Pedagogical Content Knowledge

Cluster Randomized Trial of the Efficacy of Early Childhood Science Education for Low-Income Children

The research goal of this project is to evaluate whether an early childhood science education program, implemented in low-income preschool settings produces measurable impacts for children, teachers, and parents. The study is determining the efficacy of the program on Science curriculum in two models, one in which teachers participate in professional development activities (the intervention), and another in which teachers receive the curriculum and teachers' guide but no professional development (the control).

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
1119327
Funding Period: 
Mon, 08/15/2011 to Mon, 07/31/2017
Project Evaluator: 
Brian Dates, Southwest Counseling Services
Full Description: 

The research goal of this project is to evaluate whether an early childhood science education program, Head Start on Science, implemented in low-income preschool settings (Head Start) produces measurable impacts for children, teachers, and parents. The study is being conducted in eight Head Start programs in Michigan, involving 72 classrooms, 144 teachers, and 576 students and their parents. Partners include Michigan State University, Grand Valley State University, and the 8 Head Start programs. Southwest Counseling Solutions is the external evaluator.

The study is determining the efficacy of the Head Start on Science curriculum in two models, one in which 72 teachers participate in professional development activities (the intervention), and another in which 72 teachers receive the curriculum and teachers' guide but no professional development (the control). The teacher study is a multi-site cluster randomized trial (MSCRT) with the classroom being the unit of randomization. Four time points over two years permit analysis through multilevel latent growth curve models. For teachers, measurement instruments include Attitudes Toward Science (ATS survey), the Head Start on Science Observation Protocol, the Preschool Classroom Science Materials/Equipment Checklist, the Preschool Science Classroom Activities Checklist, and the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS). For students, measures include the "mouse house problem," Knowledge of Biological Properties, the physics of falling objects, the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Fourth Edition, the Expressive Vocabulary Test-2, the Test of Early Mathematics Ability-3, Social Skills Improvement System-Rating Scales, and the Emotion Regulation Checklist. Measures for parents include the Attitudes Toward Science survey, and the Community and Home Activities Related to Science and Technology for Preschool Children (CHARTS/PS). There are Spanish versions of many of these instruments which can be used as needed. The external evaluation is monitoring the project progress toward its objectives and the processes of the research study.

This project meets a critical need for early childhood science education. Research has shown that very young children can achieve significant learning in science. The curriculum Head Start on Science has been carefully designed for 3-5 year old children and is one of only a few science programs for this audience with a national reach. This study intends to provide a sound basis for early childhood science education by demonstrating the efficacy of this important curriculum in the context of a professional development model for teachers.

An Examination of Science and Technology Teachers' Conceptual Learning Through Concept-Based Engineering Professional Development

This project will determine the viability of an engineering concept-based approach to teacher professional development for secondary school science teachers in life science and in physical science. The project refines the conceptual base for engineering at the secondary level learning to increase the understanding of engineering concepts by the science teachers. The hypothesis is that when teachers and students engage with engineering design activities their understanding of science concepts and inquiry are also enhanced.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
1158615
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Mon, 10/31/2011
Project Evaluator: 
Karen Peterman
Full Description: 

Technology educators from Black Hills State University and Purdue University partner with science educators from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and Stevens Institute of Technology to determine the viability of an engineering concept-based approach to teacher professional development for secondary school science teachers in life science and in physical science. The project refines the conceptual base for engineering at the secondary level learning (previously developed by the PIs) to increase the understanding of engineering concepts by the science teachers. In a pilot test of two weeks of professional development with ten teachers from each discipline, teachers become familiar with engineering concepts and study the process of infusing engineering concepts into science curricula so that they can develop modules in their discipline to be taught during the following in the school year. The following summer the teachers debrief the process and develop additional modules for their discipline. The process is revised and repeated with 22 teachers from each discipline. Teachers are explicitly provided strategies to help them meet the needs of diverse learners. The outputs of this project include: 1) a preliminary framework for secondary level engineering education to be published in both research and practitioner journals; 2) a pilot tested and validated Engineering Concept Assessment; 3) engineering-infused curriculum modules in life and physical science; and 4) a professional development model to prepare science teachers to infuse engineering in their teaching.

