Promoting Scientific Explorers Among Students with Learning Disabilities: The Design and Testing of a Grade 2 Science Program Focused on Earth's Systems

The purpose of this project is to design and empirically evaluate a second grade science program, Scientific Explorers, aimed at promoting an early foundation for learning science among all students, including students at risk for or with learning disabilities in reading and mathematics. To support students as they engage in scientific tasks associated with Earth's Systems, this project will engineer the Scientific Explorers program around a guided inquiry framework, and develop and empirically validate a science assessment that measures students' knowledge and application of core science concepts and practices related to Earth's Systems.

Full Description: 

A robust understanding of core science concepts and practices is necessary for obtaining jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Despite these occupational and practical affordances, few effective instructional tools exist for the elementary science classroom. Moreover, early elementary school teachers have limited materials at their disposal to promote a rich knowledge of science among the full range of learners. The purpose of this project is to address this need by designing and empirically evaluating a second grade science program, Scientific Explorers, aimed at promoting an early foundation for learning science among all students, including students at risk for or with learning disabilities in reading and mathematics. Scientific Explorers will be designed to improve students' knowledge and understanding of core science concepts. Recognizing the important role of early literacy and mathematics in science learning and teaching, this project will integrate core disciplinary ideas with critical mathematics and literacy standards. To support students as they engage in scientific tasks associated with Earth's Systems, this project will engineer the Scientific Explorers program around a guided inquiry framework. Another aim of this project is to develop and empirically validate a science assessment that measures students' knowledge and application of core science concepts and practices related to Earth's Systems.

Employing a mixed-method approach, this project will investigate the feasibility and efficacy of the Scientific Explorers program. Additional research activities will include establishing the reliability and validity of a second grade science assessment. Approximately 40 second grade classrooms from two different geographical regions will participate in the project. Using multilevel modeling and item response theory techniques, this project will address five primary research questions: (1) To what extent can teachers feasibly implement the Scientific Explorers program in authentic education settings? (2) What is the impact of Scientific Explorers on the science achievement of students in participating classrooms? (3) Do early literacy skills at the beginning of second grade predict differential response to the Scientific Explorers program? (4) Does responsiveness to the Scientific Explorers program differ as a function of reading disability, mathematics disability, or a learning disability in reading and mathematics (comorbid LD)?, and (5) To what extent does the early science achievement measure demonstrate technical adequacy (reliability and validity)?

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