Instructional Practices

Promoting Science Among English Language Learners (P-SELL) Scale-Up

This effectiveness study focuses on the scale-up of a model of curricular and teacher professional development intervention aimed at improving science achievement of all students, especially English language learners (ELLs). The model consists of three basic components: (a) inquiry-oriented science curriculum, (b) teacher professional development for science instruction with these students, and (c) school resources for science instruction.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1209309
Funding Period: 
Mon, 08/15/2011 to Fri, 07/31/2015
Project Evaluator: 
Lauren Scher
Full Description: 

This four-year effectiveness study focuses on the scale-up of a model of curricular and teacher professional development intervention aimed at improving science achievement of all students, especially English language learners (ELLs). The model consists of three basic components: (a) inquiry-oriented science curriculum, (b) teacher professional development for science instruction with these students, and (c) school resources for science instruction. The project's main goals are: (1) to evaluate the effect of the intervention on student achievement, (2) to determine the effect of the intervention on teacher knowledge, practices, and school resources, and (3) to assess how teacher knowledge, practices, and resources mediate student achievement. The project is conducted in the context of the Florida current science education policies and accountability system (e.g., adoption of the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards in Science, assessment of science at the fifth grade, a Race to the Top award state). The study draws on findings from research on a previous NSF-funded efficacy study (035331) in which the model to be scaled-up was tested in a single school district. The effectiveness study includes three (of 67) school districts as key partners, representative of racially, ethnically, linguistically, and socioeconomically diverse student populations; 64 elementary schools, 320 science teachers, and 24,000 fifth-grade students over a three-year period. Science learning is the primary subject matter, inclusive of life, physical, and earth/space sciences. Six research questions corresponding to three research areas guide the proposed scope of work. For the research area of Student Science Achievement, questions are: (1) What is the effect of the intervention on fifth-grade students' science achievement, compared to "business as usual"?, and (2) To what extent are the effects of the intervention moderated by students' English as a Second Language (ESOL) level, SES status, and racial/ethnic backgrounds? For Teacher Knowledge and Practices as a research area, questions are: (3) What is the effect of the intervention on teachers' science knowledge and teaching practices?, and (4) To what extent is students' science achievement predicted by school resources for science instruction? For School Resources for Science, questions are: (5) What is the effect of the intervention on school resources for science instruction?, and (6) To what extent is student achievement predicted by school resources for science instruction? To assess the effect of the intervention on students' and teachers' outcomes, a cluster-randomized-control trial is used, resulting in a total of 64 randomly selected schools (after stratifying them by school-level percent of ESOL and Free Reduced Lunch students). All science teachers and students from the 64 schools participate in the project: 32 in the treatment group (project curriculum for fifth grade, teacher professional development, and instructional resources), and 32 in the control group (district-adopted fifth-grade curriculum, no teacher professional development, and no instructional resources). To address the research area of Student Science Achievement, formative assessment items are used at the end of each curriculum unit, along with two equated forms of a project-developed science test (to be used as pre-and posttests) with both treatment and control groups, in addition to the Florida's Comprehensive Assessment Tests-Science. Data interpretation for this research area employs a set of three-level HLMs (students, nested in classrooms, nested in schools). To address the research area of Teacher Knowledge and Practices and School Resources for Science, the project uses three measures: (a) two equated forms of a 35-items test of teacher science knowledge, (b) a classroom observation instrument measuring third-party ratings of teacher knowledge and teaching practices, and (c) a questionnaire measuring teachers' self-reports of science knowledge and teaching practices. All measures are administered to both treatment and control groups. Data interpretation strategies include a series of HLMs with emphasis on the relevant teacher outcomes as a function of time, and of school-level mediating variables. External project evaluation is conducted by Concentric Research and Evaluation using quantitative and qualitative methods and addressing both formative and summative components. Project research findings contribute to the refinement of a model reflective of the new science standards in the State and the emerging national science standards. The value added of this effort consists of its potential to inform effective implementation of science curricula and teacher professional development in other learning settings, including ELLs and traditionally marginalized student populations at the elementary school level. It constitutes practically the only research study focused on the issue of scale-up and sustainability of effective science education practices with this student subpopulation, which has become prominent due to the dramatic growth of a racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse school-aged population, low levels of U.S. student science achievement, and the role of science and mathematics in current accountability systems nationwide.

