Pedagogical Content Knowledge

Professional Development Supports for Teaching Bioinformatics through Mobile Learning

This project will investigate the professional development supports needed for teaching bioinformatics at the high school level. The project team will work with biology and mathematics teachers to co-design instructional modules to engage students with core bioinformatics concepts and computational literacies, by focusing on local community health issues supported through mobile learning activities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1812738
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Mon, 02/28/2022
Full Description: 

Bioinformatics is an emerging area of research that develops new knowledge through computational analysis of vast biological and biomedical data. This project will investigate the professional development supports needed for teaching bioinformatics at the high school level. Building from a robust literature in professional development design research, project team will work with biology and mathematics teachers to co-design instructional modules to engage students with core bioinformatics concepts and computational literacies, by focusing on local community health issues supported through mobile learning activities. The overarching goal of the project is to help create an engage population of informatics-informed students who are capable of critically analyzing information and able to solve local problems related to their health and well-being.

The project team will use a design-based implementation research approach to identify the curricular and instructional supports needed to achieve the teaching and learning goals through iterative project revisions, employing mixed methods to evaluate teacher and student learning processes and outcomes. Teachers from local high needs schools will participate in a three-week summer workshop, where they will learn about state-of-the-art bioinformatics content, project-based pedagogies that promote computational literacy, and strategies integrate mobile technologies into instruction.  They will implement the instructional units during the year, and the summer workshop will be revised and delivered to an expanded cohort of teachers the following summer. The data collection and analysis conducted on teachers' enactment of these modules will reveal the professional development and implementation areas needed to support particular populations, specifically underrepresented groups in STEM, to engage with bioinformatics learning and take authentic action on local community issues.

Translating a Video-based Model of Teacher Professional Development to an Online Environment

This project will adapt an effective in-person teacher professional development model to an online approach. A defining feature of the Science Teachers Learning from Lesson Analysis (STeLLA) Professional Development program is its use of videos of classroom instruction and examples of student work to promote teacher learning. Adapting the STeLLA program to an online learning model can reach a broader and more diverse audience, such as teachers working in rural school districts and underserved communities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813127
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

Improving the quality of teaching is essential to improving student outcomes. But what are the most effective ways to support teachers' professional development?  BSCS Science Learning and the University of Minnesota STEM Education Program Area explore this question by adapting an effective teacher professional development model -- that meets face-to-face in real-time -- to an online approach. A defining feature of the Science Teachers Learning from Lesson Analysis (STeLLA) Professional Development program is its use of videos of classroom instruction and examples of student work to promote teacher learning. Skilled facilitators guide teachers' analysis and discussion of other teachers' work; then, teachers begin to apply the analytical techniques they have learned to their own teaching. Adapting the STeLLA program to an online learning model is important because it can reach a broader and more diverse audience such as teachers working in rural school districts and underserved communities. To further promote the reach of STeLLA, the online version of STeLLA will engage and prepare teacher leaders to support their peers' engagement and understanding.

Guided by theories of situated cognition and cognitive apprenticeship this project focuses on two questions: How can the STeLLA professional development model be adapted to an online environment? and Does participation in the online model show meaningful teacher and student outcomes related to science teaching and learning? Challenges related to adaptation include understanding the duration and intensity of teacher engagement, the quality of their science content learning experiences, and how teacher learning is scaffolded across the online and traditional model. The project will unfold in two phases. Phase 1 uses a design-based research approach to rapidly enact, test, and revise online program components while remaining true to the design principles underlying the traditional STeLLA PD program. Phase 2 uses a quasi-experimental approach to test STeLLA Online's influence on teacher content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, practice and on upper elementary student science achievement. Comparisons will be made between STeLLA Online, face-to-face STeLLA, and a traditional professional development program that emphasizes deepening content knowledge only. This comparison leverages data from a previously-completed cluster randomized trial of STeLLA funded by the NSF.

