Underrepresented Populations (General)

Promoting Students' Spatial Thinking in Upper Elementary Grades using Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

This project explores the potential for enhancing students' interest and ability in STEM disciplines by broadening fourth grade students' understanding and interest in the spatial perspectives inherent in geography and other science disciplines. The project tests a set of hypotheses that posit that the use of GIS in the classroom results in a measureable improvement in students' spatial reasoning and motivation.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316660
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2013 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

This project explores the potential for enhancing students' interest and ability in STEM disciplines by broadening fourth grade students' understanding and interest in the spatial perspectives inherent in geography and other science disciplines. The study incorporates the latest developments in the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) within the classroom. The project tests a set of hypotheses that posit that the use of GIS in the classroom results in a measureable improvement in students' spatial reasoning and motivation. Geography teachers in elementary schools are trained to use GIS software to create digital maps specific to the subject matter and projects on which their students work. Students then work in small collaborative groups and engage in open discussions designed to enhance the development and use of their spatial and multi-step causal reasoning.

GIS has been used in middle and high school settings. This project introduces GIS to upper elementary grades particularly to allow students an early opportunity to be involved in meaningful data and map-driven activities to promote their spatial skills. The proposal team predicts that the traditional gap between girls and boys in spatial skills will shrink with training thus will be strongly pronounced in the experimental relative to control groups. The project documents the effectiveness of instructional practices that are likely to enhance multistep reasoning, systems thinking, conceptual and spatial understanding, and motivation for learning while learning to work with maps to solve problems involving geography and ecological awareness. The project develops instructional methods that incorporate innovative tools for promoting problem solving to address real-life issues in this increasingly technology-driven era. The innovative tool is open-source and designed for professionals, but it can be modified to be child-friendly. Classroom activities are integrated with science and social studies curricula and content standards. Teachers are expected to find the curriculum attractive and easy to implement.

QuEST: Quality Elementary Science Teaching

This project is examining an innovative model of situated Professional Development (PD) and the contribution of controlled teaching experiences to teacher learning and, as a result, to student learning. The project is carrying out intensive research about an existing special PD summer institute (QuEST) that has been in existence for more than five years through a state Improving Teacher Quality Grants program.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316683
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/15/2013 to Mon, 07/31/2017
Full Description: 

The University of Missouri-Columbia is examining an innovative model of situated Professional Development (PD) and the contribution of controlled teaching experiences to teacher learning and, as a result, to student learning. The project is carrying out intensive research about an existing special PD summer institute (QuEST) that has been in existence for more than five years through a state Improving Teacher Quality Grants program. The project will do the following: (1) undertake more in-depth and targeted research to better understand the efficacy of the PD model and impacts on student learning; (2) develop and field test resources from the project that can produce broader impacts; and (3) explore potential scale-up of the model for diverse audiences. The overarching goals of the project are: (a) Implement a high-quality situated PD model for K-6 teachers in science; (b) Conduct a comprehensive and rigorous program of research to study the impacts of this model on teacher and student learning; and (c) Disseminate project outcomes to a variety of stakeholders to produce broader impacts. A comparison of two groups of teachers will be done. Both groups will experience a content (physics) and pedagogy learning experience during one week in the summer. During a second week, one group will experience "controlled teaching" of elementary students, while the other group will not. Teacher and student gains will be measured using a quantitative and qualitative, mixed-methods design.

Next Generation Preschool Science: An Innovative Program to Facilitate Young Children's Learning of Science Practices and Concepts

This project is developing, iteratively refining and evaluating a science curriculum for Pre-K classrooms with units on Plant Growth, How Things Move, and What Makes Shadows by integrating traditional classroom resources (large and small group activities, hands-on activities, read-alouds) with digital media (touch screen tablets, photos and short videos, and games/simulations).

