Pedagogical Content Knowledge

Instructional Leadership for Scientific Practices: Resources for Principals in Evaluating and Supporting Teachers' Science Instruction

This project will research the knowledge and supervision skills principals' and other instructional leaders' need to support teachers in successfully integrating scientific practices into their instruction, and develop innovative resources to support these leaders with a particular focus on high-minority, urban schools. The project will contribute to the emerging but limited literature on instructional leadership in science at the K-8 school level. 

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1415541
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Thu, 08/31/2017
Full Description: 

Although K-8 principals are responsible for instructional improvement across all subject areas, their focus has traditionally been on literacy and mathematics and only occasionally on science content and practice. New standards and assessments in science require that principals and other instructional leaders provide significant support to teachers to help them successfully integrate scientific practices into their instruction. There is evidence that these instructional leaders often lack the knowledge, resources or skills to provide this support. This project will research the knowledge and supervision skills principals' and other instructional leaders' need to support teachers in successfully integrating scientific practices into their instruction, and develop innovative resources to support these leaders with a particular focus on high-minority, urban schools. The project will contribute to the emerging but limited literature on instructional leadership in science at the K-8 school level.

The resources developed will involve: (1) Introducing scientific practices (including rationales, descriptions and vignettes illustrating each of the 8 scientific practices); (2) Using tools in schools (providing an observation protocol, teacher feedback form and improvement planning template); and (3) Analyzing sample video (including links to video of K-8 science instruction, completed supervision tools, explanations of their coding, and discussion of how to use them with teachers). The project will conduct in-depth interviews with four principals, work with 25 principals in the Boston Public Schools to iteratively design and test the resources. The project will also develop a measure of Leadership Content Knowledge of Scientific Practices (LCK-SP) which will be used to assess principals' knowledge. The project's research component will: (1) investigate principals' current knowledge about scientific practices and methods for supervision of science instruction; and (2) examine how resources can be designed to support instructional leaders' content knowledge of scientific practices.

GRIDS: Graphing Research on Inquiry with Data in Science

The Graphing Research on Inquiry with Data in Science (GRIDS) project will investigate strategies to improve middle school students' science learning by focusing on student ability to interpret and use graphs. GRIDS will undertake a comprehensive program to address the need for improved graph comprehension. The project will create, study, and disseminate technology-based assessments, technologies that aid graph interpretation, instructional designs, professional development, and learning materials.

Award Number: 
1418423
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

The Graphing Research on Inquiry with Data in Science (GRIDS) project is a four-year full design and development proposal, addressing the learning strand, submitted to the DR K-12 program at the NSF. GRIDS will investigate strategies to improve middle school students' science learning by focusing on student ability to interpret and use graphs. In middle school math, students typically graph only linear functions and rarely encounter features used in science, such as units, scientific notation, non-integer values, noise, cycles, and exponentials. Science teachers rarely teach about the graph features needed in science, so students are left to learn science without recourse to what is inarguably a key tool in learning and doing science. GRIDS will undertake a comprehensive program to address the need for improved graph comprehension. The project will create, study, and disseminate technology-based assessments, technologies that aid graph interpretation, instructional designs, professional development, and learning materials.

GRIDS will start by developing the GRIDS Graphing Inventory (GGI), an online, research-based measure of graphing skills that are relevant to middle school science. The project will address gaps revealed by the GGI by designing instructional activities that feature powerful digital technologies including automated guidance based on analysis of student generated graphs and student writing about graphs. These materials will be tested in classroom comparison studies using the GGI to assess both annual and longitudinal progress. Approximately 30 teachers selected from 10 public middle schools will participate in the project, along with approximately 4,000 students in their classrooms. A series of design studies will be conducted to create and test ten units of study and associated assessments, and a minimum of 30 comparison studies will be conducted to optimize instructional strategies. The comparison studies will include a minimum of 5 experiments per term, each with 6 teachers and their 600-800 students. The project will develop supports for teachers to guide students to use graphs and science knowledge to deepen understanding, and to develop agency and identity as science learners.