Supporting Teachers in Responsive Instruction for Developing Expertise in Science (Collaborative Research: Linn)

This project takes advantage of advanced technologies to support science teachers to rapidly respond to diverse student ideas in their classrooms. Students will use web-based curriculum units to engage with models, simulations, and virtual experiments to write multiple explanations for standards-based science topics. The project will also design planning tools for teachers that will make suggestions relevant research-proven instructional strategies based on the real-time analysis of student responses.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813713
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

Many teachers want to adapt their instruction to meet student learning needs, yet lack the time to regularly assess and analyze students' developing understandings. The Supporting Teachers in Responsive Instruction for Developing Expertise in Science (STRIDES) project takes advantage of advanced technologies to support science teachers to rapidly respond to diverse student ideas in their classrooms. In this project students will use web-based curriculum units to engage with models, simulations, and virtual experiments to write multiple explanations for standards-based science topics. Advanced technologies (including natural language processing) will be used to assess students' written responses and summaries their science understanding in real-time. The project will also design planning tools for teachers that will make suggestions relevant research-proven instructional strategies based on the real-time analysis of student responses. Research will examine how teachers make use of the feedback and suggestions to customize their instruction. Further we will study how these instructional changes help students develop coherent understanding of complex science topics and ability to make sense of models and graphs. The findings will be used to refine the tools that analyze the student essays and generate the summaries; improve the research-based instructional suggestions in the planning tool; and strengthen the online interface for teachers. The tools will be incorporated into open-source, freely available online curriculum units. STRIDES will directly benefit up to 30 teachers and 24,000 students from diverse school settings over four years.

Leveraging advances in natural language processing methods, the project will analyze student written explanations to provide fine-grained summaries to teachers about strengths and weaknesses in student work. Based on the linguistic analysis and logs of student navigation, the project will then provide instructional customizations based on learning science research, and study how teachers use them to improve student progress. Researchers will annually conduct at least 10 design or comparison studies, each involving up to 6 teachers and 300-600 students per year. Insights from this research will be captured in automated scoring algorithms, empirically tested and refined customization activities, and data logging techniques that can be used by other research and curriculum design programs to enable teacher customization.

Prospective Elementary Teachers Making for Mathematical Learning

This study takes an innovative approach to documenting how teacher knowledge can be enhanced by incorporating a design experience into pre-service mathematics education. Teachers will use digital and fabrication technologies (e.g., 3D printers and laser cutters) to design and use manipulatives for K-6 mathematics learning. The goals of the project include describing how this experience influences the prospective teachers' knowledge and identities while creating curriculum for teacher education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1812887
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

What teachers know and believe is central to what they can do in classrooms. This study takes an innovative approach to documenting how teacher knowledge can be enhanced by incorporating a design experience into pre-service mathematics education. The study's participating prospective teachers will use digital and fabrication technologies (e.g., 3D printers and laser cutters) to design and use manipulatives for K-6 mathematics learning. The goals of the project include describing how this experience influences the prospective teachers' knowledge and identities while creating curriculum for teacher education. Also, because more schools and students have access to 3D fabrication capabilities, teacher education can utilize these capabilities to prepare teachers to take advantage of these resources. Prior research by the team demonstrated how the process of making a manipulative can support prospective teachers in learning about mathematics and how to teach elementary mathematics concepts. The project will generate resources for other elementary teacher education programs and research about how prospective elementary teachers learn mathematics for teaching.

The project includes three research questions. First, what forms of knowledge are brought to bear as prospective elementary teachers make new manipulatives and write corresponding tasks to support the teaching and learning of mathematics? Second, how does prospective elementary teachers' knowledge for teaching mathematics develop as they make new manipulatives and write tasks to support the teaching and learning of mathematics? Third, as prospective elementary teachers make new manipulatives and write tasks to support the teaching and learning of mathematics, how do they see themselves in relation to the making, the mathematics, and the mathematics teaching? The project will employ a design-based research methodology with cycles of design, enactment, analysis and redesign to create curriculum modules for teacher education focused on making mathematics manipulatives. Data collection will include video recording of class sessions, participant observation, field notes, artifacts from the participants' design of manipulatives, and assessments of mathematical knowledge for teaching. A qualitative analysis will use multiple frameworks from prior research on mathematics teacher knowledge and identity development.

Testing the Efficacy of the Strategic Observation and Reflection (SOAR) for Math Professional Learning Program

The purpose of this project is to develop, implement and test a professional development program, SOAR for Math, to build capacity for mentors and teachers to improve English learner's academic language development and mathematical content understanding.