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316550
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/15/2013 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

SRI is developing, iteratively refining and evaluating a science curriculum for Pre-K classrooms with units on Plant Growth, How Things Move, and What Makes Shadows. Working with EDC and WGBH, the project is integrating traditional classroom resources (large and small group activities, hands-on activities, read-alouds) with digital media (touch screen tablets, photos and short videos, and games/simulations). The importance of this approach is that it facilitates the implementation of quality science instruction in pre-schools by reducing the resources and commitment needed. The project is also producing professional development resources for teachers. Project evaluation is by the Concord Evaluation Group. The products of the project are being distributed by PBS Media.

Using an Evidence Centered Design approach, the project is doing a Phase I development and pilot study during the first two years, followed by a Phase II field study in year 3, with 10 classrooms in California and 10 in New York, half of which will be for comparison purposes. Ten children from each classroom are being selected through a stratified randomization process for a more detailed examination of student outcomes. There are 8 research questions covering the three phases of the project; development, implementation, and sustainability. Data collection on child learning is using the project developed science assessment as well as a standardized assessment of children's science learning LENS on Science. Evidence on teachers' confidence is being collected with the Preschool Teachers Attitudes and Beliefs about Science scale (P-TABS). In addition, the project is conducting interviews and observations in the 10 classrooms where teachers are implementing the curriculum units.

Inquiry Primed: An Intervention to Mitigate the Effects of Stereotype Threat in Science

This project investigates stereotype threat at the classroom level and in the context of inquiry-based instruction, in order to develop strategies and a related professional development course, using the principles of Universal Design for Learning, to help teachers learn how to mitigate stereotype threat.

Award Number: 
1313713
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/15/2013 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

Inquiry Primed: An Intervention to Mitigate the Effects of Stereotype Threat is an Exploratory Project in the Teacher Strand of DRK-12 that investigates stereotype threat at the classroom level and in the context of inquiry-based instruction, in order to develop strategies and a related professional development course, using the principles of Universal Design for Learning, to help teachers learn how to mitigate stereotype threat.

The project includes three major activities:

1) An experimental study testing the hypothesis that the influences of stereotype threat on individual students affects instructional processes for the class as a whole: Research participants include three teachers from 3 different school districts in Massachusetts, each with four 8th grade science classes, for a total sample of 12 science classes and approximately 300 students. The two treatment conditions (stereotype threat induced vs. not induced) are applied blindly to three classroom groups over a series of six lessons. The project uses existing surveys for gathering data, including "Communicative Interactions", RTOP subscales, subscales of the Constructivist Learning Environment Survey (CLES), and a brief student questionnaire measuring domain salience (e.g., self ranking of degree of participation in class). The analysis is conducted using Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression, with predictions of classroom instructional processes based on treatment condition, percentage of students in stereotyped group, and domain salience.

2) Collaboration with teachers as co-researchers to translate research findings into classroom practices and a prototype online professional development course: Three middle school teachers who participated in Study 1 serve as co-researchers, using the Universal Design for Learning model. The product is a prototype, online professional development modules that include self-paced presentations, small group facilitated discussions, asynchronous discussions, and live webcasts with experts, all focused on how teachers can implement strategies to mitigate stereotype threat in their practice. The design elements will be assessed in terms of clarity, accessibility, use, value, and promise.

3) Pilot testing of three professional development modules: The professional development component (via communities of practice) supports classroom teachers as they incorporate these strategies into their daily activities. The three teachers involved in the original study and design of modules participate in a six-week pilot study of the online professional development course, anticipated to consist of three modules, with teachers participating 3-4 hours per week. The course is evaluated through observations of professional development interactions (synchronous and asynchronous), interviews, implementation strategies, Moodle Electronic Usage Logs, online discussions, and a questionnaire. Descriptive statistics and regression analysis are used to seek predictors of use and contributions by teacher characteristics.

The project contributes critical knowledge about stereotype threat, a construct shown to contribute to disparities in achievement in STEM education. The outcomes of the project will include research findings that are to be submitted to science education research journals for publication; a prototype, online teacher professional development course on mitigating stereotype threat in STEM education classrooms; and dissemination of the course to teachers who are part of the CAST and Minority Student Achievement Networks.

