Instructional Practices

Algebra Project Mathematics Content and Pedagogy Initiative

This project will scale up, implement, and assess the efficacy of interventions in K-12 mathematics education based on the well-established Algebra Project (AP) pedagogical framework, which seeks to improve performance and participation in mathematics of students in distressed school districts, particularly low-income students from underserved populations.

Award Number: 
1621416
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

Algebra continues to serve as a gatekeeper and potential barrier for high school students. The Algebra Project Mathematics Content and Pedagogy Initiative (APMCPI) will scale up, implement and assess the efficacy of interventions in K-12 mathematics education based on the well-established Algebra Project (AP) pedagogical framework. The APMCPI project team is comprised of four HBCUs (Virginia State University, Dillard University, Xavier University, Lincoln University), the Southern Initiative Algebra Project (SIAP), and four school districts that are closely aligned with partner universities. The purpose of the Algebra Project is to improve performance and participation in mathematics by members of students in distressed school districts, particularly those with a large population of low-income students from underserved populations including African American and Hispanics. The project will provide professional development and implement the Algebra Project in four districts and study the impact on student learning. The research results will inform the nation's learning how to improve mathematics achievement for all children, particularly those in distressed inner-city school districts.

The study builds on a prior pilot project with a 74% increase in students who passed the state exam. In the early stages of this project, teachers in four districts closely associated with the four universities will receive Algebra Project professional development in Summer Teacher Institutes with ongoing support during the academic year, including a community development plan. The professional development is designed to help teachers combine mathematical problem solving with context-rich lessons, which both strengthen and integrate teachers' understanding of key concepts in mathematics so that they better engage their students. The project also will focus on helping teachers establish a framework for mathematically substantive, conceptually-rich and experientially-grounded conversations with students. The first year of the study will begin a longitudinal quasi-experimental, explanatory, mixed-method design. Over the course of the project, researchers will follow cohorts who are in grade-levels 5 through 12 in Year 1 to allow analyses across crucial transition periods - grades 5 to 6; grades 8 to 9; and grades 12 to college/workforce. Student and teacher data will be collected in September of Project Year 1, and in May of each project year, providing five data points for each student and teacher participant. Student data will include student attitude, belief, anxiety, and relationship to mathematics and science, in addition to student learning outcome measures. Teacher data will include content knowledge, attitudes and beliefs, and practices. Qualitative data will provide information on the implementation in both the experimental and control conditions. Analysis will include hierarchical linear modeling and multivariate analysis of covariance.

Analysis of Effective Science Coaching: What, Why and How

This project will conduct an in-depth analysis of instructional coaching by analyzing archived video-recorded coaching sessions with middle and high school science teachers. The goal of the project is to analyzing the videos and previously collected quantitative outcome data to create descriptive profiles of instructional coaching and identify which key coaching elements lead to desired teacher and student outcomes.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621308
Funding Period: 
Sat, 10/01/2016 to Mon, 09/30/2019
Full Description: 

This Exploratory project will conduct an in-depth analysis of instructional coaching by analyzing 520 hours of archived video-recorded coaching sessions with 75 middle and high school science teachers in grades 6-12 collected in a U.S. Department of Education IES-funded coaching research study. The goal of the project is to "unpack" the coaching intervention by analyzing the videos and previously collected quantitative outcome data to (a) create descriptive profiles of instructional coaching and (b) identify which key coaching elements ("active ingredients") lead to desired teacher and student outcomes.

Following a design-based research approach, relying on iterative feedback and using data saturation process to analyze data, the project will translate theorized, conceptual characteristics of coaching into empirical models to guide future coaching research and practical guidance through identification of critical elements needed for coaching to work.

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.

Building a Next Generation Diagnostic Assessment and Reporting System within a Learning Trajectory-Based Mathematics Learning Map for Grades 6-8

This project will build on prior funding to design a next generation diagnostic assessment using learning progressions and other learning sciences research to support middle grades mathematics teaching and learning. The project will contribute to the nationally supported move to create, use, and apply research based open educational resources at scale.

Award Number: 
1621254
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

This project seeks to design a next generation diagnostic assessment using learning progressions and other research (in the learning sciences) to support middle grades mathematics teaching and learning. It will focus on nine large content ideas, and associated Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. The PIs will track students over time, and work within school districts to ensure feasibility and use of the assessment system.

