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Teaching Science Outdoors: A Next Generation Approach for Advancing Elementary Science Teaching in Urban Communities

This project project is designed to enhance the capacity of elementary teachers in high-poverty urban communities for enacting Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned science approaches using the outdoors as part of their classroom. The goal of the project is to advance elementary teachers' pedagogical practices and determine how this affects cognitive and non-cognitive learning outcomes of their students, particularly those who are traditionally marginalized in science classrooms.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907506
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Project Evaluator: 
Full Description: 

This project addresses a long-standing challenge in science education centered on providing meaningful science education opportunities to students living in communities of high poverty and attending under-resourced elementary schools. These students are significantly less likely to receive high-quality science learning opportunities and to be encouraged to engage in (rather than simply learn about) science. This Michigan State University research project is designed to enhance the capacity of elementary teachers in high-poverty urban communities for enacting Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned science approaches using the outdoors as part of their classroom. It builds on and advances prior outdoor education work for the current context of science education that requires elementary teachers to engage students in making sense of phenomena using next generation science and engineering practices. The goal of this project is to advance elementary teachers' pedagogical practices and determine how this affects cognitive and non-cognitive learning outcomes of their students, particularly those who are traditionally marginalized in science classrooms. It also will advance knowledge on ways to bridge informal and formal learning environments. To achieve these goals, the project will develop, enact and study a program that involves a scaffolded series of summer professional development sessions focused on outdoor learning and school year follow-up meetings and classroom-based coaching for elementary teachers and informal educators from two high-need districts.

Design-based research will be utilized to: 1) foster teacher practices and study how these develop over time, 2) work with teachers to measure student outcomes, and 3) determine what aspects of this formal/informal approach are productive, measures of student engagement and student learning artifacts--will be analyzed. The project will serve as a model for developing partnerships between informal science organizations, educators, and K-12 programs. Revised measures and outcomes of teacher practices and student learning; outdoor-focused lesson plans; cases illustrating how elementary teachers develop and enact NGSS-aligned outdoor lessons; a revised informal-formal theoretical model; and information about dissemination of products including facilitation guidelines and coaching approaches will be developed and disseminated.

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Validation of the Equity and Access Rubrics for Mathematics Instruction (VEAR-MI)

The main goal of this project is to validate a set of rubrics that attend to the existence and the quality of instructional practices that support equity and access in mathematics classes. The project team will clarify the relationships between the practices outlined in the rubrics and aspects of teachers' perspectives and knowledge as well as student learning outcomes.

Award Number: 
1908481
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/15/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

High-quality mathematics instruction remains uncommon and opportunities for students to develop the mathematical understanding are not distributed equally. This is particularly true for students of color and students for whom English is not their first language. While educational research has made progress in identifying practices that are considered high-quality, little attention has been given to specific instructional practices that support historically marginalized groups of students particularly as they participate in more rigorous mathematics. The main goal is to validate a set of rubrics that attend to the existence and the quality of instructional practices that support equity and access in mathematics classes. In addition, the project team will clarify the relationships between the practices outlined in the rubrics and aspects of teachers' perspectives and knowledge as well as student learning outcomes.

This project will make use of two existing large-scale datasets focusing on mathematics teachers to develop rubrics on mathematics instructional quality. The datasets include nearly 3,000 video-recorded mathematics lessons and student achievement records from students in Grades 3 through 8. The four phases of this research and development project include training material development, an observation and rubric generalizability study, a coder reliability study, and structural analysis. Data analysis plans involve case studies, exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses, and cognitive interviews. 

Using Animated Contrasting Cases to Improve Procedural and Conceptual Knowledge in Geometry

This project aims to support stronger student outcomes in the teaching and learning of geometry in the middle grades through engaging students in animated contrasting cases of worked examples. The project will design a series of animated geometry curricular materials on a digital platform that ask students to compare different approaches to solving the same geometry problem. The study will measure changes in students' procedural and conceptual knowledge of geometry after engaging with the materials and will explore the ways in which teachers implement the materials in their classrooms.

