Content Knowledge

Enhancing Games with Assessment and Metacognitive Emphases (EGAME)

This development and research project designs, develops, and tests a digital game-based learning environment for supporting, assessing and analyzing middle school students' conceptual knowledge in learning physics, specifically Newtonian mechanics. This research integrates work from prior findings to develop a new methodology to engage students in deep learning while diagnosing and scaffolding the learning of Newtonian mechanics.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1119290
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Mon, 08/31/2015
Full Description: 

This development and research project from Vanderbilt University, Facet Innovations, and Filament Games, designs, develops, and tests a digital game-based learning environment for supporting, assessing and analyzing middle school students' conceptual knowledge in learning physics, specifically Newtonian mechanics. This research integrates work from prior findings and refines computer assisted testing and Hidden Markov Modeling to develop a new methodology to engage students in deep learning while diagnosing and scaffolding the learning of Newtonian mechanics.

The project uses a randomized experimental 2 x 1 design comparing a single control condition to a single experimental condition with multiple iterations to test the impact of the game on the learning of Newtonian physics. Using designed based research with teachers and students, the researchers are iteratively developing and testing the interactions and knowledge acquisition of students through interviews, pre and post tests and stealth assessment. Student learner action logs are recorded during game-play along with randomized student interviews. Students' explanations and game-play data are collected and analyzed for changes in domain understanding using pre-post tests assessment.

The project will afford the validation of EGAME as an enabler of new knowledge in the fields of cognition, conceptual change, computer adaptive testing and Hidden Markov Modeling as 90 to 300 middle school students learn Newtonian mechanics, and other science content in game-based learning and design. The design of this digital game platform encompasses a very flexible environment that will be accessible to a diverse group of audiences, and have a transformational affect that will advance theory, design and practice in game-based learning environments.

Professional Development for Culturally Relevant Teaching and Learning in Pre-K Mathematics

This project is creating and studying a professional development model to support preK teachers in developing culturally and developmentally appropriate practices in counting and early number. The proposed model is targeted at teachers of children in four-year-old kindergarten, and focuses on culturally relevant teaching and learning. The model stresses counting and basic number operations with the intention of exploring the domain as it connects to children's experiences in their homes and communities.

Award Number: 
1019431
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Project Evaluator: 
Victoria Jacobs
Full Description: 

Developers and researchers at the University of Wisconsin are creating and studying a professional development model that connects research in counting and early number (CGI), early childhood, and funds of knowledge. The proposed model is targeted at teachers of children in four-year-old kindergarten, and focuses on culturally relevant teaching and learning. The model stresses a specific, circumscribed content domain - counting and basic number operations - with the intention of exploring the domain in depth particularly as it connects to children's experiences in their homes and communities and how it is learned and taught through play.

The project designs, develops, and tests innovative resources and models for teachers to support ongoing professional learning communities. These learning communities are designed to identify and build on the rich mathematical understandings of all pre-K children. The project's specific goals are to instantiate a reciprocal "funds of knowledge" framework for (a) accessing children's out-of-school experiences in order to provide instruction that is equitable and culturally relevant and (b) developing culturally effective ways to support families in understanding how to mathematize their children's out-of-school activities. Teachers are observed weekly during the development and evaluation process and student assessments are used to measure students' progress toward meeting project benchmarks and the program's effectiveness in reducing or eliminating the achievement gap.

The outcome is a complete professional development model that includes written and digital materials. The product includes case studies, classroom video, examples of student work, and strategies for responding to students' understandings.

INK-12: Teaching and Learning Using Interactive Ink Inscriptions in K-12 (Collaborative Research: Koile)

This is a continuing research project that supports (1) creation of what are termed "ink inscriptions"--handwritten sketches, graphs, maps, notes, etc. made on a computer using a pen-based interface, and (2) in-class communication of ink inscriptions via a set of connected wireless tablet computers. The primary products are substantiated research findings on the use of tablet computers and inscriptions in 4th and 5th grade math and science, as well as models for teacher education and use.
Award Number: 
1020152
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Sun, 08/31/2014
Project Evaluator: 
David Reider, Education Design Inc.
Full Description: 

The research project continues a collaboration between MIT's Center for Educational Computing Initiatives and TERC focusing on the enhancement of K-12 STEM math and science education by means of technology that supports (1) creation of what are termed "ink inscriptions"--handwritten sketches, graphs, maps, notes, etc. made on a computer using a pen-based interface, and (2) in-class communication of ink inscriptions via a set of connected wireless tablet computers. The project builds on the PIs' prior work, which demonstrated that both teachers and students benefit from such technology because they can easily draw and write on a tablet screens, thus using representations not possible with only a typical keyboard and mouse; and they can easily send such ink inscriptions to one another via wireless connectivity. This communication provides teachers the opportunity to view all the students' work and make decisions about which to share anonymously on a public classroom screen or on every student's screen in order to support discussion in a "conversation-based" classroom. Artificial intelligence methods are used to analyze ink inscriptions in order to facilitate selection and discussion of student work.

