Learning Science as Inquiry with the Urban Advantage: Formal-Informal Collaborations to Increase Science Literacy and Student Learning

This project hypothesizes that learners must have access to the real work of scientists if they are to learn both about the nature of science and to do inquiry themselves. It explores the question "How can informal science education institutions best design resources to support teachers, school administrators, and families in the teaching and learning of students to conduct scientific investigations and better understand the nature of science?"

Award Number: 
0918560
Funding Period: 
Tuesday, September 1, 2009 to Saturday, August 31, 2013
Project Evaluator: 
Learning Innovations at WestEd
Full Description: 

The American Museum of Natural History and Michigan State University propose a research and development project focused on DR-K12 challenge #2 and the hypothesis that learners must have access to the real work of scientists if they are to learn both about the nature of science and to do inquiry themselves. The overarching questions that drive this project are: How can informal science education institutions best design resources to support teachers, school administrators, and families in the teaching and learning of students to conduct scientific investigations and better understand the nature of science? How are these resources then used, and to what extent and in what ways do they contribute to participants’ learning? How are those resources then used for student learning? Answering these questions will involve the use of existing and new resources, enhancement of existing relationships, and a commitment to systematically collect evidence. Urban Advantage (UA) is a middle school science initiative involving informal science education institutions that provides professional development for teachers and hands-on learning for students to learn how to conduct scientific investigations. This project will (1) refine the UA model by including opportunities to engage in field studies and the use of authentic data sets to investigate the zebra mussel invasion of the Hudson River ecosystem; (2) extend the resources available to help parents, administrators, and teachers understand the nature of scientific work; and (3) integrate a research agenda into UA. Teaching cases will serve as resources to help teachers, students, administrators, and families understand scientific inquiry through research on freshwater ecosystems, and—with that increased understanding—support student learning. Surveys, observations, and assessments will be used to document and understand the effects of professional development on teachers, students, administrators, and parents. The study will analyze longitudinal, multivariate data in order to identify associations between professional development opportunities for teachers, administrators, and parents, their use of resources to support their own learning and that of students, middle school teachers’ instructional practices, and measures of student learning.