Award Number: 
1907745
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project aims to support stronger student outcomes in the teaching and learning of geometry in the middle grades through engaging students in animated contrasting cases of worked examples. Animated contrasting cases are a set of two worked examples for the same geometry problem, approached in different ways. The animations show the visual moves and annotations students would make in solving the problems. Students are asked to compare and discuss the approaches. This theoretically-grounded approach extends the work of cognitive scientists and mathematics educators who have shown this approach supports strong student learning in algebra. The project will design a series of animated geometry curricular materials on a digital platform that ask students to compare different approaches to solving the same geometry problem. The study will measure changes in students' procedural and conceptual knowledge of geometry after engaging with the materials and will explore the ways in which teachers implement the materials in their classrooms. This work is particularly important as geometry is an understudied area in mathematics education, and national and international assessments at the middle school level consistently identify geometry as a mathematics content area in which students score the lowest.

This project draws on prior work that documents the impact of comparison on students' learning in algebra. Providing students with opportunities to compare multiple strategies is recommended by a range of mathematics policy documents, as research has shown this approach promotes flexibility and enhances conceptual knowledge and procedural fluency. More specifically, the approach allows students to compare the effectiveness and efficiency of mathematical arguments in the context of problem solving. An initial pilot study on non-animated contrasting cases in geometry shows promise for the general approach and suggests that animating the cases has the potential for stronger student learning gains. This study will examine the extent to which the animated cases improve students' conceptual and procedural knowledge of geometry and identify factors that relate to changes in knowledge. The project team will develop 24 worked example contrasting cases based on design principles from the prior work in algebra. The materials will be implemented in four treatment classrooms in the first cycle, revised, and then implemented in eight treatment classrooms. Students' written work will be collected along with data on the nature of the classroom discussions and small-group interviews with students. Teachers' perspectives on lessons will also be collected to support revision and strengthening of the materials. Assessments of students' geometry knowledge will be developed using measures with demonstrated validity and reliability to measure changes in student learning.

Teacher Professional Learning to Support Student Motivational Competencies During Science Instruction (Collaborative Research: Linnenbrink-Garcia)

This project will bring together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and science teachers to identify a set of practices that science teachers can readily incorporate into their planning and instruction. The project will design, develop, and test a research-based professional learning approach to help middle school science teachers effectively support and sustain student motivational competencies during science instruction.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813047
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

Science teachers identify fostering student motivation to learn as a pressing need, yet teacher professional learning programs rarely devote time to helping teachers understand and apply motivational principles in their instruction. This project will bring together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and science teachers to identify a set of practices that science teachers can readily incorporate into their planning and instruction. The project will design, develop, and test a research-based professional learning approach to help middle school science teachers effectively support and sustain student motivational competencies during science instruction. The approach will include use of materials addressing student motivational processes and how to support them, evaluation tools to measure student motivational competencies, lesson planning tools, and instruments for teacher self-evaluation. The translation to practice will include recognition of student diversity and consider ways to facilitate context-specific integration of disciplinary and motivational knowledge in practice. The project will focus on middle school science classrooms because this period is an important motivational bridge between elementary and secondary science learning. This project will enhance understanding of teacher pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in that it frames knowledge about supporting motivational competencies in science as PCK rather than general pedagogical knowledge.

This early stage design and development project will iteratively develop and study a model of teacher professional learning that will help middle school science teachers create, modify, and implement instruction that integrates support for students' motivational competencies with the science practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas specified in science curriculum standards. A design-based research approach will be used to develop and test four resources teachers will use to explicitly include attention to student motivational competencies in their lesson planning efforts. The resources will include: 1) educational materials about students' motivational processes with concrete examples of how to support them; 2) easy-to-implement student evaluation tools for teachers to gauge students' motivational competencies; 3) planning tools to incorporate motivational practices into science lesson planning; and 4) instruments for teacher self-evaluation. A collaborative group of educational researchers will partner with science teachers from multiple school districts having diverse student populations to jointly develop the professional learning approach and resources. This project will contribute to systemic change by moving motivational processes from an implicit element of educating students, to an explicit and intentional set of strategies teachers can enact. Research questions will focus on how teachers respond to the newly developed professional learning model, and how students respond to instruction developed through implementing the model.

