assessment strand explores the ways in which thoughtfully designed simulations can provide preservice teachers with formative assessment opportunities that serve as a complement to, or alternative to as needed, feedback derived from field placement contexts. A set of simulations will be designed with a focus on eliciting and interpreting student thinking. These simulations will be used with preservice teachers in three elementary teacher preparation programs of varying size and demographics. Data will be collected to understand the ways in which the feedback from engaging in the simulations serves to strengthen preservice teachers' abilities to elicit and interpret student thinking through an analysis of performance in the simulations, interviews with preservice teachers, and feedback from teacher educators. An associated study will establish the reliability and validity of the simulations as assessment tools.

Simulations will be developed and tested in three cycles, with iterative improvements made between each cycle. The first cycle will involve 10 preservice teachers in a pilot study separate from participation in a course, in which preservice teachers engage in a simulation, receive formative feedback, and engage in a second similar simulation. This cycle will evaluate the extent to which feedback appears to influence subsequent performance. In the second cycle, the project will work with three teacher educators in diverse contexts to enact the simulations with all preservice teachers in one section of their elementary mathematics methods courses. In the final cycle, the use of the simulations will shift from a research team actor playing the role of the student to a site-based actor recruited by the teacher educators at each of the three institutions. To validate the tools, researcher reliability and teacher educator reliability studies will be conducted to asses the extent to which the four different simulation assessments provide consistent feedback on the targeted teaching practices and the extent to which the scoring of the assessments are reliable. A G study (generalizability study) will be conducted to evaluate the extent to which the teacher participant is the primary source of variation as compared to variations from student actors or the rater administering the assessment. Results will be disseminated in a variety of mathematics education settings and the simulation materials will be made available to practitioners and adapted for additional use in  mixed-reality simulation platforms.

Accessible Computational Thinking in Elementary Science Classes within and across Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Contexts (Collaborative Research: Nelson)

This research project aims to enhance elementary teacher education in science and computational thinking pedagogy through the use of Culturally Relevant Teaching, i.e. teaching in ways that are relevant to students from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The project will support 60 elementary teachers in summer professional development and consistent learning opportunities during the school year to learn about and enact culturally relevant computational thinking into their science instruction.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101039
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/15/2021 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

Currently, students who are white, affluent, and identify as male tend to develop a greater interest in and pursuit of science and computing-related careers compared to their Black, Latinx, Native American, and female-identifying peers. Yet, science, computing, and computational thinking drive societal decision-making and problem-solving. The lack of cultural and racial diversity in science and computing-related careers can lead to societal systems and decision-making structures that fail to consider a wide range of perspectives and expertise. Teachers play a critical role in preparing students to develop these skills and succeed in a technological and scientific world. For this reason, it is crucial to investigate how teachers can help culturally and linguistically diverse students develop a greater understanding of and interest in science and computers. This research project aims to enhance elementary teacher education in science and computational thinking pedagogy through the use of Culturally Relevant Teaching, i.e. teaching in ways that are relevant to students from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The project will support 60 elementary teachers in summer professional development and consistent learning opportunities during the school year to learn about and enact culturally relevant computational thinking into their science instruction. In doing so, the project aims to increase both the quantity and quality of computing experiences for all elementary students and support NSF’s commitment in broadening participation in the STEM workforce. The project will also produce resources, measures, and tools to support elementary teachers to do this kind of work, which will be shared with other STEM researchers and teacher educators.

The goal of this research project is to design and promote teaching practices that integrate computational thinking in the elementary science classroom in culturally relevant ways. This project will seek to empower practicing elementary teachers’ approaches to meaningfully and effectively integrate and adapt computational thinking into their regular science teaching practice so that all students can access the curriculum. It will also explore the impact of these approaches on student learning and self-efficacy. The scope of this project will include working with multiple highly distinct school settings in Maryland, Arizona, and Washington DC across three years, reaching approximately 60 elementary teachers and 1,200 students. To achieve the project objectives, the research team will leverage concurrent mixed methods approaches that include teacher and student interviews, reflections, observations, descriptive case study reports as well as regression and multilevel modeling. The project’s findings will inform the fields’ understanding of: (a) teachers’ conceptualization of computational thinking; (b) the barriers elementary teachers encounter when trying to integrate computational thinking with culturally relevant teaching practices; (c) the types of support that are effective in teacher professional development experiences  and throughout the school year; and (d) the development of a cohort of teachers that can maintain integration efforts in different districts.

