Disciplinary Content Knowledge

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.

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.

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.

Connected Biology: Three-Dimensional Learning from Molecules to Populations (Collaborative Research: White)

This project will design, develop, and examine the learning outcomes of a new curriculum unit for biology that embodies the conceptual framework of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The curriculum materials to be developed by this project will focus on two areas of study that are central to the life sciences: genetics and the processes of evolution by natural selection.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1620746
Funding Period: 
Sat, 10/01/2016 to Thu, 09/30/2021
Full Description: 

This project will contribute to this mission by designing, developing, and examining the learning outcomes of a new curriculum unit for biology that embodies the conceptual framework of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The curriculum materials to be developed by this project will focus on two areas of study that are central to the life sciences: genetics and the processes of evolution by natural selection. These traditionally separate topics will be interlinked and will be designed to engage students in the disciplinary core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and the science and engineering practices defined by the NGSS. Once developed, the curriculum materials will be available online for use in high school biology courses nationwide.

This project will be guided by two main research questions: 1) How does learning progress when students experience a set of coherent biology learning materials that employ the principles of three-dimensional learning?; and 2) How do students' abilities to transfer understanding about the relationships between molecules, cells, organisms, and evolution change over time and from one biological phenomenon to another? The project will follow an iterative development plan involving cycles of designing, developing, testing and refining elements of the new curricular model. The project team will work with master teachers to design learning sequences that use six case studies to provide examples of how genetic and evolutionary processes are interlinked. An online data exploration environment will extend learning by enabling students to simulate phenomena being studied and explore data from multiple experimental trials as they seek patterns and construct cause-and-effect explanations of phenomena. Student learning will be measured using a variety of assessment tools, including multiple-choice assessment of student understanding, surveys, classroom observations and interviews, and embedded assessments and log files from the online learning environment.


Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: ConnectedBio: Interactive Evolution Across Biological Scales

Presenter(s): Kiley McElroy-Brown, Rebecca Ellis, & Frieda Reichsman


Developing Preservice Elementary Teachers' Ability to Facilitate Goal-Oriented Discussions in Science and Mathematics via the Use of Simulated Classroom Interactions

The project will develop, pilot, and validate eight discussion-oriented performance tasks that will be embedded in an online simulated classroom environment. The resulting research and development products could be used nationwide in teacher preparation and professional development settings to assess and develop teachers' ability to support classroom discussion in science and mathematics.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621344
Funding Period: 
Mon, 08/01/2016 to Fri, 07/31/2020
Full Description: 

There is widespread recognition in educational literatures that academic discourse is important for supporting students' developing understanding in the disciplines of science and mathematics. College and career-ready standards also call for attention to supporting students' learning of how to think and communicate like disciplinary experts. The teaching practice of orchestrating classroom discussion is intended to support students in obtaining higher levels of academic achievement but also to support students' participation in a democratic society. However, research has found that teachers--particularly novice teachers--struggle to orchestrate discussion effectively for science and mathematics. The investigators of this project hypothesize that opportunities to 1) practice orchestrating discussions in simulated classroom environments; 2) receive constructive feedback on their practice; and 3) reflect on that feedback and their experiences with peers and teacher educators, develops preservice teachers' abilities to lead productive classroom discussion. This may allow them to be more effective at orchestrating discussion when they begin teaching real students in science and mathematics classrooms. The project team, which includes investigators from Educational Testing Service (ETS) and software engineers at Mursion, will develop, pilot, and validate eight discussion-oriented performance tasks that will be embedded in an online simulated classroom environment. The resulting research and development products could be used nationwide in teacher preparation and professional development settings to assess and develop teachers' ability to support classroom discussion in science and mathematics.

The Discovery Research K-12 (DRK-12) program 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. 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 Early Stage Design and Development project will 1) iteratively develop, pilot, and refine eight science and mathematics discussion-oriented performance tasks (six formative, two summative), scoring rubrics, and rater training materials; 2) deploy the intervention in four university sites, collecting data from 240 prospective teachers in both treatment and business-as-usual courses; and 3) use data analyses and expert review to build a five-part argument for the validity of the assessment and scoring rubrics. Data sources include prospective teachers' background and demographic information, cognitive interviews, surveys, scores on content knowledge for teaching (CKT) instruments, performance and scores on the developed performance tasks, discussion scores on Danielson's Framework for Teaching observation protocol, and case study interviews with prospective teachers. The project team will also conduct interviews with teacher educators and observe classroom debrief sessions with prospective teachers and their teacher educators. The research will examine each teacher's scores on two summative performance tasks administered pre- and post-intervention and will look for evidence of growth across three formative tasks. Linear regression models will be used to understand relationships among teachers' CKT scores, pre-intervention performance task scores, group assignment, and post-intervention performance task scores. A grounded theory approach to coding qualitative data of 24 case study teachers, observations of debrief sessions, and interviews with teacher educators will generate descriptive use cases, illustrating how the tools can support prospective teachers in learning how to facilitate discussions focused on science and mathematics argumentation. Mursion will develop a webpage on its website dedicated to this project that will allow the team to post the new performance-based tasks, scoring rubrics, and examples of performance in the simulated environment for teacher educators, educational researchers, and policy makers and collect feedback from them that can be used as another information source for refining tools and their use. Research findings will also be disseminated by more traditional means, such as papers in peer-reviewed research and practitioner journals and conference presentations.


Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Tales from the Sandbox: Learning through Simulated Teaching

Presenter(s): Heather Howell, Jamie Mikeska, & Carrie Straub

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Simulated Classrooms as Practice-Based Learning Spaces

Presenter(s): Jamie Mikeska, Heather Howell, & Carrie Straub

2018 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Leading Science/Math Discussions in a Simulated Classroom

Presenter(s): Heather Howell, Jamie Mikeska, & Carrie Straub

 2017 STEM for All Video Showcase
Title: Simulated Classroom Environments for Discussions

Presenter(s): Jamie Mikeska, Heather Howell, & Carrie Straub


CAREER: Multilevel Mediation Models to Study the Impact of Teacher Development on Student Achievement in Mathematics

This project will develop a comprehensive framework to inform and guide the analytic design of teacher professional development studies in mathematics. An essential goal of the research is to advance a science of teaching and learning in ways that traverse both research and education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1552535
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2016 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

This is a Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) project. The CAREER program is a National Science Foundation-wide activity that offers the most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research. The intellectual merit and broader impacts of this study lie in two complementary contributions of the project. First, the development of the statistical framework for the design of multilevel mediation studies has significant potential for broad impact because it develops a core platform that is transferable to other STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education areas and STEM disciplines. Second, the development of software and curricular materials to implement this framework further capitalize on the promise of this work because it distributes the results in an accessible manner to diverse sets of research and practitioner groups across STEM education areas and STEM disciplines. Together, the components of this project will substantially expand the scope and quality of evidence generated through mathematics professional development and, more generally, multilevel mediation studies throughout STEM areas by increasing researchers' capacity to design valid and comprehensive studies of the theories of action and change that underlie research programs.

This project will develop a comprehensive framework to inform and guide the analytic design of teacher professional development studies in mathematics. The proposed framework incorporates four integrated research and education components: (1) develop statistical formulas and tools to guide the optimal design of experimental and non-experimental multilevel mediation studies in the presence of measurement error, (2) develop empirical estimates of the parameters needed to implement these formulas to design teacher development studies in mathematics, (3) develop free and accessible software to execute this framework, and (4) develop training materials and conduct workshops on the framework to improve the capacity of the field to design effective and efficient studies of teacher development. An essential goal of the research is to advance a science of teaching and learning in ways that traverse both research and education.

Supporting Teacher Practice to Facilitate and Assess Oral Scientific Argumentation: Embedding a Real-Time Assessment of Speaking and Listening into an Argumentation-Rich Curriculum (Collaborative Research: Greenwald)

The fundamental purpose of this project is to support teacher practice and professional learning around oral scientific argumentation in order to improve the quality of this practice in classrooms. The key outcome of this work will be a research-informed and field-tested prototype to improve the quality of teaching and learning argumentation in middle school science classrooms usable in different learning environments.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621441
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

This is an early-stage design and development collaborative study submitted to the assessment strand of the Discovery Research PreK-12 (DRK-12) program, in response to Program Solicitation NSF 15-592. The fundamental purpose of this project is to support teacher practice and professional learning around oral scientific argumentation in order to improve the quality of this practice in classrooms. To achieve this purpose, the project will examine the validity of a new technology-based formative assessment tool for classroom argumentation--"Diagnosing the Argumentation Levels of Groups" (DiALoG)--for which psychometric validation work has been conducted in a laboratory setting. The DiALoG assessment tool allows teachers to document classroom talk and display scores across multiple dimensions--both intrapersonal and interpersonal--for formative assessment purposes. The project will work with 6th-8th grade science teachers to monitor and support argumentation through real-time formative assessment data generated by the DiALoG instrument. DiALoG will be used in conjunction with "Amplify Science", a Lawrence Hall of Science-developed curriculum that incorporates the science practice of engaging in argument from evidence, and a suite of newly developed Responsive Mini-Lessons (RMLs), which consist of 20-30 minute instructional strategies designed to assist teachers to provide feedback to students' thinking and follow-up to argumentation episodes that the DiALoG tool identifies in need of further support. The study will allow the refinement and expansion of DiALoG and evaluation of its impact on teacher pedagogical content knowledge and formative assessment practices in widespread classroom use.

