Pedagogical Content Knowledge

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.

Integrating Engineering and Literacy

This project is developing and testing curriculum materials and a professional development model designed to explore the potential for introducing engineering concepts in grades 3 - 5 through design challenges based on stories in popular children's literature. The research team hypothesizes that professional development for elementary teachers using an interdisciplinary method for combining literature with engineering design challenges will increase the implementation of engineering in 3-5 classrooms and have positive impacts on students.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1020243
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Wed, 05/31/2017
Full Description: 

The Integrating Engineering and Literacy (IEL) project is developing and testing curriculum materials and a professional development model designed to explore the potential for introducing engineering concepts in grades 3 - 5 through design challenges based on stories in popular children's literature. The project research and development team at Tufts University is working with pre-service teachers to design and test the curriculum modules for students and the teacher professional development model. Then the program is tested and refined in work with 100 in-service teachers and their students in a diverse set of Massachusetts schools. The research team hypothesizes that professional development for elementary teachers using an interdisciplinary method for combining literature with engineering design challenges will increase the implementation of engineering in 3-5 classrooms and have positive impacts on students. The driving questions behind this proposed research are: (1) How do teachers' engineering (and STEM) content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and perceptions or attitudes toward engineering influence their classroom teaching of engineering through literacy? (2) Do teachers create their own personal conceptions of the engineering design process, and what do these conceptions look like? (3) What engineering/reading thinking skills are students developing by participating in engineering activities integrated into their reading and writing work? The curriculum materials and teacher professional development model are being produced by a design research strategy that uses cycles of develop/test/refine work. The effects of the program are being evaluated by a variety of measures of student and teacher learning and practice. The project will contribute materials and research findings to the ultimate goal of understanding how to provide elementary school students with meaningful opportunities to learn engineering and develop valuable problem solving and thinking skills.

Math Pathways and Pitfalls: Capturing What Works for Anytime Anyplace Professional Development

Math Pathways & Pitfalls lessons for students boost mathematics achievement for diverse students, including English Learners, English Proficient students, and Latino students. This project develops modules that increase teachers’ capacity to employ the effective and equitable principles of practice embodied by Math Pathways & Pitfalls and apply these practices to any mathematics lesson. This four-year project develops, field tests, and evaluates 10 online professional development modules.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0918834
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/15/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2012
Full Description: 

Researchers and developers at WestEd are developing, field-testing, and evaluating ten online professional development modules anchored in research-based teaching principles and achievement-boosting mathematics materials. The modules provide interactive learning opportunities featuring real classroom video demonstrations, simulations, and scaffolded implementation. The professional development module development builds on the Math Pathways and Pitfalls instructional modules for elementary and middle school students developed with NSF support. The professional development provided through the use of these modules is web-based (rather than face-to-face), is provided in chunks during the school year and immediately applied in the classroom (rather than summer professional development and school year application), and explicitly models ways to apply key teaching principles to regular mathematics lessons (rather than expecting teachers to extract and apply principles spontaneously).

The project studies the impact of the modules on teaching practice with an experimental design that involves 20 treatment teachers and 20 control teachers. Data are gathered from teacher questionnaires, classroom observations, and post-observation interviews.

Supports for Learning to Manage Classroom Discussions: Exploring the Role of Practical Rationality and Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching

This project focuses on practicing and preservice secondary mathematics teachers and mathematics teacher educators. The project is researching, designing, and developing materials for preservice secondary mathematics teachers that enable them to acquire the mathematical knowledge and situated rationality central to teaching, in particular as it regards the leading of mathematical discussions in classrooms.

Award Number: 
0918425
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Project Evaluator: 
Miriam Gamoran Sherin
Full Description: 

Researchers at the Universities of Michigan and Maryland are developing materials to survey the rationality behind secondary mathematics teaching practice and to support the development by secondary mathematics preservice teachers of specialized knowledge and skills for teaching. The project focuses on the leading of classroom discussions for the learning of algebra and geometry.

Using animations of instructional scenarios, the project is developing online, multimedia questionnaires and using them to assess practicing teachers' mathematical knowledge for teaching and their evaluations of teacher decision making. Reports and forum entries from the questionnaires are integrated into a learning environment for prospective teachers and their instructors built around these animated scenarios. This environment allows pre-service teachers to navigate, annotate, and communicate about the scenarios; and it allows their instructors to plan using those scenarios and share experiences with their counterparts.

The research on teachers' rationality uses an experimental design with embedded one-way ANOVA, while the development of the learning environment uses a process of iterative design, implementation, and evaluation. The project evaluation by researchers at Northwestern University uses qualitative methods to examine the content provided in the environment as well as the usefulness perceived by teacher educators of a state network and their students.

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