Rural

Anchoring High School Students in Real-Life Issues that Integrate STEM Content and Literacy

Through the integration of STEM content and literacy, this project will study the ways teachers implement project practices integrating literacy activities into STEM learning. Teachers will facilitate instruction using scenarios that present students with everyday, STEM-related issues, presented as scenarios, that they read and write about. After reading and engaging with math and science content, students will write a source-based argument in which they state a claim, support the claim with evidence from the texts, and explain the multiple perspectives on the issue.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010312
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/15/2020 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

The STEM Literacy Project sets out to support student learning through developing teacher expertise in collaborative integration of STEM in student writing and literacy skills development. Facilitated by teachers, students will read, discuss, and then write about real-world STEM scenarios, such as water quality or health. The project will build on and research a professional development program first developed through a state-supported literacy program for middle and high school science and math teachers to improve literacy-integrated instruction. The goals of this project include the following: (1) Create a community of practice that recognizes high school teachers as content experts; (2) Implement high quality professional development for teachers on STEM/Literacy integration; (3) Develop assessments based on STEM and literacy standards that inform instruction; and (4) Conduct rigorous research to understand the impact of the professional development. The program is aligned with state and national standards for college and career readiness. Project resources will be widely shared through a regularly updated project website (stemliteracyproject.org), conference presentations, and publications reaching researchers, developers, and educators. These resources will include scenario-based assessment tools and instructional materials.

Through the integration of STEM content and literacy, the project will study the ways teachers implement project practices integrating literacy activities into STEM learning. Teachers will facilitate instruction using scenarios that present students with everyday, STEM-related issues, presented as scenarios, that they read and write about. After reading and engaging with math and science content, students will write a source-based argument in which they state a claim, support the claim with evidence from the texts, and explain the multiple perspectives on the issue. These scenarios provide students with agency as they craft an argument for an audience, such as presenting to a city council, a school board, or another group of stakeholders. Project research will use a mixed methods design. Based on the work completed through the initial designs and development of scenario-based assessments, rubrics, and scoring processes, the project will study the impact on instruction and student learning. Using a triangulation design convergence model, findings will be compared and contrasted in order for the data to inform one another and lead to further interpretation of the data. project will analyze the features of STEM content learning after program-related instruction. Data collected will include pre-post student scenario-based writing; pre-post interviews of up to 40 students each year; pre-post teacher interviews; and teacher-created scenario-based assessments and supporting instructional materials. Student learning reflected in the assessments paired with student and teacher interview responses will provide a deeper understanding of this approach of integrating STEM and literacy. The use of discourse analysis methods will allow growth in content learning to be measured through language use. Project research will build knowledge in the field concerning how participation in teacher professional development integrating STEM content in literacy practices impacts teacher practices and student learning.

SimSnap: Orchestrating Collaborative Learning in Biology through Reconfigurable Simulations (Collective Research: Tissenbaum)

This project will develop and research collaborative learning in biology using tablet-style computers that support simulations of biological systems and that can be used individually or linked together. The project will be implemented over 4 years in middle school life science classes, in which students will solve important socio-scientific problems, such as growing healthy plants in community gardens to address the need to grow sufficient produce to fulfill ever increasing and varying demands.

Award Number: 
2010456
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2020 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

The project will develop and research collaborative learning in biology using tablet-style computers that support simulations of biological systems and that can be used individually or linked together. The project will be implemented over 4 years in middle school life science classes, in which students will solve important socio-scientific problems, such as growing healthy plants in community gardens to address the need to grow sufficient produce to fulfill ever increasing and varying demands. Working within a digital plant habitat simulation, students will investigate how different environmental and genetic factors affect the health of a variety of plants and vegetables. As students engage in design tasks, they will be able to seamlessly move between individual and collaborative work with peers by "snapping" their tablets together (by placing them next to each other) to create a single shared simulation that spans all their devices. Students will be able to drop elements of their individual inquiry activities (e.g., plant types, soil compositions) into their shared simulation, providing opportunities for collaborative discussion and knowledge integration. When students "unsnap" their tablets, their collaborative work will stay with them in a digital journal, for individual reflection or as a resource for future collaborative activities (with potentially new group members). Project curriculum units will help students see the connections between the science concepts and principles they are learning, as they iteratively work on their designs through a combination of individual, collaborative and whole class learning. This work will also develop new approaches that help teachers understand the state of the class when students are taking part open-ended biology investigations, and support the teacher classroom orchestration and facilitation. Project research findings, materials and software will be made available to interested teachers, administrators, policymakers, and researchers nationwide on the project website.

