The project will develop a teacher professional learning (PL) model that focuses on middle-school biological sciences in addressing real world problems. Systems thinking is central to understanding biology systems. Game design has been shown to help develop systems thinking in teachers and students. Students will participate in PL to illustrate the value of distributed expertise by sharing their knowledge of computer. Teachers will adapt their existing curriculum and will co-design games with students to experience participatory practices.
Exploring the Integration of Systems Thinking in Biology in Participatory Professional Development
The project will develop a teacher professional learning (PL) model that focuses on middle-school biological sciences in addressing real world problems. Systems thinking is central to understanding biology systems. Game design has been shown to help develop systems thinking in teachers and students. Students will participate in PL to illustrate the value of distributed expertise by sharing their knowledge of computer. Teachers will adapt their existing curriculum and will co-design games with students to experience participatory practices. The PL model includes 36 hours of synchronous in-person and online activities, including four consecutive six-hour days in the summer and four three-hour sessions throughout the school year. The project will work with 14 teachers with multiple implementations over three years, involving approximately 1,900 students. Participatory classrooms will enhance the capacity of all students to see themselves as skilled and persistent learners. Through the PL, teachers will become knowledgeable about applying systems thinking to interpret and understand the functioning of biology systems, integrating game design in their existing lessons to enhance student application of systems thinking skills to learning about biological systems, and engaging in participatory practices. The model expands opportunities for students to be involved in the PL process, resulting in a better understanding of their impact on teacher pedagogy when using computational tools. Project research has the potential for developing new knowledge on our understanding of NGSS-aligned teaching and learning, science content understanding (specifically related to biodiversity), and ultimately student learning, agency, and action.
The project will research how the PL contributes to teacher learning and how teachers’ pedagogy changes as they take up and use project tools to support student learning about biological systems, and how students learn about biology systems and improve systems thinking skills. The theoretical and research framework for this PL model is grounded in: (1) how systems in biology and game design are synergistic, (2) the importance of students’ presence in Pl, and (3) enacting participatory practices. This mixed methods study will include design-based research (DBR) to iteratively test and revise a PL model that identifies relationships between structural support elements, including tools, task structures, participant structures, and discursive practices, in a teacher learning environment. Conjecture mapping approach will be used in cycles of DBR to test the hypothesis that a participatory PD learning environment supports teachers in integrating game design as a constructionist learning opportunity for students to engage with and learn from systems. Project research will be guided by the following questions: (1) How do the elements of the PL learning environment contribute to teacher learning? (2) How do teachers use the tools provided by the project (game, design, and participatory practices) to support student learning about biological systems and how does this change their pedagogy? and (3) How does designing a game help students learn about biology systems and develop skills in systems thinking? Qualitative and quantitative data will be triangulated to address each research question and to provide a reliability check on findings. Qualitative data, such as fieldnotes, audio and video recordings, interviews, teacher and student artifacts, logs, and open-ended survey and assessment questions will be analyzed through codes that represent expected themes and patterns related to student and teacher experiences in PL and in the classroom. Quantitative data, including teacher survey Likert scale questions, implementation logs, and student assessment and game rubrics, will be analyzed using repeated measure ANOVA to examine pre-post changes in teachers and students. Research findings and practices from the project will be widely disseminated to teachers, administrators, and researchers through conference presentations and publications. The project will also create a “playbook” that will enable educators to freely draw on and modify the tools and processes utilized in the project for their local contexts and community needs.