Student Outcomes

Design and Development of Transmedia Narrative-based Curricula to Engage Children in Scientific Thinking and Engineering Design (Collaborative Research: McGinnis-Cavanaugh)

This project will address the need for engineering resources by applying an innovative pedagogy called Imaginative Education (IE) to create middle school engineering curricula. In IE, developmentally appropriate narratives are used to design learning environments that help learners engage with content and organize their knowledge productively. This project will combine IE with transmedia storytelling.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813572
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/15/2018 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Project Evaluator: 
Collaborative for Educational Services (CES)
Full Description: 

Engineering is an important component of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). However, resources for supporting teachers in implementing these standards are scarce. This project will address the need for resources by applying an innovative pedagogy called Imaginative Education (IE) to create middle school engineering curricula. In IE, developmentally appropriate narratives are used to design learning environments that help learners engage with content and organize their knowledge productively. To fully exploit the potential of this pedagogy, this project will combine IE with transmedia storytelling. In transmedia storytelling, different elements of a narrative are spread across a variety of formats (such as books, websites, new articles, videos and other media) in a way that creates a coordinated experience for the user. Once created, the curricula will be implemented in classrooms to research its impact on (1) increasing learners' capacities to engage in both innovative and direct application of engineering concepts, and (2) improving learners' science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) identity. 

This research will be led by Smith College and Springfield Technical Community College in collaboration with Springfield (MA) Public Schools (SPS). Additional expertise in evaluating the findings will be provided by the Collaborative for Educational Services and an external advisory board of leaders in STEM education and transmedia storytelling. The project will result in the development of a transmedia learning environment that includes two NGSS-aligned, interdisciplinary engineering units and seven lessons that integrate science and engineering. The research study will be implemented in four phases in eight SPS middle schools. Approximately 900 students will participate each year. In Phase 1, the project team will collaborate with SPS teachers to create engineering units, lessons, and standards-based achievement measures. In Phase 2, teachers in the treatment group will participate in professional development (PD) workshops covering IE, transmedia learning environments, structure of the curriculum, and connections to NGSS. In Phase 3 the curricula will be implemented in treatment classrooms and both treatment and control group students will be assessed. In Phase 4, testing and assessment will continue in SPS schools and will be expanded to rural and suburban classrooms. Teachers in these classrooms will use online multimedia PD that will ensure scalability and mirrors the structure and content of in-person PD. Data analysis will provide evidence of whether this imaginative and transmedia educational approach improves students' capacities for using engineering concepts and enhances their STEM identity.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Transforming Engineering Education for Middle School (TEEMS)

Presenter(s): Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh, Sonia Ellis, & Crystal Ford


Developing a Generalized Storyline that Organizes the Supports for Evidence-based Modeling of Long-Term Impacts of Disturbances in Complex Systems

This project will support students to develop evidence-based explanations for the impact of disturbances on complex systems.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813802
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/15/2018 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Full Description: 

This project will support students to develop evidence-based explanations for the impact of disturbances on complex systems. The project will focus on middle school environmental science disciplinary core ideas in life, Earth, and physical sciences. There are a wide variety of complex systems principles at work in disturbance ecology. This project serves as a starting point on supporting students to coordinate different sources of information to parse out the direct and indirect effects of disturbances on components of a system and to examine the interconnections between components to predict whether a system will return to equilibrium (resilience) or the system will change into a new state (hysteresis). These same complex systems principles can be applied to other scientific phenomena, such as homeostasis and the spread of infectious disease. This project will bring the excitement of Luquillo Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) to classrooms outside of Puerto Rico, and has a special emphasis on low performing, low income, high minority schools in Chicago. Over 6000 students will directly benefit from participation in the research program. The units will be incorporated into the Journey to El Yunque web site for dissemination throughout Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the LTER network. The units will be submitted for review at the Achieve network, thus extending the reach to teachers around the country. The project will impact science teachers and curriculum designers through an online course on storyline development. This project aims to improve students' ability to engage in argument from evidence and address what the literature has identified as a significant challenge, namely the ability to evaluate evidence. Researchers will also demonstrate how it is possible to make progress on implementing Next Generation Science Standards in low performing schools. Through the web-based platform, these results can be replicated across many other school districts.

