Reasoning Skills

Examining Relationships Between Flipped Instruction and Students' Learning of Mathematics

This study can provide a basis for design research focused on developing effective materials and programs for flipped instruction in secondary mathematics, which is already occurring at an increasing rate, but it is not yet informed by empirical evidence. This project will result in a framework for flipped instruction robust enough to be useful at a variety of grade levels and contexts. The framework will provide a better understanding of the relationships among various implementations of flipped instruction and student learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1721025
Funding Period: 
Tue, 08/01/2017 to Fri, 07/31/2020
Full Description: 

Instead of presenting new material in class and then assigning problems to be completed outside of class, flipped instruction involves students watching videos or reading new material outside of class and then completing their "homework" in class. Teachers' implementation of flipped instruction has increased dramatically in recent years, with more than two-thirds of teachers now reporting flipping a lesson, if not an entire course. Although popular media and philanthropic organizations have given a great deal of attention and financial support to flipped instruction, little is known about how teachers implement it and what benefits and drawbacks flipped instruction has in contrast with non-flipped instruction. This study can provide a basis for design research focused on developing effective materials and programs for flipped instruction in secondary mathematics. This design and development is already occurring at an increasing rate, but it is not yet informed by empirical evidence. This project will result in a framework for flipped instruction robust enough to be useful at a variety of grade levels and contexts. The framework will provide a better understanding of the relationships among various implementations of flipped instruction and student learning. These findings can inform teacher educators in better aligning their instruction to instructional formats that correlate with increased student learning outcomes.

Using mixed-methods techniques, the study will look at the nature of the activities and interactions occurring in mathematics classrooms and assess their quality so that the researchers may distinguish high-quality from low-quality univocal discourse, high-quality from low-quality dialogic discourse, and high cognitive demand from low cognitive demand tasks. Working in 40 algebra classrooms -- 20 implementing some form of flipped instruction and 20 serving as a non-flipped basis for comparison -- the project will address the following research questions using a correlational design and multilevel modeling techniques: RQ1. What are salient factors entailed in flipped instruction in secondary algebra? RQ2. What associations, if any, exist among factors entailed in teachers' implementation of flipped algebra instruction and students' learning of algebra as measured on a state-mandated end-of-course assessment and on a concept-of-variable inventory?

High School Students' Climate Literacy Through Epistemology of Scientific Modeling (Collaborative Research: Forbes)

This project will focus on learning about model based reasoning in science, and will develop, implement, study, and refine a 6-week climate science module for high school students. The module will feature use of a web-based climate modeling application, and the project team will collect and analyze evidence of model-based reasoning about climate phenomena among students.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720838
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Fri, 12/31/2021
Full Description: 

This project will focus on learning about model based reasoning in science, and will develop, implement, study, and refine a 6-week climate science module for high school students. The module will feature use of a web-based climate modeling application, and the project team will collect and analyze evidence of model-based reasoning about climate phenomena among students. Scientists routinely use data-intensive, computer-based models to study complex natural phenomena, and modeling has become a core objective of current science curriculum standards. The project will provide new insights about student use of scientific models to understand natural phenomena, and advance knowledge about curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices that promote model-based reasoning among students.

This 4-year Design and Development project will examine use of a web-based climate modeling tool designed to provide non-scientists experiences with climate modeling in high school geoscience classrooms. A theoretically-grounded and empirically tested approach to design-based research, instructional design, and assessment development will be used in an iterative cycle of instructional innovation and education research to find answers to two research questions: 1) How do secondary students develop epistemic and conceptual knowledge about climate? And 2) How do secondary science teachers support student use of climate modeling application to develop epistemic and conceptual knowledge about climate? Data associated with conceptual and epistemic knowledge, curriculum-embedded modeling tasks, interviews, and videorecorded observations of instruction will be used to study impacts of the new curriculum module on 55 high school science teachers and 3,000 students. Project participants include students from low socioeconomic populations and other groups underrepresented in STEM fields. The curriculum will also serve as a resource for an existing, online professional development course at the American Museum of Natural History that engages teachers nationwide.