The project compares student learning when particular concepts in physics and biology are taught through engineering design with learning the same concepts taught an earlier group of students with present reform techniques used in the discipline. The hypothesis is that when teachers and students engage with engineering design activities their understanding of science concepts and inquiry are also enhanced. The research component of the project employs an iterative design with the design of activities followed by development and implementation. An engineering concept assessment is developed and tested to examine teacher learning and to determine how engineering concepts can be infused into the science curricula for life and physical science. Other quantitative and qualitative instruments are developed to assess the teachers? understandings of the engineering concepts and their pedagogical implications.

There is increasing emphasis on integrative STEM education. New national and international assessments are developing engineering strands and emphasizing non-routine problem solving. The framework for the Next Generation Science Standards includes engineering as one of four strands. Stand alone engineering course are not likely to be widely used. This project develops engineering infused science units and determines the professional development needed to use them effectively.

Project ATOMS: Accomplished Elementary Teachers of Mathematics and Science

The project is studying the impact of the mathematics and science intensive pre-service preparation program for elementary school teachers.  The project includes assessments of pre-service teachers' math and science content, teacher performance, self-report surveys, and teacher interviews. Each of the study dimensions (Knowledge Dimension, Teaching Performance, and Perspectives on the Program) will be assessed at three time points across this longitudinal study, providing a model for elementary teacher development of STEM teaching.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1118894
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

The project is studying the impact of the mathematics and science intensive pre-service preparation program for elementary school teachers at North Carolina State University called the Accomplished Elementary Teachers of Mathematics and Science (ATOMS). Faculty in NCSU's Department of Elementary Education, researchers at the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy's Education Research Data Center and the NC State College Professional Education Office are involved in conducting this project.

The project includes assessments of pre-service teachers' math and science content, teacher performance, self-report surveys, and teacher interviews. Researchers are also tracking participants' perspectives on the program and comparing knowledge dimensions and teaching performance of a sub-sample of ATOMS teachers to a similar group of non-ATOMS teachers. Each of the study dimensions (Knowledge Dimension, Teaching Performance, and Perspectives on the Program) will be assessed at three time points across this longitudinal study, providing a model for elementary teacher development of STEM teaching.

The study has potential to advance current understanding regarding teacher preparation, especially in terms of supporting elementary teachers' instruction in science and math. The project is also innovative and potentially transformative by asking interesting and pertinent questions of how teachers can affect the learning of their students. Besides generating new knowledge, this project also has the potential to impact STEM education research. The ATOMS pre-service teacher preparation program may serve as a model for effective pre-service teacher education across the nation if the researchers can clearly demonstrate the effect of participating in the program in changing teachers' knowledge, attitudes, and skills, as well as their students' achievement. Investigators propose the dissemination of findings to both K-12 audiences and institutions of higher education. Additionally, key findings will be bulleted for policy makers in brief reports or brochures sent to deans of Colleges of Education nationwide, highlighting recommendations based on the findings.

Computer-Supported Math Discourse Among Teachers and Students (Collaborative Research: Powell)

This project will design, develop, and test an online collaborative learning environment where students and teachers solve mathematical problems and communicate their thinking.  This online collaborative learning environment will help increase the quality and quantity of math discourse among mathematics teachers and students.  The researchers will also examine the impact of the online collaborative learning environment on students' significant mathematical discourse and achievement.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1118888
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

This full research and development project is to design, develop, and test a cutting-edge learning environment where students and teachers solve mathematical problems and communicate their thinking with others through the virtual environment. The major focus is to increase the quality and quantity of significant math discourse among mathematics teachers and their students by using the virtual learning environment. The researchers will test the usability of the learning environment for engaging students in high quality discourse. The researchers will also examine the impact of the virtual learning environment on student significant mathematical discourse and achievement.

The project uses a design research method as well as summative evaluations to achieve research and development goals. Mixed methods will be used to examine the impact of the virtual learning environment on student significant mathematical discourse and achievement.

The findings of the project contribute to the field in three ways: (1) The virtual learning environment can be both an effective pedagogical tool and a research tool in mathematics education; (2) It will contribute to our understanding about the nature of mathematical discourse online as well as about ways to foster the quality and quantity of significant math discourse among teachers and their students; and (3) This project can provide insights into effective online deliveries of courses.