Learning Algebra and Methods for Proving (LAMP)

This project tests and refines a hypothetical learning trajectory and corresponding assessments, based on the collective work of 50 years of research in mathematics education and psychology, for improving students' ability to reason, prove, and argue mathematically in the context of algebra. The study produces an evidence-based learning trajectory and appropriate instruments for assessing it.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1317034
Funding Period: 
Tue, 10/01/2013 to Wed, 09/30/2015
Full Description: 

The Learning Algebra and Methods for Proving (LAMP) project tests and refines a hypothetical learning trajectory and corresponding assessments, based on the collective work of 50 years of research in mathematics education and psychology, for improving students' ability to reason, prove, and argue mathematically in the context of algebra. The goals of LAMP are: 1) to produce a set of evidence-based curriculum materials for improving student learning of reasoning, proving, and argumentation in eighth-grade classrooms where algebra is taught; 2) to produce empirical evidence that forms the basis for scaling the project to a full research and development project; and 3) to refine a set of instruments and data collection methods to support a full research and development project. LAMP combines qualitative and quantitative methods to refine and test a hypothetical learning trajectory for learning methods of reasoning, argumentation, and proof in the context of eighth-grade algebra curricula. Using qualitative methods and quantitative methods, the project conducts a pilot study that can be scaled up in future studies. The study produces an evidence-based learning trajectory and appropriate instruments for assessing it.

Over the past two decades, national organizations have called for more attention to the topics of proof, proving, and argumentation at all grade levels. However, the teaching of reasoning and proving remains sparse in classrooms at all levels. LAMP will address this critical need in STEM education by demonstrating ways to improve students' reasoning and argumentation skills to meet the demands of college and career readiness.

This project promises to have broad impacts on future curricula in the United States by creating a detailed description of how to facilitate reasoning and argumentation learning in actual eighth-grade classrooms. At present, a comprehensive understanding of how reasoning and proving skills develop alongside algebraic thinking does not exist. Traditional, entirely formal approaches such as two-column proof have not demonstrated effectiveness in learning about proof and proving, nor in improving other mathematical practices such as problem-solving skills and sense making. While several studies, including studies in the psychology literature, lay the foundation for developing particular understandings, knowledge, and skills needed for writing viable arguments and critiquing the arguments of others, a coherent and complete set of materials that brings all of these foundations together does not exist. The project will test the hypothetical learning trajectory with classrooms with high proportions of Native American students.

Engineering for All (EfA)

This project creates, tests and revises two-six week prototypical modules for middle school technology education classes, using the unifying themes and important social contexts of food and water. The modules employ engineering design as the core pedagogy and integrate content and practices from the standards for college and career readiness.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316601
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/15/2013 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

The Engineering for All project creates, tests and revises two-six week prototypical modules for middle school technology education classes, using the unifying themes and important social contexts of food and water. The modules employ engineering design as the core pedagogy and integrate content and practices from the standards for college and career readiness. Embedded assessments are developed and tested to make student learning visible to both teachers and students. Professional development for a limited group of teachers is used to increase their knowledge of engineering design and to test instruments being developed to measure (a) student and teacher capacity to employ informed design practices and (b) teacher design pedagogical content knowledge.

The project leadership is experienced at creating materials for engineering and technology and in providing professional development for teachers. The assessments and instruments are created by educational researchers. The advisory board includes engineers, science and engineering educators, and educational researchers to guide the development of the modules, the assessments and the instruments. An external evaluator reviews the protocols and their implementation.

This project has the potential to provide exemplary materials and assessments for engineering/technology education that address standards, change teacher practice, and increase the capacity of the engineering/technology education community to do research.