Designing a Middle Grades Spatial Skills Curriculum

This project will create a portable training system that can be easily deployed in middle grades (5th-7th grade) as a prototype for increasing students' spatial reasoning skills. The project will study gender differences in spatial reasoning and examine how learning experiences can be designed to develop spatial skills using Minecraft as a platform.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720801
Funding Period: 
Sat, 07/01/2017 to Tue, 06/30/2020
Full Description: 

The ability to make spatial judgements and visualize has been shown to be a strong indicator of students' future success in STEM-related courses. The project is innovative because it uses a widely available gaming environment, Minecraft, to examine spatial reasoning. Finding learning experiences which support students' spatial reasoning in an authentic and engaging way is a challenge in the field. This project will create a portable training system that can be easily deployed in middle grades (5th-7th grade) as a prototype for increasing students' spatial reasoning skills. The project will study gender differences in spatial reasoning and examine how learning experiences can be designed to develop spatial skills using Minecraft as a platform. The resources will incorporate hands-on learning and engage students in building virtual structures using spatial reasoning. The curriculum materials are being designed to be useful in other middle grades contexts.

The study is a design and development study that will design four training modules intended to improve spatial reasoning in the following areas: rotation, mental slicing, 2D to 3D transformation and perspective taking. The research questions are: (1) Does a Minecraft-based intervention that targets specific spatial reasoning tasks improve middle grade learners' spatial ability? (2) Does spatial skills growth differ by gender? The experimental design will compare the influence of the virtual spatial learning environment alone vs. the use of design challenges designed specifically for the spatial skills. The data collected will include assessments of spatial reasoning and feedback from teachers' who use the materials. The spatial skills measures will be administered as a pre-test, post-test, and six-month follow-up assessment to measure long term effects.


Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Building Spatial Skills with Minecraft

Presenter(s): Nick Lux, Barrett Frank, & Bryce Hughes


Learning in Places: Field Based Science in Early Childhood Education

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

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

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

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

High School Students' Climate Literacy Through Epistemology of Scientific Modeling (Collaborative Research: Chandler)

This project will focus on learning about model based reasoning in science, and will develop, implement, study, and refine a 6-week climate science module for high school students. The module will feature use of a web-based climate modeling application, and the project team will collect and analyze evidence of model-based reasoning about climate phenomena among students.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1719872
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Fri, 12/31/2021
Full Description: 

This project will focus on learning about model based reasoning in science, and will develop, implement, study, and refine a 6-week climate science module for high school students. The module will feature use of a web-based climate modeling application, and the project team will collect and analyze evidence of model-based reasoning about climate phenomena among students. Scientists routinely use data-intensive, computer-based models to study complex natural phenomena, and modeling has become a core objective of current science curriculum standards. The project will provide new insights about student use of scientific models to understand natural phenomena, and advance knowledge about curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices that promote model-based reasoning among students.

This 4-year Design and Development project will examine use of a web-based climate modeling tool designed to provide non-scientists experiences with climate modeling in high school geoscience classrooms. A theoretically-grounded and empirically tested approach to design-based research, instructional design, and assessment development will be used in an iterative cycle of instructional innovation and education research to find answers to two research questions: 1) How do secondary students develop epistemic and conceptual knowledge about climate? And 2) How do secondary science teachers support student use of climate modeling application to develop epistemic and conceptual knowledge about climate? Data associated with conceptual and epistemic knowledge, curriculum-embedded modeling tasks, interviews, and videorecorded observations of instruction will be used to study impacts of the new curriculum module on 55 high school science teachers and 3,000 students. Project participants include students from low socioeconomic populations and other groups underrepresented in STEM fields. The curriculum will also serve as a resource for an existing, online professional development course at the American Museum of Natural History that engages teachers nationwide.

