Informal Educators

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Teaching in Rural Areas Using Cultural Knowledge Systems

This project will collaborate with Indigenous communities to create educational resources serving Inupiaq middle school students and their teachers. The Cultural Connections Process Model (CCPM) will formalize, implement, and test a process model for community-engaged educational resource development for Indigenous populations. The project will contribute to a greater understanding of effective natural science teaching and science career recruitment of minority students.

Award Number: 
1812888
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

The Cultural Connections Process Model (CCPM) will formalize, implement, and test a process model for community-engaged educational resource development for Indigenous populations. The project will collaborate with Indigenous communities to create educational resources serving Inupiaq middle school students and their teachers. Research activities take place in Northwest Alaska. Senior personnel will travel to rural communities to collaborate with and support participants. The visits demonstrate University of Alaska Fairbanks's commitment to support pathways toward STEM careers, community engagement in research, science teacher recruitment and preparation, and STEM career awareness for Indigenous and rural pre-college students. Pre-service teachers who access to the resources and findings from this project will be better prepared to teach STEM to Native students and other minorities and may be more willing to continue careers as science educators teaching in settings with Indigenous students. The project will contribute to a greater understanding of effective natural science teaching and science career recruitment of minority students. The project's participants and the pre-college students they teach will be part of the pipeline into science careers for underrepresented Native students in Arctic communities. The project will build on partnerships outside of Alaska serving other Indigenous populations and will expand outreach associated with NSF's polar science investments.

CCPM will build on cultural knowledge systems and NSF polar research investments to address science themes relevant to Inupiat people, who have inhabited the region for thousands of years. An Inupiaq scholar will conduct project research and guide collaboration between Indigenous participants and science researchers using the Inupiaq research methodology known as Katimarugut (meaning "we are meeting"). The project research and development will engage 450 students in grades 6-8 and serves 450 students (92% Indigenous) and 11 teachers in the remote Arctic. There are two broad research hypotheses. The first is that the project will build knowledge concerning STEM research practices by accessing STEM understandings and methodologies embedded in Indigenous knowledge systems; engaging Indigenous communities in project development of curricular resources; and bringing Arctic science research aligned with Indigenous priorities into underserved classrooms. The second is that classroom implementation of resources developed using the CCPM will improve student attitudes toward and engagement with STEM and increase their understandings of place-based science concepts. Findings from development and testing will form the basis for further development, broader implementation and deeper research to inform policy and practice on STEM education for underrepresented minorities and on rural education.

Evaluation of Disaster-Related Science Lesson Plans to Promote Learning Continuity After Hurricane Maria

The purpose of this project is to leverage ongoing efforts related to science education and the current emergency and disaster recovery landscape in Puerto Rico. It will develop culturally relevant project-based science lesson plans that incorporate the disaster context that can be implemented both inside and outside of the traditional classroom. The project will allow displaced students to continue learning under the guidance of teachers, parents or social workers.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1823085
Funding Period: 
Thu, 02/15/2018 to Thu, 01/31/2019
Full Description: 

Although natural disasters have been used in the past to develop project-based learning (PBL) lessons, there is a lack of research that examines their use in the aftermath of a natural disaster. The purpose of this project is to leverage ongoing efforts related to science education and the current emergency and disaster recovery landscape in Puerto Rico. The Yale Ciencia Initiative, in collaboration with Ciencia Puerto Rico, working with the Department of Education of Puerto Rico will develop culturally relevant project-based science lesson plans that incorporate the disaster context that can be implemented both inside and outside of the traditional classroom. The project will allow displaced students to continue learning under the guidance of teachers, parents or social workers. The project will train educators in the use of disaster-related problem-based lessons and assess project implementation and the impact of the lessons. The final outcome of this aim will be a lesson plan template and implementation guidelines for other jurisdictions faced by natural disasters. The project will result in enhanced infrastructure for education by developing tools and implementation guidelines that other jurisdictions may use to develop their own lesson plans in advance of natural disasters, so as to assure continuity of learning.