The project will research collaborative learning along three planesindividual, small group and whole classwith technologies and classroom teachers supporting learning in innovative ways. Research has shown that technology can support collaborative learning, but there is limited research on how it can support transitions between individual and collaborative learning. While research has also shown that collaborative or individual learning may be more beneficial depending on the task or learning goal, there are relatively few studies that examine the potential for learning when students move between these social planes. Further, as these configurations become increasingly complex, there is also the challenge of how to support teachers' orchestration and facilitation. Studies will focus around four main research questions: 1) How does engaging in personally relevant biology curriculum through user-driven investigations help students understand the underlying science content? 2) How are students using and sharing the work of others to develop their own understanding about the underlying science concepts? 3) How do designs that allow for the movement between individual, small group, and whole class configurations allow students to work as a learning community? 4) How does the technology platform support teachers in orchestrating and facilitating classroom activities? Project studies will follow a design-based research methodology, guided by the premise that learning in naturalistic settings is the product of multiple interacting variables that cannot be reduced to a small set of controlled factors. The research will be broken down across four main developmental arcs: Technology design and iteration; Facilitation, user testing, and co-design; Classroom implementation; and Research and analysis. Each of the designed technologies will be user tested in the lab prior to being deployed in the classroom. Part of the analysis will focus on how the different technologies (i.e., individual and connected tablets, the teacher orchestration tablet) support learning and collaboration in naturalistic settings. The project research framework provides a way to examine the usability, usefulness and impact of interactions in a multi-user collaborative context using a mixed-method approach with various quantitative measures and qualitative indicators. Teachers will be prepared to use the system through 2-week summer institutes, during which they will also participate in co-design of the curriculum and the technology. Project research findings, materials and software will be made available to interested teachers, administrators, policymakers, and researchers nationwide on the project website, as well as being disseminated to appropriate audiences via conference presentations and publications.

Developing a Modeling Orientation to Science: Teaching and Learning Variability and Change in Ecosystems (Collaborative Research: Miller)

This project addresses the need to make science relevant for school students and to support student interpretation of large data sets by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010155
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

There is an ongoing need to find ways to make science relevant for school students and an increasing need to support student interpretation of large data sets. This project addresses these needs by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts. Students construct and critique models that they and peers invent and, through the lens of models, develop foundational knowledge about the roles of variability and change in ecosystem functioning, as well as the roles of models and argumentation in scientific practice. The context for students' work is a set of citizen science-based investigations of changes in ecosystems in Maine conducted in twelve collaborating classrooms. The project studies how and to what extent students' use of different forms of modeling emerges from and informs how they investigate ecosystems. A parallel research effort investigates how and to what extent the development of teachers' comfort and proficiency with modeling changes students' engagement in these forms of modeling and students' understandings of ecosystems. A key contribution of the project is capitalizing on the Gulf of Maine Research Institutes's Ecosystem Investigation Network's citizen science field research to ground for middle school students the need to invent, revise, and contest models about real ecosystems. The understandings that result from the project's research provide evidence toward first, scaling the learning experiences to the network of 500+ teachers who are part of the Ecosystem Investigation Network, and, second, replication by programs nationally that aim to engage students in data-rich, field-based ecological investigations.

The investigation takes place in twelve collaborating middle-school classrooms, drawn from the network of 500+ Maine teachers trained in Maine's Ecosystem Investigation Network. Over the course of their field investigations, students engage in the construction, critique, and revision of three forms of modeling that play central roles in ecology: microcosms, system dynamics, and data modeling. Two innovations are introduced over the course of the project. The first is focused on enriching classroom supports for engaging in multiple forms of modeling. The second involves enhancing middle school teachers' learning about modeling, especially in the context of large data citizen science investigations. The study uses a mixed methods approach to explore the impact of the innovations on the experiences and understandings of both teachers and students. Instruments include teacher interviews and questionnaires, student interviews, and classroom observation. The understandings that result from the project's research will inform the design of professional development for teachers around data analysis and interpretation, and around how student understanding of modeling develops with sustained support, both of which are practices at the heart of scientific literacy.