Accessible Computational Thinking in Elementary Science Classes within and across Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Contexts (Collaborative Research: Ketelhut)

This research project aims to enhance elementary teacher education in science and computational thinking pedagogy through the use of Culturally Relevant Teaching, i.e. teaching in ways that are relevant to students from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The project will support 60 elementary teachers in summer professional development and consistent learning opportunities during the school year to learn about and enact culturally relevant computational thinking into their science instruction.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101526
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/15/2021 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

Currently, students who are white, affluent, and identify as male tend to develop a greater interest in and pursuit of science and computing-related careers compared to their Black, Latinx, Native American, and female-identifying peers. Yet, science, computing, and computational thinking drive societal decision-making and problem-solving. The lack of cultural and racial diversity in science and computing-related careers can lead to societal systems and decision-making structures that fail to consider a wide range of perspectives and expertise. Teachers play a critical role in preparing students to develop these skills and succeed in a technological and scientific world. For this reason, it is crucial to investigate how teachers can help culturally and linguistically diverse students develop a greater understanding of and interest in science and computers. This research project aims to enhance elementary teacher education in science and computational thinking pedagogy through the use of Culturally Relevant Teaching, i.e. teaching in ways that are relevant to students from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The project will support 60 elementary teachers in summer professional development and consistent learning opportunities during the school year to learn about and enact culturally relevant computational thinking into their science instruction. In doing so, the project aims to increase both the quantity and quality of computing experiences for all elementary students and support NSF’s commitment in broadening participation in the STEM workforce. The project will also produce resources, measures, and tools to support elementary teachers to do this kind of work, which will be shared with other STEM researchers and teacher educators.

The goal of this research project is to design and promote teaching practices that integrate computational thinking in the elementary science classroom in culturally relevant ways. This project will seek to empower practicing elementary teachers’ approaches to meaningfully and effectively integrate and adapt computational thinking into their regular science teaching practice so that all students can access the curriculum. It will also explore the impact of these approaches on student learning and self-efficacy. The scope of this project will include working with multiple highly distinct school settings in Maryland, Arizona, and Washington DC across three years, reaching approximately 60 elementary teachers and 1,200 students. To achieve the project objectives, the research team will leverage concurrent mixed methods approaches that include teacher and student interviews, reflections, observations, descriptive case study reports as well as regression and multilevel modeling. The project’s findings will inform the fields’ understanding of: (a) teachers’ conceptualization of computational thinking; (b) the barriers elementary teachers encounter when trying to integrate computational thinking with culturally relevant teaching practices; (c) the types of support that are effective in teacher professional development experiences  and throughout the school year; and (d) the development of a cohort of teachers that can maintain integration efforts in different districts.

Managing Uncertainty for Productive Struggle: Exploring Teacher Development for Managing Students' Epistemic Uncertainty as a Pedagogical Resource in Project-based Learning

This project is exploring teachers' capacity to manage student epistemic uncertainty as a pedagogical resource that supports student’s productive struggle and the development of conceptual knowledge during project-based learning instruction in middle school science classrooms.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2100879
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/01/2021 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

The research team is exploring teachers' capacity to manage student epistemic uncertainty as a pedagogical resource that supports student’s productive struggle and the development of conceptual knowledge during project-based learning (PBL) instruction in middle school science classrooms. Although scientists consider uncertainty to be a primary driver of the progression of scientific knowledge and making sense of the world, the way science is typically taught in middle school obscures the productive role of uncertainty in science. Indeed, science is typically taught to emphasize its assuredness and authority instead. If teachers are going to shift their teaching practice to engage students with uncertainty in scientifically productive ways, the educational community needs this area to be researched. It is known that managing uncertainty in the classroom is a challenge for teachers and students. Many are not familiar with how scientists and engineers manage uncertainty to make sense of the real world, and few studies explore learning science as an enterprise of uncertainty management nor how student uncertainty is identified by teachers and students, advances discussion, contributes to knowledge development, gets resolved, and appropriately raises new uncertainties, and what strategies are available to teachers to manage students’ desirable uncertainty for productive struggle. This project is exploring how teachers' instructional practices change over time with repeated use of epistemic uncertainty as a pedagogical resource to support students’ engagement in PBL, and what effect those changes have on student perceptions, practice, management of epistemic uncertainty and learning outcomes. The project will result in the following outcomes: (1) an evidence-based model and learning materials for sustained PD that focuses on developing teacher capacity and practice while using targeted materials and approaches; (2) a productive teaching model for managing uncertainty that will promote a culture of scientific inquiry and engineering design as well as a set of strategies to foster student agency; and (3) evidence of increased student learning outcomes when teachers adapt students' epistemic uncertainty as a pedagogical resource to support students' productive struggle in STEM PBL.