Translating a Video-based Model of Teacher Professional Development to an Online Environment

This project will adapt an effective in-person teacher professional development model to an online approach. A defining feature of the Science Teachers Learning from Lesson Analysis (STeLLA) Professional Development program is its use of videos of classroom instruction and examples of student work to promote teacher learning. Adapting the STeLLA program to an online learning model can reach a broader and more diverse audience, such as teachers working in rural school districts and underserved communities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813127
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

Improving the quality of teaching is essential to improving student outcomes. But what are the most effective ways to support teachers' professional development?  BSCS Science Learning and the University of Minnesota STEM Education Program Area explore this question by adapting an effective teacher professional development model -- that meets face-to-face in real-time -- to an online approach. A defining feature of the Science Teachers Learning from Lesson Analysis (STeLLA) Professional Development program is its use of videos of classroom instruction and examples of student work to promote teacher learning. Skilled facilitators guide teachers' analysis and discussion of other teachers' work; then, teachers begin to apply the analytical techniques they have learned to their own teaching. Adapting the STeLLA program to an online learning model is important because it can reach a broader and more diverse audience such as teachers working in rural school districts and underserved communities. To further promote the reach of STeLLA, the online version of STeLLA will engage and prepare teacher leaders to support their peers' engagement and understanding.

Guided by theories of situated cognition and cognitive apprenticeship this project focuses on two questions: How can the STeLLA professional development model be adapted to an online environment? and Does participation in the online model show meaningful teacher and student outcomes related to science teaching and learning? Challenges related to adaptation include understanding the duration and intensity of teacher engagement, the quality of their science content learning experiences, and how teacher learning is scaffolded across the online and traditional model. The project will unfold in two phases. Phase 1 uses a design-based research approach to rapidly enact, test, and revise online program components while remaining true to the design principles underlying the traditional STeLLA PD program. Phase 2 uses a quasi-experimental approach to test STeLLA Online's influence on teacher content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, practice and on upper elementary student science achievement. Comparisons will be made between STeLLA Online, face-to-face STeLLA, and a traditional professional development program that emphasizes deepening content knowledge only. This comparison leverages data from a previously-completed cluster randomized trial of STeLLA funded by the NSF.

Supporting Teachers in Responsive Instruction for Developing Expertise in Science (Collaborative Research: Linn)

This project takes advantage of advanced technologies to support science teachers to rapidly respond to diverse student ideas in their classrooms. Students will use web-based curriculum units to engage with models, simulations, and virtual experiments to write multiple explanations for standards-based science topics. The project will also design planning tools for teachers that will make suggestions relevant research-proven instructional strategies based on the real-time analysis of student responses.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813713
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

Many teachers want to adapt their instruction to meet student learning needs, yet lack the time to regularly assess and analyze students' developing understandings. The Supporting Teachers in Responsive Instruction for Developing Expertise in Science (STRIDES) project takes advantage of advanced technologies to support science teachers to rapidly respond to diverse student ideas in their classrooms. In this project students will use web-based curriculum units to engage with models, simulations, and virtual experiments to write multiple explanations for standards-based science topics. Advanced technologies (including natural language processing) will be used to assess students' written responses and summaries their science understanding in real-time. The project will also design planning tools for teachers that will make suggestions relevant research-proven instructional strategies based on the real-time analysis of student responses. Research will examine how teachers make use of the feedback and suggestions to customize their instruction. Further we will study how these instructional changes help students develop coherent understanding of complex science topics and ability to make sense of models and graphs. The findings will be used to refine the tools that analyze the student essays and generate the summaries; improve the research-based instructional suggestions in the planning tool; and strengthen the online interface for teachers. The tools will be incorporated into open-source, freely available online curriculum units. STRIDES will directly benefit up to 30 teachers and 24,000 students from diverse school settings over four years.

Leveraging advances in natural language processing methods, the project will analyze student written explanations to provide fine-grained summaries to teachers about strengths and weaknesses in student work. Based on the linguistic analysis and logs of student navigation, the project will then provide instructional customizations based on learning science research, and study how teachers use them to improve student progress. Researchers will annually conduct at least 10 design or comparison studies, each involving up to 6 teachers and 300-600 students per year. Insights from this research will be captured in automated scoring algorithms, empirically tested and refined customization activities, and data logging techniques that can be used by other research and curriculum design programs to enable teacher customization.

Building Middle School Students' Understanding of Heredity and Evolution

This project will develop and test the impact of heredity and evolution curriculum units for middle school grades that are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The project will advance science teaching by investigating the ways in which two curriculum units can be designed to incorporate science and engineering practices, cross-cutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas, the three dimensions of science learning described by the NGSS. The project will also develop resources to support teachers in implementation of the new modules.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1814194
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project will develop and test the impact of heredity and evolution curriculum units for middle school grades that are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The project will advance science teaching by investigating the ways in which two curriculum units can be designed to incorporate science and engineering practices, cross-cutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas, the three dimensions of science learning described by the NGSS. The project will also develop resources to support teachers in implementation of the new modules. The planned research will also examine whether student understanding of evolution depends on the length and time of exposure to learning about heredity prior to learning about evolution.