The project will assess implementation through observations and rubrics, surveys for parents, educators and students, and focus groups with each of these populations. To assess the impact of contextualized PBL lessons, the project will collect survey data, before and after the educational intervention, to measure changes in students' content knowledge, as well as in attitudes that are predictive of engagement in science learning. Results will be compared to matched control groups that receive either the standard curriculum, which are not contextualized to the disaster and that does not include PBL, or a PBL lesson plan that does not incorporate the disaster or the cultural context. At least 30 educators and 200 7th grade students will be exposed during the project period to the contextualized PBL lesson plan. The resulting feasibility analysis will inform other jurisdictions preparing their educational systems for natural disasters and provide evidence for the use of contextualized lesson plans that incorporate PBL in disaster recovery settings. In addition, the project design will advance the field of PBL by allowing investigators to examine the impact of integrating current social/historical contexts to PBL lessons and by examining the relationship between changes in science attitudes and engagement, with changes in learning.

Project MAPLE: Makerspaces Promoting Learning and Engagement

The project plans to develop and study a series of metacognitive strategies that support learning and engagement for struggling middle school students during makerspace experiences. The study will focus narrowly on establishing a foundational understanding of how to ameliorate barriers to engaging in design learning through the use of metacognitive strategies.

Award Number: 
1721236
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

The project plans to develop and study a series of metacognitive strategies that support learning and engagement for struggling middle school students during makerspace experiences. The makerspace movement has gained recognition and momentum, which has resulted in many schools integrating makerspace technologies and related curricular practices into the classroom. The study will focus narrowly on establishing a foundational understanding of how to ameliorate barriers to engaging in design learning through the use of metacognitive strategies. The project plans to translate and apply research on the use of metacognitive strategies in supporting struggling learners to develop approaches that teachers can implement to increase opportunities for students who are the most difficult to reach academically. Project strategies, curricula, and other resources will be disseminated through existing outreach websites, research briefs, peer-reviewed publications for researchers and practitioners, and a webinar for those interested in middle-school makerspaces for diverse learners.

The research will address the paucity of studies to inform practitioners about what pedagogical supports help struggling learners engage in these makerspace experiences. The project will focus on two populations of struggling learners in middle schools, students with learning disabilities, and students at risk for academic failure. The rationale for focusing on metacognition within makerspace activities comes from the literature on students with learning disabilities and other struggling learners that suggests that they have difficulty with metacognitive thinking. Multiple instruments will be used to measure metacognitive processes found to be pertinent within the research process. The project will tentatively focus on persistence (attitudes about making), iteration (productive struggle) and intentionality (plan with incremental steps). The work will result in an evidence base around new instructional practices for middle school students who are struggling learners so that they can experience more success during maker learning experiences.

Culturally Responsive Indigenous Science: Connecting Land, Language, and Culture

This Culturally Responsive Indigenous Science project seeks to advance this knowledge base through research and by catalyzing new approaches to Indigenous science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (ISTEM) learning. Using an ISTEM focused model, the project will develop, test, and implement a culturally responsive land-based curriculum that integrates Western science, multimodal technologies and digital tools, and Native American tribal knowledge, cultures and languages to investigate and address local environmental science and sustainability concerns.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720931
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

The intersection between Indigenous and Western science continues to be of great importance to K-12 science education, particularly with regards to broadening participation in STEM. With over five hundred federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States, there is much to learn and understand. This Culturally Responsive Indigenous Science project seeks to advance this knowledge base through research and by catalyzing new approaches to Indigenous science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (ISTEM) learning. Using an ISTEM focused model, the project will develop, test, and implement a culturally responsive land-based curriculum that integrates Western science, multimodal technologies and digital tools, and Native American tribal knowledge, cultures and languages to investigate and address local environmental science and sustainability concerns. While Indigenous STEM teaching and learning as constructs have existed for many years, the rigorous research design and extensive integration of multimodal technologies as platforms for scientific inquiry, data management, knowledge dissemination and curation are innovative and timely. Few, if any, Design and Development projects in the current DRK-12 portfolio explore similar work. Therefore, the broader impacts of this project are poised to not only contribute to the DRK-12 portfolio but also advance knowledge in Indigenous STEM education and science education, more broadly.