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

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

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

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

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

Longitudinal Learning of Viable Argument in Mathematics for Adolescents

This project builds on a prior study that demonstrated increases in students' knowledge of argumentation and their performance on mathematics assessments. The project will extend the use of the argumentation intervention into all eighth grade content areas, with a specific focus on students' learning of reasoning and proof, and contribute to understanding how students' learning about mathematical practices that can help them learn mathematics better.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621438
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

The project will examine learning in eighth grade mathematics with a specific focus on students' learning of reasoning and proof. The intervention builds on a prior study in algebra that demonstrated increases in students' knowledge of argumentation and their performance on mathematics assessments. This project will extend the use of the argumentation intervention into all eighth grade content areas. The investigators will also address support for teachers in the form of teacher materials that link the argumentation content with mathematics standards and state-wide assessments, and a learning progression to engage students in proving tasks. The project will use assessments of mathematics learning and additional data from teachers and students to understand the impact of the argumentation intervention on teachers and students. The project contributes to understanding how students can learn about mathematical practices, such as proving, that can help them learn mathematics better. A significant contribution will be the definition of aspects of proving and descriptions of student outcomes that can be used to measure how well students have achieved these components of proving. The Discovery Research PreK-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. This project is also supported by NSF's EHR Core Research (ECR) program. The ECR program emphasizes fundamental STEM education research that generates foundational knowledge in the field.

The project suggests twelve conceptual pillars that are combined with classroom processes and assessable outcomes to examine the use of argumentation practices in the teaching of eighth grade mathematics content. The investigation of classroom support for argumentation includes research questions that focus on improvement on state-level assessments, students' ability to construct mathematical arguments, and the conceptual progression that supports students' understanding of argumentation and proof. In addition, the study will examine teachers' role in argumentation in the classroom and their perception of potential challenges for classroom implementation. The study will use an experimental design to examine an intervention for mathematical reasoning and proof in eighth grade. The project includes a treatment group of teachers that will participate in professional development including a summer institute followed by instructional coaching over a two year period.

InquirySpace 2: Broadening Access to Integrated Science Practices

This project will create technology-enhanced classroom activities and resources that increase student learning of science practices in high school biology, chemistry, and physics. InquirySpace will incorporate several innovative technological and pedagogical features that will enable students to undertake scientific experimentation that closely mirrors current science research and learn what it means to be a scientist.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621301
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

This project will create technology-enhanced classroom activities and resources that increase student learning of science practices in high school biology, chemistry, and physics courses. The project addresses the urgent national priority to improve science education as envisioned in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) by focusing less on learning facts and equations and instead providing students with the time, skills, and resources to experience the conduct of science and what it means to be a scientist. This project builds on prior work that created a sequence of physics activities that significantly improved students' abilities to undertake data-based experiments and led to productive independent investigations. The goal of the InquirySpace project is to improve this physics sequence, extend the approach to biology and chemistry, and adapt the materials to the needs of diverse students by integrating tailored formative feedback in real time. The result will be student and teacher materials that any school can use to allow students to experience the excitement and essence of scientific investigations as an integral part of science instruction. The project plans to create and iteratively revise learning materials and technologies, and will be tested in 48 diverse classroom settings. The educational impact of the project's approach will be compared with that of business-as-usual approaches used by teachers to investigate to what extent it empowers students to undertake self-directed experiments. To facilitate the widest possible use of the project, a complete set of materials, software, teacher professional development resources, and curriculum design documents will be available online at the project website, an online teacher professional development course, and teacher community sites. The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

InquirySpace will incorporate several innovative technological and pedagogical features that will enable students to undertake scientific experimentation that closely mirrors current science research. These features will include (1) educational games to teach data analysis and interpretation skills needed in the approach, (2) reduced dependence on reading and writing through the use of screencast instructions and reports, (3) increased reliance on graphical analysis that can make equations unnecessary, and (4) extensive use of formative feedback generated from student logs. The project uses an overarching framework called Parameter Space Reasoning (PSR) to scaffold students through a type of experimentation applicable to a very large class of experiments. PSR involves an integrated set of science practices related to a question that can be answered with a series of data collection runs for different values of independent variables. Data can be collected from sensors attached to the computer, analysis of videos, scientific databases, or computational models. A variety of visual analytic tools will be provided to reveal patterns in the graphs. Research will be conducted in three phases: design and development of technology-enhanced learning materials through design-based research, estimation of educational impact using a quasi-experimental design, and feasibility testing across diverse classroom settings. The project will use two analytical algorithms to diagnose students' learning of data analysis and interpretation practices so that teachers and students can modify their actions based on formative feedback in real time. These algorithms use computationally optimized calculations to model the growth of student thinking and investigation patterns and provide actionable information to teachers and students almost instantly. Because formative feedback can improve instruction in any field, this is a major development that has wide potential.