Award Number: 
1814356
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 
Professional development is an important way for teachers who are currently in classrooms to learn about new best practices in mathematics teaching and learning and improve their practice. Little is known about what types of professional development (PD) and teacher mentoring programs support teachers' improved practices and ultimately lead to gains in student learning. The purpose of this project is to develop, implement and test a professional development program, SOAR for Math, to build capacity for mentors and teachers to improve English learner's academic language development and mathematical content understanding.
 
This study will test the efficacy of the Strategic Observation and Reflection (SOAR) for Math professional development program. The mixed methods study is designed to answer several research questions: (1) What is the impact of teachers' participation in SOAR for Math on student achievement outcomes for current and recent grade 3-6 English learner students in treatment schools? (2) What is the impact of SOAR for Math on treatment school teachers' knowledge and practices related to their academic language and literacy development instruction for current and recent English learner students, specifically scores on the Knowledge/Use Scale? (3) What is the impact of SOAR for Math on treatment mentors' knowledge and practices related to their academic language and math instruction? A randomized controlled trial will be conducted in 80 elementary schools in one California school district. Schools serving third- through sixth-grade general education students will be eligible to participate. The research team will randomly assign 40 schools to provide SOAR for Math training to mentor teachers and 40 schools to comprise a control group receiving business-as-usual professional development. Two mentors per school will participate in the study. Measures will include state math scores and a variety of observations and questionnaires to assess fidelity of implementation. Data will be analyzed using hierarchical linear modeling to account for the nested data structure.

Design and Development of Transmedia Narrative-based Curricula to Engage Children in Scientific Thinking and Engineering Design (Collaborative Research: Ellis)

This project will address the need for engineering resources by applying an innovative pedagogy called Imaginative Education (IE) to create middle school engineering curricula. In IE, developmentally appropriate narratives are used to design learning environments that help learners engage with content and organize their knowledge productively. This project will combine IE with transmedia storytelling.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1814033
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/15/2018 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Full Description: 

Engineering is an important component of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). However, resources for supporting teachers in implementing these standards are scarce. This project will address the need for resources by applying an innovative pedagogy called Imaginative Education (IE) to create middle school engineering curricula. In IE, developmentally appropriate narratives are used to design learning environments that help learners engage with content and organize their knowledge productively. To fully exploit the potential of this pedagogy, this project will combine IE with transmedia storytelling. In transmedia storytelling, different elements of a narrative are spread across a variety of formats (such as books, websites, new articles, videos and other media) in a way that creates a coordinated experience for the user. Once created, the curricula will be implemented in classrooms to research its impact on (1) increasing learners' capacities to engage in both innovative and direct application of engineering concepts, and (2) improving learners' science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) identity. 

This research will be led by Smith College and Springfield Technical Community College in collaboration with Springfield (MA) Public Schools (SPS). Additional expertise in evaluating the findings will be provided by the Collaborative for Educational Services and an external advisory board of leaders in STEM education and transmedia storytelling. The project will result in the development of a transmedia learning environment that includes two NGSS-aligned, interdisciplinary engineering units and seven lessons that integrate science and engineering. The research study will be implemented in four phases in eight SPS middle schools. Approximately 900 students will participate each year. In Phase 1, the project team will collaborate with SPS teachers to create engineering units, lessons, and standards-based achievement measures. In Phase 2, teachers in the treatment group will participate in professional development (PD) workshops covering IE, transmedia learning environments, structure of the curriculum, and connections to NGSS. In Phase 3 the curricula will be implemented in treatment classrooms and both treatment and control group students will be assessed. In Phase 4, testing and assessment will continue in SPS schools and will be expanded to rural and suburban classrooms. Teachers in these classrooms will use online multimedia PD that will ensure scalability and mirrors the structure and content of in-person PD. Data analysis will provide evidence of whether this imaginative and transmedia educational approach improves students' capacities for using engineering concepts and enhances their STEM identity.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Transforming Engineering Education for Middle School (TEEMS)

Presenter(s): Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh, Sonia Ellis, & Crystal Ford


Design and Development of Transmedia Narrative-based Curricula to Engage Children in Scientific Thinking and Engineering Design (Collaborative Research: McGinnis-Cavanaugh)

