Low Socio-economic Status Students

Promoting Scientific Explorers Among Students with Learning Disabilities: The Design and Testing of a Grade 2 Science Program Focused on Earth's Systems

The purpose of this project is to design and empirically evaluate a second grade science program, Scientific Explorers, aimed at promoting an early foundation for learning science among all students, including students at risk for or with learning disabilities in reading and mathematics.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720958
Funding Period: 
Thu, 06/01/2017 to Mon, 05/31/2021
Full Description: 

A robust understanding of core science concepts and practices is necessary for obtaining jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Despite these occupational and practical affordances, few effective instructional tools exist for the elementary science classroom. Moreover, early elementary school teachers have limited materials at their disposal to promote a rich knowledge of science among the full range of learners. The purpose of this project is to address this need by designing and empirically evaluating a second grade science program, Scientific Explorers, aimed at promoting an early foundation for learning science among all students, including students at risk for or with learning disabilities in reading and mathematics. Scientific Explorers will be designed to improve students' knowledge and understanding of core science concepts. Recognizing the important role of early literacy and mathematics in science learning and teaching, this project will integrate core disciplinary ideas with critical mathematics and literacy standards. To support students as they engage in scientific tasks associated with Earth's Systems, this project will engineer the Scientific Explorers program around a guided inquiry framework. Another aim of this project is to develop and empirically validate a science assessment that measures students' knowledge and application of core science concepts and practices related to Earth's Systems.

Employing a mixed-method approach, this project will investigate the feasibility and efficacy of the Scientific Explorers program. Additional research activities will include establishing the reliability and validity of a second grade science assessment. Approximately 40 second grade classrooms from two different geographical regions will participate in the project. Using multilevel modeling and item response theory techniques, this project will address five primary research questions: (1) To what extent can teachers feasibly implement the Scientific Explorers program in authentic education settings? (2) What is the impact of Scientific Explorers on the science achievement of students in participating classrooms? (3) Do early literacy skills at the beginning of second grade predict differential response to the Scientific Explorers program? (4) Does responsiveness to the Scientific Explorers program differ as a function of reading disability, mathematics disability, or a learning disability in reading and mathematics (comorbid LD)?, and (5) To what extent does the early science achievement measure demonstrate technical adequacy (reliability and validity)?

Youth Participatory Science to Address Urban Heavy Metal Contamination

This project is focused on the work and learning of teachers as they engage youth from underrepresented groups in studying chemistry as a subject relevant to heavy metal contamination in their neighborhoods. The project will position Chicago teachers and students as Change Makers who are capable of addressing the crises of inequity in science education and environmental contamination that matter deeply to them, while simultaneously advancing their own understanding and expertise.

Award Number: 
1720856
Funding Period: 
Mon, 05/15/2017 to Thu, 04/30/2020
Full Description: 

This project is focused on the work and learning of teachers as they engage youth from underrepresented groups in studying chemistry as a subject relevant to heavy metal contamination in their neighborhoods. The project is a collaboration of teachers in the Chicago Public Schools, science educators, chemists, and environmental scientists from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University, Loyola University, and members of the Chicago Environmental Justice Network. The project is significant because it leverages existing partnerships and builds on pilot projects which will be informed by a corresponding cycle of research on teachers' learning and practice. The project will position Chicago teachers and students as Change Makers who are capable of addressing the crises of inequity in science education and environmental contamination that matter deeply to them, while simultaneously advancing their own understanding and expertise. The project will examine the malleable factors affecting the ability of teachers to engage underrepresented students in innovative urban citizen science projects with a focus on the synergistic learning that occurs as teachers, students, scientists, and community members work together on addressing complex socio-scientific issues.

The goal is to provide a network of intellectual and analytical support to high school chemistry teachers engaged in customizing curricula in response to urban environmental concerns. The project will use an annual summer institute where collaborators will develop curriculum and procedures for collecting soil and water samples. In the project, the teachers and students will work with university scientists to analyze these samples for heavy metals, and students will share their results in community settings. The study design will be multiple case and be used to study the content knowledge learned and mobilized by participating teachers as they develop these authentic projects. The project includes explicit focus on the professional development of high school science teachers while it also aims to create rich learning opportunities for underrepresented high school students in STEM fields. The contextualized science concepts within students' everyday experiences or socio-scientific issues will likely have a positive impact on student motivation and learning outcomes, but the experiences of urban students are less likely to be reflected by the curriculum, and the practices of effective secondary science teachers in these contexts are under-examined.