The project is a series of design experiments beginning with the software that emerged from earlier exploratory work. The PIs conduct two cycles of experiments to examine how tablets affect students learning in 4th and 5th grade mathematics and science. The project research questions and methods focus on systematic monitoring of teachers' and students' responses to the innovation in order to inform the development process. The PIs collect data on teachers' and students' use of the technology and on student learning outcomes and use those data as empirical evidence about the promise of the technology for improving STEM education in K-12 schools. An external evaluator uses parallel data collection, conducting many of the same research activities as the core team and independently providing analysis to be correlated with other data. His involvement is continuous and provides formative evaluation reports to the project through conferences, site visits, and conference calls.

The primary products are substantiated research findings on the use of tablet computers, inscriptions, and networks in 4th and 5 grade classrooms. In addition the PIs develop models for teacher education and use, and demonstrate the utility of artificial intelligence techniques in facilitating use of the technology. With the addition of Malden Public Schools to the list of participating districts, which includes Cambridge Public Schools and Waltham Public Schools from earlier work, the project expands the field test sites to up 20 schools' classrooms.

CAREER: Supporting Middle School Students' Construction of Evidence-Based Arguments

Doing science requires that students learn to create evidence-based arguments (EBAs), defined as claims connected to supporting evidence via premises. In this CAREER project, I investigate how argumentation ability can be enhanced among middle school students. The project entails theoretical work, instructional design, and empirical work, and involves 3 middle schools in northern Utah and southern Idaho.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0953046
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/15/2010 to Fri, 07/31/2015
Project Evaluator: 
David Williams
Full Description: 

Doing science requires that students learn to create evidence-based arguments (EBAs), defined as claims connected to supporting evidence via premises. The question chosen for study by a new researcher at Utah State University is: How can argumentation ability be enhanced among middle school students? This study involves 325 middle school students in 12 class sections from 3 school districts in Utah and Idaho. First, students in middle school science classrooms will be introduced to problem-based learning (PBL) units that allow them to investigate ill-structured science problems. These activities provide students with something about which to argue: something that they have explored personally and with which they have grappled. Next, they will construct arguments using a powerful computer technology, the Connection Log, developed by the PI. The Connection Log provides a scaffold for building arguments, allowing each student to write about his/her reasoning and compare it to arguments built by peers. The study investigates how the Connection Log improves the quality of students' arguments. It also explores whether students are able to transfer what they have learned to new situations that call for argumentation.

This study is set in 6th and 7th grade science classrooms with students of diverse SES, ethnicity, and achievement levels. The Connection Log software supports middle school students with written prompts on a computer screen that take students through the construction of an argument. The system allows students to share their arguments with other members of their PBL group. The first generation version of the Connection Log asks students to:

1. define the problem, or state the problem in their own words

2. determine needed information, or decide on evidence they need to find to solve the problem

3. find and organize needed information

4. develop a claim, or make an assertion stating a possible problem solution

5. link evidence to claim, linking specific, relevant data to assertions

The model will be optimized through a process of design-based research. The study uses a mixed methods research design employing argument evaluation tests, video, interviews, database information, debate ratings, and a mental models measure, to evaluate student progress.

This study is important because research has shown that students do not automatically come to school prepared to create evidence-based arguments. Middle school students face three major challenges in argumentation: adequately representing the central problem of the unit; determining and obtaining the most relevant evidence; and synthesizing gathered information to construct a sound argument. Argumentation ability is crucial to STEM performance and to access to STEM careers. Without the ability to formulate arguments based upon evidence, middle school students are likely to be left out of the STEM pipeline, avoid STEM careers, and have less ability to critically evaluate and understand scientific findings as citizens. By testing and refining the Connection Log, the project has the potential for scaling up for use in science classrooms (and beyond) throughout the United States.

Supports for Learning to Manage Classroom Discussions: Exploring the Role of Practical Rationality and Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching

This project focuses on practicing and preservice secondary mathematics teachers and mathematics teacher educators. The project is researching, designing, and developing materials for preservice secondary mathematics teachers that enable them to acquire the mathematical knowledge and situated rationality central to teaching, in particular as it regards the leading of mathematical discussions in classrooms.

Award Number: 
0918425
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Project Evaluator: 
Miriam Gamoran Sherin
Full Description: 

Researchers at the Universities of Michigan and Maryland are developing materials to survey the rationality behind secondary mathematics teaching practice and to support the development by secondary mathematics preservice teachers of specialized knowledge and skills for teaching. The project focuses on the leading of classroom discussions for the learning of algebra and geometry.

Using animations of instructional scenarios, the project is developing online, multimedia questionnaires and using them to assess practicing teachers' mathematical knowledge for teaching and their evaluations of teacher decision making. Reports and forum entries from the questionnaires are integrated into a learning environment for prospective teachers and their instructors built around these animated scenarios. This environment allows pre-service teachers to navigate, annotate, and communicate about the scenarios; and it allows their instructors to plan using those scenarios and share experiences with their counterparts.

The research on teachers' rationality uses an experimental design with embedded one-way ANOVA, while the development of the learning environment uses a process of iterative design, implementation, and evaluation. The project evaluation by researchers at Northwestern University uses qualitative methods to examine the content provided in the environment as well as the usefulness perceived by teacher educators of a state network and their students.

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