Further Development and Testing of the Target Inquiry Model for Middle and High School Science Teacher Professional Development (Collaborative Research: Yezierski)

This project scales and further tests the Target Inquiry professional development model. The model involves teachers in three core experiences: 1) a research experience for teachers, 2) materials adaptation, and 3) an action research project. The original program was implemented with high school chemistry teachers, and was shown to result in significant increases, with large effect sizes, in teachers' understanding of science inquiry and quality of instruction, and in science achievement of those teachers' students.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1118749
Funding Period: 
Mon, 08/15/2011 to Wed, 07/31/2013
Full Description: 

This project scales and further tests the Target Inquiry (TI) professional development model. The TI model involves teachers in three core experiences: 1) a research experience for teachers, 2) materials adaptation, and 3) an action research project. The original program was implemented with high school chemistry teachers at Grand Valley State University (GVSU), and was shown to result in significant increases, with large effect sizes, in teachers' understanding of science inquiry and quality of instruction, and in science achievement of those teachers' students. The scale-up and further testing would involve adding physics, biology and geology at Grand Valley State University, and implementing the program at Miami University (MU) with chemistry teachers. Three research questions will be studied:

1) How do the three TI core experiences influence in-service high school science teachers' (i) understanding of the nature of science; (ii) attitudes and beliefs about inquiry instruction; and (iii) classroom instructional methods in the derivatives of the TI model?

2) How does teacher participation in TI affect students' process skills (scientific reasoning and metacognition) and conceptual understanding of science in the derivatives of the TI model?

3) What are the challenges and solutions related to implementing TI in science disciplines beyond chemistry and in other regions?

The research design is quasi-experimental and longitudinal, incorporating implementation with research, and using quantitative and qualitative methods blended in a design research framework. A total of 54 middle and high school science teachers are being recruited for the study. The TI group is completing the TI program (N = 27; 15 at GVSU; 12 at MU) while the comparison group (same sizes and locations) is not. The comparison group is matched according to individual characteristics and school demographics. All teachers are being studied, along with their students, for 4 years (pre-program, post-RET, post-MA, post-AR/post-program). TI teachers are taking 15 credits of graduate level science courses over three years, including summers. Courses include a graduate seminar focused on preparing for the research experience, the research experience in a faculty member's science lab during the summer, application of research to teaching, action research project development, adaptation and evaluation of inquiry-focused curricula, and interpretation and analysis of classroom data from action research. Consistent feedback from professional development, teachers, and evaluation, including the previous implementation, contributes to a design-based approach. Teacher factors being studied include nature of science, inquiry teaching knowledge and beliefs, and quality of inquiry instruction. Student factors being studied include scientific reasoning; metacognition, self-efficacy, and learning processes in science; and content knowledge and conceptual understanding. Only established quantitative and qualitative instruments are being used. Quantitative analysis includes between-group comparisons by year on post-tests, with pre-tests as covariates, and multi-level models with students nested with teachers, and teachers within sites, with the teacher level as the primary unit of change. Trends over time between the treatment and comparison groups are being examined. The evaluation is using a combination of pre/post causal comparative quantitative measures and relevant qualitative data from project leaders and participants, as well as from the comparison group, to provide formative and summative evaluation input.

Outcomes of the project include documentation and understanding of the impacts on science teachers' instruction and student outcomes of research experiences for teachers when they are supported by materials adaptation and action research, and an understanding of what it takes to scale the model to different science disciplines and a different site. The project is also producing a website of instructional materials for middle and secondary science.

