Underrepresented Populations (General)

Sonified Interactive Simulations for Accessible Middle School STEM

For this project, researchers will iteratively develop simulations to include sonifications, non-speech sounds that represent visual information, aimed at enhancing accessibility for all learners, but particularly for those with visual impairments to produce sonified simulations, professional development resources, design guidelines and exemplars, and publications.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621363
Funding Period: 
Sat, 10/01/2016 to Mon, 09/30/2019
Full Description: 

Students with disabilities often have fewer opportunities for experiential learning, an important component of quality STEM education. Computer based simulations in science can provide valuable opportunities for these students to experience and manipulate natural phenomena related to critical STEM ideas. However, existing simulations remain largely inaccessible to students with visual impairments in particular. Recent advances in technology related to sonification use with simulations can make it possible for these students to have a more complete and authentic experience. Sonification is the use of non-speech sounds, such as musical tones, to represent visual information including data. Such sounds can be manipulated temporally and spatially and can also vary by amplitude and frequency to convey information that is more traditionally displayed visually. 

Researchers will iteratively develop five middle school physical science simulations to include sonifications aimed at enhancing accessibility for all learners, but particularly for those with visual impairments. Data collection activities will include focus groups and interviews with students and teachers focused on engagement. The end products of this project will include sonified simulations, professional development resources, design guidelines and exemplars, and publications.

InquirySpace 2: Broadening Access to Integrated Science Practices

This project will create technology-enhanced classroom activities and resources that increase student learning of science practices in high school biology, chemistry, and physics. InquirySpace will incorporate several innovative technological and pedagogical features that will enable students to undertake scientific experimentation that closely mirrors current science research and learn what it means to be a scientist.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621301
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

This project will create technology-enhanced classroom activities and resources that increase student learning of science practices in high school biology, chemistry, and physics courses. The project addresses the urgent national priority to improve science education as envisioned in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) by focusing less on learning facts and equations and instead providing students with the time, skills, and resources to experience the conduct of science and what it means to be a scientist. This project builds on prior work that created a sequence of physics activities that significantly improved students' abilities to undertake data-based experiments and led to productive independent investigations. The goal of the InquirySpace project is to improve this physics sequence, extend the approach to biology and chemistry, and adapt the materials to the needs of diverse students by integrating tailored formative feedback in real time. The result will be student and teacher materials that any school can use to allow students to experience the excitement and essence of scientific investigations as an integral part of science instruction. The project plans to create and iteratively revise learning materials and technologies, and will be tested in 48 diverse classroom settings. The educational impact of the project's approach will be compared with that of business-as-usual approaches used by teachers to investigate to what extent it empowers students to undertake self-directed experiments. To facilitate the widest possible use of the project, a complete set of materials, software, teacher professional development resources, and curriculum design documents will be available online at the project website, an online teacher professional development course, and teacher community sites. The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

InquirySpace will incorporate several innovative technological and pedagogical features that will enable students to undertake scientific experimentation that closely mirrors current science research. These features will include (1) educational games to teach data analysis and interpretation skills needed in the approach, (2) reduced dependence on reading and writing through the use of screencast instructions and reports, (3) increased reliance on graphical analysis that can make equations unnecessary, and (4) extensive use of formative feedback generated from student logs. The project uses an overarching framework called Parameter Space Reasoning (PSR) to scaffold students through a type of experimentation applicable to a very large class of experiments. PSR involves an integrated set of science practices related to a question that can be answered with a series of data collection runs for different values of independent variables. Data can be collected from sensors attached to the computer, analysis of videos, scientific databases, or computational models. A variety of visual analytic tools will be provided to reveal patterns in the graphs. Research will be conducted in three phases: design and development of technology-enhanced learning materials through design-based research, estimation of educational impact using a quasi-experimental design, and feasibility testing across diverse classroom settings. The project will use two analytical algorithms to diagnose students' learning of data analysis and interpretation practices so that teachers and students can modify their actions based on formative feedback in real time. These algorithms use computationally optimized calculations to model the growth of student thinking and investigation patterns and provide actionable information to teachers and students almost instantly. Because formative feedback can improve instruction in any field, this is a major development that has wide potential.