Sensing Science through Modeling: Developing Kindergarten Students' Understanding of Matter and Its Changes

This project will develop a technology-supported, physical science curriculum that will facilitate kindergarten students' conceptual understanding of matter and how matter changes. The results of this investigation will contribute important data on the evolving structure and content of children's physical science models as well as demonstrate children's understanding of matter and its changes.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621299
Funding Period: 
Sat, 10/01/2016 to Wed, 09/30/2020
Full Description: 

Despite recent research demonstrating the capacity of young children to engage deeply with science concepts and practices, challenging science curriculum is often lacking in the early grades. This project addresses this gap by developing a technology-supported, physical science curriculum that will facilitate kindergarten students' conceptual understanding of matter and how matter changes. To accomplish these goals, the curriculum will include opportunities for students to participate in model-based inquiry in conjunction with the use of digital probeware and simulations that enable students to observe dynamic visualizations and make sense of the phenomena. To support the capacity of kindergarten teachers, a continuous model of teacher development will be implemented.

Throughout development, the project team will collaborate with kindergarten teachers and more than 300 demographically diverse students across eight classrooms in Massachusetts and Indiana. A design based research approach will be used to iteratively design and revise learning activities, technological tools, and assessments that meet the needs and abilities of kindergarten students and teachers. The project team will: 1) work with kindergarten teachers to modify an existing Grade 2 curricular unit for use with their students; 2) design a parallel curricular unit incorporating technology; 3) evaluate both units for feasibility and maturation effects; and 4) iteratively revise and pilot an integrated unit and assess kindergarten student conceptual understanding of matter and its changes. The results of this investigation will contribute important data on the evolving structure and content of children's physical science models as well as demonstrate children's understanding of matter and its changes.

Geological Models for Explorations of Dynamic Earth (GEODE): Integrating the Power of Geodynamic Models in Middle School Earth Science Curriculum

This project will develop and research the transformational potential of geodynamic models embedded in learning progression-informed online curricula modules for middle school teaching and learning of Earth science. The primary goal of the project is to conduct design-based research to study the development of model-based curriculum modules, assessment instruments, and professional development materials for supporting student learning of (1) plate tectonics and related Earth processes, (2) modeling practices, and (3) uncertainty-infused argumentation practices.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621176
Funding Period: 
Mon, 08/15/2016 to Fri, 07/31/2020
Full Description: 

This project will contribute to the Earth science education community's understanding of how engaging students with dynamic computer-based systems models supports their learning of complex Earth science concepts regarding Earth's surface phenomena and sub-surface processes. It will also extend the field's understandings of how students develop modeling practices and how models are used to support scientific endeavors. This research will shed light on the role uncertainty plays when students use models to develop scientific arguments with model-based evidence. The GEODE project will directly involve over 4,000 students and 22 teachers from diverse school systems serving students from families with a variety of socioeconomic, cultural, and racial backgrounds. These students will engage with important geoscience concepts that underlie some of the most critical socio-scientific challenges facing humanity at this time. The GEODE project research will also seek to understand how teachers' practices need to change in order to take advantage of these sophisticated geodynamic modeling tools. The materials generated through design and development will be made available for free to all future learners, teachers, and researchers beyond the participants outlined in the project.

The GEODE project will develop and research the transformational potential of geodynamic models embedded in learning progression-informed online curricula modules for middle school teaching and learning of Earth science. The primary goal of the project is to conduct design-based research to study the development of model-based curriculum modules, assessment instruments, and professional development materials for supporting student learning of (1) plate tectonics and related Earth processes, (2) modeling practices, and (3) uncertainty-infused argumentation practices. The GEODE software will permit students to "program" a series of geologic events into the model, gather evidence from the emergent phenomena that result from the model, revise the model, and use their models to explain the dynamic mechanisms related to plate motion and associated geologic phenomena such as sedimentation, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and deformation of strata. The project will also study the types of teacher practices necessary for supporting the use of dynamic computer models of complex phenomena and the use of curriculum that include an explicit focus on uncertainty-infused argumentation.

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