Developing Teaching Expertise in K-5 Mathematics

This project designs materials and an accompanying support system to enable the development of expertise in the teaching of mathematics at the elementary level. The project has four main components: online professional development modules; practice-based assessments; resources for facilitators; and web-based technologies to deliver module content to diverse settings. Three modules are being developed and focus on fractions, reasoning and explanation, and geometry. Each module is organized into ten 1.5 hour sessions.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
1118745
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Project Evaluator: 
American Institutes for Research
Full Description: 

Developers and researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of Denver are engaged in a project to design materials and an accompanying support system to enable the development of expertise in the teaching of mathematics at the elementary level. The project has four main components: a set of online professional development modules; practice-based assessments; a set of resources for facilitators; and web-based technologies to deliver module content to diverse settings. Three modules are planned: one focused on fractions and one focused on reasoning and explanation designed by Deborah Ball, Hyman Bass and the University of Michigan development team; and one on geometry developed by Douglas Clements and Julie Sarama at the University of Denver. Each module is organized into ten 1.5 hour sessions. 

Each module goes through a two-year design and development process that includes initial design, piloting, revision, and dissemination. Modules are piloted in a variety of settings, including university based courses for practicing teachers and district based in-service activities. These contexts include face-to-face professional development, real-time distance learning, and combinations of the two. Data are collected on participant engagement with the modules, on teacher classroom practice, and on mathematical knowledge for teaching.

The modules and associated materials will be widely available and will be free to schools. The materials can be imported into any learning management system, such as Blackboard, Moodle, and others.

Leveling Up: Supporting and Measuring High School STEM Knowledge Building in Social Digital Games

This project designs, develops and tests a digital gaming environment for high school students that fosters and measures science learning within alternate reality games about saving Earth's ecosystems. Players work together to solve scientific challenges using a broad range of tools including a centralized web-based gaming site and social networking tools, along with handheld smart-phones, and an avatar-based massively multiplayer online environment. The game requires players to contribute to a scientific knowledge building community.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1119144
Funding Period: 
Fri, 07/01/2011 to Mon, 06/30/2014
Project Evaluator: 
New Knowledge Organization
Full Description: 

This project designs, develops and tests a digital gaming environment for high school students that fosters and measures science learning within alternate reality games about saving Earth's ecosystems. Players work together to solve scientific challenges using a broad range of tools including a centralized web-based gaming site and social networking tools, along with handheld smart-phones, and an avatar-based massively multiplayer online environment (MMO). EdGE at TERC joins with GameGurus, high school teachers and assessment specialists to develop Leveling Up. The game requires players to contribute to a scientific knowledge building community; and players rate each other's contributions for their value to the communities' learning and decision-making in solving the challenge. Designers also work with high-school teachers to develop bridge activities that leverage science learning in games for use in formal education. Overall, the project goal is to understand the potential of the gaming environment as a direct intervention and as a catalyst to transform and measure high school STEM learning.

The research on Leveling Up compares the science learning measured within social digital games to class-based assessments of similar content and skills and explains the results using data from design documents, participant observations, surveys, interviews and student work. Formative research and iterative design with a cohort of with 15 testbed classes (grades 10-12) result in a set of assessments that have been validated in terms of scientific constructs and a set of common equivalent curriculum and assessments for implementation studies. In the third year of the project, researchers study 12 treatment classes and 3 control classes to compare students' advancement in the game to their gains on classroom assessments. In addition, half of the testbed classes use the classroom bridge activities and half do not, yielding samples of 180 students for each treatment and 90 students for the control sample. Researchers use multilevel models to examine the impact of the Leveling Up game play and bridge activities on high-school students' science knowledge. Independent evaluators (ILI) validate the interpretation of findings from the formative and implementation research.

Leveling Up is a fundamental first step for the STEM education field to understand how the pervasive social media emerging in today's society, including the phenomena of social digital gaming, can be leveraged to create exciting and productive STEM learning environments for the future. These technologies and knowledge building processes are critical for building a workforce of tomorrow that is scientifically, technologically, and data literate and also embody the inquiry and collaboration skills to contribute to productive and informed decisions about Earth's ecosystems and other important scientific and societal issues of our times. The project, Leveling Up, results in an ongoing STEM gaming environment for the public as well as a model for high school STEM assessment that may be used in other social digital games. Finally, Leveling Up also contributes a model for activities that bridge scientific inquiry occurring in social digital games with skills and content taught in high school STEM classes.