Sensing Science through Modeling: Developing Kindergarten Students' Understanding of Matter and Its Changes

This project will develop a technology-supported, physical science curriculum that will facilitate kindergarten students' conceptual understanding of matter and how matter changes. The results of this investigation will contribute important data on the evolving structure and content of children's physical science models as well as demonstrate children's understanding of matter and its changes.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621299
Funding Period: 
Sat, 10/01/2016 to Wed, 09/30/2020
Full Description: 

Despite recent research demonstrating the capacity of young children to engage deeply with science concepts and practices, challenging science curriculum is often lacking in the early grades. This project addresses this gap by developing a technology-supported, physical science curriculum that will facilitate kindergarten students' conceptual understanding of matter and how matter changes. To accomplish these goals, the curriculum will include opportunities for students to participate in model-based inquiry in conjunction with the use of digital probeware and simulations that enable students to observe dynamic visualizations and make sense of the phenomena. To support the capacity of kindergarten teachers, a continuous model of teacher development will be implemented.

Throughout development, the project team will collaborate with kindergarten teachers and more than 300 demographically diverse students across eight classrooms in Massachusetts and Indiana. A design based research approach will be used to iteratively design and revise learning activities, technological tools, and assessments that meet the needs and abilities of kindergarten students and teachers. The project team will: 1) work with kindergarten teachers to modify an existing Grade 2 curricular unit for use with their students; 2) design a parallel curricular unit incorporating technology; 3) evaluate both units for feasibility and maturation effects; and 4) iteratively revise and pilot an integrated unit and assess kindergarten student conceptual understanding of matter and its changes. The results of this investigation will contribute important data on the evolving structure and content of children's physical science models as well as demonstrate children's understanding of matter and its changes.

Building a Next Generation Diagnostic Assessment and Reporting System within a Learning Trajectory-Based Mathematics Learning Map for Grades 6-8

This project will build on prior funding to design a next generation diagnostic assessment using learning progressions and other learning sciences research to support middle grades mathematics teaching and learning. The project will contribute to the nationally supported move to create, use, and apply research based open educational resources at scale.

Award Number: 
1621254
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

This project seeks to design a next generation diagnostic assessment using learning progressions and other research (in the learning sciences) to support middle grades mathematics teaching and learning. It will focus on nine large content ideas, and associated Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. The PIs will track students over time, and work within school districts to ensure feasibility and use of the assessment system.

The research will build on prior funding by multiple funding agencies and address four major goals. The partnership seeks to address these goals: 1) revising and strengthening the diagnostic assessments in mathematics by adding new item types and dynamic tools for data gathering 2) studying alternative ways to use measurement models to assess student mathematical progress over time using the concept of learning trajectories, 3) investigating how to assist students and teachers to effectively interpret reports on math progress, both at the individual and the class level, and 4) engineering and studying instructional strategies based on student results and interpretations, as they are implemented within competency-based and personalized learning classrooms. The learning map, assessment system, and analytics are open source and can be used by other research and implementation teams. The project will exhibit broad impact due to the number of states, school districts and varied kinds of schools seeking this kind of resource as a means to improve instruction. Finally, the research project contributes to the nationally supported move to create, use, and apply research based open educational resources at scale.

Improving the Implementation of Rigorous Instructional Materials in Middle-Grades Mathematics: Developing a System of Practical Measures and Routines (Collaborative Research: Smith)

The goal of this project is to improve the implementation of rigorous instructional materials in middle-grades mathematics at scale through a system of practical measures and routines for collecting and using data that both assesses and supports implementation.

Award Number: 
1621238
Funding Period: 
Sat, 10/01/2016 to Thu, 09/30/2021
Full Description: 

The goal of this 5-year research project is to improve the implementation of rigorous instructional materials in middle-grades mathematics at scale. Many projects seek to improve mathematics instruction, but are not able to easily track their efforts at improvement. The primary product of this project will be a system of practical measures and routines for collecting and using data that both assesses and supports the implementation of rigorous instructional materials in middle-grades mathematics. In contrast to research and accountability measures, practical measures are assessments that require little time to administer and can thus be used frequently. The data can be analyzed rapidly so that teachers can receive prompt feedback on their progress, and instructional leaders can use the data to decide where to target resources to support improvement in the quality of instruction and student learning. The system of practical measures and routines will include 1) measures of high-leverage aspects of teachers' instructional practices that have been linked to student learning (e.g., rigor of tasks, quality of students' discourse) and attend to equitable student participation; and 2) measures of high-leverage aspects of key supports for improving the quality of teachers' practice (e.g., quality of professional development; coaching); and 3) a set of routines regarding how to use the resulting data to engage in rapid, improvement efforts. A key principle of the proposed project is that the system of measures and routines can be adapted to a wide range of school and district contexts. This project is supported by the Discovery Research preK-12 (DRK-12) program. The DRK-12 program supports research and development of STEM education innovations and approaches in assessment, learning, and teaching.