Researchers will to use the scientific context of the LTER program to develop a generalized storyline template for using evidence-based modeling to teach basic principles of disturbance ecology. Though a co-design process with middle school teachers in CPS, researchers will test the application of learning principles to a generalized storyline template by developing and evaluating three units on disturbance ecology - one life science, one Earth system science, and one physical science. Through a task analysis, researchers have identified three key areas of support for students to be successful at explaining how a system will respond to a disturbance. First, students need to be able to record evidence in a manner that will guide them to developing their explanation. Causal model diagrams have been used successfully in the past to organize evidence, but little is known about how students can use their causal diagrams for developing explanations. Second, there have been a wide variety of scaffolds developed to support the evaluation of scientific arguments, but less is known about how to support students in organizing their evidence to produce scientific arguments. Third, evidence-based modeling and scientific argumentation are not tasks that can be successfully accomplished by following a recipe. Students need to develop a task model to understand the reason why they are engaged in a particular task and how that task will contribute to the primary goal of explanation.

Developing Preservice Teachers' Capacity to Teach Students with Learning Disabilities in Algebra I

Project researchers are training pre-service teachers to tutor students with learning disabilities in Algebra 1, combining principles from special education, mathematics education, and cognitive psychology. The trainings emphasize the use of gestures and strategic questioning to support students with learning disabilities and to build students’ understanding in Algebra 1.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813903
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Sat, 07/31/2021
Full Description: 

This project is implementing a program to train pre-service teachers to tutor students with learning disabilities in Algebra 1, combining principles from special education, mathematics education, and cognitive psychology. The project trains tutors to utilize gestures and strategic questioning to support students with LD to build connections between procedural knowledge and conceptual understanding in Algebra 1, while supporting students’ dispositions towards doing mathematics. The training will prepare tutors to address the challenges that students with LD often face—especially challenges of working memory and processing—and to build on their strengths as they engage with Algebra 1. The project will measure changes in tutors’ ability to use gestures and questioning to support the learning of students with LD during and after the completion of our training. It will also collect and analyze data on the knowledge and dispositions of students with LD in Algebra 1 for use in the ongoing refinement of the training and in documenting the impact of the training program.

 

Extending and Investigating the Impact of the High School Model-based Educational Resource (Collaborative Research: Wilson)

This project builds on a line of work that has developed and studied the Model Based Educational Resource (MBER), a year-long curriculum for high school biology. The project will generate rigorous causal evidence on how this approach to biology teaching and learning can support student learning, and foundational information on how to support high school teachers in improving their teaching. It will also provide resources to expand and update MBER to reflect the changing high school science landscape by integrating Earth Science standards into the year long sequence.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813538
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project builds on a line of work that has developed and studied the Model Based Educational Resource (MBER), a year-long curriculum for high school biology. In classrooms using MBER, modeling serves as an anchoring practice that keeps the inquiry tied to the goal of making sense of the world, helping teachers to engage their students in a range of cognitive and social activities that lead to deep understanding of scientific ideas. This project will generate rigorous causal evidence on how this approach to biology teaching and learning can support student learning, and foundational information on how to support high school teachers in improving their teaching. This funding will also provide resources to expand and update MBER to reflect the changing high school science landscape by integrating Earth Science standards into the year long sequence. The study will address the general research question: What is the impact of the Model Based Educational Resource (MBER) on high school students' science achievement, and what factors influence that impact? In addition to generating important research findings, the materials revised and studied in this project will be open-source and freely available to teachers and schools.

This study addresses a significant gap in the research on next generation curriculum materials. While there is emerging agreement about the importance of instructional materials in supporting teachers in effectively engaging students in the practices of science, there is very little empirical evidence to support such claims. The goal of this project is to study the impact of the MBER program through a cluster randomized trial and expand the promise of efficacy and feasibility established in previous work. This study will be able to make causal claims by using an experimental design in which 32 high school teachers serve as their own controls, and by using multi-level modeling in the analysis. This study will advance the field's knowledge about the impact of innovative materials on student learning, measured by both project-level assessments and the state science test. Exploratory research questions will examine a) how using the MBER program develops teachers' vision of the Next Generation Science Standards, b) how student learning is mediated by the fidelity of implementation of the materials, c) how teachers interact with materials designed to be modified for their classroom context, and d) to what extent the MBER materials provide equitable opportunities to learn and close achievement gaps.