Developing a Modeling Orientation to Science: Teaching and Learning Variability and Change in Ecosystems (Collaborative Research: Lehrer)

This project addresses the need to make science relevant for school students and to support student interpretation of large data sets by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010207
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

There is an ongoing need to find ways to make science relevant for school students and an increasing need to support student interpretation of large data sets. This project addresses these needs by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts. Students construct and critique models that they and peers invent and, through the lens of models, develop foundational knowledge about the roles of variability and change in ecosystem functioning, as well as the roles of models and argumentation in scientific practice. The context for students' work is a set of citizen science-based investigations of changes in ecosystems in Maine conducted in twelve collaborating classrooms. The project studies how and to what extent students' use of different forms of modeling emerges from and informs how they investigate ecosystems. A parallel research effort investigates how and to what extent the development of teachers' comfort and proficiency with modeling changes students' engagement in these forms of modeling and students' understandings of ecosystems. A key contribution of the project is capitalizing on the Gulf of Maine Research Institutes's Ecosystem Investigation Network's citizen science field research to ground for middle school students the need to invent, revise, and contest models about real ecosystems. The understandings that result from the project's research provide evidence toward first, scaling the learning experiences to the network of 500+ teachers who are part of the Ecosystem Investigation Network, and, second, replication by programs nationally that aim to engage students in data-rich, field-based ecological investigations.

The investigation takes place in twelve collaborating middle-school classrooms, drawn from the network of 500+ Maine teachers trained in Maine's Ecosystem Investigation Network. Over the course of their field investigations, students engage in the construction, critique, and revision of three forms of modeling that play central roles in ecology: microcosms, system dynamics, and data modeling. Two innovations are introduced over the course of the project. The first is focused on enriching classroom supports for engaging in multiple forms of modeling. The second involves enhancing middle school teachers' learning about modeling, especially in the context of large data citizen science investigations. The study uses a mixed methods approach to explore the impact of the innovations on the experiences and understandings of both teachers and students. Instruments include teacher interviews and questionnaires, student interviews, and classroom observation. The understandings that result from the project's research will inform the design of professional development for teachers around data analysis and interpretation, and around how student understanding of modeling develops with sustained support, both of which are practices at the heart of scientific literacy.

Developing a Modeling Orientation to Science: Teaching and Learning Variability and Change in Ecosystems (Collaborative Research: Peake)

This project addresses the need to make science relevant for school students and to support student interpretation of large data sets by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010119
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

There is an ongoing need to find ways to make science relevant for school students and an increasing need to support student interpretation of large data sets. This project addresses these needs by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts. Students construct and critique models that they and peers invent and, through the lens of models, develop foundational knowledge about the roles of variability and change in ecosystem functioning, as well as the roles of models and argumentation in scientific practice. The context for students' work is a set of citizen science-based investigations of changes in ecosystems in Maine conducted in twelve collaborating classrooms. The project studies how and to what extent students' use of different forms of modeling emerges from and informs how they investigate ecosystems. A parallel research effort investigates how and to what extent the development of teachers' comfort and proficiency with modeling changes students' engagement in these forms of modeling and students' understandings of ecosystems. A key contribution of the project is capitalizing on the Gulf of Maine Research Institutes's Ecosystem Investigation Network's citizen science field research to ground for middle school students the need to invent, revise, and contest models about real ecosystems. The understandings that result from the project's research provide evidence toward first, scaling the learning experiences to the network of 500+ teachers who are part of the Ecosystem Investigation Network, and, second, replication by programs nationally that aim to engage students in data-rich, field-based ecological investigations.

The investigation takes place in twelve collaborating middle-school classrooms, drawn from the network of 500+ Maine teachers trained in Maine's Ecosystem Investigation Network. Over the course of their field investigations, students engage in the construction, critique, and revision of three forms of modeling that play central roles in ecology: microcosms, system dynamics, and data modeling. Two innovations are introduced over the course of the project. The first is focused on enriching classroom supports for engaging in multiple forms of modeling. The second involves enhancing middle school teachers' learning about modeling, especially in the context of large data citizen science investigations. The study uses a mixed methods approach to explore the impact of the innovations on the experiences and understandings of both teachers and students. Instruments include teacher interviews and questionnaires, student interviews, and classroom observation. The understandings that result from the project's research will inform the design of professional development for teachers around data analysis and interpretation, and around how student understanding of modeling develops with sustained support, both of which are practices at the heart of scientific literacy.