The research will build on prior funding by multiple funding agencies and address four major goals. The partnership seeks to address these goals: 1) revising and strengthening the diagnostic assessments in mathematics by adding new item types and dynamic tools for data gathering 2) studying alternative ways to use measurement models to assess student mathematical progress over time using the concept of learning trajectories, 3) investigating how to assist students and teachers to effectively interpret reports on math progress, both at the individual and the class level, and 4) engineering and studying instructional strategies based on student results and interpretations, as they are implemented within competency-based and personalized learning classrooms. The learning map, assessment system, and analytics are open source and can be used by other research and implementation teams. The project will exhibit broad impact due to the number of states, school districts and varied kinds of schools seeking this kind of resource as a means to improve instruction. Finally, the research project contributes to the nationally supported move to create, use, and apply research based open educational resources at scale.

Improving the Implementation of Rigorous Instructional Materials in Middle-Grades Mathematics: Developing a System of Practical Measures and Routines (Collaborative Research: Smith)

The goal of this project is to improve the implementation of rigorous instructional materials in middle-grades mathematics at scale through a system of practical measures and routines for collecting and using data that both assesses and supports implementation.

Award Number: 
1621238
Funding Period: 
Sat, 10/01/2016 to Thu, 09/30/2021
Full Description: 

The goal of this 5-year research project is to improve the implementation of rigorous instructional materials in middle-grades mathematics at scale. Many projects seek to improve mathematics instruction, but are not able to easily track their efforts at improvement. The primary product of this project will be a system of practical measures and routines for collecting and using data that both assesses and supports the implementation of rigorous instructional materials in middle-grades mathematics. In contrast to research and accountability measures, practical measures are assessments that require little time to administer and can thus be used frequently. The data can be analyzed rapidly so that teachers can receive prompt feedback on their progress, and instructional leaders can use the data to decide where to target resources to support improvement in the quality of instruction and student learning. The system of practical measures and routines will include 1) measures of high-leverage aspects of teachers' instructional practices that have been linked to student learning (e.g., rigor of tasks, quality of students' discourse) and attend to equitable student participation; and 2) measures of high-leverage aspects of key supports for improving the quality of teachers' practice (e.g., quality of professional development; coaching); and 3) a set of routines regarding how to use the resulting data to engage in rapid, improvement efforts. A key principle of the proposed project is that the system of measures and routines can be adapted to a wide range of school and district contexts. This project is supported by the Discovery Research preK-12 (DRK-12) program. The DRK-12 program supports research and development of STEM education innovations and approaches in assessment, learning, and teaching.

The project will establish three research-practice partnerships with five districts, in three different states, that are currently implementing rigorous instructional materials in middle-grades mathematics. Year 1 will focus on the development of a set of practical measures of classroom instruction. Year 2 will focus on testing the use of the classroom measures in the context of supports for teachers' learning, and the development of practical measures of key supports for teachers' learning. Years 3-4 will focus on how the project can "learn our way to scale" (Bryk et al., 2015), which requires strategically implementing measures and routines in increasingly diverse conditions. The project will engage in rapid improvement cycles in which researchers will work alongside district leaders and professional development (PD) facilitators to analyze the data from the measures of both classroom instruction and the quality of support for teacher learning to test the effectiveness of improvements in intended supports for teacher learning and to adjust the design of the support based on data. Across Years 1-4, the project will use recent developments in technology and information visualization to test and improve 1) the collection of practical measures in situ and 2) the design of data representations (or visualizations) that support teachers and leaders to make instructional improvement decisions. In Year 5, the project will conduct formal analyses of the relations between supports for teachers' learning; teachers' knowledge and classroom practices; and student learning.

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.

Organizing to Learn Practice: Teacher Learning in Classroom-Focused Professional Development

This project addresses the fundamental challenge of how to support teachers to improve their practice. The approach uses a "live mathematics classroom" as a common text for working on practice, where participants are not only watching and discussing but are engaged in developing and learning practice. The project will generate new knowledge regarding ways in which elementary teachers of mathematics can be supported to learn effective teaching practice.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621104
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

Growing evidence about the powerful effects of skillful teaching on students' learning creates a need to for professional development that impacts teachers' actual practice. Just as other professions (e.g., nursing, social work, law) have centered practitioners' learning in "live" practice with structures that support learning in context, the project will investigate whether and how this can be accomplished in teaching. The approach uses a "live mathematics classroom" as a common text for working on practice, where participants are not only watching and discussing but are engaged in developing and learning practice. The project also explores the following variations in practice-based professional development: (1) on-site and remote participation of teachers; and (2) the addition of supplementary practice-focused professional development. The project will generate new knowledge regarding ways in which elementary teachers of mathematics can be supported to learn effective teaching practice.