Using a longitudinal, design-based research, mixed-methods study structure, the research team is investigating middle school science teachers' capacity to recognize, utilize, and manage students' epistemic uncertainty as a pedagogical resource for productive struggle. The study follows the same cohort of 24 sixth-grade teachers in Phoenix, Arizona, for three years beginning in fall 2021. Program activities are impacting approximately 1080 students’ learning outcomes over the life of the project. The following research questions guide the study: (1) How does sustained engagement with professional development in uncertainty management affect teachers' capacity to recognize and utilize students' epistemic uncertainty as a pedagogical resource for engaging students in productive struggle to develop scientific knowledge? (2) How do teachers' instructional practice in managing epistemic uncertainty change over time when they utilize epistemic uncertainty as a pedagogical resource for engaging students in productive struggle? (3) How do teachers' approach to managing uncertainty influence students' perceptions, practice, and management of epistemic uncertainty? Quantitatively, existing measures are being employed an two new instruments are being developed. Qualitatively, interviews and surveys round out the exploration of these questions. The results of this study are informing widely-adopted learning standards, and dissemination will help science teachers to recognize and use students’ epistemic uncertainty as a pedagogical resource to support their learning in science and engineering classrooms.

MothEd - Authentic Science for Elementary and Middle School Students

Widely-adopted science education standards have expanded expectations for students to learn science research processes. To address these needs, the project will research and develop curricular materials and classroom practices that teachers can use to bring authentic science into their classes and engage students as active science researchers. The project, called MothEd, will focus on the study of moths, which are well-suited to the project’s goal of having students conduct authentic scientific investigations.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2100990
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/15/2021 to Thu, 07/31/2025
Full Description: 

There are few opportunities and curriculum materials that support teachers in engaging elementary and middle-school students in scientific research processes and in conducting their own investigations. Widely-adopted science education standards have expanded expectations for students to learn science research processes. To address these needs, the project will research and develop curricular materials and classroom practices that teachers can use to bring authentic science into their classes and engage students as active science researchers. The project, called MothEd, will focus on the study of moths, which are well-suited to the project’s goal of having students conduct authentic scientific investigations. Moths are ecologically important, easy to capture, and there is a lack of research on moths compared to many other insect species. In the project activities, students will construct moth traps and collect data through research processes that they design and carry out. The project is building on an approach called community science (sometimes called citizen science), where non-scientists in local communities voluntarily contribute to scientific research. Students and teachers will work in partnership with entomologists and science educators to develop and answer questions about local ecological conditions and will become genuine producers of knowledge within science learning communities. Students will work collaboratively within an online platform to design experiments using a complete suite of research tools for collection, expression, and analysis of data, including sensors, photographs, sketches, and graphs. The project will develop curricular materials that will provide teaching and learning materials that are focused on giving students place-based opportunities to conduct age-appropriate scientific investigations.

MothEd’s educational research will investigate several questions: (1) what students understand about scientific research processes and how they see themselves in that process; (2) how students can work as partners with scientists in discovery and what do they learn about research methods and moth ecology; and (3) What supports teachers need in order to support students as active science researchers. Using a mixed methods approach, the project will collect a variety of data for the research: in-class observations of student work; pre- and post- activity surveys about their knowledge of moth ecology and their view and understanding of science research processes; teacher interviews; and analysis of data collected by project software on student work and collaboration. The project will be designed to ensure that the MothEd education materials can be adopted and used independently by teachers across the country. Project research findings and materials will be shared via conferences, journal publications, and the project’s collaborative learning environment.

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