Exploring Changes in Teachers' Engineering Design Self-Efficacy and Practice through Collaborative and Culturally Relevant Professional Development

In this project, investigators from the University of North Dakota develop, evaluate, and implement an on-going, collaborative professional development program designed to support teachers in teaching engineering design to 5th-8th grade students in rural and Native American communities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010169
Funding Period: 
Fri, 01/01/2021 to Sun, 12/31/2023
Full Description: 

Promoting diverse, inclusive and equitable participation in engineering design education at the elementary and middle school levels is important for a number of reasons. In addition to benefits of a diverse STEM workforce to industry and the economy, youth are better able to make informed decisions about pursuing STEM degrees and STEM career pathways and youth are able to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills that allow them to be creative and innovative problem solvers. However, for youth to participate in inclusive and equitable engineering design experiences in elementary and middle schools settings, teachers need opportunities to develop engineering content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and strategies for culturally-relevant teaching. In this project, investigators from the University of North Dakota develop, evaluate, and implement an on-going, collaborative professional development program designed to support teachers in teaching engineering design to 5th-8th grade students in rural and Native American communities.

The project advances the understanding of teacher training in K-12 engineering education and more specifically culturally-relevant engineering design education for 5th-8th grade students. The program design is guided by principles from Bandura's Social Learning Theory, Gladson-Billing's culturally-relevant teaching, and Gay's cultural-responsive teaching. The project combines promising, but often isolated, elements from previous engineering education professional development to give teachers a) pedagogical and content knowledge, b) culturally-relevant pedagogy that is inclusive of indigenous students, c) a supportive professional learning community, d) examples of project-based engineering problems implemented in real classrooms, e) extended scaffolded practice with their own classroom engineering tasks, and f) on-going support. The program is designed for teachers in rural and tribal schools with curricular materials developed collaboratively with community input to specifically address their community's unique needs. The project research team, guided by a diverse advisory board, will collect both quantitative and qualitative data in the forms of surveys, interviews, and videotaped observations to determine if and how the project is affecting classroom engineering instruction and pedagogy, as well as the sense of competence and self-efficacy of the teacher participants. The classroom engineering tasks created through this project, especially those developed to be specifically relevant to Native American and rural student populations, will be promoted and made available to other teachers through a project website, teaching practice journals, and teacher conferences.

Exploring COVID and the Effects on U.S. Education: Evidence from a National Survey of American Households

This study aims to understand parents' perspectives on the educational impacts of COVID-19 by leveraging a nationally representative, longitudinal study, the Understanding America Study (UAS). The study will track educational experiences during the summer of 2020 and into the 2020-21 school year and analyze outcomes overall and for key demographic groups of interest.

Award Number: 
2037179
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/15/2020 to Wed, 06/30/2021
Full Description: 

The COVID-19 epidemic has been a tremendous disruption to the education of U.S. students and their families, and early evidence suggests that this disruption has been unequally felt across households by income and race/ethnicity. While other ongoing data collection efforts focus on understanding this disruption from the perspective of students or educators, less is known about the impact of COVID-19 on children's prek-12 educational experiences as reported by their parents, especially in STEM subjects. This study aims to understand parents' perspectives on the educational impacts of COVID-19 by leveraging a nationally representative, longitudinal study, the Understanding America Study (UAS). The study will track educational experiences during the summer of 2020 and into the 2020-21 school year and analyze outcomes overall and for key demographic groups of interest.

Since March of 2020, the UAS has been tracking the educational impacts of COVID-19 for a nationally representative sample of approximately 1,500 households with preK-12 children. Early results focused on quantifying the digital divide and documenting the receipt of important educational serviceslike free meals and special education servicesafter COVID-19 began. This project will support targeted administration of UAS questions to parents about students' learning experiences and engagement, overall and in STEM subjects, data analysis, and dissemination of results to key stakeholder groups. Findings will be reported overall and across key demographic groups including ethnicity, disability, urbanicity, and socioeconomic status. The grant will also support targeted research briefs addressing pressing policy questions aimed at supporting intervention strategies in states, districts, and schools moving forward. Widespread dissemination will take place through existing networks and in collaboration with other research projects focused on understanding the COVID-19 crisis. All cross-sectional and longitudinal UAS data files will be publicly available shortly after conclusion of administration so that other researchers can explore the correlates of, and outcomes associated with, COVID-19.