Extending and Investigating the Impact of the High School Model-based Educational Resource (Collaborative Research: Passmore)

This project builds on a line of work that has developed and studied the Model Based Educational Resource (MBER), a year-long curriculum for high school biology. The project will generate rigorous causal evidence on how this approach to biology teaching and learning can support student learning, and foundational information on how to support high school teachers in improving their teaching. It will also provide resources to expand and update MBER to reflect the changing high school science landscape by integrating Earth Science standards into the year long sequence.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1814263
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project builds on a line of work that has developed and studied the Model Based Educational Resource (MBER), a year-long curriculum for high school biology. In classrooms using MBER, modeling serves as an anchoring practice that keeps the inquiry tied to the goal of making sense of the world, helping teachers to engage their students in a range of cognitive and social activities that lead to deep understanding of scientific ideas. This project will generate rigorous causal evidence on how this approach to biology teaching and learning can support student learning, and foundational information on how to support high school teachers in improving their teaching. This funding will also provide resources to expand and update MBER to reflect the changing high school science landscape by integrating Earth Science standards into the year long sequence. The study will address the general research question: What is the impact of the Model Based Educational Resource (MBER) on high school students' science achievement, and what factors influence that impact? In addition to generating important research findings, the materials revised and studied in this project will be open-source and freely available to teachers and schools.

This study addresses a significant gap in the research on next generation curriculum materials. While there is emerging agreement about the importance of instructional materials in supporting teachers in effectively engaging students in the practices of science, there is very little empirical evidence to support such claims. The goal of this project is to study the impact of the MBER program through a cluster randomized trial and expand the promise of efficacy and feasibility established in previous work. This study will be able to make causal claims by using an experimental design in which 32 high school teachers serve as their own controls, and by using multi-level modeling in the analysis. This study will advance the field's knowledge about the impact of innovative materials on student learning, measured by both project-level assessments and the state science test. Exploratory research questions will examine a) how using the MBER program develops teachers' vision of the Next Generation Science Standards, b) how student learning is mediated by the fidelity of implementation of the materials, c) how teachers interact with materials designed to be modified for their classroom context, and d) to what extent the MBER materials provide equitable opportunities to learn and close achievement gaps.

Science Communities of Practice Partnership

This project will study implementation of an effective professional learning model for elementary science teachers that includes teacher leaders, administrators and university educators in a system perspective for improving science instruction in ways that make it sustainable.

Award Number: 
1813012
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project will study implementation of an effective professional learning model for elementary science teachers that includes teacher leaders, administrators and university educators in a system perspective for improving science instruction in ways that make it sustainable. The working model involves reciprocal communities of practice, which are groups of teachers, leaders and administrators that focus on practical tasks and how to achieve them across these stakeholder perspectives. The project will provide evidence about the specific components of the professional development model that support sustainable improvement in science teaching, will test the ways that teacher ownership and organizational conditions mediate instructional change, and will develop four tools for facilitating the teacher learning and the accompanying capacity building. In this way, the project will produce practical knowledge and tools necessary for other school districts nationwide to create professional learning that is tailored to their contexts and therefore sustainable.

This study posits that communication among district teachers, teacher leaders, and administrators, and a sense of ownership for improved instruction among teachers can support sustainable change. As such, it tests a model that fosters communication and ownership through three reciprocal communities of practice--one about district leadership including one teacher per school, coaches and university faculty; another about lesson study including teachers, coaches and faculty; and a third about instructional innovation including teachers and administrators, facilitated by coaches. The research design seeks to inform what the communities of practice add to the effects in a quasi-experimental study involving 72 third to fifth grade teachers and 6500 students in four urban school districts. Mixed methodologies will be used to examine shifts in science teaching over three years, testing the professional development model and the mediating roles of reform ownership and organizational conditions.

Determining Teachers' Baseline Practice and Alignment Prior to a Systemic Curriculum Change

In this study, researchers will collaborate with Baltimore City Public Schools to collect and document teacher classroom practices prior to the implementation of an extended professional development model that targets pedagogical skills associated with the NGSS. The broad objective of the project is to characterize the benefits and limitations of utilizing controlled practice-teaching as a key component of teacher professional development for integrating NGSS aligned practices in middle school science classrooms.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1822029
Funding Period: 
Sun, 04/01/2018 to Sun, 03/31/2019
Full Description: 

The goal of this research is to document current teaching practices prior to the systemic integration of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in Baltimore City Public schools. In this study, UMBC will collaborate with Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools) to collect and document teacher classroom practices prior to the implementation of an extended professional development model that targets pedagogical skills associated with the Next Generation Science Standards. The broad objective of the project is to characterize the benefits and limitations of utilizing controlled practice-teaching as a key component of teacher professional development for integrating NGSS aligned practices in middle school science classrooms. Success will be measured by changes in teacher attitudes, enhancement of teacher pedagogical skills and student learning gains. Sixty teachers, and over 4,500 students in Baltimore City will be directly impacted through the professional development and curriculum enactment efforts proposed. As a full partner in the project, the City Schools' leadership will also learn what works, for whom, and under what conditions in schools that are representative of their diverse district. Lessons learned have the potential to inform the implementation of other new reform initiatives within City Schools and beyond. Findings from the proposed research have the potential to advance our understanding of innovative professional development strategies and their impact on classroom practices and student learning.