ITEAMS Longitudinal Study

The objective of this study is to examine the impact of ITEAMS intervention strategies on student persistence in high school STEM course-taking and career expectations, and the value that students place on STEM careers.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1355323
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/15/2013 to Wed, 04/30/2014
Full Description: 

The objective of this study at Harvard University is to examine the impact of ITEAMS (Innovative Technology-Enabled Astronomy for Middle Schools) intervention strategies on student persistence in high school STEM course-taking and career expectations, and the value that students place on STEM careers. The central research questions are: 1) does ITEAMS participation boost students' STEM course-taking and their interest in, and valuation of, STEM careers throughout their high school years; 2) to what extent did students' ITEAMS experiences, in terms of knowledge and disposition, have an effect; and 3) which ITEAMS strategies or attributes have been most effective in bringing about positive outcomes? Special focus is on the predictors of persistence for girls and minority students.

The project utilizes a mix of interviews and surveys with current high school students who in previous years participated in ITEAMS (DRL-0833378) as middle-school students, and who are now juniors and seniors. The project surveys a randomly selected cohort of 75 former ITEAMS participants who were enrolled in ITEAMS for two or three years. The project-specific survey instrument includes pertinent demographic questions. The random selection of up to 15 surveyed ITEAMS students for in-depth interviews is also included.

Misconceptions Oriented Standards-Based Assessment Resource for Teachers of High School Life Science (MOSART HSLS)

This project is developing and validating an assessment instrument that addresses the life sciences for students and teachers in grades 9 through 12 based on the Misconception Oriented Standards-based Assessment Resource for Teachers (MOSART).

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316645
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2013 to Thu, 08/31/2017
Full Description: 

Researchers in the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics are developing and validating an assessment instrument that addresses the life sciences for students and teachers in grades 9 through 12 based on the Misconception Oriented Standards-based Assessment Resource for Teachers (MOSART). The project is developing 400 new test items that are based on core content domains for life science and are aligning these items with the previous National Science Education Standards to provide a connection to the earlier MOSART assessments. The project is also developing and validating two test instruments that address the cross cutting concepts of energy and matter for grades K-12, with a specific focus on flows, cycles and conservation. The new assessments will be made available to other researchers and practitioner through the project website and their on-line assessment system.

The assessment development is based on the process used in prior work that has produced the other MOSART instruments, including design efforts of assessment specialists, teachers, and learning scientists. Pilot items are tested through crowd-sourcing with online adult test takers. Classic test theory techniques, item response theory and Bayesian techniques model the student responses. Outcomes consist of item parameters, test and sub-test characteristics, and predictive linkages among items. A stratified, nationally representative sample of 250 high school biology teachers field test the items with classrooms of students. Descriptive statistics are generated to establish the state of student knowledge, pre-and post-test performance by item and by standard, and teacher knowledge, including the fraction of items for which teachers have correctly identified the most popular wrong answer. Descriptive analyses are followed by hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) of students within classrooms to examine the relationships between student and teacher knowledge. The dependent variables in HLM are student gain scores. Independent variables include teachers' knowledge, and student performance on grade K-8 assessments.

The MOSART instruments have been a strong line of assessment tools that are based on a model of cognition with a strong research base in misconceptions in science education. That research base is only slowly being augmented with a more coherent framework on learning progressions in STEM education, and the MOSART instruments will have the potential for extensive use for the foreseeable future. The grades 9-12 life science instrument based on coupling core ideas with science and engineering practices addresses the gaps in the current MOSART system of assessments. Given the rich literature on misconceptions in life science and the ubiquity of life science as a course at the high school level, the instrument promises to be as useful as the one for K-8 developed with MSP RETA funding. The new instruments on cross-cutting concepts provides a much needed set of assessments for researchers and practitioners, particularly teacher professional development providers. The transition to coupling core content and sciences practices with both the life sciences and the cross-cutting concepts is an opportunity to expand and update the suite of instruments.

iSTEM: A Multi-State Longitudinal Study of the Effectiveness of Inclusive STEM High Schools

This is a quasi-experimental study of the effects of attending an inclusive STEM high school in three key geographic regions and comparing outcomes for students in these schools with those of their counterparts attending other types of schools in the same states. The study's focus is on the extent to which inclusive STEM high schools contribute to improved academic outcomes, interests in STEM careers, and expectations for post secondary study.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1817513
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2013 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