This Early Stage Design and Development project will develop two new 3-week middle school curriculum units, with one focusing on heredity and the other focusing on evolution. The units will include embedded formative and summative assessment measures and online teacher support materials. These units will be developed as part of a curriculum learning progression that will eventually span the elementary grades through high school. This curriculum learning progression will integrate heredity, evolution, data analysis, construction of scientific explanations, evidence-based argumentation, pattern recognition, and inferring cause and effect relationships. To inform development and iterative revisions of the units, the project will conduct nation-wide beta and pilot tests, selecting schools with broad ranges of student demographics and geographical locations. The project will include three rounds of testing and revision of both the student curriculum and teacher materials. The project will also investigate student understanding of evolution in terms of how their understanding is impacted by conceptual understanding of heredity. The research to be conducted by this project is organized around three broad research questions: (a) In what ways can two curriculum units be designed to incorporate the three dimensions of science learning and educative teacher supports to guide students' conceptual understanding of heredity and evolution? (b) To what extent does student understanding of evolution depend on the length and timing of heredity lessons that preceded an evolution unit? And (c) In what ways do students learn heredity and evolution?

Supporting Teachers in Responsive Instruction for Developing Expertise in Science (Collaborative Research: Riordan)

This project takes advantage of advanced technologies to support science teachers to rapidly respond to diverse student ideas in their classrooms. Students will use web-based curriculum units to engage with models, simulations, and virtual experiments to write multiple explanations for standards-based science topics. The project will also design planning tools for teachers that will make suggestions relevant research-proven instructional strategies based on the real-time analysis of student responses.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1812660
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

Many teachers want to adapt their instruction to meet student learning needs, yet lack the time to regularly assess and analyze students' developing understandings. The Supporting Teachers in Responsive Instruction for Developing Expertise in Science (STRIDES) project takes advantage of advanced technologies to support science teachers to rapidly respond to diverse student ideas in their classrooms. In this project students will use web-based curriculum units to engage with models, simulations, and virtual experiments to write multiple explanations for standards-based science topics. Advanced technologies (including natural language processing) will be used to assess students' written responses and summaries their science understanding in real-time. The project will also design planning tools for teachers that will make suggestions relevant research-proven instructional strategies based on the real-time analysis of student responses. Research will examine how teachers make use of the feedback and suggestions to customize their instruction. Further we will study how these instructional changes help students develop coherent understanding of complex science topics and ability to make sense of models and graphs. The findings will be used to refine the tools that analyze the student essays and generate the summaries; improve the research-based instructional suggestions in the planning tool; and strengthen the online interface for teachers. The tools will be incorporated into open-source, freely available online curriculum units. STRIDES will directly benefit up to 30 teachers and 24,000 students from diverse school settings over four years.

Leveraging advances in natural language processing methods, the project will analyze student written explanations to provide fine-grained summaries to teachers about strengths and weaknesses in student work. Based on the linguistic analysis and logs of student navigation, the project will then provide instructional customizations based on learning science research, and study how teachers use them to improve student progress. Researchers will annually conduct at least 10 design or comparison studies, each involving up to 6 teachers and 300-600 students per year. Insights from this research will be captured in automated scoring algorithms, empirically tested and refined customization activities, and data logging techniques that can be used by other research and curriculum design programs to enable teacher customization.

GeoHazard: Modeling Natural Hazards and Assessing Risks

This project will develop and test a new instructional approach that integrates a data analysis tool with Earth systems models in a suite of online curriculum modules for middle and high school Earth science students. The modules will facilitate development of rich conceptual understandings related to the system science of natural hazards and their impacts.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1812362
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