This project addresses a fundamental challenge for professional development, that is, how to support teachers to improve their practice. Teachers profit from well-designed opportunities to develop new visions for practice, learn more about students' thinking, or work on specific mathematical topics or tasks. Still, such opportunities are often insufficient to support teachers with the complexity of classroom teaching. These kinds of professional opportunities focus on critical resources for instruction but not on the details of teaching practice itself. This practice-centered professional development is situated within a summer mathematics program for fifth graders. The proposed research will explore the impact on teachers' practice, as well as on their knowledge and dispositions, from participating in these structured ways. Three studies will resolve the following three sets of questions: (1) What do teachers learn from structured participation in the class? Does their participation impact their own teaching practice, and if so, in what ways? (2) Does the setting of the peripheral participation matter? Does this form of participation impact their own teaching practice, and if so, in what ways? (3) Does the addition of professional development focused on a particular teaching practice impact teachers' own practice, and if so, in what ways? How does the addition of professional development focused on a specific instructional practice compare across the in-person and online forms of participation in terms of impact on teachers' own practice? The project will collect and analyze several types of data pre- and post-intervention, including measures of mathematical knowledge for teaching, measures of language for talking about the work of teaching and students, and skill with leading a mathematics discussion, and the mathematical quality of instruction. The project will generate new knowledge related to to organizing professional learning around supports that teachers need to learn practice as well as ways to study their learning of teaching practice.

Modest Supports for Sustaining Professional Development Outcomes over the Long-Term

This study will investigate factors influencing the persistence of teacher change after professional development (PD) experiences, and will examine the extent to which modest supports for science teaching in grades K-5 sustain PD outcomes over the long term.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1620979
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

This study will investigate factors influencing the persistence of teacher change after professional development (PD) experiences, and will examine the extent to which modest supports for science teaching in grades K-5 sustain PD outcomes over the long term. Fifty K-12 teachers who completed one of four PD programs situated in small, rural school districts will be recruited for the study, and they will participate in summer refresher sessions for two days, cluster meetings at local schools twice during the academic year, and optional Webinar sessions two times per year. Electronic supports for participants will include a dedicated email address, a project Facebook page, a biweekly newsletter, and access to archived Webinars on a range of topics related to teaching elementary school science. Modest support for replacement of consumable supplies needed for hands-on classroom activities will also be provided. The project will examine the extent to which these modest supports individually and collectively foster the sustainability of PD outcomes in terms of the instructional time devoted to science, teacher self-efficacy in science, and teacher use of inquiry-based instructional strategies. The effects of contextual factors on sustainability of PD outcomes will also be examined.

This longitudinal study will seek answers to three research questions: 1) To what extent do modest supports foster the sustainability of professional development outcomes in: a) instructional time in science; b) teachers' self-efficacy in science; and c) teachers' use of inquiry-based instructional strategies? 2) Which supports are: a) the most critical for sustainability of outcomes; and b) the most cost-effective; and 3) What contextual factors support or impede the sustainability of professional development outcomes? The project will employ a mixed-methods research design to examine the effects of PD in science among elementary schoolteachers over a 10 to 12 year period that includes a 3-year PD program, a 4-6 year span after the initial PD program, and a 3-year intervention of modest supports. Quantitative and qualitative data will be collected from multiple sources, including: a general survey of participating teachers regarding their beliefs about science, their instructional practices, and their instructional time in science; a teacher self-efficacy measure; intervention feedback surveys; electronic data sources associated with Webinars; teacher interviews; school administrator interviews; and receipts for purchases of classroom supplies. Quantitative data from the teacher survey and self-efficacy measure will be analyzed using hierarchical modeling to examine growth rates after the original PD and the change in growth after the provision of modest supports. Data gathered from other sources will be tracked, coded, and analyzed for each teacher, and linked to the survey and self-efficacy data for analysis by individual teacher, by grade level, by school, by district, and by original PD experience. Together, these data will enable the project team to address the project's research questions, with particular emphasis on determining the extent to which teachers make use of the various supports offered, and identifying the most cost-effective and critical supports.

