Underrepresented Populations (General)

Measuring the Effectiveness of Middle School STEM Innovation and Engineering Design Curricula

Researchers from Georgia Tech have developed a three-year middle school Engineering and Technology course sequence that introduces students to advanced manufacturing tools such as computer aided design (CAD) and 3D printing, incorporates engineering concepts such as pneumatics, robotics and aeronautics, increases student awareness of career paths, and addresses the concerns of technical employers wanting workers with problem solving, teamwork, and communication skills.

Award Number: 
2101441
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2021 to Sun, 08/31/2025
Full Description: 

Inclusion of engineering in the Next Generation Science Standards has led to increased opportunities for K-12 students to learn engineering related concepts and skills, and learn about engineering career paths. However, a persistent challenge is the lack of high-quality, research-based engineering curricular resources that align with science and math education standards. Further, the opportunities for K-12 students to also learn about manufacturing and how manufacturing is related to engineering, math, and science are limited. Researchers from Georgia Tech have developed a three-year middle school Engineering and Technology course sequence that introduces students to advanced manufacturing tools such as computer aided design (CAD) and 3D printing, incorporates engineering concepts such as pneumatics, robotics and aeronautics, increases student awareness of career paths, and addresses the concerns of technical employers wanting workers with problem solving, teamwork, and communication skills. This DRK-12 impact study project will investigate the effectiveness of STEM-Innovation and Design (STEM-ID) curricula in approximately 29 middle schools, targeting 29 engineering teachers and approximately 5,000 students across middle grades in Georgia. This impact research study will determine whether STEM-ID courses are equally effective across different demographic groups and school environments under normal implementation conditions and whether the courses have the potential to positively impact a vast number of students around the country, particularly students who have struggled to stay engaged with their STEM education. It is a critical part of a larger effort to move the STEM-ID curricula, developed with NSF support, from the research lab to large-scale practice in schools.

To facilitate large-scale implementation, the project will transfer all curriculum and teacher support materials to an online dissemination site, develop just-in-time teacher support materials to embed within the curriculum, create an online professional development platform, and conduct professional learning in multiple areas of the state. The project team will then assess the transferability of the STEM-ID curricula and identify teacher outcomes that affect the implementation. They will also examine the generalizability of the curriculum by measuring student outcomes in STEM academic achievement and on social-emotional scales. The project’s research questions consider 1) contextual factors that influence scaling; 2) the fidelity of implementation, curriculum adaptations and sustainability; 3) the effects of professional development on teachers’ engineering self-efficacy and instructional practices; 4) the effect of participation on student academic performance in mathematics and science; 5) the effect of participation on student social-emotional outcomes; and 5) the relationship between the way STEM-ID is implemented and the student outcomes.  To examine the effects of STEM-ID on achievement and achievement growth, the investigators will use a multilevel growth model and mediation analysis to explore if the intervention’s effect on achievement was mediated by students’ engagement, academic self-efficacy, and/or interest in STEM. Additionally, drawing upon Century and Cassata’s Fidelity of Implementation framework (FOI), they will examine the array of factors that influence implementation of the STEM-ID curricula across diverse school settings.

Building Insights through Observation: Researching Arts-based Methods for Teaching and Learning with Data

This project will use visualizations from an easily accessible tool from NOAA, Science On a Sphere, to help students develop critical thinking skills and practices required to effectively make meaning from authentic scientific data. The project will use arts-based pedagogies for observing, analyzing, and critiquing visual features of data visualizations to build an understanding of what the data reveal. The project will work with middle school science teachers to develop tools for STEM educators to use these data visualizations effectively.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101310
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2021 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

Innovations in data collection, infrastructure, and visualization play an important role in modern society. Large, complex datasets are accessible to and shared widely with the public. However, students need to learn how to interpret and reason about visualizations of scientific data. This project will use visualizations from an easily accessible tool from NOAA, Science On a Sphere, to help students develop critical thinking skills and practices required to effectively make meaning from authentic scientific data. The project will use arts-based pedagogies for observing, analyzing, and critiquing visual features of data visualizations to build an understanding of what the data reveal. The project will work with middle school science teachers to develop tools for STEM educators to use these data visualizations effectively. This project focuses on visual thinking skills that have been found to apply in both science and art: describing, wondering, recognizing uncertainty, and interpreting with evidence.