Over a three year period, hundreds of Native American students (grades 4-9) in tribal schools located in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho will engage in the project. Each year, approximately 60-80 students (grades 7-9), with some returning students, will also participate in enrichment activities and in years 1-3, in the residential summer experience at Washington State University. A qualitative, quasi-experimental design-based study will be conducted to address three salient research questions: (a) What are the impacts of culturally responsive and land education-based ISTEM curriculum and technology on Native American student engagement, efficacy and achievement in school? (b) What types of professional development activities foster teacher efficacy and improve teacher learning and teaching of ISTEM in classrooms? and (c) How can ISTEM foster greater family and community engagement in schools and in Tribal Communities? Data will be collected through interviews, surveys, and or questionnaires from participating students, teachers, and Tribal members. Consistent with Indigenous methodologies, focus group interviews (talking circles) will also be facilitated after ISTEM community expositions and engagement activities to capture community impacts. Formative and summative evaluations will be conducted by the Learning and Performance Research Center (LPRC) at Washington State University, an independent entity of the University with extensive expertise in project evaluation. A broad range of dissemination activities will be employed to achieve maximum impacts, including the use of the Plateau People's Web Portal, a digital tool designed to help Native communities to manage, circulate, and curate their digital materials using their own cultural protocols, language and social systems. This regional collaboration includes partnerships with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (Oregon), Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (Washington), and the Coeur D'Alene Tribe (Idaho).


Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Culturally Responsive Indigenous Science

Presenter(s): Paula Price, Carladean Caldera, Landon Charlo, Kellie Fry, Zoe Higheagle Strong, Sandra Larios, James Lasarte-Whistocken, Lotus Norton-Wisla, & T Watson


Designing a Middle Grades Spatial Skills Curriculum

This project will create a portable training system that can be easily deployed in middle grades (5th-7th grade) as a prototype for increasing students' spatial reasoning skills. The project will study gender differences in spatial reasoning and examine how learning experiences can be designed to develop spatial skills using Minecraft as a platform.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720801
Funding Period: 
Sat, 07/01/2017 to Tue, 06/30/2020
Full Description: 

The ability to make spatial judgements and visualize has been shown to be a strong indicator of students' future success in STEM-related courses. The project is innovative because it uses a widely available gaming environment, Minecraft, to examine spatial reasoning. Finding learning experiences which support students' spatial reasoning in an authentic and engaging way is a challenge in the field. This project will create a portable training system that can be easily deployed in middle grades (5th-7th grade) as a prototype for increasing students' spatial reasoning skills. The project will study gender differences in spatial reasoning and examine how learning experiences can be designed to develop spatial skills using Minecraft as a platform. The resources will incorporate hands-on learning and engage students in building virtual structures using spatial reasoning. The curriculum materials are being designed to be useful in other middle grades contexts.

The study is a design and development study that will design four training modules intended to improve spatial reasoning in the following areas: rotation, mental slicing, 2D to 3D transformation and perspective taking. The research questions are: (1) Does a Minecraft-based intervention that targets specific spatial reasoning tasks improve middle grade learners' spatial ability? (2) Does spatial skills growth differ by gender? The experimental design will compare the influence of the virtual spatial learning environment alone vs. the use of design challenges designed specifically for the spatial skills. The data collected will include assessments of spatial reasoning and feedback from teachers' who use the materials. The spatial skills measures will be administered as a pre-test, post-test, and six-month follow-up assessment to measure long term effects.


Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Building Spatial Skills with Minecraft

Presenter(s): Nick Lux, Barrett Frank, & Bryce Hughes


Learning in Places: Field Based Science in Early Childhood Education

This project aims to develop an innovative field-based science learning approach that will support the capacity of culturally diverse students in Grades K-3 to engage in complex ecological reasoning and related problem solving. To provide rich learning environments, outdoor learning gardens will be created in which students, teachers, garden educators, and families participate in activities that facilitate the investigation of tangible ecological challenges such as water capture and food security.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720578
Funding Period: 
Sat, 07/01/2017 to Wed, 06/30/2021
Full Description: 

Recent evidence suggests that reasoning and making decisions about ecological systems is a cultural activity that impacts participation in the core scientific practices of observation, evidence use, and claims making. This project aims to develop an innovative field-based science learning approach that will support the capacity of culturally diverse students in Grades K-3 to engage in complex ecological reasoning and related problem solving. To provide rich learning environments, outdoor learning gardens will be created in which students, teachers, garden educators, and families participate in activities that facilitate the investigation of tangible ecological challenges such as water capture and food security.