Supporting Instructional Growth in Mathematics: Enhancing Urban Secondary Teachers' Professional Learning through Formative Feedback

This project will explore the potential of video-based formative feedback to enhance professional development around ambitious instruction for secondary teachers in urban schools.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1620920
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

Research continues to show the benefits of ambitious instruction for student learning of mathematics, yet ambitious instruction continues to be rare in U.S. schools, particularly in schools that serve historically marginalized students. Secondary teachers' learning and enactment of ambitious instruction in mathematics requires conceptual change, and their development could benefit from adequate and timely feedback close to classroom instruction. For this reason, the project will explore the potential of video-based formative feedback to enhance professional development. The focus of the partnership between university researchers and a well-regarded professional development organization, Math for America Los Angeles (MfA LA) will be on career-long learning of secondary mathematics teachers in urban schools. Results from this project will provide a theory of mathematics teachers' learning that can inform other instructional improvement efforts, with ecological validity in the critical site of urban schools. The framework and theory will be detailed at the level of specific tools and concrete practices that are learnable by teachers, school leaders, or instructional coaches. This project is funded by the Discovery Research Pre-K-12 Program, which funds research and development of STEM innovations and approaches in assessment, teaching and learning.

The question the project will address is: How can the project use formative feedback to enhance mathematics teachers' professional learning environments that support their development of ambitious instruction in urban schools? Formative feedback refers to tools and processes that ascertain teachers' current understandings and responsively adapt learning activities to better guide them toward their learning goals. Professional learning environments refer to the multiple sites of teachers' learning, from formal professional development activities to their school workplace. Ambitious instruction is defined as teaching approaches that aim to provide all students with ample opportunities to develop conceptual understanding of key mathematical ideas, participate in mathematical argumentation, connect multiple mathematical representations, as well as become fluent with mathematical procedures and processes. The persistence of typical mathematics instruction is framed as, in large part, an issue of teacher learning. Using design-based implementation research and interpretive methods, the project team will co-develop video-based formative assessment processes to guide teachers' evolving classroom practice.

Synchronous Online Professional Learning Experiences for Middle Grades Mathematics Teachers in Rural Contexts

This project will develop and implement an innovative online mathematics professional development model designed to provide growth opportunities for teachers in rural districts who normally lack access to such opportunities. The project will focus on developing teacher capacity to enact ambitious, responsive instruction aligned with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM), and thus will be sustained, interactive, and of sufficient duration to help teachers transform their practices.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1620911
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

All teachers need access to high quality professional development in order to meet the needs of students and teach mathematics as outlined in college and career-ready standards. Online professional development has the potential to expand access to under-resourced areas, including urban districts, and teachers who wish to participate in communities of inquiry but do not have local access to such communities. Building on research on effective face-to-face professional development, including research from the emerging fields of content-focused coaching and video coaching, this project will design and study professional development for middle grades mathematics teachers in rural communities. As schools turn to digital learning contexts, it is inevitable that professional development will follow a similar trend. It is imperative to have research-based models that demonstrate how the features of high-quality face-to-face professional development can be matched or augmented in online contexts. The study has the potential to contribute to research on professional development, especially in the growing areas of online professional development and coaching, and will build from and contribute to the literature on the impact of multiple modalities and synchronicities in online contexts. The project will address the critical need for models of professional development for teachers in rural areas, which has a limited research base. This project is funded by the Discovery Research PreK-12 (DRK-12) Program. The DRK-12 program supports research and development on STEM education innovations and approaches to teaching, learning, and assessment.

The project will develop and implement an innovative online mathematics professional development model designed to provide growth opportunities for teachers in rural districts who normally lack access to such opportunities. The study will take place in two geographically disparate locations in order to research the effectiveness of the model across contexts and to explore the resources and constraints involved in scaling up the model. The project will focus on developing teacher capacity to enact ambitious, responsive instruction aligned with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM), and thus will be sustained, interactive, and of sufficient duration to help teachers transform their practices. In the design of the professional development, the project will leverage features of emerging technologies that are multimodal and involve a mix of synchronous/ asynchronous communication. The most innovative feature is the online video coaching in which a teacher and coach separately will view and notate video of the teacher's enactment of a collaboratively planned lesson as a precursor to the online post-lesson debriefing. Building from design-based research principles, the project will incorporate iterative cycles of data collection, analysis, reflection, and revision that will explore the effectiveness of the model and inform revisions.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Synchronous Online Professional Development Model

Presenter(s): Jeffrey Choppin, Julie Amador, Cynthia Carson, Ryan Gillespie, Stephanie Martin, & Kristana Textor


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