The project will conduct foundational research to understand the ways in which arts-based instructional methods and geospatial data visualization can be successfully applied by science teachers. The research will examine: (1) the ways in which arts-based instructional methods can be successfully applied by STEM teachers; (2) critical elements in the process of learning and applying these techniques to influence teachers’ content, pedagogical, and technological knowledge; and (3) for which transferable data literacy skills these approaches show most promise with children. This project will use a design-based research framework to develop data literacy teaching approaches in partnership with middle school teachers. The research process will include data about teachers’ development and students’ learning about data literacy. Data to be collected include qualitative and quantitative information from teachers and students.

Understanding STEM Teaching through Integrated Contexts in Everyday Life (Collaborative Research: Marco-Bujosa)

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in STEM instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101144
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2021 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner. Socioscientific issues (SSI) can provide a powerful avenue for promoting the desired kinds of engagement. SSI are debatable and ill-defined problems that have a basis in science but necessarily include moral and ethical choices. SSI for economically disadvantaged, culturally diverse students in urban settings might include, for example, lead paint contamination, poor water or air quality, or the existence of “food deserts.” By integrating locally relevant SSI with the goals of social justice, the Social Justice STEM Pedagogies (SJSP) framework the project uses is intended to support students to use their scientific expertise to be agents of change. SJSP can be potentially transformative for teachers, students, schools, and the communities in which students live. For SJSP to effectively promote STEM learning, however, teachers must learn how to integrate STEM-concepts and practices into the various real-world SSI present in their students’ environment. This collaborative project is designed to implement and evaluate a comprehensive professional development plan for grades 7 –12 STEM teachers from economically disadvantaged school districts in Philadelphia and surrounding areas. Teachers will develop ways to incorporate SSI into their instruction that are grounded in standards to foster students’ STEM engagement. The instructional practices enacted by teachers will enhance students’ STEM literacy while utilizing their own knowledge and culture in solving complex and ethically challenging STEM issues, thus promoting students’ abilities to be change agents.

This collaborative research project involves Arcadia University, Mercyhurst University, LaSalle University, Villanova University, and St. Joseph’s University. It is designed to investigate the effectiveness of a professional development (PD) program for STEM teachers to develop their pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in teaching SSI and SJSP. Over four years, three cohorts of 25 grades 7-12 teachers will participate in about 200 hours of PD. The SSI and SJSP encompass authentic, complex real-world, STEM-based issues that are directly related to the inequities experienced by students and their communities that students can engage with in the classroom through the use of inquiry-based learning strategies. By promoting students’ engagement in and awareness of the relevance of STEM in everyday life, teacher participants in this PD will foster STEM learning, especially among students who have been historically marginalized from STEM disciplines, and who are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The research plan is designed to reveal elements of the PD program that are most effective in supporting teachers’ increased capacity to design and implement units of study that incorporate scientific, social, and discursive elements of SSI. Using predominantly qualitative methods, other outcomes include how teachers’ PCK change towards teaching with SSI/SJSP; what factors support and inhibit teacher’s abilities to promote SSI/SJSP; and how justice-centered STEM lessons help students to develop moral and ethical reasoning, scientific skepticism, STEM inquiry/modeling, and SSI discourse/argumentation.

Understanding STEM Teaching through Integrated Contexts in Everyday Life (Collaborative Research: Johnson)

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in STEM instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101287
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2021 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner. Socioscientific issues (SSI) can provide a powerful avenue for promoting the desired kinds of engagement. SSI are debatable and ill-defined problems that have a basis in science but necessarily include moral and ethical choices. SSI for economically disadvantaged, culturally diverse students in urban settings might include, for example, lead paint contamination, poor water or air quality, or the existence of “food deserts.” By integrating locally relevant SSI with the goals of social justice, the Social Justice STEM Pedagogies (SJSP) framework the project uses is intended to support students to use their scientific expertise to be agents of change. SJSP can be potentially transformative for teachers, students, schools, and the communities in which students live. For SJSP to effectively promote STEM learning, however, teachers must learn how to integrate STEM-concepts and practices into the various real-world SSI present in their students’ environment. This collaborative project is designed to implement and evaluate a comprehensive professional development plan for grades 7 –12 STEM teachers from economically disadvantaged school districts in Philadelphia and surrounding areas. Teachers will develop ways to incorporate SSI into their instruction that are grounded in standards to foster students’ STEM engagement. The instructional practices enacted by teachers will enhance students’ STEM literacy while utilizing their own knowledge and culture in solving complex and ethically challenging STEM issues, thus promoting students’ abilities to be change agents.