This project will address the need for engineering resources by applying an innovative pedagogy called Imaginative Education (IE) to create middle school engineering curricula. In IE, developmentally appropriate narratives are used to design learning environments that help learners engage with content and organize their knowledge productively. This project will combine IE with transmedia storytelling.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813572
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/15/2018 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Project Evaluator: 
Collaborative for Educational Services (CES)
Full Description: 

Engineering is an important component of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). However, resources for supporting teachers in implementing these standards are scarce. This project will address the need for resources by applying an innovative pedagogy called Imaginative Education (IE) to create middle school engineering curricula. In IE, developmentally appropriate narratives are used to design learning environments that help learners engage with content and organize their knowledge productively. To fully exploit the potential of this pedagogy, this project will combine IE with transmedia storytelling. In transmedia storytelling, different elements of a narrative are spread across a variety of formats (such as books, websites, new articles, videos and other media) in a way that creates a coordinated experience for the user. Once created, the curricula will be implemented in classrooms to research its impact on (1) increasing learners' capacities to engage in both innovative and direct application of engineering concepts, and (2) improving learners' science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) identity. 

This research will be led by Smith College and Springfield Technical Community College in collaboration with Springfield (MA) Public Schools (SPS). Additional expertise in evaluating the findings will be provided by the Collaborative for Educational Services and an external advisory board of leaders in STEM education and transmedia storytelling. The project will result in the development of a transmedia learning environment that includes two NGSS-aligned, interdisciplinary engineering units and seven lessons that integrate science and engineering. The research study will be implemented in four phases in eight SPS middle schools. Approximately 900 students will participate each year. In Phase 1, the project team will collaborate with SPS teachers to create engineering units, lessons, and standards-based achievement measures. In Phase 2, teachers in the treatment group will participate in professional development (PD) workshops covering IE, transmedia learning environments, structure of the curriculum, and connections to NGSS. In Phase 3 the curricula will be implemented in treatment classrooms and both treatment and control group students will be assessed. In Phase 4, testing and assessment will continue in SPS schools and will be expanded to rural and suburban classrooms. Teachers in these classrooms will use online multimedia PD that will ensure scalability and mirrors the structure and content of in-person PD. Data analysis will provide evidence of whether this imaginative and transmedia educational approach improves students' capacities for using engineering concepts and enhances their STEM identity.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Transforming Engineering Education for Middle School (TEEMS)

Presenter(s): Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh, Sonia Ellis, & Crystal Ford


Extending and Investigating the Impact of the High School Model-based Educational Resource (Collaborative Research: Wilson)

This project builds on a line of work that has developed and studied the Model Based Educational Resource (MBER), a year-long curriculum for high school biology. The project will generate rigorous causal evidence on how this approach to biology teaching and learning can support student learning, and foundational information on how to support high school teachers in improving their teaching. It will also provide resources to expand and update MBER to reflect the changing high school science landscape by integrating Earth Science standards into the year long sequence.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813538
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project builds on a line of work that has developed and studied the Model Based Educational Resource (MBER), a year-long curriculum for high school biology. In classrooms using MBER, modeling serves as an anchoring practice that keeps the inquiry tied to the goal of making sense of the world, helping teachers to engage their students in a range of cognitive and social activities that lead to deep understanding of scientific ideas. This project will generate rigorous causal evidence on how this approach to biology teaching and learning can support student learning, and foundational information on how to support high school teachers in improving their teaching. This funding will also provide resources to expand and update MBER to reflect the changing high school science landscape by integrating Earth Science standards into the year long sequence. The study will address the general research question: What is the impact of the Model Based Educational Resource (MBER) on high school students' science achievement, and what factors influence that impact? In addition to generating important research findings, the materials revised and studied in this project will be open-source and freely available to teachers and schools.

This study addresses a significant gap in the research on next generation curriculum materials. While there is emerging agreement about the importance of instructional materials in supporting teachers in effectively engaging students in the practices of science, there is very little empirical evidence to support such claims. The goal of this project is to study the impact of the MBER program through a cluster randomized trial and expand the promise of efficacy and feasibility established in previous work. This study will be able to make causal claims by using an experimental design in which 32 high school teachers serve as their own controls, and by using multi-level modeling in the analysis. This study will advance the field's knowledge about the impact of innovative materials on student learning, measured by both project-level assessments and the state science test. Exploratory research questions will examine a) how using the MBER program develops teachers' vision of the Next Generation Science Standards, b) how student learning is mediated by the fidelity of implementation of the materials, c) how teachers interact with materials designed to be modified for their classroom context, and d) to what extent the MBER materials provide equitable opportunities to learn and close achievement gaps.