The following article is in press and will be available soon:

Morales-Doyle, D., Childress-Price, T., & Chappell, M. (in press). Chemicals are contaminants too: Teaching appreciation and critique of science in the era of NGSS. Science Education. https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.21546

Learning in Places: Field Based Science in Early Childhood Education

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

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

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

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

CAREER: Investigating Changes in Students' Prior Mathematical Reasoning: An Exploration of Backward Transfer Effects in School Algebra

This project explores "backward transfer", or the ways in which new learning impacts previously-established ways of reasoning. The PI will observe and evaluate algebra I students as they learn quadratic functions and examine how different kinds of instruction about the new concept of quadratic functions helps or hinders students' prior mathematical knowledge of the previous concept of linear functions.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1651571
Funding Period: 
Sat, 07/01/2017 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Full Description: 

As students learn new mathematical concepts, teachers need to ensure that prior knowledge and prior ways understanding are not negatively affected. This award explores "backward transfer", or the ways in which new learning impacts previously-established ways of reasoning. The PI will observe and evaluate students in four Algebra I classrooms as they learn quadratic functions. The PI will examine how different kinds of instruction about the new concept of quadratic functions helps or hinders students' prior mathematical knowledge of the previous concept of linear functions. More generally, this award will contribute to the field of mathematics education by expanding the application of knowledge transfer, moving it from only a forward focused direction to include, also, a backward focused direction. An advisory board of scholars with expertise in mathematics education, assessment, social interactions, quantitative reasoning and measurement will support the project. The research will occur in diverse classrooms and result in presentations at the annual conferences of national organizations, peer-reviewed publications, as well as a website for teachers which will explain both the theoretical model and the findings from the project. An undergraduate university course and professional development workshops using video data from the project are also being developed for pre-service and in-service teachers. Ultimately, the research findings will generate new knowledge and offer guidance to elementary school teachers as they prepare their students for algebra.

The research involves three phases. The first phase includes observations and recordings of four Algebra I classrooms and will test students' understanding of linear functions before and after the lessons on quadratic functions. This phase will also include interviews with students to better understand their reasoning about linear function problems. The class sessions will be coded for the kind of reasoning that they promote. The second phase of the project will involve four cycles of design research to create quadratic and linear function activities that can be used as instructional interventions. In conjunction with this phase, pre-service teachers will observe teaching sessions through a course that will be offered concurrently with the design research. The final phase of the project will involve pilot-applied research which will test the effects of the instructional activities on students' linear function reasoning in classroom settings. This phase will include treatment and control groups and further test the hypotheses and instructional products developed in the first two phases.

Readiness through Integrative Science and Engineering: Refining and Testing a Co-constructed Curriculum Approach with Head Start Partners

Building upon prior research on Head Start curriculum, this phase of Readiness through Integrative Science and Engineering (RISE) will be expanded to include classroom coaches and community experts to enable implementation and assessment of RISE in a larger sample of classrooms. The goal is to improve school readiness for culturally and linguistically diverse, urban-residing children from low-income families, and the focus on science, technology, and engineering will address a gap in early STEM education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621161
Funding Period: 
Sat, 10/01/2016 to Wed, 09/30/2020
Full Description: 

Readiness through Integrative Science and Engineering (RISE) is a late stage design and development project that will build upon the results of an earlier NSF-funded design and development study in which a co-construction process for curriculum development was designed by a team of education researchers with a small group of Head Start educators and parent leaders. In this phase, the design team will be expanded to include Classroom Coaches and Community Experts to enable implementation and assessment of the RISE model in a larger sample of Head Start classrooms. In this current phase, an iterative design process will further develop the science, technology, and engineering curricular materials as well continue to refine supports for teachers to access families' funds of knowledge related to science, technology, and engineering in order to build on children's prior knowledge as home-school connections. The ultimate goal of the project is to improve school readiness for culturally and linguistically diverse, urban-residing children from low-income families who tend to be underrepresented in curriculum development studies even though they are most at-risk for later school adjustment difficulties. The focus on science, technology, and engineering will address a gap in early STEM education.