Continuous Learning and Automated Scoring in Science (CLASS)

This five-year project investigates how to provide continuous assessment and feedback to guide students' understanding during science inquiry-learning experiences, as well as detailed guidance to teachers and administrators through a technology-enhanced system. The assessment system integrates validated automated scorings for students' written responses to open-ended assessment items into the "Web-based Inquiry Science Environment" (WISE) program.

Award Number: 
1119670
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Mon, 08/31/2015
Full Description: 

This five-year project investigates how to provide continuous assessment and feedback to guide students' understanding during science inquiry-learning experiences, as well as detailed guidance to teachers and administrators through a technology-enhanced system. The assessment system integrates validated automated scorings for students' written responses to open-ended assessment items (i.e., short essays, science narratives, concept mapping, graphing problems, and virtual experiments) into the "Web-based Inquiry Science Environment" (WISE) program. WISE is an online science-inquiry curricula that supports deep understanding through visualization of processes not directly observable, virtual experiments, graphing results, collaboration, and response to prompts for explanations. In partnership with Educational Testing Services (ETS), project goals are: (1) to develop five automated inquiry assessment activities that capture students' abilities to integrate their ideas and form coherent scientific arguments; (2) to customize WISE by incorporating automated scores; (3) to investigate how students' systematic feedback based on these scores improve their learning outcomes; and (4) to design professional development resources to help teachers use scores to improve classroom instruction, and administrators to make better informed decisions about teacher professional development and inquiry instruction. The project targets general science (life, physical, and earth) in three northern California school districts, five middle schools serving over 4,000 6th-8th grade students with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and 29 science teachers. It contributes to increase opportunities for students to improve their science achievement, and for teachers and administrators to make efficient, evidence-based decisions about high-quality teaching and learning.

A key research question guides this effort: How automated scoring of inquiry assessments can increase success for diverse students, improve teachers' instructional practices, and inform administrators' decisions about professional development, inquiry instruction, and assessment? To develop science inquiry assessment activities, scoring written responses include semantic, syntax, and structure of meaning analyses, as well as calibration of human-scored items with a computer-scoring system through the c-rater--an ETS-developed cyber learning technology. Validity studies are conducted to compare automated scores with human-scored items, teacher, district, and state scores, including sensitivity to the diverse student population. To customize the WISE curriculum, the project modifies 12 existing units and develops nine new modules. To design adaptive feedback to students, comparative studies explore options for adaptive guidance and test alternatives based on automated scores employing linear models to compare student performance across randomly assigned guidance conditions; controlling for covariates, such as prior science scores, gender, and language; and grouping comparison studies. To design teacher professional development, synthesis reports on auto-scored data are created to enable them to use evidence to guide curricular decisions, and comments' analysis to improve feedback quality. Workshops, classroom observations, and interviews are conducted to measure longitudinal teachers' change over time. To empower administrators' decision making, special data reports, using-evidence activities, individual interviews, and observation of administrators' meetings are conducted. An advisory board charged with project evaluation addresses both formative and summative aspects.

A research-informed model to improve science teaching and learning at the middle school level through cyber-enabled assessment is the main outcome of this effort. A total of 21 new, one- to three-week duration standards-based science units, each with four or more automatically scored items, serve as prototypes to improve students' performance, teachers' instructional approaches, and administrators' school policies and practices.

CAREER: Engaging Elementary Students in Data Analysis Through Study of Physical Activities

This project is investigating the learning that can take place when elementary school students are directly involved in the collection, sense-making, and analysis of real, personally-meaningful data sets. The hypotheses of this work are that by organizing elementary statistics instruction around the study of physical activities, students will have greater personal engagement in data analysis processes and that students will also develop more robust understandings of statistical ideas.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1054280
Funding Period: 
Fri, 07/01/2011 to Sat, 06/30/2018
Full Description: 

This CAREER awardee at Utah State University is investigating the learning that can take place when elementary school students are directly involved in the collection, sense-making, and analysis of real, personally-meaningful data sets. The project responds to increasing attention to data collection and analysis in elementary grades and aims to make important contributions to the knowledge base on effective approaches to these topics. The hypotheses of this work are that by organizing elementary statistics instruction around the study of physical activities, students will have greater personal engagement in data analysis processes and that students will also develop more robust understandings of statistical ideas. Students and teachers from fifth grade classrooms from several elementary schools from northern Utah, are participating in the project. This work is co-funded by the EPSCoR program.