This collaborative research project involves Arcadia University, Mercyhurst University, LaSalle University, Villanova University, and St. Joseph’s University. It is designed to investigate the effectiveness of a professional development (PD) program for STEM teachers to develop their pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in teaching SSI and SJSP. Over four years, three cohorts of 25 grades 7-12 teachers will participate in about 200 hours of PD. The SSI and SJSP encompass authentic, complex real-world, STEM-based issues that are directly related to the inequities experienced by students and their communities that students can engage with in the classroom through the use of inquiry-based learning strategies. By promoting students’ engagement in and awareness of the relevance of STEM in everyday life, teacher participants in this PD will foster STEM learning, especially among students who have been historically marginalized from STEM disciplines, and who are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The research plan is designed to reveal elements of the PD program that are most effective in supporting teachers’ increased capacity to design and implement units of study that incorporate scientific, social, and discursive elements of SSI. Using predominantly qualitative methods, other outcomes include how teachers’ PCK change towards teaching with SSI/SJSP; what factors support and inhibit teacher’s abilities to promote SSI/SJSP; and how justice-centered STEM lessons help students to develop moral and ethical reasoning, scientific skepticism, STEM inquiry/modeling, and SSI discourse/argumentation.

Understanding STEM Teaching through Integrated Contexts in Everyday Life (Collaborative Research: Richardson)

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in STEM instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101324
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2021 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner. Socioscientific issues (SSI) can provide a powerful avenue for promoting the desired kinds of engagement. SSI are debatable and ill-defined problems that have a basis in science but necessarily include moral and ethical choices. SSI for economically disadvantaged, culturally diverse students in urban settings might include, for example, lead paint contamination, poor water or air quality, or the existence of “food deserts.” By integrating locally relevant SSI with the goals of social justice, the Social Justice STEM Pedagogies (SJSP) framework the project uses is intended to support students to use their scientific expertise to be agents of change. SJSP can be potentially transformative for teachers, students, schools, and the communities in which students live. For SJSP to effectively promote STEM learning, however, teachers must learn how to integrate STEM-concepts and practices into the various real-world SSI present in their students’ environment. This collaborative project is designed to implement and evaluate a comprehensive professional development plan for grades 7 –12 STEM teachers from economically disadvantaged school districts in Philadelphia and surrounding areas. Teachers will develop ways to incorporate SSI into their instruction that are grounded in standards to foster students’ STEM engagement. The instructional practices enacted by teachers will enhance students’ STEM literacy while utilizing their own knowledge and culture in solving complex and ethically challenging STEM issues, thus promoting students’ abilities to be change agents.

This collaborative research project involves Arcadia University, Mercyhurst University, LaSalle University, Villanova University, and St. Joseph’s University. It is designed to investigate the effectiveness of a professional development (PD) program for STEM teachers to develop their pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in teaching SSI and SJSP. Over four years, three cohorts of 25 grades 7-12 teachers will participate in about 200 hours of PD. The SSI and SJSP encompass authentic, complex real-world, STEM-based issues that are directly related to the inequities experienced by students and their communities that students can engage with in the classroom through the use of inquiry-based learning strategies. By promoting students’ engagement in and awareness of the relevance of STEM in everyday life, teacher participants in this PD will foster STEM learning, especially among students who have been historically marginalized from STEM disciplines, and who are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The research plan is designed to reveal elements of the PD program that are most effective in supporting teachers’ increased capacity to design and implement units of study that incorporate scientific, social, and discursive elements of SSI. Using predominantly qualitative methods, other outcomes include how teachers’ PCK change towards teaching with SSI/SJSP; what factors support and inhibit teacher’s abilities to promote SSI/SJSP; and how justice-centered STEM lessons help students to develop moral and ethical reasoning, scientific skepticism, STEM inquiry/modeling, and SSI discourse/argumentation.