An Innovative Approach to Earth Science Teacher Preparation: Uniting Science, Informal Science Education, and Schools to Raise Student Achievement

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City, in partnership with New York University, and in collaboration with five high-needs schools, is developing, implementing, and researching a five-year pilot Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program in Earth Science. The program is delivered by the Museum's scientific and education teams and its evaluation covers aspects of the program from recruitment to first year of teaching.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
1119444
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Thu, 08/31/2017
Project Evaluator: 
David Silvernail, Center for Education and Policy, University of Southern Maine
Full Description: 

The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), in collaboration with New York University's Institute for Education and Social Policy and the University of Southern Maine Center for Evaluation and Policy, will develop and evaluate a new teacher education program model to prepare science teachers through a partnership between a world class science museum and high need schools in metropolitan New York City (NYC). This innovative pilot residency model was approved by the New York State (NYS) Board of Regents as part of the state’s Race To The Top award. The program will prepare a total of 50 candidates in two cohorts (2012 and 2013) to earn a Board of Regents-awarded Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree with a specialization in Earth Science for grades 7-12. The program focuses on Earth Science both because it is one of the greatest areas of science teacher shortages in urban areas and because AMNH has the ability to leverage the required scientific and educational resources in Earth Science and allied disciplines, including paleontology and astrophysics.

The proposed 15-month, 36-credit residency program is followed by two additional years of mentoring for new teachers. In addition to a full academic year of residency in high-needs public schools, teacher candidates will undertake two AMNH-based clinical summer residencies; a Museum Teaching Residency prior to entering their host schools, and a Museum Science Residency prior to entering the teaching profession. All courses will be taught by teams of doctoral-level educators and scientists.

The project’s research and evaluation components will examine the factors and outcomes of a program offered through a science museum working with the formal teacher preparation system in high need schools. Formative and summative evaluations will document all aspects of the program. In light of the NYS requirement that the pilot program be implemented in high-need, low-performing schools, this project has the potential to engage, motivate and improve the Earth Science achievement and interest in STEM careers of thousands of students from traditionally underrepresented populations including English language learners, special education students, and racial minority groups. In addition, this project will gather meaningful data on the role science museums can play in preparing well-qualified Earth Science teachers. The research component will examine the impact of this new teacher preparation model on student achievement in metropolitan NYC schools. More specifically, this project asks, "How do Earth Science students taught by first year AMNH MAT Earth Science teachers perform academically in comparison with students taught by first year Earth Science teachers not prepared in the AMNH program?.”

Energy: A Multidisciplinary Approach for Teachers (EMAT) Designing and Studying a Multidisciplinary, Online Course for High School Teachers

This project will iteratively design, develop, field test, refine, and rigorously study a six-unit, facilitated, online professional development (PD) course focusing on energy-related concepts in the context of alternative energy. The primary audience is high school science teachers teaching out of their field of endorsement and serving students underrepresented in the sciences. The project will investigate whether the PD will precipitate changes in teacher knowledge and practice that result in higher student achievement.

Award Number: 
1118643
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Thu, 08/31/2017
Project Evaluator: 
RMC Research Corporation
Full Description: 

The Energy: A Multidisciplinary Approach for Teachers (EMAT) project will iteratively design, develop, field test, refine, and rigorously study a seven-unit, facilitated, online professional development (PD) course focusing on energy-related concepts in the context of alternative energy. The primary audience is high school science teachers teaching out of their field of endorsement and serving students underrepresented in the sciences. The project will investigate whether the PD will precipitate changes in teacher knowledge and practice that result in higher student achievement. As a result, EMAT will improve the science achievement of underrepresented students and enhance their future participation in science. Biological Sciences Curriculum Study and partners Oregon Public Broadcasting, the National Teacher Enhancement Network, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, and RMC Research Corporation bring significant resources and are highly qualified to develop and research EMAT.

The EMAT project advances knowledge in the field of teacher professional development by merging two facets of PD that have hitherto been studied separately and testing hypotheses about the degree to which this pairing enhances learning and practice. These facets are structured constructivist experiences and experiences grounded in situated cognition learning theory. Teachers reflect on research-based teaching practices in the lesson analysis process through Science Content Storyline and Student Thinking lenses. EMAT tests longitudinal impacts on teachers' content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and teaching practices and students' content knowledge, contributing much needed data for future PD projects. EMAT also studies which aspects of online environments are most effective for teachers. Data collected will inform full revisions of the course and will help address significant gaps in our understanding of online PD.