This project focuses on a national need of models for high quality professional development that directly tie specific strategies to classroom-based instructional changes and student learning outcomes. One particular shift in classroom practice that is fundamental for the classroom implementation of NGSS is scientific discourse and argumentation. One particular strategy that has shown promise for supporting teachers' use of strategies supporting argumentation is the use of controlled practice teaching. The proposed study explicitly attempts to determine the impact of the controlled practice-teaching using a quasi-experimental design. The research plan involves middle science teachers being assigned to one of two experimental conditions (PD including or excluding a controlled practice-teaching component) and then to investigate potential differences among the two treatments and control conditions related to changes in attitudes toward NGSS, classroom practices and impact on student learning. The researcher hypothesizes that the inclusion of control-practice teaching that is imbedded in a sustained professional development program will promote the development of teacher pedagogical skills aligned with NGSS more effectively than sustained professional development that does not include a control-practice component.

Strengthening Data Literacy Across the Curriculum

This project will develop a set of statistics learning materials, with data visualization tools and an applied social science focus, to design applied data investigations addressing real-world socioeconomic questions with large-scale social science data. This project is designed to promote statistical understandings and interest in quantitative data analysis among high school students and engage students with content that resonates with their interests.

Award Number: 
1813956
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/01/2018 to Wed, 06/30/2021
Full Description: 

The Strengthening Data Literacy across the Curriculum (SDLC) project seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) high school students and teachers through the development of resources, models, and tools. This project is designed to promote statistical understandings and interest in quantitative data analysis among high school students. The project will target students outside mathematics and statistics classes who seldom have opportunities formally make sense of large-scale quantitative data. The population for the initial study will be humanities/social studies and mathematics/statistics high school teachers and their classes. The focus on social justice themes are intended to engage students with content that resonates with their interests. This strategy has the potential to demonstrate ways to provide rich, meaningful statistical instruction to a population that seldom has the opportunity for such learning. By capturing students' imagination and interest with social justice themes, this project has the potential of high impact in today's society where understanding and preparing statistical reports are becoming more critical to the general populace.

This project will build on prior theory and research to develop a new set of statistics learning materials, with data visualization tools and an applied social science focus to design three 2-week applied data investigations (self-contained modules) addressing real-world socioeconomic questions with large-scale social science data. The modules will be aligned with the high school Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and key statistical content for college students. The purpose of the study is to strengthen existing theories of how to design classroom learning materials to support two primary sets of outcomes for high school students, particularly among those historically underrepresented in STEM fields: 1) stronger understandings of important statistics concepts and data analysis practices, and 2) interest in statistics and working with data.  The modules will engage students in a four-step investigative process where they will (1) formulate questions that can be answered with data; (2) design and implement a plan to assemble appropriate data; (3) use numerical and graphical methods to explore the data; and (4) summarize conclusions relating back to the original questions and citing relevant components of the analysis that support their interpretation and acknowledging other interpretations.

The project will employ a Design-Based Implementation Research (DBIR) design using both quantitative and qualitative data to determine results of targeted outcomes (noted above) as well track whether there is any evidence to support the conjectures that key module components directly impact targeted student outcomes. Starting with a well-defined, preliminary conceptual framework for the study, the project team will conduct four cycles of iterative design and testing of the proposed SDLC modules over two academic years, with each cycle occurring during a fall or spring semester.

Improving Multi-Dimensional Assessment and Instruction: Building and Sustaining Elementary Science Teachers' Capacity through Learning Communities (Collaborative Research: Lehman)

The main goal of this project is to better understand how to build and sustain the capacity of elementary science teachers in grades 3-5 to instruct and formatively assess students in ways that are aligned with contemporary science education frameworks and standards. To achieve this goal, the project will use classroom-based science assessment as a focus around which to build teacher capacity in science instruction and three-dimensional learning in science.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813938
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/01/2018 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Full Description: 

This is an Early-Stage Design and Development collaborative effort submitted to the assessment strand of the Discovery Research PreK-12 (DRK-12) Program. Its main goal is to better understand how to build and sustain the capacity of elementary science teachers in grades 3-5 to instruct and formatively assess students in ways that are aligned with contemporary science education frameworks and standards. To achieve this goal, the project will use classroom-based science assessment as a focus around which to build teacher capacity in science instruction and three-dimensional learning in science. The three dimensions will include disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts. These dimensions are described in the Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council; NRC, 2012), and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; NGSS Lead States, 2013). The project will work closely with teachers to co-develop usable assessments and rubrics and help them to learn about three-dimensional assessment and instruction. Also, the project will work with teachers to test the developed assessments in diverse settings, and to create an active, online community of practice.