Assessing College-Ready Computational Thinking (Collaborative Research: Wilson)

The goal of this project is to develop learning progressions and assessment items targeting computational thinking. The items will be used for a test of college-ready critical reasoning skills and will be integrated into an existing online assessment system, the Berkeley Assessment System Software.

Award Number: 
2010314
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Sat, 08/31/2024
Full Description: 

Because of the growing need for students to be college and career ready, high-quality assessments of college readiness skills are in high demand. To realize the goal of preparing students for college and careers, assessments must measure important competencies and provide rapid feedback to teachers. It is necessary to go beyond the limits of multiple-choice testing and foster the skills and thinking that lie at the core of college and career ready skills, such as computational thinking. Computational thinking is a set of valuable skills that can be used to solve problems, design systems, and understand human behavior, and is thus essential to developing a more STEM-literate public. Computational thinking is increasingly seen as a fundamental analytical skill that everyone, not just computer scientists, can use. The goal of this project is to develop learning progressions and assessment items targeting computational thinking. The items will be used for a test of college-ready critical reasoning skills and will be integrated into an existing online assessment system, the Berkeley Assessment System Software.

The project will address a set of research questions focused on 1) clarifying computational thinking constructs, 2) usability, reliability of validity of assessment items and the information they provide, 3) teachers' use of assessments, and 4) relationships to student performance. The study sample of 2,700 used for the pilot and field tests will include all levels of students in 10th through 12th grade and first year college students (both community college and university level). The target population is students in schools which are implementing the College Readiness Program (CRP) of the National Mathematics and Science Institute. In the 2020-21 academic year 54 high schools across 11 states (CA, GA, FL, ID, LA, NC, NM, OH, TX, VA, and WA) will participate. This will include high school students in Advanced Placement classes as well as non-Advanced Placement classes.  The team will use the BEAR Assessment System to develop and refine assessment materials. This system is an integrated approach to developing assessments that seeks to provide meaningful interpretations of student work relative to cognitive and developmental goals. The researchers will gather empirical evidence to develop and improve the assessment materials, and then gather reliability and validity evidence to support their use. In total, item response data will be collected from several thousand students. Student response data will be analyzed using multidimensional item response theory models.

Reaching Across the Hallway: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Teaching Computer Science in Rural Schools

This project will develop, test, and refine a "train-the-trainer" professional development model for rural teacher-leaders. The project goal is to design and develop a professional development model that supports teachers integrating culturally relevant computer science skills and practices into their middle school social studies classrooms, thereby broadening rural students' participation in computer science.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010256
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2020 to Sun, 06/30/2024
Full Description: 

Strengthening computer science (CS) and computational thinking (CT) education is a national priority with particular attention to increasing the number of teachers prepared to deliver computer science courses. For rural schools, that collectively serve more than 10 million students, it is especially challenging. Rural schools find it difficult to recruit and retain STEM teachers that are prepared to teach computer science and computational thinking. This project will develop, test, and refine a "train-the-trainer" professional development model for rural teacher-leaders. The project will build teachers' self-efficacy to deliver computer science concepts and practices into middle school social studies classrooms. The project is led by CodeVA (a statewide non-profit in Virginia), in partnership with TERC (a STEM-focused national research institution) and the University of South Florida College of Education, and in collaboration with six rural school districts in Virginia. The project goal is to design and develop a professional development model that supports teachers integrating culturally relevant computer science skills and practices into their middle school social studies classrooms, thereby broadening rural students' participation in computer science. The professional development model will be designed and developed around meeting rural teachers, where they are, geographically, economically, and culturally. The model will also be sustainable and will work within the resource constraints of the rural school district. The model will also be built on strategies that will broadly spread CS education while building rural capacity.

The project will use a mixed-methods research approach to understand the model's potential to build capacity for teaching CS in rural schools. The research design is broken down into four distinct phases; planning/development prototyping, piloting and initial dissemination, an efficacy study, and analysis, and dissemination. The project will recruit 45 teacher-leaders and one district-level instructional coach, 6th and 7th-grade teachers, and serve over 1900 6th and 7th-grade students. Participants will be recruited from the rural Virginia school districts of Buchanan, Russell, Charlotte, Halifax, and Northampton. The research question for phase 1 is what is each district's existing practice around computer science education (if any) and social studies education? Phases 2, 3 and 4 research will examine the effectiveness of professional development on teacher leadership and the CS curricular integration. Phase 4 research will examine teacher efficacy to implement the professional development independently, enabling district teachers to integrate CS into their social studies classes. Teacher data sources for each phase include interviews with administrators and teachers, teacher readiness surveys, observations, an examination of artifacts, and CS/CT content interviews. Student data will consist of classroom observation and student attitude surveys. Quantitative and qualitative data will be triangulated to address each set of research questions and provide a reliability check on findings. Qualitative data, such as observations/video, and interview data will be analyzed through codes that represent expected themes and patterns related to teachers' and coaches' experiences. Project results will be communicated through presentations at conferences such as Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education, the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS), and the American Educational Research Association. Lesson plans will be made available on the project website, and links will be provided through publications and newsletters such as the NCSS Middle-Level Learner, NCSS Social Education, CSTA the Voice, the NSF-funded CADREK12 website and the NSF-funded STEM Video Showcase.