EMAT advances the field's understanding of which elements of online PD are effective and the extent to which high-quality online PD translates to improved student learning. Simultaneously, the project develops and tests a scalable, flexible resource to enhance teacher learning and practice. As a result, EMAT will have a broad impact by promoting research-based teaching and learning while advancing discovery and understanding. Furthermore, by targeting the recruitment of teacher participants from large urban districts with high numbers of teachers teaching out of field, EMAT impacts students traditionally underrepresented in the sciences. EMAT will not only contribute to the research on PD, but also will be available for use in diverse settings. A facilitation guide allows the course to be freely used by school districts and teacher education and certification programs across the country. In addition, the facilitated course will be offered for graduate credit through the National Teacher Enhancement Network and will be freely available to individuals for independent study. Results of all research and evaluation will be published in science education journals and practitioner journals for teachers, and presented to PD groups at conferences. EMAT will benefit society by impacting teacher and student understanding of energy-related concepts, thereby increasing the capacity of U.S. citizens to creatively address energy challenges from a foundation of scientifically sound knowledge.

Developing Teaching Expertise in K-5 Mathematics

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

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

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

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

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

Continuous Learning and Automated Scoring in Science (CLASS)

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

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

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

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

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

Teachers Empowered to Advance Change in Mathematics (TEACH MATH): Preparing Pre K-8 Teachers to Connect Children's Mathematical Thinking and Community-Based Funds of Knowledge

This project will modify the teacher preparation program for preK-8 teachers. The program is designed to help pre-service teachers learn mathematics well, learn to access students' cultural funds of knowledge, and learn to encourage students' mathematical thinking. The developers are designing (a) modules that can be used in teacher preparation courses, (b) a mentoring program for new teachers, and (c) on-line networks to facilitate collaboration among participating teachers and institutions.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1228034
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Thu, 08/31/2017
Project Evaluator: 
Research Institute for Studies in Education
Full Description: 

This research and development project will modify the teacher preparation program for preK-8 teachers at six universities located in different regions of the U.S. The new program is designed to help pre-service teachers learn mathematics well, learn to access students' cultural funds of knowledge in ways that will help them teach mathematics, and learn to encourage students' mathematical thinking. By integrating these important bodies of knowledge, pre-service teachers should be better prepared to teach mathematics to the variety of students in their classes. The developers are designing (a) modules that can be used in teacher preparation courses, (b) a mentoring program for new teachers, and (c) on-line networks to facilitate collaboration among participating teachers and institutions.

The project includes a study of how pre-service teachers learn to apply the knowledge they have gained in the program. The research team has planned a longitudinal collection of data that will track the pre-service teachers into their careers. Their goal is to document teachers' understandings of children's mathematical thinking and children's cultural funds of knowledge and to understand the relationship between teachers' understandings and the learning and disposition of preK-8 students. The study will be implemented at all six universities with staggered start dates allowing for analysis and revisions between cohorts.

These research and development efforts have the potential to impact preK-8 teacher preparation through (1) the development of modules that integrate several relevant proficiencies in mathematics teaching, and (2) the research that studies the impact of such a program on the mathematical learning and disposition of preK-8 students.

Professional Development for Culturally Relevant Teaching and Learning in Pre-K Mathematics

This project is creating and studying a professional development model to support preK teachers in developing culturally and developmentally appropriate practices in counting and early number. The proposed model is targeted at teachers of children in four-year-old kindergarten, and focuses on culturally relevant teaching and learning. The model stresses counting and basic number operations with the intention of exploring the domain as it connects to children's experiences in their homes and communities.

Award Number: 
1019431
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Project Evaluator: 
Victoria Jacobs
Full Description: 

Developers and researchers at the University of Wisconsin are creating and studying a professional development model that connects research in counting and early number (CGI), early childhood, and funds of knowledge. The proposed model is targeted at teachers of children in four-year-old kindergarten, and focuses on culturally relevant teaching and learning. The model stresses a specific, circumscribed content domain - counting and basic number operations - with the intention of exploring the domain in depth particularly as it connects to children's experiences in their homes and communities and how it is learned and taught through play.

The project designs, develops, and tests innovative resources and models for teachers to support ongoing professional learning communities. These learning communities are designed to identify and build on the rich mathematical understandings of all pre-K children. The project's specific goals are to instantiate a reciprocal "funds of knowledge" framework for (a) accessing children's out-of-school experiences in order to provide instruction that is equitable and culturally relevant and (b) developing culturally effective ways to support families in understanding how to mathematize their children's out-of-school activities. Teachers are observed weekly during the development and evaluation process and student assessments are used to measure students' progress toward meeting project benchmarks and the program's effectiveness in reducing or eliminating the achievement gap.

The outcome is a complete professional development model that includes written and digital materials. The product includes case studies, classroom video, examples of student work, and strategies for responding to students' understandings.

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