Using design-based research, the project team will collaborate with teachers, parents of participating students, and community garden educators to collectively design and develop four key components: 1) field-based curricular units for K-3 classrooms; 2) a model of family and community engagement that strengthens cultural relevance and equity in field-based science learning; 3) a pilot program of teacher professional development that informs future scaling efforts; and 4) research that unpacks student learning and teacher instructional practices that support children?s complex ecological reasoning and the cultural contexts of such knowledge. Data sources will include video, interviews, surveys, and student-created artifacts. A mixed-methods approach will be used to produce research findings at multiple levels including: student learning about complex ecological phenomena and field-based practices; classroom-level learning and high-leverage teaching practices in model units at each grade level; impacts of co-design on professional learning and practice; and family and community organizations learning and engagement in field-based science education. The project will be carried out by a research-practice-community partnership in Seattle, Washington that includes learning scientists (University of Washington), K-3 teachers and school administrators (Seattle Public Schools), garden educators (Seattle Tilth), and parents of participating students. In total, eight schools, 32 teachers, 800 students, and 32 families are expected to participate.

Algebra Project Mathematics Content and Pedagogy Initiative

This project will scale up, implement, and assess the efficacy of interventions in K-12 mathematics education based on the well-established Algebra Project (AP) pedagogical framework, which seeks to improve performance and participation in mathematics of students in distressed school districts, particularly low-income students from underserved populations.

Award Number: 
1749483
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

Algebra continues to serve as a gatekeeper and potential barrier for high school students. The Algebra Project Mathematics Content and Pedagogy Initiative (APMCPI) will scale up, implement and assess the efficacy of interventions in K-12 mathematics education based on the well-established Algebra Project (AP) pedagogical framework. The APMCPI project team is comprised of four HBCUs (Virginia State University, Dillard University, Xavier University, Lincoln University), the Southern Initiative Algebra Project (SIAP), and four school districts that are closely aligned with partner universities. The purpose of the Algebra Project is to improve performance and participation in mathematics by members of students in distressed school districts, particularly those with a large population of low-income students from underserved populations including African American and Hispanics. The project will provide professional development and implement the Algebra Project in four districts and study the impact on student learning. The research results will inform the nation's learning how to improve mathematics achievement for all children, particularly those in distressed inner-city school districts.

The study builds on a prior pilot project with a 74% increase in students who passed the state exam. In the early stages of this project, teachers in four districts closely associated with the four universities will receive Algebra Project professional development in Summer Teacher Institutes with ongoing support during the academic year, including a community development plan. The professional development is designed to help teachers combine mathematical problem solving with context-rich lessons, which both strengthen and integrate teachers' understanding of key concepts in mathematics so that they better engage their students. The project also will focus on helping teachers establish a framework for mathematically substantive, conceptually-rich and experientially-grounded conversations with students. The first year of the study will begin a longitudinal quasi-experimental, explanatory, mixed-method design. Over the course of the project, researchers will follow cohorts who are in grade-levels 5 through 12 in Year 1 to allow analyses across crucial transition periods - grades 5 to 6; grades 8 to 9; and grades 12 to college/workforce. Student and teacher data will be collected in September of Project Year 1, and in May of each project year, providing five data points for each student and teacher participant. Student data will include student attitude, belief, anxiety, and relationship to mathematics and science, in addition to student learning outcome measures. Teacher data will include content knowledge, attitudes and beliefs, and practices. Qualitative data will provide information on the implementation in both the experimental and control conditions. Analysis will include hierarchical linear modeling and multivariate analysis of covariance.

This project was previously funded under award #1621416.

An Online STEM Career Exploration and Readiness Environment for Opportunity Youth

This project aims to create a web-based STEM Career Exploration and Readiness Environment (CEE-STEM) that will support opportunities for youth ages 16-24 who are neither in school nor are working, in rebuilding engagement in STEM learning and developing STEM skills and capacities relevant to diverse postsecondary education/training and employment pathways.

Award Number: 
1620904
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

CAST, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and YouthBuild USA aim to create a web-based STEM Career Exploration and Readiness Environment (CEE-STEM). This will support opportunities for youth ages 16-24 who are neither in school nor are working, in rebuilding engagement in STEM learning and developing STEM skills and capacities relevant to diverse postsecondary education/training and employment pathways. The program will provide opportunity youth with a personalized and portable tool to explore STEM careers, demonstrate their STEM learning, reflect on STEM career interests, and take actions to move ahead with STEM career pathways of interest.