Understanding STEM Teaching through Integrated Contexts in Everyday Life (Collaborative Research: Macalalag)

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in STEM instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101395
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2021 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

Increased focus on school accountability and teacher performance measures have resulted in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) instruction that emphasizes content and procedural knowledge over critical thinking and real-world applications. Yet, critical thinking and application are essential in developing functional scientific literacy skills among students. This need is perhaps most pressing in economically depressed urban settings. One strategy to promote STEM engagement and learning is to make clear and meaningful connections between STEM concepts, principles, and STEM-related issues relevant to the learner. Socioscientific issues (SSI) can provide a powerful avenue for promoting the desired kinds of engagement. SSI are debatable and ill-defined problems that have a basis in science but necessarily include moral and ethical choices. SSI for economically disadvantaged, culturally diverse students in urban settings might include, for example, lead paint contamination, poor water or air quality, or the existence of “food deserts.” By integrating locally relevant SSI with the goals of social justice, the Social Justice STEM Pedagogies (SJSP) framework the project uses is intended to support students to use their scientific expertise to be agents of change. SJSP can be potentially transformative for teachers, students, schools, and the communities in which students live. For SJSP to effectively promote STEM learning, however, teachers must learn how to integrate STEM-concepts and practices into the various real-world SSI present in their students’ environment. This collaborative project is designed to implement and evaluate a comprehensive professional development plan for grades 7 –12 STEM teachers from economically disadvantaged school districts in Philadelphia and surrounding areas. Teachers will develop ways to incorporate SSI into their instruction that are grounded in standards to foster students’ STEM engagement. The instructional practices enacted by teachers will enhance students’ STEM literacy while utilizing their own knowledge and culture in solving complex and ethically challenging STEM issues, thus promoting students’ abilities to be change agents.

This collaborative research project involves Arcadia University, Mercyhurst University, LaSalle University, Villanova University, and St. Joseph’s University. It is designed to investigate the effectiveness of a professional development (PD) program for STEM teachers to develop their pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in teaching SSI and SJSP. Over four years, three cohorts of 25 grades 7-12 teachers will participate in about 200 hours of PD. The SSI and SJSP encompass authentic, complex real-world, STEM-based issues that are directly related to the inequities experienced by students and their communities that students can engage with in the classroom through the use of inquiry-based learning strategies. By promoting students’ engagement in and awareness of the relevance of STEM in everyday life, teacher participants in this PD will foster STEM learning, especially among students who have been historically marginalized from STEM disciplines, and who are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The research plan is designed to reveal elements of the PD program that are most effective in supporting teachers’ increased capacity to design and implement units of study that incorporate scientific, social, and discursive elements of SSI. Using predominantly qualitative methods, other outcomes include how teachers’ PCK change towards teaching with SSI/SJSP; what factors support and inhibit teacher’s abilities to promote SSI/SJSP; and how justice-centered STEM lessons help students to develop moral and ethical reasoning, scientific skepticism, STEM inquiry/modeling, and SSI discourse/argumentation.

Teacher Collaborative for Culturally Relevant Mathematics and Science Curricula

Culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP) is a framework that puts students and their experiences at the center of teaching. Culturally relevant math and science teaching (CRMST), more specifically, describes equitable science and math teaching practices that support student success in schools. This project involves elementary teachers in a 3-day conference focusing on CRP and CRMST. The conference is designed to form a teacher collaborative to share experiences and resources, learn from one another, and create their own culturally relevant science and math units for use in their classrooms.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101532
Funding Period: 
Tue, 06/15/2021 to Tue, 05/31/2022
Full Description: 

To be effective, teachers need a strong theoretical understanding of the frameworks that support success for all students, especially those students historically underserved by schools. Culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP) is a framework that puts students and their experiences at the center of teaching. Culturally relevant math and science teaching (CRMST), more specifically, describes equitable science and math teaching practices that support student success in schools. This project involves elementary teachers in a 3-day conference focusing on CRP and CRMST. The conference is designed to form a teacher collaborative to share experiences and resources, learn from one another, and create their own culturally relevant science and math units for use in their classrooms. To boost teacher learning, the conference includes a variety of workshops and activities led by local and national content area experts, teacher educators, and STEM teacher-leaders who use culturally relevant science/math curricula in their classrooms. In the year following the conference, teachers will be strategically supported to continue designing and implementing CRMST through monthly teacher collaborative meetings and in-classroom support. At the end of the project year, teachers will participate in a public curriculum fair that showcases their projects and allows them to share what they have learned.