The proposed group-randomized design, consisting of 90 teachers/classrooms (45 RISE/45 Control), will allow for assessment of the impact of a 2-year RISE intervention compared with a no-intervention control group. Year 1 will consist of recruitment, induction, and training of Classroom Coaches and Community Experts in the full RISE model, as well as preparation of integrative curricular materials and resources. In Year 2, participating teachers will implement the RISE curriculum approach supported by Classroom Coaches and Community Experts; data on teacher practice, classroom quality, and implementation fidelity will be collected, and these formative assessments will inform redesign and any refinements for Year 3. During Year 2, project-specific measures of learning for science, technology, and engineering concepts and skills will also be tested and refined. In Year 3, pre-post data on teachers (as in Year 2) as well as on 10 randomly selected children in each classroom (N = 900) will be collected. When child outcomes are assessed, multilevel modeling will be used to account for nesting of children in classrooms. In addition, several moderators will be examined in final summative analyses (e.g., teacher education, part or full-day classroom, parent demographics, implementation fidelity). At the end of this project, all materials will be finalized and the RISE co-construction approach will be ready for scale-up and replication studies in other communities.

Development of the Electronic Test of Early Numeracy

The project will develop and refine an electronic Test of Early Numeracy (e-TEN) in English and Spanish that will assess informal and formal knowledge of number and operations in domains including verbal counting, numbering, numerical relationships, and mental addition/subtraction. The overarching goal of the assessment design is to create a measure that is more accurate, more accessible to a wider range of children, and easier to administer than existing measures.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621470
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

The project will develop and refine an electronic Test of Early Numeracy (e-TEN) in English and Spanish, focused on number and operations. The assessment will incorporate a learning trajectory that describes students' development of the understanding of number. The electronic assessment will allow for the test to adapt to students' responses and incorporate games to increase children's engagement with the tasks. These features take advantage of the electronic format. The achievement test will be designed to be efficient, user-friendly, affordable, and accessible for a variety of learning environments and a broad age range (3 to 8 years old). The overarching goal of the assessment design is to create a measure that is more accurate, more accessible to a wider range of children, and easier to administer than existing measures. 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 e-TEN will assess informal and formal knowledge of number and operations in domains including verbal counting, numbering, numerical relationships, and mental addition/subtraction. The items will be designed using domain-based learning trajectories that describe students' development of understanding of the topics. The test will be designed with some key characteristics. First, it will be semi-adaptive over six-month age spans. Second, it will have an electronic format that allows for uniform implementation and an efficient, user-friendly administration. The test will also be accessible to Spanish speakers using an inclusive assessment model. Finally, the game-based aspect should increase children's engagement and present more meaningful questions. The user-friendly aspect includes simplifying the assessment process compared to other tests of numeracy in early-childhood. The first phase of the development will test a preliminary version of the e-TEN to test its functionality and feasibility. The second phase will focus on norming of the items, reliability and validity. Reliability will be assessed using Item Response Theory methods and test-retest reliability measures. Validity will be examined using criterion-prediction validity and construct validity. The final phase of the work will include creating a Spanish version of the test including collecting data from bilingual children using both versions of the e-TEN.

Synchronous Online Professional Learning Experiences for Middle Grades Mathematics Teachers in Rural Contexts

This project will develop and implement an innovative online mathematics professional development model designed to provide growth opportunities for teachers in rural districts who normally lack access to such opportunities. The project will focus on developing teacher capacity to enact ambitious, responsive instruction aligned with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM), and thus will be sustained, interactive, and of sufficient duration to help teachers transform their practices.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1620911
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