The proposed program addresses two critical and interrelated aspects of STEM learning for opportunity youth: the development of STEM foundational knowledge; and STEM engagement, readiness and career pathways. These aspects of STEM learning are addressed through an integrated program model that includes classroom STEM instruction; hands-on job training in career pathways including green construction, health care, and technology.


Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: STEMfolio: A Portfolio Builder & Career Exploration Tool

Presenter(s): Tracey Hall

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Building a Diverse STEM Talent Pipeline: Finding What Works

Presenter(s): Tracey Hall

2018 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Bridging the Gap Between Ability and Opportunity in STEM

Presenter(s): Sam Johnston


CAREER: Multilevel Mediation Models to Study the Impact of Teacher Development on Student Achievement in Mathematics

This project will develop a comprehensive framework to inform and guide the analytic design of teacher professional development studies in mathematics. An essential goal of the research is to advance a science of teaching and learning in ways that traverse both research and education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1552535
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2016 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

This is a Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) project. The CAREER program is a National Science Foundation-wide activity that offers the most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research. The intellectual merit and broader impacts of this study lie in two complementary contributions of the project. First, the development of the statistical framework for the design of multilevel mediation studies has significant potential for broad impact because it develops a core platform that is transferable to other STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education areas and STEM disciplines. Second, the development of software and curricular materials to implement this framework further capitalize on the promise of this work because it distributes the results in an accessible manner to diverse sets of research and practitioner groups across STEM education areas and STEM disciplines. Together, the components of this project will substantially expand the scope and quality of evidence generated through mathematics professional development and, more generally, multilevel mediation studies throughout STEM areas by increasing researchers' capacity to design valid and comprehensive studies of the theories of action and change that underlie research programs.

This project will develop a comprehensive framework to inform and guide the analytic design of teacher professional development studies in mathematics. The proposed framework incorporates four integrated research and education components: (1) develop statistical formulas and tools to guide the optimal design of experimental and non-experimental multilevel mediation studies in the presence of measurement error, (2) develop empirical estimates of the parameters needed to implement these formulas to design teacher development studies in mathematics, (3) develop free and accessible software to execute this framework, and (4) develop training materials and conduct workshops on the framework to improve the capacity of the field to design effective and efficient studies of teacher development. An essential goal of the research is to advance a science of teaching and learning in ways that traverse both research and education.

Exploring Ways to Transform Teaching Practices to Increase Native Hawaiian Students' Interest in STEM

This project will integrate Native Hawaiian cross-cultural practices to explore ways to help teachers know about and know how to connect resources of students' familiar worlds to their science teaching. This project will transform the ways teachers orient their teaching at the upper elementary and middle grades through professional development courses offered at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1551502
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2015 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

This project will integrate Native Hawaiian cross-cultural practices to explore ways to help teachers know about and know how to connect resources of students' familiar worlds to their science teaching. This research is needed since Native Hawaiians are often stereotyped as poor learners; the available STEM workforce falls short of meeting the demands of STEM employers in the state; and as the largest group of public school enrollees, data show a greater decline in percent of students meeting or exceeding proficiency in science at higher grade levels. This project will address these issues by transforming the ways teachers orient their teaching at the upper elementary and middle grades through professional development courses offered at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The professional development model for teachers will be situated in the larger national and global contexts of an increasingly technology oriented, urbanized society with associated marginalization of indigenous people whose traditional ecological knowledge and indigenous languages are often overlooked. Guided by the cultural mental model theory and a mixed methods approach, data will be collected through document analysis, surveys, individual and focus group interviews, and pre-post assessments. This approach will capture initials findings about the influence of the professional development model on teaching and learning in science. The end products from this project will be an improved professional development model that is more sensitive to contexts that promote learning by Native Hawaiian students. It will also produce a survey instrument to assess student interest and engagement in science learning whose teachers will have participated in the professional development model being explored. Both outcomes will potentially be instrumental in changing the way approximately 2000 Native Hawaiian students learn about and become more interested in STEM fields through their natural world.

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