The research component of this project will use culturally relevant pedagogy and a framework that describes trajectories of development for CRMST as theoretical and analytical frameworks. In particular, the latter framework describes levels of engagement with key ideas from CRP and attends to, for example, whether teachers engage with transformative decision making, grapple with issues from an individual or structural perspective, and recognize tensions and discomfort in their learnings about CRMST. The research will focus on learning more about how teachers benefit from collaborative opportunities and how they develop understandings about CRMST.  Data sources will include: culturally relevant mathematics and science curricula (CR-MASC) units, classroom observations, field notes, and surveys collected from the teacher participants. Findings about practices and structures that support teachers’ movement towards CRMST, as well as exemplary CR-MASC units, will contribute to research and practice in teacher education aimed at improving science and math learning experiences for marginalized learners.

Accessible Computational Thinking in Elementary Science Classes within and across Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Contexts (Collaborative Research: Nelson)

This research project aims to enhance elementary teacher education in science and computational thinking pedagogy through the use of Culturally Relevant Teaching, i.e. teaching in ways that are relevant to students from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The project will support 60 elementary teachers in summer professional development and consistent learning opportunities during the school year to learn about and enact culturally relevant computational thinking into their science instruction.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101039
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/15/2021 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

Currently, students who are white, affluent, and identify as male tend to develop a greater interest in and pursuit of science and computing-related careers compared to their Black, Latinx, Native American, and female-identifying peers. Yet, science, computing, and computational thinking drive societal decision-making and problem-solving. The lack of cultural and racial diversity in science and computing-related careers can lead to societal systems and decision-making structures that fail to consider a wide range of perspectives and expertise. Teachers play a critical role in preparing students to develop these skills and succeed in a technological and scientific world. For this reason, it is crucial to investigate how teachers can help culturally and linguistically diverse students develop a greater understanding of and interest in science and computers. This research project aims to enhance elementary teacher education in science and computational thinking pedagogy through the use of Culturally Relevant Teaching, i.e. teaching in ways that are relevant to students from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The project will support 60 elementary teachers in summer professional development and consistent learning opportunities during the school year to learn about and enact culturally relevant computational thinking into their science instruction. In doing so, the project aims to increase both the quantity and quality of computing experiences for all elementary students and support NSF’s commitment in broadening participation in the STEM workforce. The project will also produce resources, measures, and tools to support elementary teachers to do this kind of work, which will be shared with other STEM researchers and teacher educators.

The goal of this research project is to design and promote teaching practices that integrate computational thinking in the elementary science classroom in culturally relevant ways. This project will seek to empower practicing elementary teachers’ approaches to meaningfully and effectively integrate and adapt computational thinking into their regular science teaching practice so that all students can access the curriculum. It will also explore the impact of these approaches on student learning and self-efficacy. The scope of this project will include working with multiple highly distinct school settings in Maryland, Arizona, and Washington DC across three years, reaching approximately 60 elementary teachers and 1,200 students. To achieve the project objectives, the research team will leverage concurrent mixed methods approaches that include teacher and student interviews, reflections, observations, descriptive case study reports as well as regression and multilevel modeling. The project’s findings will inform the fields’ understanding of: (a) teachers’ conceptualization of computational thinking; (b) the barriers elementary teachers encounter when trying to integrate computational thinking with culturally relevant teaching practices; (c) the types of support that are effective in teacher professional development experiences  and throughout the school year; and (d) the development of a cohort of teachers that can maintain integration efforts in different districts.

Accessible Computational Thinking in Elementary Science Classes within and across Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Contexts (Collaborative Research: Ketelhut)

This research project aims to enhance elementary teacher education in science and computational thinking pedagogy through the use of Culturally Relevant Teaching, i.e. teaching in ways that are relevant to students from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The project will support 60 elementary teachers in summer professional development and consistent learning opportunities during the school year to learn about and enact culturally relevant computational thinking into their science instruction.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101526
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/15/2021 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

