Restructuring Middle School Science around Grand Challenges

This project aims to restructure middle school science education around Grand Challenges (GCs) such as pandemics, climate events, and diminishing biodiversity. Anchoring science education around grand challenges can motivate students learning and provide a meaningful context for science curriculum and assessment. By engaging in the units around GCs, middle school science teachers and students will have opportunities to work with real data, engage in argumentation based on evidence, and take part in solutions to the grand challenges.

Full Description

This project aims to restructure middle school science education around Grand Challenges (GCs) such as pandemics, climate events, and diminishing biodiversity. The grand challenges affect people's lives and can impact the future of the next generations across the globe. Anchoring science education around grand challenges can motivate students learning and provide a meaningful context for science curriculum and assessment. By engaging in the units around GCs, middle school science teachers and students will have opportunities to work with real data, engage in argumentation based on evidence, and take part in solutions to the grand challenges. In addition, aligned assessments developed with these GC units will help educators and researchers to close the gap between assessment and instruction.

This project will create new knowledge about how GC-oriented learning experiences impact middle school students' interest in science, motivation to engage with science, and their learning of science ideas and competencies. As a comparative study with the Israeli school context, the project will also create knowledge about how national assessment contexts and teacher experience shape the enactment of and result from GC-oriented learning experiences. The project will pursue the following three goals: 1) Develop four GC units (each lasting 3-4 weeks) with associated assessments to be interspersed throughout 7th-grade science. 2) Collaborate with middle school science teachers to enact, study, and revise the GC units. 3) Research student outcomes associated with the GC units and factors that impact the feasibility and quality of GC-oriented learning experiences in middle school science. A mixed methods research design will be employed to couple quantitative comparisons of student outcomes with case studies of classroom enactments and teacher and student perspectives. Because of Israel's unique national assessment context, which has recently adopted assessments that align with GC-oriented teaching, research will take place in both the US and Israel. The GC framework and curriculum will incorporate principles from culturally responsive and sustaining pedagogies to support learning among diverse learners. The project would also create a new, global network for reconsidering and restructuring science education to better meet the needs of teachers and students in a rapidly changing world.

Project Materials

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