From Elementary Generalist to Mathematics Specialist: Examining Teacher Practice and Student Outcomes in Departmental and Self-Contained Models

This research investigates student mathematics learning outcomes at the elementary level in relation to teacher expertise (elementary teachers with math specialist certification versus generally prepared elementary teachers) and school organization (departmentalized versus self-contained mathematics classrooms). Findings will provide evidence of the impact of content-specific teacher expertise and a departmentalized school organizational model that offers students access to well-qualified teachers of mathematics with no additional staffing costs.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1414438
Funding Period: 
Fri, 08/01/2014 to Tue, 07/31/2018
Full Description: 

This research investigates student mathematics learning outcomes at the elementary level in relation to teacher expertise (elementary teachers with math specialist certification versus generally prepared elementary teachers) and school organization (departmentalized versus self-contained mathematics classrooms). University of Missouri researchers will organize and facilitate the research in multiple Missouri public and private school sites. Findings will provide evidence of the impact of content-specific teacher expertise and a departmentalized school organizational model that offers students access to well-qualified teachers of mathematics with no additional staffing costs. To investigate the impact of teacher expertise and school organization on student learning experimental, quasi-experimental, and qualitative designs are employed. Specifically, 80 teachers who have earned state certification as Elementary Mathematics Specialists (hereafter, "EMS teachers") will be selected to participate in the study. Employing a randomized experimental design, half of the EMS teachers will be assigned to teach in a departmental model (Condition 1) in their school, teaching two or more sections of grade 4 mathematics. The other half will remain in generalist (hereafter, self-contained) positions (Condition 2) in their school, teaching all regular subjects to a single class of students. A comparison group of 40 non-EMS teachers with self-contained teaching assignments (Condition 3) will be selected from the same schools in Condition 2. The Smarter Balanced assessment will provide a baseline measure of students' prior achievement in grade 3 and also a measure of the mathematics achievement of grade 4 students taught by the 120 teachers in the study. The project team will analyze student-level mathematics scores linked with specific teachers.

Improving student achievement in mathematics at the elementary level is particularly challenging due to the way elementary students are generally organized for instruction (e.g., one teacher responsible for teaching all subjects to 25-30 students). Because elementary teachers must be knowledgeable about many content areas, they rarely study mathematics in depth, even though there is a growing body of evidence showing the impact of specialized mathematical knowledge for teaching on student learning outcomes. This study carefully researches an alternative model, where elementary teachers with special training in mathematics teaching and learning are assigned more than one single class of students for mathematics instruction. Findings from the research will provide evidence about the impact of both certification as an elementary mathematics specialist and teaching in a departmental assignment on student learning. The results will help school and district leaders better plan for assignment of staff to provide all students with access to high quality mathematics instruction.

Focus on Energy: Preparing Elementary Teachers to Meet the NGSS Challenge (Collaborative Research: Seeley)

This project will develop and investigate the opportunities and limitations of Focus on Energy, a professional development (PD) system for elementary teachers (grades 3-5). The PD will contain: resources that will help teachers to interpret, evaluate and cultivate students' ideas about energy; classroom activities to help them to identify, track and represent energy forms and flows; and supports to help them in engaging students in these activities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1418211
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) identify an ambitious progression for learning energy, beginning in elementary school. To help the nation's teachers address this challenge, this project will develop and investigate the opportunities and limitations of Focus on Energy, a professional development (PD) system for elementary teachers (grades 3-5). The PD will contain: resources that will help teachers to interpret, evaluate and cultivate students' ideas about energy; classroom activities to help them to identify, track and represent energy forms and flows; and supports to help them in engaging students in these activities. Teachers will receive the science and pedagogical content knowledge they need to teach about energy in a crosscutting way across all their science curricula; students will be intellectually engaged in the practice of developing, testing, and revising a model of energy they can use to describe phenomena both in school and in their everyday lives; and formative assessment will guide the moment-by-moment advancement of students' ideas about energy.

This project will develop and test a scalable model of PD that will enhance the ability of in-service early elementary teachers to help students learn energy concepts by coordinating formative assessment, face-to-face and web-based PD activities. Researchers will develop and iteratively refine tools to assess both teacher and student energy reasoning strategies. The goals of the project include (1) teachers' increased facility with, and disciplined application of, representations and energy reasoning to make sense of everyday phenomena in terms of energy; (2) teachers' increased ability to interpret student representations and ideas about energy to make instructional decisions; and (3) students' improved use of representations and energy reasoning to develop and refine models that describe energy forms and flows associated with everyday phenomena. The web-based product will contain: a set of formative assessments to help teachers to interpret student ideas about energy based on the Facets model; a series of classroom tested activities to introduce the Energy Tracking Lens (method to explore energy concept using multiple representations); and videos of classroom exemplars as well as scientists thinking out loud while using the Energy Tracking Lens. The project will refine the existing PD and build a system that supports online implementation by constructing a facilitator's guide so that the online community can run with one facilitator.