Statistics topics include measures of center and variation. Students use pedometers, heart rate monitors, other probeware, and the TinkerPlots software. The research team investigates the influence of personal ownership and relationships to data on students' understanding of learning of elementary statistics concepts and their ability to analyze data. The research involves multi-year clinical interviews and video-recorded classroom design experiments.

Research results are expected to be published in appropriate journals and are expected to be presented at professional meetings. Lesson plans and student instructional materials related to physical activity, measures of center, and data distributions are made available for use in partner elementary schools.

CAREER: Noticing and Capitalizing on Important Mathematical Moments in Instruction

This project investigates the outcomes of a teacher education model designed to foster prospective mathematics teachers' abilities to notice and capitalize on important mathematical moments in instruction. The project engages prospective teachers in research-like analysis of unedited teacher-perspective classroom video early in their teacher education coursework in order to help them learn to identify, assess the mathematical potential of, and respond to important student ideas and insights that arise during instruction.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1052958
Funding Period: 
Fri, 04/15/2011 to Sat, 03/31/2012
Full Description: 

This CAREER awardee at Michigan Technological University is investigating the outcomes of a teacher education model designed to foster prospective mathematics teachers' abilities to notice and capitalize on important mathematical moments in instruction. The researcher engages prospective teachers in research-like analysis of unedited teacher-perspective classroom video early in their teacher education coursework in order to help them learn to identify, assess the mathematical potential of, and respond to important student ideas and insights that arise during instruction.

The research is based on a quasi-experimental design and involves three cohorts of prospective teachers. Practicing teachers from local schools collaborate with the research team. The data collected consists of classroom video. The video is coded and analyzed using Studiocode, which allows for real-time coding and for multiple users to code and annotate video segments.

The research findings are integrated into the institution's teacher education program and are also disseminated more broadly through publication and presentations at professional meetings.

Investigating and Supporting the Development of Ambitious and Equitable Mathematics Instruction at Scale

This project is supporting and investigating the implementation of reformed mathematics instruction at the middle school level in two large school districts. The primary goal of the project is to develop an empirically grounded theory of action for implementing reform at school and district levels. The researchers are investigating reform within a coherent system that focuses on leadership and school-based professional development.

 

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1119122
Funding Period: 
Mon, 08/15/2011 to Tue, 07/31/2012
Full Description: 

The Development of Ambitious and Equitable Mathematics Instruction project is supporting and investigating the implementation of reformed mathematics instruction at the middle school level in two large school districts. Project researchers are asking: What does it take to support mathematics teachers' development of ambitious and equitable instructional practices on a large scale? The project has built on what was learned in a previous, successful project studying the implementation of a middle school mathematics curriculum. The primary goal of the new project is to develop an empirically grounded theory of action for implementing reform at school and district levels. The researchers are investigating reform within a coherent system that focuses on leadership and school-based professional development. In addition, they are facilitating a longitudinal study of the curriculum implementation by continuing the data collection from the original study.

In order to build a theory of action, the project team is synthesizing data from a variety of domains including instructional systems (e.g., curriculum, materials, professional development, support for struggling students, and learning communities), mathematics coaching, networks of teachers, school leadership, and district leadership. Investigators are using a variety of analytic techniques to successfully integrate both quantitative and qualitative data as they seek to understand how school district strategies are playing out in schools and classrooms and how those strategies can be revised in order to improve student learning of mathematics.

An empirically grounded theory of action for implementing reform will help the mathematics education community to implement and to understand the process of reforming mathematics instruction at the middle school level. Many advances in mathematics instruction have been documented within a limited context, but researchers and practitioners need to understand the full range of action necessary to achieve similar successes at a district-wide level. The model developed from this project, in conjunction with longitudinal data, has the potential to guide future reform efforts that seek to provide ambitious and equitable mathematics instruction.