Science Communities of Practice Partnership

This project will study implementation of an effective professional learning model for elementary science teachers that includes teacher leaders, administrators and university educators in a system perspective for improving science instruction in ways that make it sustainable.

Award Number: 
1813012
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project will study implementation of an effective professional learning model for elementary science teachers that includes teacher leaders, administrators and university educators in a system perspective for improving science instruction in ways that make it sustainable. The working model involves reciprocal communities of practice, which are groups of teachers, leaders and administrators that focus on practical tasks and how to achieve them across these stakeholder perspectives. The project will provide evidence about the specific components of the professional development model that support sustainable improvement in science teaching, will test the ways that teacher ownership and organizational conditions mediate instructional change, and will develop four tools for facilitating the teacher learning and the accompanying capacity building. In this way, the project will produce practical knowledge and tools necessary for other school districts nationwide to create professional learning that is tailored to their contexts and therefore sustainable.

This study posits that communication among district teachers, teacher leaders, and administrators, and a sense of ownership for improved instruction among teachers can support sustainable change. As such, it tests a model that fosters communication and ownership through three reciprocal communities of practice--one about district leadership including one teacher per school, coaches and university faculty; another about lesson study including teachers, coaches and faculty; and a third about instructional innovation including teachers and administrators, facilitated by coaches. The research design seeks to inform what the communities of practice add to the effects in a quasi-experimental study involving 72 third to fifth grade teachers and 6500 students in four urban school districts. Mixed methodologies will be used to examine shifts in science teaching over three years, testing the professional development model and the mediating roles of reform ownership and organizational conditions.

Determining Teachers' Baseline Practice and Alignment Prior to a Systemic Curriculum Change

In this study, researchers will collaborate with Baltimore City Public Schools to collect and document teacher classroom practices prior to the implementation of an extended professional development model that targets pedagogical skills associated with the NGSS. The broad objective of the project is to characterize the benefits and limitations of utilizing controlled practice-teaching as a key component of teacher professional development for integrating NGSS aligned practices in middle school science classrooms.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1822029
Funding Period: 
Sun, 04/01/2018 to Sun, 03/31/2019
Full Description: 

The goal of this research is to document current teaching practices prior to the systemic integration of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in Baltimore City Public schools. In this study, UMBC will collaborate with Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools) to collect and document teacher classroom practices prior to the implementation of an extended professional development model that targets pedagogical skills associated with the Next Generation Science Standards. The broad objective of the project is to characterize the benefits and limitations of utilizing controlled practice-teaching as a key component of teacher professional development for integrating NGSS aligned practices in middle school science classrooms. Success will be measured by changes in teacher attitudes, enhancement of teacher pedagogical skills and student learning gains. Sixty teachers, and over 4,500 students in Baltimore City will be directly impacted through the professional development and curriculum enactment efforts proposed. As a full partner in the project, the City Schools' leadership will also learn what works, for whom, and under what conditions in schools that are representative of their diverse district. Lessons learned have the potential to inform the implementation of other new reform initiatives within City Schools and beyond. Findings from the proposed research have the potential to advance our understanding of innovative professional development strategies and their impact on classroom practices and student learning.

This project focuses on a national need of models for high quality professional development that directly tie specific strategies to classroom-based instructional changes and student learning outcomes. One particular shift in classroom practice that is fundamental for the classroom implementation of NGSS is scientific discourse and argumentation. One particular strategy that has shown promise for supporting teachers' use of strategies supporting argumentation is the use of controlled practice teaching. The proposed study explicitly attempts to determine the impact of the controlled practice-teaching using a quasi-experimental design. The research plan involves middle science teachers being assigned to one of two experimental conditions (PD including or excluding a controlled practice-teaching component) and then to investigate potential differences among the two treatments and control conditions related to changes in attitudes toward NGSS, classroom practices and impact on student learning. The researcher hypothesizes that the inclusion of control-practice teaching that is imbedded in a sustained professional development program will promote the development of teacher pedagogical skills aligned with NGSS more effectively than sustained professional development that does not include a control-practice component.

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