Researchers from SRI and George Washington University are studying the effectiveness of inclusive STEM high schools in three key geographic regions including Texas, North Carolina and Ohio. STEM schools continue to be an important policy area and test bed for one indication of what STEM education can accomplish under the most optimal conditions in which STEM is the focus of students' learning experiences. The President has called for the creation of an additional 1,000 STEM schools with relatively little evidence about the impact of such schools or the evidence of which configurations and elements of such schools are important. The study's focus is on the extent to which inclusive STEM high schools contribute to improved academic outcomes, interests in STEM careers, and expectations for post secondary study. The research study engages in implementation research to examine the elements of the STEM schools' design and implementation and other contextual factors, including state policies, which are associated with superior outcomes.

This is a quasi-experimental study of the effects of attending an inclusive STEM high school comparing outcomes for students in these schools with those of their counterparts attending other types of schools in the same states. The study includes all students in the 9th or 12th grade in the inclusive STEM high schools and students in samples of same-state comparison schools identified through propensity score matching. Data are collected longitudinally using student records and surveying students at regular intervals. The study follows the 12th grade students after graduation into postsecondary study and the workforce. The states identified in this study have the requisite administrative data systems to support the proposed study. By using a combination of data available in state-level data bases and new information obtained through project surveys, the researchers are identifying students who are matched not only on demographic variables and academic achievement before high school entry, but also on indicators of pre-existing interest and expectation such as self-efficacy and prior participation in informal STEM-related activities. Impacts on student achievement are analyzed separately for each state. Data on the elements of STEM schools are collected through teacher and administrator surveys and interviews. State STEM school history and policy data are collected through document analysis and interviews. The study utilizes hierarchical regression models, with separate models of each outcome measure and adjustments for tests of multiple comparisons. Student attrition is monitored and findings are examined to determine influence of attrition.

This project focuses on inclusive rather than selective STEM schools so that the population of students more typically represents the population of the students locally. The study provides a source of evidence about not only the effectiveness of STEM schools, but also contextual evidence of what works and for whom and under what conditions.

This project was previously funded under award # 1316920.

Undergraduate Biology Education Research Program

The goals of this nine-week summer program are to develop undergraduates' knowledge and skills in biology education research, encourage undergraduates to pursue doctoral study of biology teaching and learning, expand the diversity of the talent pool in biology education research, strengthen and expand collaborations among faculty and students in education and life sciences, and contribute to the development of theory and knowledge about biology education in ways that can inform undergraduate biology instruction.

Award Number: 
1262715
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2013 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

The Undergraduate Biology Education Research (UBER) REU Site engages undergraduates in studying important issues specific to the teaching and learning of biology, with mentorship from faculty in the Division of Biological Sciences and the Mathematics and Science Education Department at the University of Georgia. The goals of this nine-week summer program are to develop undergraduates' knowledge and skills in biology education research, encourage undergraduates to pursue doctoral study of biology teaching and learning, expand the diversity of the talent pool in biology education research by strategically recruiting and mentoring underrepresented and disadvantaged students, strengthen and expand collaborations among faculty and students in education and life sciences, and contribute to the development of theory and knowledge about biology education in ways that can inform undergraduate biology instruction.

A programmatic effort to introduce undergraduates to the discipline of biology education research is unprecedented nationwide. Biology education research as a discipline is quite young, and systematic involvement of undergraduates has not been part of the culture or practice in biology or education. UBER aims to promote cultural change that expands the involvement of undergraduates in biology education research and raises awareness among undergraduates that biology teaching and learning are compelling foci for study that can be pursued at the graduate level and via various career paths. UBER utilizes a combined strategy of broad and strategic recruiting to attract underrepresented minority students as well as students who do not have access to biology education research opportunities at their own institutions. Evaluation plans involve tracking UBER participants over time to understand the trajectories of students who complete undergraduate training in biology education research.

Significant co-funding of this project is provided by the Division of Biological Infrastructure in the NSF Directorate for Biological Sciences in recognition of the importance of educational research in the discipline of biology. The Division of Undergraduate Education and the Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings also provides co-funding.

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