EarSketch: An Authentic, Studio-based STEAM Approach to High School Computing Education

This project will study the influence on positive student achievement and engagement (particularly among populations traditionally under-represented in computer science) of an intervention that integrates a computational music remixing tool -EarSketch- with the Computer Science Principles, a view of computing literacy that is emerging as a new standard for Advanced Placement and other high school computer science courses.

Award Number: 
1417835
Funding Period: 
Fri, 08/01/2014 to Tue, 07/31/2018
Project Evaluator: 
Mary Moriarity
Full Description: 

This project will study the influence on positive student achievement and engagement (particularly among populations traditionally under-represented in computer science) of an intervention that integrates a computational music remixing tool -EarSketch- with the Computer Science Principles, a view of computing literacy that is emerging as a new standard for Advanced Placement and other high school computer science courses. The project is grounded on the premise that EarSketch, a STEM + Art (STEAM) learning environment, embodies authenticity (i.e., its cultural and industry relevance in both arts and STEM domains), along with a context that facilitates communication and collaboration among students (i.e., through a studio-based learning approach). These elements are critical to achieving successful outcomes across diverse student populations. Using agent-based modeling, the research team will investigate what factors enhance or impede implementation of authentic STEAM tools in different school settings.

The researchers will be engaged in a multi-stage process to develop: a) an implementation-ready, web-based EarSketch learning environment that integrates programming, digital audio workstation, curriculum, audio loop library, and social sharing features, along with studio-based learning functionality to support student presentation, critique, discussion, and collaboration; and b) an online professional learning course for teachers adopting EarSketch in Computer Science Principles courses. Using these resources, the team will conduct a quasi-experimental study of EarSketch in Computer Science Principles high school courses across the state of Georgia; measure student learning and engagement across multiple demographic categories; and determine to what extent an EarSketch-based CS Principles course promotes student achievement and engagement across different student populations. The project will include measures of student performance, creativity, collaboration, and communication in student programming tasks to determine the extent to which studio-based learning in EarSketch promotes success in these important areas. An agent-based modeling framework in multiple school settings will be developed to determine what factors enhance or impede implementation of EarSketch under conditions of routine practice.

Changing Culture in Robotics Classroom (Collaborative Research: Shoop)

Computational and algorithmic thinking are new basic skills for the 21st century. Unfortunately few K-12 schools in the United States offer significant courses that address learning these skills. However many schools do offer robotics courses. These courses can incorporate computational thinking instruction but frequently do not. This research project aims to address this problem by developing a comprehensive set of resources designed to address teacher preparation, course content, and access to resources.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1418199
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Thu, 08/31/2017
Full Description: 

Computational and algorithmic thinking are new basic skills for the 21st century. Unfortunately few K-12 schools in the United States offer significant courses that address learning these skills. However many schools do offer robotics courses. These courses can incorporate computational thinking instruction but frequently do not. This research project aims to address this problem by developing a comprehensive set of resources designed to address teacher preparation, course content, and access to resources. This project builds upon a ten year collaboration between Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Academy and the University of Pittsburgh's Learning Research and Development Center that studied how teachers implement robotics education in their classrooms and developed curricula that led to significant learning gains. This project will address the following three questions:

1.What kinds of resources are useful for motivating and preparing teachers to teach computational thinking and for students to learn computational thinking?

2.Where do teachers struggle most in teaching computational thinking principles and what kinds of supports are needed to address these weaknesses?

3.Can virtual environments be used to significantly increase access to computational thinking principles?

The project will augment traditional robotics classrooms and competitions with Robot Virtual World (RVW) that will scaffold student access to higher-order problems. These virtual robots look just like real-world robots and will be programmed using identical tools but have zero mechanical error. Because dealing with sensor, mechanical, and actuator error adds significant noise to the feedback students' receive when programming traditional robots (thus decreasing the learning of computational principles), the use of virtual robots will increase the learning of robot planning tasks which increases learning of computational thinking principles. The use of RVW will allow the development of new Model-Eliciting Activities using new virtual robotics challenges that reward creativity, abstraction, algorithms, and higher level programming concepts to solve them. New curriculum will be developed for the advanced concepts to be incorporated into existing curriculum materials. The curriculum and learning strategies will be implemented in the classroom following teacher professional development focusing on computational thinking principles. The opportunities for incorporating computationally thinking principles in the RVW challenges will be assessed using detailed task analyses. Additionally regression analyses of log-files will be done to determine where students have difficulties. Observations of classrooms, surveys of students and teachers, and think-alouds will be used to assess the effectiveness of the curricula in addition to pre-and post- tests to determine student learning outcomes.