The project will establish three research-practice partnerships with five districts, in three different states, that are currently implementing rigorous instructional materials in middle-grades mathematics. Year 1 will focus on the development of a set of practical measures of classroom instruction. Year 2 will focus on testing the use of the classroom measures in the context of supports for teachers' learning, and the development of practical measures of key supports for teachers' learning. Years 3-4 will focus on how the project can "learn our way to scale" (Bryk et al., 2015), which requires strategically implementing measures and routines in increasingly diverse conditions. The project will engage in rapid improvement cycles in which researchers will work alongside district leaders and professional development (PD) facilitators to analyze the data from the measures of both classroom instruction and the quality of support for teacher learning to test the effectiveness of improvements in intended supports for teacher learning and to adjust the design of the support based on data. Across Years 1-4, the project will use recent developments in technology and information visualization to test and improve 1) the collection of practical measures in situ and 2) the design of data representations (or visualizations) that support teachers and leaders to make instructional improvement decisions. In Year 5, the project will conduct formal analyses of the relations between supports for teachers' learning; teachers' knowledge and classroom practices; and student learning.

Doing the Math with Paraeducators: A Research and Development Project

This project will design and pilot professional development that focuses on developing the confidence, mathematical knowledge, and teaching strategies of paraeducators using classroom activities that they are expected to implement. The planned professional development will enable them to make a greater difference in the classroom, but it will also increase their access to continuing education and workplace opportunities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621151
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

Over one million paraeducators (teaching assistants and volunteers) currently assist in classrooms, and another 100,000 are likely to be added in the next ten years. Paraeducators (paras) are often required to teach content, such as mathematics, but there are few efforts to provide them with the knowledge or supervision they need to be effective when working with a range of students, including those with disabilities and for whom English is a second language. The project will focus on developing the confidence, mathematical knowledge, and teaching strategies of paras using classroom activities that they are expected to implement. The planned professional development will enable them to make a greater difference in the classroom, but it will also increase their access to continuing education and workplace opportunities. The work will be conducted in the Boston Public Schools (BPS) and will focus on grades K-3, where the largest numbers of paras are employed. Given the importance of early math learning in predicting mathematical achievement, supporting paras who work in the early grades is particularly important.

The project will design and pilot professional development that supports paraeducator knowledge development and addresses instructional challenges in teaching mathematics. The project will address the following goals: research the current roles of paras in mathematics instruction, the preparation of their collaborating teachers, and the opportunities for collaboration and planning between supervising teachers and paras in BPS; pilot, develop, implement, and research a model for professional development program for paras that targets specific activities they can implement that are key to student learning in number and operation in K-3; document how paras assume new roles that increase student engagement and empower them as mathematical learners; pilot, develop, implement, and research a supervisory component to help teachers set expectations, and structures for debriefing and reflecting along with their paras; and identify next steps for an early stage development study based on our findings. A needs assessment survey will investigate the context in which paras work. The iterative process of design-based research will develop, test, and implement the targeted professional development with paras, measuring how prepared they feel to implement new ideas and how they translate their learning into new pedagogical practices. Crosscase analyses, descriptive statistics, tallies and coded behaviors from observations, and themes from paras, and teacher and administrator interviews will be collected, coded, and analyzed. Furthermore, an efficacy survey will be administered periodically to document longitudinal changes in paras, which will be integrated in the crosscase analyses.