Currently, students who are white, affluent, and identify as male tend to develop a greater interest in and pursuit of science and computing-related careers compared to their Black, Latinx, Native American, and female-identifying peers. Yet, science, computing, and computational thinking drive societal decision-making and problem-solving. The lack of cultural and racial diversity in science and computing-related careers can lead to societal systems and decision-making structures that fail to consider a wide range of perspectives and expertise. Teachers play a critical role in preparing students to develop these skills and succeed in a technological and scientific world. For this reason, it is crucial to investigate how teachers can help culturally and linguistically diverse students develop a greater understanding of and interest in science and computers. This research project aims to enhance elementary teacher education in science and computational thinking pedagogy through the use of Culturally Relevant Teaching, i.e. teaching in ways that are relevant to students from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The project will support 60 elementary teachers in summer professional development and consistent learning opportunities during the school year to learn about and enact culturally relevant computational thinking into their science instruction. In doing so, the project aims to increase both the quantity and quality of computing experiences for all elementary students and support NSF’s commitment in broadening participation in the STEM workforce. The project will also produce resources, measures, and tools to support elementary teachers to do this kind of work, which will be shared with other STEM researchers and teacher educators.

The goal of this research project is to design and promote teaching practices that integrate computational thinking in the elementary science classroom in culturally relevant ways. This project will seek to empower practicing elementary teachers’ approaches to meaningfully and effectively integrate and adapt computational thinking into their regular science teaching practice so that all students can access the curriculum. It will also explore the impact of these approaches on student learning and self-efficacy. The scope of this project will include working with multiple highly distinct school settings in Maryland, Arizona, and Washington DC across three years, reaching approximately 60 elementary teachers and 1,200 students. To achieve the project objectives, the research team will leverage concurrent mixed methods approaches that include teacher and student interviews, reflections, observations, descriptive case study reports as well as regression and multilevel modeling. The project’s findings will inform the fields’ understanding of: (a) teachers’ conceptualization of computational thinking; (b) the barriers elementary teachers encounter when trying to integrate computational thinking with culturally relevant teaching practices; (c) the types of support that are effective in teacher professional development experiences  and throughout the school year; and (d) the development of a cohort of teachers that can maintain integration efforts in different districts.

Using Natural Language Processing to Inform Science Instruction (Collaborative Research: Linn)

This project takes advantage of language to help students form their own ideas and pursue deeper understanding in the science classroom. The project will conduct a comprehensive research program to develop and test technology that will empower students to use their ideas as a starting point for deepening science understanding. Researchers will use a technology that detects student ideas that go beyond a student's general knowledge level to adapt to a student's cultural and linguistic understandings of a science topic.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101669
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2021 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

Often, middle school science classes do not benefit from participation of underrepresented students because of language and cultural barriers. This project takes advantage of language to help students form their own ideas and pursue deeper understanding in the science classroom. This work continues a partnership among the University of California, Berkeley, Educational Testing Service, and science teachers and paraprofessionals from six middle schools enrolling students from diverse racial, ethnic, and language groups whose cultural experiences may be neglected in science instruction. The partnership will conduct a comprehensive research program to develop and test technology that will empower students to use their ideas as a starting point for deepening science understanding. Researchers will use a technology that detects student ideas that go beyond a student's general knowledge level to adapt to a student's cultural and linguistic understandings of a science topic. The partnership leverages a web-based platform to implement adaptive guidance designed by teachers that feature dialog and peer interaction. Further, the platform features teacher tools that can detect when a student needs additional help and alert the teacher. Teachers using the technology will be able to track and respond to individual student ideas, especially from students who would not often participate because of language and cultural barriers.

This project develops AI-based technology to help science teachers increase their impact on student science learning. The technology is aimed to provide accurate analysis of students' initial ideas and adaptive guidance that gets each student started on reconsidering their ideas and pursuing deeper understanding. Current methods in automated scoring primarily focus on detecting incorrect responses on test questions and estimating the overall knowledge level in a student explanation. This project leverages advances in natural language processing (NLP) to identify the specific ideas in student explanations for open-ended science questions. The investigators will conduct a comprehensive research program that pairs new NLP-based AI methods for analyzing student ideas with adaptive guidance that, in combination, will empower students to use their ideas as starting points for improving science understanding. To evaluate the idea detection process, the researchers will conduct studies that investigate the accuracy and impact of idea detection in classrooms. To evaluate the guidance, the researchers will conduct comparison studies that randomly assign students to conditions to identify the most promising adaptive guidance designs for detected ideas. All materials are customizable using open platform authoring tools.

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