The two research questions will be: (1) How well do these assessments function with respect to aspects of validity for classroom use, particularly in terms of indicators of student proficiency, and tools to support teacher instructional practice?; and (2) In what ways do providing these assessment tasks and rubrics, and supporting teachers in their use, advance teachers' formative assessment practices to support multi-dimensional science instruction? The research and development components of this project will produce assessments and rubrics, which can directly impact students and teachers in the districts and states that have adopted the NGSS, as well as those that have embraced the vision of science teaching and learning embodied in the NRC Framework. The project will consist of five major tasks. First, the effort will iteratively develop assessments and rubrics for formative use, using an evidence-centered design approach. Second, it will collect data from evidence-based revision and redesign of the assessments from teachers piloting the assessments and rubrics, project cognitive laboratory studies with students, and an external review of the assessments design products. Third, it will study teachers' classroom use of assessments to understand and document how they blend assessment and instruction. The project will use pre/post questionnaires, video recordings, observation field notes, and pre/post interviews. Fourth, the study will build the capacity of participating teachers. Teacher Collaborators (n=9) will engage in participatory design of the assessment tasks and act as technical assistants to the overall implementation process. Teacher Implementers (n=15) will use the assessments formatively as part of their instructional practice. Finally, the work will develop a community of learners through the development of a technical assistance infrastructure, and leveraging teacher expertise to formatively assess students' work, using the assessments designed to be diagnostic and instructionally informative. External reviewers and an advisory board will provide formative feedback on the project's processes and summative evaluation of the project's results. The main outcomes of this endeavor will be prototypes of elementary science multi-dimensional assessments and new knowledge for the field on the underlying theory for developing teachers' capacity for engaging in multi-dimensional science instruction, learning, and assessment.

A Practice-based Online Learning Environment for Scientific Inquiry with Digitized Museum Collections in Middle School Classrooms

This project will develop and study a prototype online learning environment that supports student learning via Engaging Practices for Inquiry with Collections in Bioscience (EPIC Bioscience), which uses authentic research investigations with digitized collections from natural history museums. 

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1812844
Funding Period: 
Fri, 06/15/2018 to Mon, 05/31/2021
Full Description: 

There are an estimated 2-4 billion specimens in the world's natural history collections that contain the data necessary to address complex global issues, including biodiversity and climate. Digitized natural history collections present an untapped opportunity to engage learners in crucial questions of science with far-reaching potential consequences via object-based research investigations. This project will develop and study a prototype online learning environment that supports student learning via Engaging Practices for Inquiry with Collections in Bioscience (EPIC Bioscience). EPIC Bioscience uses authentic research investigations with digitized collections from natural history museums. The project team will create a curriculum aligned with the Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSS) for middle school students, emphasizing a major disciplinary core idea in grades 6-8 life science, Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics. The project has three major goals: 1) Develop an online learning environment that guides students through research investigations using digitized natural history collections to teach NGSS life science standards. 2) Investigate how interactive features and conversational scaffolds in the EPIC Bioscience learning environment can promote deeper processing of science content and effective knowledge building. 3) Demonstrate effective approaches to using digitized collections objects for contextualized, research-based science learning that aligns to NGSS standards for middle school classrooms.

The project will examine how and when interactive features of a digital learning environment can be combined with deep questions and effective online scaffolds to promote student engagement, meaningful collaborative discourse, and robust learning outcomes during research with digitized museum collections. Research activities will address: How can interactive features of EPIC Bioscience help students learn disciplinary core ideas and cross cutting concepts via science practices through collections-based research? How can effective patterns of collaborative scientific discourse be supported and enhanced during online, collections-based research? How does the use of digitized scientific collections influence students' levels of engagement and depth of processing during classroom investigations? A significant impact of the proposed work is expanded opportunities for research with authentic museum objects for populations who are traditionally underserved in STEM and are underrepresented in museum visitor demographics (Title I schools, racial/ethnic minorities, and rural school populations). Research activities will engage over 1,500 Title I and rural students (50 classes across three years) in meaningful research investigations with collections objects that address pressing global issues.

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