Low Socio-economic Status Students

Instructional Leadership for Scientific Practices: Resources for Principals in Evaluating and Supporting Teachers' Science Instruction

This project will research the knowledge and supervision skills principals' and other instructional leaders' need to support teachers in successfully integrating scientific practices into their instruction, and develop innovative resources to support these leaders with a particular focus on high-minority, urban schools. The project will contribute to the emerging but limited literature on instructional leadership in science at the K-8 school level. 

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1415541
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Thu, 08/31/2017
Full Description: 

Although K-8 principals are responsible for instructional improvement across all subject areas, their focus has traditionally been on literacy and mathematics and only occasionally on science content and practice. New standards and assessments in science require that principals and other instructional leaders provide significant support to teachers to help them successfully integrate scientific practices into their instruction. There is evidence that these instructional leaders often lack the knowledge, resources or skills to provide this support. This project will research the knowledge and supervision skills principals' and other instructional leaders' need to support teachers in successfully integrating scientific practices into their instruction, and develop innovative resources to support these leaders with a particular focus on high-minority, urban schools. The project will contribute to the emerging but limited literature on instructional leadership in science at the K-8 school level.

The resources developed will involve: (1) Introducing scientific practices (including rationales, descriptions and vignettes illustrating each of the 8 scientific practices); (2) Using tools in schools (providing an observation protocol, teacher feedback form and improvement planning template); and (3) Analyzing sample video (including links to video of K-8 science instruction, completed supervision tools, explanations of their coding, and discussion of how to use them with teachers). The project will conduct in-depth interviews with four principals, work with 25 principals in the Boston Public Schools to iteratively design and test the resources. The project will also develop a measure of Leadership Content Knowledge of Scientific Practices (LCK-SP) which will be used to assess principals' knowledge. The project's research component will: (1) investigate principals' current knowledge about scientific practices and methods for supervision of science instruction; and (2) examine how resources can be designed to support instructional leaders' content knowledge of scientific practices.

GRIDS: Graphing Research on Inquiry with Data in Science

The Graphing Research on Inquiry with Data in Science (GRIDS) project will investigate strategies to improve middle school students' science learning by focusing on student ability to interpret and use graphs. GRIDS will undertake a comprehensive program to address the need for improved graph comprehension. The project will create, study, and disseminate technology-based assessments, technologies that aid graph interpretation, instructional designs, professional development, and learning materials.

Award Number: 
1418423
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

The Graphing Research on Inquiry with Data in Science (GRIDS) project is a four-year full design and development proposal, addressing the learning strand, submitted to the DR K-12 program at the NSF. GRIDS will investigate strategies to improve middle school students' science learning by focusing on student ability to interpret and use graphs. In middle school math, students typically graph only linear functions and rarely encounter features used in science, such as units, scientific notation, non-integer values, noise, cycles, and exponentials. Science teachers rarely teach about the graph features needed in science, so students are left to learn science without recourse to what is inarguably a key tool in learning and doing science. GRIDS will undertake a comprehensive program to address the need for improved graph comprehension. The project will create, study, and disseminate technology-based assessments, technologies that aid graph interpretation, instructional designs, professional development, and learning materials.

GRIDS will start by developing the GRIDS Graphing Inventory (GGI), an online, research-based measure of graphing skills that are relevant to middle school science. The project will address gaps revealed by the GGI by designing instructional activities that feature powerful digital technologies including automated guidance based on analysis of student generated graphs and student writing about graphs. These materials will be tested in classroom comparison studies using the GGI to assess both annual and longitudinal progress. Approximately 30 teachers selected from 10 public middle schools will participate in the project, along with approximately 4,000 students in their classrooms. A series of design studies will be conducted to create and test ten units of study and associated assessments, and a minimum of 30 comparison studies will be conducted to optimize instructional strategies. The comparison studies will include a minimum of 5 experiments per term, each with 6 teachers and their 600-800 students. The project will develop supports for teachers to guide students to use graphs and science knowledge to deepen understanding, and to develop agency and identity as science learners.

Bio-Sphere: Fostering Deep Learning of Complex Biology for Building our Next Generation's Scientists

The goal of this project is to help middle school students, particularly in rural and underserved areas, develop deep scientific knowledge and knowledge of the practices and routines of science. Research teams will develop an innovative learning environment called Bio-Sphere, which will foster learning of complex science issues through hands-on design and engineering.