Opening Pathways into Engineering through an Illinois Physics and Secondary Schools Partnership

The Illinois Physics and Secondary Schools (IPaSS) Partnership Program responds to disparities in student access to high-quality, advanced physics instruction by bringing together Illinois high school physics teachers from a diverse set of school contexts to participate in intensive PD experiences structured around university-level instructional materials.

Award Number: 
2010188
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2020 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

This project will conduct research and teacher professional development (PD) to adapt university-level instructional materials for implementation by high school teachers in their physics courses. Access to high-quality, advanced physics instruction in high school can open pathways for students to attain university STEM degrees by preparing them for the challenges faced in gatekeeping undergraduate physics courses. Yet, across the nation, access to such advanced physics instruction is not universally available, particularly in rural, urban, and low-income serving districts, in which instructional resources for teachers may be more limited, and physics teacher isolation, under-preparation and out-of-field teaching are most common. The Illinois Physics and Secondary Schools (IPaSS) Partnership Program responds to these disparities in student access by bringing together Illinois high school physics teachers from a diverse set of school contexts to participate in intensive PD experiences structured around university-level instructional materials. This program will help teachers adapt, adopt, and integrate high-quality, university-aligned physics instruction into their classrooms, in turn opening more equitable, clear, and viable pathways for students into STEM education and careers.

The IPaSS Partnership Program puts education researchers, university physics instructors, and teacher professional development staff at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (U of I) in collaboration with in-service high school physics teachers to adapt university physics curricula and pedagogies to fit the context of their high school classrooms. The project will adapt two key components of U of I's undergraduate physics curriculum for high school use by: (1) using a web-based "flipped" platform, smartPhysics, which contains online pre-lectures, pre-labs and homework and (2) using research-based physics lab activities targeting scientific skill development, utilizing the iOLab wireless lab system - a compact device that contains all sensors necessary for hundreds of physics labs with an interface that supports quick data collection and analysis. The program adopts two PD elements that support sustained, in-depth teacher engagement: (1) incremental expansion of the pool of teachers to a cohort of 40 by the end of the project, with a range of physics teaching assignments and work collaboratively with a physics teaching community to develop advanced physics instruction for their particular classroom contexts, (2) involvement in a combination of intensive summer PD sessions containing weekly PD meetings with university project staff that value teachers' agency in designing their courses, and the formation of lasting professional relationships between teachers. The IPaSS Partnership Program also addresses needs for guidance, support and resources as teachers adapt to the shifts in Advanced Placement (AP) Physics standards. The recent revised high school physics curriculum that emphasizes deep conceptual understanding of central physical principles and scientific practices will be learned through the inquiry-based laboratory work. The planned research will address three central questions: (1) How does IPaSS impact teachers' practice? (2) Does the program encourage student proficiency in physics and their pursuit of STEM topics beyond the course? (3) What aspects of the U of I curricula must be adapted to the structures of the high school classroom to best serve high school student populations? To answer these questions, several streams of data will be collected: Researchers will collect instructional artifacts and video recordings from teachers' PD activities and classroom teaching throughout the year to trace the development of teachers' pedagogical and instructional development. The students of participating teachers will be surveyed on their physics knowledge, attitudes, and future career aspirations before and after their physics course, video recordings of student groupwork will be made, and student written coursework and grades will be collected. Finally, high school students will be surveyed post-graduation about their STEM education and career trajectories. The result of this project will be a community of Illinois physics teachers who are engaged in continual development of advanced high school physics curricula, teacher-documented examples of these curricula suited for a range of school and classroom contexts, and a research-based set of PD principles aimed at supporting students' future STEM opportunities and engagement.

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