Developing and Testing a Learning Progression for Middle School Physical Science Incorporating Disciplinary Core Ideas, Science and Engineering Practices, and Crosscutting Concepts

This project will develop and test a learning progression for middle school physical science that incorporates the three dimensions identified in Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSS): the Disciplinary Core Ideas of matter, interaction, and energy; the Science and Engineering Practices of constructing explanations and developing and using models; and the Crosscutting Concepts of cause and effect and systems and system models. Bringing together all three NGSS dimensions is an innovation that allows for the project to explore the variety of learning pathways that students may follow as they apply scientific knowledge and practices to make sense of compelling phenomena or solve complex problems.

Full Description

This project will develop and test a learning progression for middle school physical science that incorporates the three dimensions identified in Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSS): the Disciplinary Core Ideas of matter, interaction, and energy; the Science and Engineering Practices of constructing explanations and developing and using models; and the Crosscutting Concepts of cause and effect and systems and system models. Bringing together all three NGSS dimensions is an innovation that allows for the project to explore the variety of learning pathways that students may follow as they apply scientific knowledge and practices to make sense of compelling phenomena or solve complex problems. This has the potential to help teachers, researchers, and curriculum developers improve how they support students. Participating middle school science teachers from a range of schools representing diverse communities will receive professional learning and guidelines using the learning progression to adapt their local curriculum and instruction materials. The project will examine students' learning growth over time and how teachers use the learning progression to support their students’ learning. This project serves the national interest by exploring how to support teachers in creating equitable and coherent learning environments and promoting all students' development in problem-solving and sense-making in science.

This project advances research on learning progressions in two ways: by developing and testing a three-dimensional learning progression consistent with NGSS, and by exploring a variety of learning pathways within the proposed learning progression. The project explores three research questions: 1) How does the theoretically grounded learning progression change as a result of empirical evidence from teachers and students and feedback from experts? 2) In what ways do teachers use the learning progression to adapt their curriculum materials, instruction, and assessments to improve student knowledge-in-use? 3) In what ways and how do students' knowledge-in-use develop in the learning progression-based adapted classrooms? To address these questions, the project will design, revise, and finalize the learning progression iteratively using both qualitative and quantitative data sources across three years. Using data from students’ responses to classroom-embedded assessment tasks, the researchers will employ latent growth curve models to examine student knowledge-in-use development. Using data from teacher and student interviews, classroom observations, and teacher and student artifacts, the researchers will develop a case study that explores teachers' use of the learning progressions and how they adapt the learning progression to their local curriculum, instruction, and assessment materials to support student learning. The case study will also explore whether and how teacher adaptation affects student development. The learning progression will contribute to teaching and learning in science by guiding the development of curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional learning in a coherent manner to provide all students opportunities to learn in science and support teachers to improve their local science learning systems. Findings from the project will expand the current knowledge and research on learning progression with multiple intermediate learning pathways for three-dimensional learning that provide all students the opportunity to learn in science.

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