Centers for Learning and Teaching: Research to Identify Changes in Mathematics Education Doctoral Preparation and the Production of New Doctorates

This project will research the programmatic changes that resulted from the NSF investment in Centers for Learning and Teaching of Mathematics (CLT) at the 31 participating institutions. It will provide information on the core elements of doctoral preparation in mathematics education at the institutions and ways in which participation in the CLTs has changed their programs.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1434442
Funding Period: 
Fri, 08/01/2014 to Tue, 07/31/2018
Full Description: 

The quality of the mathematical education provided to teachers and ultimately to their students depends on the quality of teacher educators at the colleges and universities. For several decades, there has been a shortage of well-prepared mathematics teacher educators. Doctoral programs in mathematics education are the primary ways that these teacher educators learn the content and methods that they need to prepare teachers, but the quality of these programs varies and the number of qualified graduates has been insufficient to meet the demand.

This project will research the programmatic changes that resulted from the NSF investment in Centers for Learning and Teaching of Mathematics (CLT) at the 31 participating institutions. It will provide information on the core elements of doctoral preparation in mathematics education at the institutions and ways in which participation in the CLTs has changed their programs. It will also gather data on the number of doctorates in mathematics education from the CLT institutions prior to the establishment of the CLT and after their CLT ended. A comparison group of Doctoral granting institutions will be studied over the same time frame to determine the number of doctoral students graduated during similar time frames as the CLTs. Follow-up data from graduates of the CLTs will be gathered to identify programmatic strengths and weaknesses as graduates will be asked to reflect on how their doctoral preparation aligned with their current career path. The research questions are: What were the effects of CLTs on the production of new doctorates in mathematics education? What changes were made to doctoral programs in mathematics education by the CLT institutions? How well prepared were the CLT graduates for various career paths?

Bio-Sphere: Fostering Deep Learning of Complex Biology for Building our Next Generation's Scientists

The goal of this project is to help middle school students, particularly in rural and underserved areas, develop deep scientific knowledge and knowledge of the practices and routines of science. Research teams will develop an innovative learning environment called Bio-Sphere, which will foster learning of complex science issues through hands-on design and engineering.

Award Number: 
1418044
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

Today's citizens face profound questions in science. Preparing future generations of scientists is crucial if the United States is to remain competitive in a technology-focused economy. The biological sciences are of particular importance for addressing some of today's complex problems, such as sustainability and food production, biofuels, and carbon dioxide and its effect on our environment. Although knowledge in the life sciences is of critical importance, this is an area in which there are significantly fewer studies examining students' conceptions than in physics and chemistry. The goal of this project is to help middle school students, particularly in rural and underserved areas, develop deep scientific knowledge and knowledge of the practices and routines of science. A major strength of Bio-Sphere is the inclusion of hands-on design and engineering in biology, a field in which there are fewer instances of curricula that integrate engineering design at the middle school level. The units will enable an in-depth, cohesive understanding of science content, and Bio-Sphere will be disseminated nationally and internationally through proactive outreach to teachers as well as scholarly publications.

This project addresses the need to inculcate deep learning of complex science by bringing complex socio-scientific issues into middle school classrooms, and providing students with instructional materials that allow them to practice science as scientists do. Research teams will develop, iteratively refine and evaluate an innovative learning environment called Bio-Sphere. Bio-Sphere combines the strengths of hands-on design and engineering, engages students in the practices of science, and fosters learning of complex science issues, especially among underserved populations. Each Bio-Sphere unit presents a complex science issue in the form of a design challenge that students solve by conducting experiments, using visualizations in an electronic textbook, and connecting with the community. The units, aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, provide greater coherence, continuity, and sustained instruction focused on uncovering and integrating key ideas over long periods of time. The project will follow a design-based research methodology. In Phase 1, the Bio-Sphere materials will be developed. Phase 2 will consist of studies in Wisconsin schools to generate existence proofs, i.e., examining enactments with respect to the designed objectives to understand how a design works. Phase 3 studies will focus on practical implementation: how to bring this innovative design to life in very different classroom contexts and without the everyday support of the design team, and will be conducted in rural schools in Alabama and North Carolina.