All teachers need access to high quality professional development in order to meet the needs of students and teach mathematics as outlined in college and career-ready standards. Online professional development has the potential to expand access to under-resourced areas, including urban districts, and teachers who wish to participate in communities of inquiry but do not have local access to such communities. Building on research on effective face-to-face professional development, including research from the emerging fields of content-focused coaching and video coaching, this project will design and study professional development for middle grades mathematics teachers in rural communities. As schools turn to digital learning contexts, it is inevitable that professional development will follow a similar trend. It is imperative to have research-based models that demonstrate how the features of high-quality face-to-face professional development can be matched or augmented in online contexts. The study has the potential to contribute to research on professional development, especially in the growing areas of online professional development and coaching, and will build from and contribute to the literature on the impact of multiple modalities and synchronicities in online contexts. The project will address the critical need for models of professional development for teachers in rural areas, which has a limited research base. This project is funded by the Discovery Research PreK-12 (DRK-12) Program. The DRK-12 program supports research and development on STEM education innovations and approaches to teaching, learning, and assessment.

The project will develop and implement an innovative online mathematics professional development model designed to provide growth opportunities for teachers in rural districts who normally lack access to such opportunities. The study will take place in two geographically disparate locations in order to research the effectiveness of the model across contexts and to explore the resources and constraints involved in scaling up the model. The project will focus on developing teacher capacity to enact ambitious, responsive instruction aligned with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM), and thus will be sustained, interactive, and of sufficient duration to help teachers transform their practices. In the design of the professional development, the project will leverage features of emerging technologies that are multimodal and involve a mix of synchronous/ asynchronous communication. The most innovative feature is the online video coaching in which a teacher and coach separately will view and notate video of the teacher's enactment of a collaboratively planned lesson as a precursor to the online post-lesson debriefing. Building from design-based research principles, the project will incorporate iterative cycles of data collection, analysis, reflection, and revision that will explore the effectiveness of the model and inform revisions.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Synchronous Online Professional Development Model

Presenter(s): Jeffrey Choppin, Julie Amador, Cynthia Carson, Ryan Gillespie, Stephanie Martin, & Kristana Textor


An Online STEM Career Exploration and Readiness Environment for Opportunity Youth

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

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

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

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


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

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

Presenter(s): Tracey Hall

2018 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Bridging the Gap Between Ability and Opportunity in STEM

Presenter(s): Sam Johnston


Developing A Discourse Observation Tool and Online Professional Development to Promote Science, Oral Language and Literacy Development from the Start of School

The goal of this project is to develop a classroom observation tool and an online professional development model to help early-elementary teachers improve science instruction among young learners by cultivating scientific discourse.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1620580
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

The goal of this project is to develop resources and a professional development model to help early-elementary teachers improve science instruction among young learners by cultivating scientific discourse. A central component of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is engaging students in discourse with a focus on formulating and communicating scientific explanations. This project will develop a classroom observation tool that will help teachers examine changes in the quantity and quality of science discourse in K-2 classrooms over time. The project will also develop an online professional development (PD) model that uses the new observation tool to help teachers analyze their own classroom practices and the practice of others to improve classroom efforts to foster improved scientific discourse.

This early stage design and development study will employ a Design-Based Implementation Research (DBIR) approach to develop the new classroom observation tool and online professional development model, and then seek answers to the following research questions: 1) How can a classroom observation measure be developed to effectively capture the range in quality of science discourse in early elementary classrooms?; 2) How can an online PD model be developed based on the new observation tool?; 3) How do teachers' knowledge and instructional practice change over the course of participation in the yearlong PD?; and 4) How does the quantity and quality of science discourse change in K-2 classrooms over the course of teachers' participation in a yearlong online PD experience that is built around the new observation tool? The project will engage 36 teachers and their 36 different classrooms in Michigan and use multiple data sources to understand whether and how teacher knowledge and instructional practices change during participation in the new PD model. Multiple iterations of design, data collection, and refinement will be used to understand how, when, and why features of the PD and observation tool might combine to transform science discourse in early elementary classrooms. In years 3 and 4, the project team will conduct two year-long implementation trials with cohorts of 15 teachers and 5 instructional coaches (experienced science teachers) who will use the PD and tool in order study their implementation and make iterative improvements. The project will also gather data to understand changes in teacher knowledge and practice as well as video data to document changes in classroom discourse.

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

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

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

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

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

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