Development and Empirical Recovery for a Learning Progression-Based Assessment of the Function Concept

The project will design an assessment based on learning progressions for the concept of function - a critical concept for algebra learning and understanding. The goal of the assessment and learning progression design is to specifically incorporate findings about the learning of students traditionally under-served and under-performing in algebra courses.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621117
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

The project will design an assessment based on learning progressions for the concept of function. A learning progression describes how students develop understanding of a topic over time. Function is a critical concept for algebra learning and understanding. The goal of the assessment and learning progression design in this project is to specifically incorporate findings about the learning of students traditionally under-served and under-performing in algebra courses. The project will include accounting for the social and cultural experiences of the middle and high school students when creating assessment tasks. The resources developed should impact mathematics instruction (especially for algebra courses) by creating a learning progression which captures the range of student performance and appropriately places them at distinct levels of performance. The important contribution of the work is the development of a learning progression and related assessment tasks that account for the experiences of students often under-served in mathematics. The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

The learning progression development will begin by comparing and integrating existing learning progressions and current research on function learning. This project will develop an assessment of student knowledge of function based on learning progressions via empirical recovery (looking for the reconstruction of theoretical levels of the learning theory). Empirical recovery is the process through which data will be collected that reconstruct the various levels, stages, or sequences of said learning progression. The development of tasks and task models will include testing computer-delivered, interactive tasks and rubrics that can be used for human and automated scoring (depending on the task). Item response theory methods will be used to evaluate the assessment tasks' incorporation of the learning progression.


Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Practitioners’ Use of the Five-Step Curricular Process

Presenter(s): Edith Graf, Frank Davis, Cheryl Eames, Chad Milner, & Maisha Moses

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Concept of Function Learning Progression

Presenter(s): Edith Graf, Frank Davis, Chad Milner, Maisha Moses, & Sarah Ohls


Organizing to Learn Practice: Teacher Learning in Classroom-Focused Professional Development

This project addresses the fundamental challenge of how to support teachers to improve their practice. The approach uses a "live mathematics classroom" as a common text for working on practice, where participants are not only watching and discussing but are engaged in developing and learning practice. The project will generate new knowledge regarding ways in which elementary teachers of mathematics can be supported to learn effective teaching practice.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621104
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

Growing evidence about the powerful effects of skillful teaching on students' learning creates a need to for professional development that impacts teachers' actual practice. Just as other professions (e.g., nursing, social work, law) have centered practitioners' learning in "live" practice with structures that support learning in context, the project will investigate whether and how this can be accomplished in teaching. The approach uses a "live mathematics classroom" as a common text for working on practice, where participants are not only watching and discussing but are engaged in developing and learning practice. The project also explores the following variations in practice-based professional development: (1) on-site and remote participation of teachers; and (2) the addition of supplementary practice-focused professional development. The project will generate new knowledge regarding ways in which elementary teachers of mathematics can be supported to learn effective teaching practice.

This project addresses a fundamental challenge for professional development, that is, how to support teachers to improve their practice. Teachers profit from well-designed opportunities to develop new visions for practice, learn more about students' thinking, or work on specific mathematical topics or tasks. Still, such opportunities are often insufficient to support teachers with the complexity of classroom teaching. These kinds of professional opportunities focus on critical resources for instruction but not on the details of teaching practice itself. This practice-centered professional development is situated within a summer mathematics program for fifth graders. The proposed research will explore the impact on teachers' practice, as well as on their knowledge and dispositions, from participating in these structured ways. Three studies will resolve the following three sets of questions: (1) What do teachers learn from structured participation in the class? Does their participation impact their own teaching practice, and if so, in what ways? (2) Does the setting of the peripheral participation matter? Does this form of participation impact their own teaching practice, and if so, in what ways? (3) Does the addition of professional development focused on a particular teaching practice impact teachers' own practice, and if so, in what ways? How does the addition of professional development focused on a specific instructional practice compare across the in-person and online forms of participation in terms of impact on teachers' own practice? The project will collect and analyze several types of data pre- and post-intervention, including measures of mathematical knowledge for teaching, measures of language for talking about the work of teaching and students, and skill with leading a mathematics discussion, and the mathematical quality of instruction. The project will generate new knowledge related to to organizing professional learning around supports that teachers need to learn practice as well as ways to study their learning of teaching practice.