Award Number: 
1418044
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

Today's citizens face profound questions in science. Preparing future generations of scientists is crucial if the United States is to remain competitive in a technology-focused economy. The biological sciences are of particular importance for addressing some of today's complex problems, such as sustainability and food production, biofuels, and carbon dioxide and its effect on our environment. Although knowledge in the life sciences is of critical importance, this is an area in which there are significantly fewer studies examining students' conceptions than in physics and chemistry. The goal of this project is to help middle school students, particularly in rural and underserved areas, develop deep scientific knowledge and knowledge of the practices and routines of science. A major strength of Bio-Sphere is the inclusion of hands-on design and engineering in biology, a field in which there are fewer instances of curricula that integrate engineering design at the middle school level. The units will enable an in-depth, cohesive understanding of science content, and Bio-Sphere will be disseminated nationally and internationally through proactive outreach to teachers as well as scholarly publications.

This project addresses the need to inculcate deep learning of complex science by bringing complex socio-scientific issues into middle school classrooms, and providing students with instructional materials that allow them to practice science as scientists do. Research teams will develop, iteratively refine and evaluate an innovative learning environment called Bio-Sphere. Bio-Sphere combines the strengths of hands-on design and engineering, engages students in the practices of science, and fosters learning of complex science issues, especially among underserved populations. Each Bio-Sphere unit presents a complex science issue in the form of a design challenge that students solve by conducting experiments, using visualizations in an electronic textbook, and connecting with the community. The units, aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, provide greater coherence, continuity, and sustained instruction focused on uncovering and integrating key ideas over long periods of time. The project will follow a design-based research methodology. In Phase 1, the Bio-Sphere materials will be developed. Phase 2 will consist of studies in Wisconsin schools to generate existence proofs, i.e., examining enactments with respect to the designed objectives to understand how a design works. Phase 3 studies will focus on practical implementation: how to bring this innovative design to life in very different classroom contexts and without the everyday support of the design team, and will be conducted in rural schools in Alabama and North Carolina.

Designing Assessments in Physical Science Across Three Dimensions (Collaborative Research: Harris)

This is a collaborative project to develop, test, and analyze sets of technology-supported diagnostic classroom assessments for middle school (grades 6-8) physical science. Assessments are aligned with the performance assessment and evidence-centered design methodologies suggested in the Framework for K-12 Science Education (NRC, 2012).

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1903103
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2013 to Sun, 06/30/2019
Full Description: 

This is a collaborative proposal among the University of Illinois at Chicago, Michigan State University, and SRI International to develop, test, and analyze sets of technology-supported diagnostic classroom assessments for middle school (grades 6-8) physical science. Assessments are aligned with the performance assessment and evidence-centered design methodologies suggested in the Framework for K-12 Science Education (NRC, 2012). The study focuses on the development of new measures of learning that take into account the interdependence of science content and practice. Two disciplinary core ideas--Matter and its Interactions, and Energy--and two scientific and engineering practices--Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, and Developing and Using Models--are used for this purpose.

The research questions are: (1) What are the characteristic features of science assessments based upon systematic application of the Evidence-Centered Design (ECD) assessment process?; (2) To what extent can assessment designs incorporate critical core idea, crosscutting concept and science/engineering practice dimensions in ways that both separate and integrate these dimensions as part of the design architecture?; (3) What is the evidence that the multiple dimensions of science learning (e.g., content, practices and crosscutting concepts) are separable and recoverable in the performance of students who respond to these assessments?; (4) How instructionally sensitive are these assessments? (i.e., Do they show differential and appropriate sensitivity to students' opportunity to learn science in ways consistent with the vision contained in the NRC Framework?); (5) What forms of evidence can be provided for the validity of these assessments using a multifaceted validity framework that takes into account both the interpretive and evidentiary components of a validity argument for these new assessments?; (6) What are the characteristics of assessments that best serve the needs of classroom teachers relative to a formative assessment process and in what ways do such assessments and scoring processes need to be designed to support effective teacher implementation?; and (7) What are the unique affordances and opportunities provided by technology in designing and implementing assessments focused on merging content & practices performance expectations?

Assessments are iteratively designed and administered in three school districts and a laboratory school in Florida and one school district in Wisconsin using the "Investigating and Questioning our World through Science and Technology" curriculum. The three school districts in Florida have classrooms that are using typical curriculum. The assessments will also be administered and tested with students in these classrooms. To address the research questions, the project conducts five major tasks: (1) development of assessment items using the ECD process to document and guide coherence of items; (2) an alignment study to review design patterns and task templates; (3) a cognitive analysis study to empirically investigate the extent to which the items elicit the intended guidelines; (4) three empirical studies, including (a) an early-stage testing with teachers (n=6) and students (n=180) in Year 1, (b) a pilot testing in Year 2 with teachers (n=12) and students (n=360), and (c) a main study in Year 3 with teachers (n=30) and students (n=900); and (5) a study to investigate the formative use of the assessment items using teacher focus groups' feedback and analysis of student performance data from previous studies.