As human populations grow and spread into areas where extreme natural events impact lives, there is increasing need for innovative Earth science curriculum materials that help students interpret data and and understand the factors and risks associated with natural hazards. Studying the processes underlying these naturally occurring events and the relationships between humans and their environments would enrich the standard Earth science curriculum by providing students with valuable insights about the potential impacts of extreme natural events. This project will respond to that need by developing and testing a new instructional approach that integrates a data analysis tool with Earth systems models in a suite of online curriculum modules for middle and high school Earth science students. Each module will be designed as a sequence of activities lasting approximately 7-10 class periods. These will be stand-alone modules so each teacher can implement just one module or several modules. The modules will facilitate development of rich conceptual understandings related to the system science of natural hazards and their impacts. Students will develop scientific arguments that include risk assessment based on their understanding of real-world data and the particular Earth system being studied. The project will develop a set of computational models designed specifically to explore geoscience systems responsible for natural hazards. An open-source data analysis tool will also be modified for students to create and analyze visualizations of the magnitude, frequency, and distribution of real-world hazards and the impact of those hazards on people. Students will compare data generated from the Earth systems models with real-world data in order to develop an understanding of the cause and progression of natural hazards, as well as to make predictions and evaluate future risks.

The four-year, early stage design and development project will be conducted in two phases. In Phase 1, design-based research will be used to iteratively design and test Earth systems models. A team of five lead teachers will field test modules and provide focus group feedback during the development phase of the curricula. These lead teachers will provide input into the design and development of the tools, the organization and structure of the curriculum, and provide suggestions about classroom implementation to support the development of teacher support materials. After the models are developed, four curriculum modules related to hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and wildfires will be developed, tested, and revised. In Phase 2, a group of 30 teachers will participate in implementation studies that will test usability of the modules across students from diverse backgrounds and feasibility of implementation across a range of classroom settings. Research will focus on understanding how to support student analysis of real-world datasets in order to improve their conceptual understanding of complex Earth systems associated with natural hazards. The project will also examine the role of uncertainty when students make scientific arguments that include predictions about the behaviors of complex systems and the uncertainties related to risk assessment. The project aims to clarify student views of uncertainty and how teachers can better support student understanding of the inherently uncertain nature of systems, models, and natural hazards, while understanding that models can be used to reduce impact. Questions guiding project research include: (1) How do students use flexible data visualizations to make sense of data and build and refine conceptual models about natural hazards? (2) How do students incorporate data from models and the real world in formulating scientific arguments; how do students use scientific uncertainty to assess risks based on their understanding of a natural hazard system; and how do students quantify and explain risks to humans and compare different sources of risks? And (3) Do GeoHazard curriculum modules help students make gains in risk-infused scientific argumentation practice and conceptual understanding underlying natural hazards? To what extent, for whom, and under what conditions is the GeoHazard curriculum useful in developing risk-infused scientific argumentation practice and conceptual understanding?

Enhancing Teacher and Student Understanding of Engineering in K-5 Bilingual Programs

This mixed-method exploratory study will examine how bilingual teachers working in elementary schools in Massachusetts and Puerto Rico understand the role and skills of engineers in society. In turn, it will examine how teachers adapt existing engineering lessons so that those activities and concepts are more culturally and linguistically accessible to their students.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1814258
Funding Period: 
Mon, 10/01/2018 to Thu, 09/30/2021
Full Description: 

Engineering is part of everyone's local community and daily activities yet opportunities to learn about engineering are often absent from elementary school classrooms. Further, little is known about how teachers' and students' conceptions of engineering relate to aspects of their local community such as language and culture. Knowing more about this is important because students' perceptions of mismatch between their personal culture and the engineering field contributes to the continued underrepresentation of minorities in the profession. This mixed-method exploratory study will examine how bilingual teachers working in elementary schools in Massachusetts and Puerto Rico understand the role and skills of engineers in society. In turn, it will examine how teachers adapt existing engineering lessons so that those activities and concepts are more culturally and linguistically accessible to their students.

Consistent with the aims of the DRK-12 program, this project will advance understanding of how engineering education materials can be adapted to the characteristics of teachers, students, and the communities that they reside in. Further, its focus on bilingual classrooms will bring new perspectives to characterizations of the engineering field and its role in different cultures and societies. Over a three-year period, the team will investigate these issues by collecting data from 24 teachers (12 from each location). Data will be collected via surveys, interviews, discussion of instructional examples, videos of teachers' classroom instruction and analysis of artifacts such as teachers' lesson plans. Teachers will collaborate and function as a professional co-learning community called instructional rounds by participating and providing feedback synchronously in face-to-face settings and via the use of digital apps. Project findings can lead to teaching guidelines, practices, and briefs that inform efforts to successfully integrate bilingual engineering curriculum at the elementary grades. This work also has the potential to create professional development models of success for K-5 teachers in bilingual programs and enhance engineering teaching strategies and methods at these early grade levels.

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