Developing a Model of STEM-Focused Elementary Schools (eSTEM)

This project will study five elementary STEM schools from across the U.S. that are inclusive of students from underrepresented groups in order to determine what defines these schools and will use an iterative case study replication design to study the design and implementation of five exemplary eSTEM schools with the goal of developing a logic model that highlights the commonalities in core components and target outcomes across the schools, despite the different school contexts.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621005
Funding Period: 
Mon, 08/15/2016 to Wed, 07/31/2019
Full Description: 

In the United States (U.S.) certain groups are persistently underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and careers, especially Blacks, Hispanics, and low-income students who disproportionately fall out of the high-achieving group in K-12 education. Policymakers argue that future STEM workforce needs will only be met if there is broader diversity participating in STEM education and careers. Recent reports have suggested that the nation would benefit from more STEM-focused schools, including at the elementary school level, to inspire interest and prepare students for future STEM endeavors. However, there is currently little information on the number and quality of elementary STEM (eSTEM) schools and the extent to which underrepresented groups have access to them. This project will study five elementary STEM schools from across the U.S. that are inclusive of students from underrepresented groups in order to determine what defines these schools. The project team, which includes investigators from SRI International and George Mason University, initially identified twenty candidate critical components that define inclusive STEM-focused elementary schools and will refine and further clarify the critical components through the research study. The resulting research products could support the development of future eSTEM schools and research on their effectiveness.

The Discovery Research K-12 (DRK-12) program seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models, and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. This Exploratory Learning Strand project will use an iterative case study replication design to study the design and implementation of five exemplary eSTEM schools with the goal of developing a logic model that highlights the commonalities in core components and target outcomes across the schools, despite the different school contexts. A framework of twenty design components, taken from research on inclusive STEM high schools and research on successful elementary schools, will inform the data collection, analysis, and logic model development. Schools as critical cases will be selected through a nomination process by experts, followed by screening and categorization according to key design components. School documents and public database information, a school survey, and telephone interviews with school administrators will inform screening and selection of candidate schools. Researchers will then conduct multi-day, on-site visitations to each selected school, collecting data from classroom observations, interviews with students, focus groups with teachers and administrators, and discussions with critical members of the school community. The project is also gathering data on school-level student outcome indicators. Using axial and open coding, the analysis aims to develop rich descriptions that showcase characteristics of the schools to iteratively determine a theory of action that illustrates interconnections among context, design, implementation, and outcomes. Research findings will be communicated through a logic model and blueprint, school case study reports, and conference proceedings and publications that will be provided on a project website, providing an immediate and ongoing resource for education leaders, researchers and policymakers to learn about research on these schools and particular models. Findings will also be disseminated by more traditional means, such as papers in peer-reviewed journals and conference presentations, and webinars.

Supporting Instructional Growth in Mathematics: Enhancing Urban Secondary Teachers' Professional Learning through Formative Feedback

This project will explore the potential of video-based formative feedback to enhance professional development around ambitious instruction for secondary teachers in urban schools.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1620920
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

Research continues to show the benefits of ambitious instruction for student learning of mathematics, yet ambitious instruction continues to be rare in U.S. schools, particularly in schools that serve historically marginalized students. Secondary teachers' learning and enactment of ambitious instruction in mathematics requires conceptual change, and their development could benefit from adequate and timely feedback close to classroom instruction. For this reason, the project will explore the potential of video-based formative feedback to enhance professional development. The focus of the partnership between university researchers and a well-regarded professional development organization, Math for America Los Angeles (MfA LA) will be on career-long learning of secondary mathematics teachers in urban schools. Results from this project will provide a theory of mathematics teachers' learning that can inform other instructional improvement efforts, with ecological validity in the critical site of urban schools. The framework and theory will be detailed at the level of specific tools and concrete practices that are learnable by teachers, school leaders, or instructional coaches. This project is funded by the Discovery Research Pre-K-12 Program, which funds research and development of STEM innovations and approaches in assessment, teaching and learning.

The question the project will address is: How can the project use formative feedback to enhance mathematics teachers' professional learning environments that support their development of ambitious instruction in urban schools? Formative feedback refers to tools and processes that ascertain teachers' current understandings and responsively adapt learning activities to better guide them toward their learning goals. Professional learning environments refer to the multiple sites of teachers' learning, from formal professional development activities to their school workplace. Ambitious instruction is defined as teaching approaches that aim to provide all students with ample opportunities to develop conceptual understanding of key mathematical ideas, participate in mathematical argumentation, connect multiple mathematical representations, as well as become fluent with mathematical procedures and processes. The persistence of typical mathematics instruction is framed as, in large part, an issue of teacher learning. Using design-based implementation research and interpretive methods, the project team will co-develop video-based formative assessment processes to guide teachers' evolving classroom practice.

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