Project outcomes are: (a) research-informed and field-tested assessment prototypes that measure students' thinking around the two physical science core ideas and the two scientific and engineering practices; (b) relevant data and procedures used in the studies; and (c) a framework for the formative use of the assessments, including guidelines, scoring rubrics, and criteria for assessment design decisions.

This project was previously funded under award #1316903.

Multimedia Engineering Notebook Tools to Support Engineering Discourse in Urban Elementary School Classrooms (Collaborative Research: Paugh)

This collaborative, exploratory, learning strand project focuses on improving reflective decision-making among elementary school students during the planning and re-design activities of the engineering design process. Five teacher researchers in three elementary schools provide the classroom laboratories for the study. Specified units from Engineering is Elementary, a well-studied curriculum, provide the engineering content.

Award Number: 
1316762
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2013 to Sun, 07/31/2016
Full Description: 

This collaborative, exploratory, learning strand project focuses on improving reflective decision-making among elementary school students during the planning and re-design activities of the engineering design process. Five teacher researchers in three elementary schools provide the classroom laboratories for the study. Specified units from Engineering is Elementary, a well-studied curriculum, provide the engineering content. In year one, the qualitative research observes student discourse as students develop designs. Based on the results, a paper engineering note book with prompts is designed for use in year two while a digital notebook is developed. In year three, the students use the digital notebook to develop their designs and redesigns.

The research identifies patterns of language that contribute to the reflective discourse and determines how the paper and electronic versions of the notebook improve the discourse. An advisory committee provides advice and evaluation. The notebooks are described in conference proceedings and made available online.

This work synthesizes what is known about the use of the notebooks in science and engineering education at the elementary school and investigates how to improve their use through digital media.

Assessing Student Engagement in Math and Science in Middle School: Classroom, Family, and Peer Effects on Engagement

The project will use a comprehensive mixed methods design to develop theoretically-grounded measures of student engagement in middle school math and science classes that reflect a multidimensional construct within an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse sample of urban youth. The project conceptualizes student engagement as a multidimensional construct including behavioral, emotional, and cognitive components. This multidimensional perspective of student engagement provides a rich characterization of how students act, feel, and think.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1315943
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2013 to Thu, 08/31/2017
Full Description: 

The proposed project uses a comprehensive mixed methods design to develop theoretically-grounded measures of student engagement in middle school math and science classes that reflect a multidimensional construct within an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse sample of urban youth. The project conceptualizes student engagement as a multidimensional construct including behavioral, emotional, and cognitive components. This multidimensional perspective of student engagement provides a rich characterization of how students act, feel, and think. The project has three aims which are to 1) develop reliable and valid measures of student engagement in middle school math and science classes for the use of teachers and researchers; 2) field test and validate these measures of student engagement in math and science classes; and 3) test a) whether classroom, peer, and family characteristics predict student engagement in math and science classes, which in turn, predicts their course enrollment patterns, academic achievement, and educational and career aspirations in math and science and b) whether these associations differ by gender, race, and socioeconomic status.

To meet these goals, the proposed project includes two studies. In study 1, twenty-five middle school students and 10 math and 10 science teachers participate in focus groups and individual interviews to inform the development of survey instruments in fulfillment of Aim 1. In study 2, 450 middle school students and their teachers and parents participate in a field study to test the psychometric quality of the newly developed instruments in fulfillment of Aims 2 and 3. The sample is recruited from four middle schools located in a socioeconomically and ethnically diverse community. Data to be collected includes information on math and science course enrollment, performance, educational and career aspirations, student engagement in math and science, and support from teachers, peers, and parents.

This project develops easily-administered and psychometrically sound instruments for teachers and researchers to assess student engagement in math and science classes, so they can identify groups of students who are at risk for disengagement and potentially turning away from STEM careers as a first step towards designing appropriate school interventions. It is anticipated that the project findings provide research-based solutions to some of the specific behaviors that influence youth motivation in math and science. Specifically, the project identifies family, peer, and classroom predictors and educational outcomes of student engagement in math and science classes that are amenable to future interventions, as well as examines differences in the relations between context, engagement, and educational outcomes by gender, race, and socioeconomic status. The study also yields information that can directly and immediately support teachers in the partner school districts to enhance the quality of math and science education. As findings are disseminated to math and science teachers, they are able to develop effective strategies to promote student engagement in math and science. This multidimensional approach will advance current scholarship and practice concerning middle school students' pursuit of math and science related fields.