Climate Change Narrative Game Education (CHANGE)

This exploratory project helps high school students learn complex Global Climate Change (GCC) science by making it personally relevant and understandable. CHANGE creates a prototype curriculum, and integrates it into elective Marine Sciences high school courses. Research will examine the project's impact on student learning of climate science, student attitude toward science, and teacher instruction of climate science.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316782
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/15/2013 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

This exploratory project helps high school students learn complex Global Climate Change (GCC) science by making it personally relevant and understandable. CHANGE creates a prototype curriculum, and integrates it into elective Marine Sciences high school courses. Research will examine the project's impact on student learning of climate science, student attitude toward science, and teacher instruction of climate science. The goal of this project is to develop a place-based futuristic gaming simulation model that can easily extend to the other locales in other states, based on local climate change effects, local stakeholders, local economic and social effects to motivate the high school students in that area. CHANGE uses: (a) scientifically realistic text narratives about future Florida residents (text stories with local Florida characters, many years in the future based on GCC), (b) local, place-based approach grounded in west-central Florida Gulf Coast using scientific data, (c) a focus on the built environment, (d) simulations & games based on scientific data to help students learn principles of GCC so students can experience and try to cope with the potential long term effect of GCC via role-play and science-based simulation, and (e) a web-based eBook narrative where sections of narrative text alternate with simulations/computer games. The proposed project will work with 25 high school Marine Science teachers in 25 schools in Hillsborough County, Florida. The project delivers new research for instructional technologists and serious game developers regarding effective interface and usability design of intermedia narrative gaming-simulations for education.

This project employs and researches innovative models for delivering high school GCC education. GCC is a complex topic involving numerous factors and uncertainties making teaching this extremely important topic very difficult. The pioneering techniques proposed for this project will advance science education of GCC. It also will deliver new research for instructional technologists and serious game developers regarding effective interface and usability design of intermedia narrative gaming-simulations for education. Effective education is probably the most crucial part in our ability to cope with climate change. CHANGE will educate underserved low SES and minority high school students in Hillsborough County, and later elsewhere, with a model making GCC personally relevant to them.

Integrating Quality Talk Professional Development to Enhance Professional Vision and Leadership for STEM Teachers in High-Need Schools

This project expands and augments a currently-funded NSF Noyce Track II teacher recruitment and retention grant with Quality Talk (QT), an innovative, scalable teacher-facilitated discourse model. Over the course of four years, the work will address critical needs in physics and chemistry education in 10th through 12th grade classrooms by strengthening the capacity of participating teachers to design and implement lessons that support effective dialogic interactions.

Award Number: 
1316347
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/15/2013 to Fri, 06/30/2017
Full Description: 

This project expands and augments a currently-funded NSF Noyce Track II teacher recruitment and retention grant with Quality Talk (QT), an innovative, scalable teacher-facilitated discourse model. It is hypothesized that the QT model will enhance pre- and in-service secondary teachers' development of professional vision and leadership skills necessary for 21st century STEM education. Over the course of four years, the work will address critical needs in physics and chemistry education in 10th through 12th grade classrooms in five of Georgia's high-need school districts by strengthening the capacity of participating teachers to design and implement lessons that support effective dialogic interactions. As a result of such interactions, students' scientific literacy will be enhanced, including their ability to participate in content-rich discourse (i.e., QT) through effective disciplinary critical-analytic thinking and epistemic cognition. The contributions of this project, beyond the tangible benefits for teacher and student participants, include the development, refinement, and dissemination of an effective QT intervention and professional developmental framework that the entire science education community can use to promote scientific literacy and understanding.

The project goals are being achieved through a series of three studies employing complementary methods and data sources, and a focus upon dissemination of the model in the final project year. The first two years of the project focus on developing and refining the curricular and intervention efficacy materials using design-based research methods. In Year 3, the project engages in a quasi-experimental study of the refined QT model, followed by further refinements before disseminating the materials both within Georgia and throughout the national science education community in Year 4. Quantitative measures of teacher and student discourse and knowledge, as well as video-coding and qualitative investigations of intervention efficacy, are being analyzed using multiple methods. In collaboration with, but independent from project staff and stakeholders, the participatory and responsive evaluation utilizes a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods to conduct formative and summative evaluation.

Over the course of four years, the project will involve the participation of approximately 32 teachers in Georgia whose students include substantive percentages from populations underrepresented in the STEM fields. In addition to advancing their own students' scientific literacy, these participating teachers receive professional development on how to train other teachers, outside of the project, in using QT to promote scientific literacy. Further, the project will conduct a QT Summit for educational stakeholders and non-participant teachers to disseminate the intervention and professional development model. Finally, the project team will disseminate the findings widely to applied and scholarly communities through a website with materials and PD information (http://www.qualitytalk.org), professional journals, conferences, and NSF's DRK-12 Resource Network. This project, with its focus on teacher leadership and the pedagogical content knowledge necessary to use discourse to promote student science literacy, significantly advances the nation's goals of producing critical consumers and producers of scientific knowledge.

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