The project will address two specific research questions: (1) How can DiALoG be refined to provide a formative assessment tool for oral argumentation that is reliable, practical, and useful in middle school classrooms?; and (2) How does the use of DiALoG affect teacher formative assessment practices around evidence-based argumentation, when implementing science units designed to support oral argumentation? In order to answer these questions, the project will conduct a randomized control trial with 100 teachers: 50 will teach argumentation-focused curriculum with DiALoG, 50 will teach the same curriculum without DiALoG. Both control and treatment teachers will receive all digital and physical materials needed to teach three Amplify Science curriculum units. Treatment teachers will be provided also with the most recent version of DiALoG, including the linked RMLs, as well as support materials for using DiALoG with the Amplify curriculum. A subgroup of focus teachers (5 from the treatment group, and 5 from the control group) will be the subject of additional data collection and analysis. Three focus lessons, in which students are engaging in small-group or whole-class oral argumentation, will be selected from each of the three Amplify Science curricular units. Teacher measures for the randomized control trial will include validated instruments, such as (a) a pre- and post-assessment of teacher pedagogical content knowledge; (b) post-lesson and post-unit surveys in which teachers will self-report on their formative assessment practices; and (c) video recordings of selected lessons in the focus classrooms. In order to observe potential differences in formative assessment practices between treatment and control, protocols will be used to analyze the video recordings of focus classrooms, including (a) Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol; (b) Assessment of Scientific Argumentation inside the Classroom; and (c) Formative Assessment for Teachers and Students. The key outcome of this work will be a research-informed and field-tested prototype to improve the quality of teaching and learning argumentation in middle school science classrooms usable in different learning environments.

CAREER: Investigating Fifth Grade Teachers' Knowledge of Noticing Appalachian Students' Thinking in Science

This project will investigate teachers' knowledge of noticing students' science thinking. The project will examine teacher noticing in practice, use empirical evidence to model the teacher knowledge involved, and design teacher learning materials informed by the model. The outcomes of this project will be a model of teachers' knowledge of noticing Appalachian students' thinking in science and the design of web-based interactive instructional materials supporting teachers' knowledge construction around noticing Appalachian students' thinking in science.

Award Number: 
1552428
Funding Period: 
Fri, 07/01/2016 to Wed, 06/30/2021
Full Description: 

Based on findings from research on effective science teaching supporting the notion that meaningful learning occurs when teachers attend to students' thinking, this project will conduct an in-depth investigation of teachers' knowledge of noticing students' science thinking in terms of what they do and say, to not only attend to their ideas, but also to make sense of and respond to those ideas. The work will be grounded on the premise that there is a relationship between teachers' practice and knowledge, and that it is possible to observe practice in order to infer knowledge. The project will examine teacher noticing in practice, use empirical evidence to model the specialized teacher knowledge involved, and design teacher learning materials informed by the model. The setting of the study will include an existing school-university partnership serving diverse student populations in Appalachian communities, where students significantly underperform nationally in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics areas across grades levels. It will target fifth grade science teachers' noticing their students' thinking as they engage in science learning in six rural and semi-rural elementary schools.

The three research questions will be: (1) What disciplinary ideas in students' thinking do elementary teachers notice in practice?; (2) What knowledge do elementary teachers draw on when noticing the disciplinary ideas in students' thinking in practice?; and (3) How does a set of web-based interactive instructional materials support teachers' knowledge construction around noticing the disciplinary ideas in students' thinking in science? In order to investigate teachers' noticing students' thinking, and answer the research questions, the project will use two wearable technologies to collect data of teachers' "in-the-moment" noticing while engaged in planning, instructional, and assessment activities. One is a point-of-view digital video system consisting of three parts: a small video camera, a hand-held remote, and a separate recording module. The other is an audio-recording wristband with a recording mode allowing the user to capture previous one-minute loops of audio data. An audio loop is saved whenever the user taps the wristband. Data will be analyzed for evidence of students' disciplinary knowledge and skills in order to give insight of teachers' knowledge involved in noticing each instance using the three interconnected dimensions featured in "A Framework for K-12 Science Education" (National Research Council, 2012). The project will consist of four strands of work: (1) empirically investigating teachers' noticing of students' thinking; (2) developing an initial conceptual model of teachers' knowledge of noticing students' thinking; (3) conducting design-based research to develop instructional materials supporting teachers' knowledge construction around noticing students' thinking in science; and (4) producing and disseminating these instructional materials through an interactive web-based platform. The main outcomes of this project will be (a) an empirically grounded model of fifth grade teachers' knowledge of noticing Appalachian students' thinking in science; and (b) the design of web-based interactive instructional materials supporting fifth grade teachers' knowledge construction around noticing Appalachian students' thinking in science. These outcomes will serve as the foundation for a more comprehensive future research agenda testing and refining the initial model and instructional materials in other learning environments in order to eventually contribute to a practice-based theory of teachers' knowledge of noticing students' thinking in science to inform and impact science teaching practice. An advisory board will oversee the project's progress, and an external evaluator will conduct both formative and summative evaluation.

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