Climate Change Narrative Game Education (CHANGE)

This exploratory project helps high school students learn complex Global Climate Change (GCC) science by making it personally relevant and understandable. CHANGE creates a prototype curriculum, and integrates it into elective Marine Sciences high school courses. Research will examine the project's impact on student learning of climate science, student attitude toward science, and teacher instruction of climate science.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316782
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/15/2013 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

This exploratory project helps high school students learn complex Global Climate Change (GCC) science by making it personally relevant and understandable. CHANGE creates a prototype curriculum, and integrates it into elective Marine Sciences high school courses. Research will examine the project's impact on student learning of climate science, student attitude toward science, and teacher instruction of climate science. The goal of this project is to develop a place-based futuristic gaming simulation model that can easily extend to the other locales in other states, based on local climate change effects, local stakeholders, local economic and social effects to motivate the high school students in that area. CHANGE uses: (a) scientifically realistic text narratives about future Florida residents (text stories with local Florida characters, many years in the future based on GCC), (b) local, place-based approach grounded in west-central Florida Gulf Coast using scientific data, (c) a focus on the built environment, (d) simulations & games based on scientific data to help students learn principles of GCC so students can experience and try to cope with the potential long term effect of GCC via role-play and science-based simulation, and (e) a web-based eBook narrative where sections of narrative text alternate with simulations/computer games. The proposed project will work with 25 high school Marine Science teachers in 25 schools in Hillsborough County, Florida. The project delivers new research for instructional technologists and serious game developers regarding effective interface and usability design of intermedia narrative gaming-simulations for education.

This project employs and researches innovative models for delivering high school GCC education. GCC is a complex topic involving numerous factors and uncertainties making teaching this extremely important topic very difficult. The pioneering techniques proposed for this project will advance science education of GCC. It also will deliver new research for instructional technologists and serious game developers regarding effective interface and usability design of intermedia narrative gaming-simulations for education. Effective education is probably the most crucial part in our ability to cope with climate change. CHANGE will educate underserved low SES and minority high school students in Hillsborough County, and later elsewhere, with a model making GCC personally relevant to them.

Integrating Quality Talk Professional Development to Enhance Professional Vision and Leadership for STEM Teachers in High-Need Schools

This project expands and augments a currently-funded NSF Noyce Track II teacher recruitment and retention grant with Quality Talk (QT), an innovative, scalable teacher-facilitated discourse model. Over the course of four years, the work will address critical needs in physics and chemistry education in 10th through 12th grade classrooms by strengthening the capacity of participating teachers to design and implement lessons that support effective dialogic interactions.

Award Number: 
1316347
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/15/2013 to Fri, 06/30/2017
Full Description: 

This project expands and augments a currently-funded NSF Noyce Track II teacher recruitment and retention grant with Quality Talk (QT), an innovative, scalable teacher-facilitated discourse model. It is hypothesized that the QT model will enhance pre- and in-service secondary teachers' development of professional vision and leadership skills necessary for 21st century STEM education. Over the course of four years, the work will address critical needs in physics and chemistry education in 10th through 12th grade classrooms in five of Georgia's high-need school districts by strengthening the capacity of participating teachers to design and implement lessons that support effective dialogic interactions. As a result of such interactions, students' scientific literacy will be enhanced, including their ability to participate in content-rich discourse (i.e., QT) through effective disciplinary critical-analytic thinking and epistemic cognition. The contributions of this project, beyond the tangible benefits for teacher and student participants, include the development, refinement, and dissemination of an effective QT intervention and professional developmental framework that the entire science education community can use to promote scientific literacy and understanding.

The project goals are being achieved through a series of three studies employing complementary methods and data sources, and a focus upon dissemination of the model in the final project year. The first two years of the project focus on developing and refining the curricular and intervention efficacy materials using design-based research methods. In Year 3, the project engages in a quasi-experimental study of the refined QT model, followed by further refinements before disseminating the materials both within Georgia and throughout the national science education community in Year 4. Quantitative measures of teacher and student discourse and knowledge, as well as video-coding and qualitative investigations of intervention efficacy, are being analyzed using multiple methods. In collaboration with, but independent from project staff and stakeholders, the participatory and responsive evaluation utilizes a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods to conduct formative and summative evaluation.

Over the course of four years, the project will involve the participation of approximately 32 teachers in Georgia whose students include substantive percentages from populations underrepresented in the STEM fields. In addition to advancing their own students' scientific literacy, these participating teachers receive professional development on how to train other teachers, outside of the project, in using QT to promote scientific literacy. Further, the project will conduct a QT Summit for educational stakeholders and non-participant teachers to disseminate the intervention and professional development model. Finally, the project team will disseminate the findings widely to applied and scholarly communities through a website with materials and PD information (http://www.qualitytalk.org), professional journals, conferences, and NSF's DRK-12 Resource Network. This project, with its focus on teacher leadership and the pedagogical content knowledge necessary to use discourse to promote student science literacy, significantly advances the nation's goals of producing critical consumers and producers of scientific knowledge.

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.

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