Development of a Cognition-Guided, Formative-Assessment-Intensive, Individualized Computer-Based Dynamic Geometry Learning System for Grades 3-8

This project is focused on creating, testing, refining, and studying a computer-based, individualized, interactive learning system for intermediate/middle school students or by teachers in classrooms. This learning system is called Individualized Dynamic Geometry Instruction and will contain four instructional modules in geometry and measurement that reflect the recommendations of the Common Core State Standards.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1119034
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Mon, 08/31/2015
Project Evaluator: 
Jeff Shih
Full Description: 

Developers and researchers at Ohio State University and KCP Technologies are creating, testing, refining, and studying a computer-based, individualized, interactive learning system for intermediate/middle school students that can be used by them independently (online or offline) or by teachers in classrooms. This learning system is called Individualized Dynamic Geometry Instruction (iDGi) and will contain four instructional modules in geometry and measurement that reflect the recommendations of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). iDGi courseware fully integrates research-based Learning Progressions (LPs) for guiding students' reasoning; formative-assessment linked to LPs; instructional sequencing that interactively adapts to students' locations in LPs; built-in student monitoring, feedback, and guidance; and research-based principles of educational media into the modules. The software platform for iDGi development is an extended version of the dynamic geometry computer environment, The Geometer's Sketchpad.

The development process follows recommendations in Douglas Clements' Curriculum Research Framework and includes sequences of development, trials with students, data collection, and revision. The research and evaluation are based on random assignment of approximately 350 students to treatment and control groups. Achievement data are collected using developer-constructed instruments with items that reflect the mathematics topics in the CCSS. Researchers explore the variability at the student, teacher, and school levels using the appropriate level of hierarchical linear models.

Commercial publishers have expressed strong interest in publishing online and offline computer versions of iDGi, an iPad version of iDGi, an online management system for iDGi, and support materials for users and teachers.

Supporting Scientific Practices in Elementary and Middle School Classrooms

This project will develop a learning progression that characterizes how learners integrate and interrelate scientific argumentation, explanation and scientific modeling, building ever more sophisticated versions of practice over time using the three common elements of sense-making, persuading peers and developing consensus.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020316
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Full Description: 

Research on student learning has developed separate progressions for scientific argumentation, explanation and scientific modeling. Engaging Learners in Scientific Practices develops a learning progression that characterizes how learners integrate and interrelate scientific argumentation, explanation and scientific modeling, building ever more sophisticated versions of practice over time using the three common elements of sense-making, persuading peers and developing consensus. The learning progression is constructed through improvements in students' performance and understanding of scientific practice as measured by their attention to generality of explanation, attention to clarity of communication and audience understanding, attention to evidentiary support, and attention to mechanistic versus descriptive accounts. The project is led by researchers at Northwestern University, the University of Texas, Wright State University, Michigan State University, and the BEAR assessment group. Two cohorts of 180 students each are followed for two years from 4th to 5th grade in Illinois and two cohorts of 180 students each are followed for two years from 5th to 6th grade in Michigan The elementary school students will work with FOSS curriculum units modified to embed supports for scientific practices. Two cohorts of 500 middle school students are followed for three years from 6th to 8th grade as they work with coordinated IQWST units over three years. The outcome measures include analyses of classroom discourse, pre- and pos-test assessments of student learning, and reflective interviews grounded in students' own experiences with practices in the classroom to assess their growth across the dimensions. The BEAR team is responsible for validation and calibration of the frameworks and instruments, and design of the scheme for analysis of the data. Horizon Research performs the formative and summative evaluation. The project will produce an empirically-tested learning progression for scientific practices for grades 4-8 along with tested curriculum materials and validated assessment items that support and measure students' ability in the scientific practices of explanation, argumentation and modeling. In the process of development, an understanding is gained about how to design and test this learning progression. The framework is articulated on a website for use by other researchers and developers. The project also builds capacity by educating several graduate students.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Science Storylines

Presenter(s): Brian Reiser, Kelsey Edwards, Barbara Hug, Tara McGill, Jamie Noll, Michael Novak, Bill Penuel, Trey Smith, & Aliza Zivic


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