Pedagogical Content Knowledge

Teacher Professional Learning to Support Student Motivational Competencies During Science Instruction (Collaborative Research: Marchand)

This project will bring together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and science teachers to identify a set of practices that science teachers can readily incorporate into their planning and instruction. The project will design, develop, and test a research-based professional learning approach to help middle school science teachers effectively support and sustain student motivational competencies during science instruction.

Award Number: 
1812976
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

Science teachers identify fostering student motivation to learn as a pressing need, yet teacher professional learning programs rarely devote time to helping teachers understand and apply motivational principles in their instruction. This project will bring together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and science teachers to identify a set of practices that science teachers can readily incorporate into their planning and instruction. The project will design, develop, and test a research-based professional learning approach to help middle school science teachers effectively support and sustain student motivational competencies during science instruction. The approach will include use of materials addressing student motivational processes and how to support them, evaluation tools to measure student motivational competencies, lesson planning tools, and instruments for teacher self-evaluation. The translation to practice will include recognition of student diversity and consider ways to facilitate context-specific integration of disciplinary and motivational knowledge in practice. The project will focus on middle school science classrooms because this period is an important motivational bridge between elementary and secondary science learning. This project will enhance understanding of teacher pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in that it frames knowledge about supporting motivational competencies in science as PCK rather than general pedagogical knowledge.

This early stage design and development project will iteratively develop and study a model of teacher professional learning that will help middle school science teachers create, modify, and implement instruction that integrates support for students' motivational competencies with the science practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas specified in science curriculum standards. A design-based research approach will be used to develop and test four resources teachers will use to explicitly include attention to student motivational competencies in their lesson planning efforts. The resources will include: 1) educational materials about students' motivational processes with concrete examples of how to support them; 2) easy-to-implement student evaluation tools for teachers to gauge students' motivational competencies; 3) planning tools to incorporate motivational practices into science lesson planning; and 4) instruments for teacher self-evaluation. A collaborative group of educational researchers will partner with science teachers from multiple school districts having diverse student populations to jointly develop the professional learning approach and resources. This project will contribute to systemic change by moving motivational processes from an implicit element of educating students, to an explicit and intentional set of strategies teachers can enact. Research questions will focus on how teachers respond to the newly developed professional learning model, and how students respond to instruction developed through implementing the model.

Teacher Professional Learning to Support Student Motivational Competencies During Science Instruction (Collaborative Research: Harris)

This project will bring together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and science teachers to identify a set of practices that science teachers can readily incorporate into their planning and instruction. The project will design, develop, and test a research-based professional learning approach to help middle school science teachers effectively support and sustain student motivational competencies during science instruction.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907480
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

Science teachers identify fostering student motivation to learn as a pressing need, yet teacher professional learning programs rarely devote time to helping teachers understand and apply motivational principles in their instruction. This project will bring together a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and science teachers to identify a set of practices that science teachers can readily incorporate into their planning and instruction. The project will design, develop, and test a research-based professional learning approach to help middle school science teachers effectively support and sustain student motivational competencies during science instruction. The approach will include use of materials addressing student motivational processes and how to support them, evaluation tools to measure student motivational competencies, lesson planning tools, and instruments for teacher self-evaluation. The translation to practice will include recognition of student diversity and consider ways to facilitate context-specific integration of disciplinary and motivational knowledge in practice. The project will focus on middle school science classrooms because this period is an important motivational bridge between elementary and secondary science learning. This project will enhance understanding of teacher pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in that it frames knowledge about supporting motivational competencies in science as PCK rather than general pedagogical knowledge.

This early stage design and development project will iteratively develop and study a model of teacher professional learning that will help middle school science teachers create, modify, and implement instruction that integrates support for students' motivational competencies with the science practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas specified in science curriculum standards. A design-based research approach will be used to develop and test four resources teachers will use to explicitly include attention to student motivational competencies in their lesson planning efforts. The resources will include: 1) educational materials about students' motivational processes with concrete examples of how to support them; 2) easy-to-implement student evaluation tools for teachers to gauge students' motivational competencies; 3) planning tools to incorporate motivational practices into science lesson planning; and 4) instruments for teacher self-evaluation. A collaborative group of educational researchers will partner with science teachers from multiple school districts having diverse student populations to jointly develop the professional learning approach and resources. This project will contribute to systemic change by moving motivational processes from an implicit element of educating students, to an explicit and intentional set of strategies teachers can enact. Research questions will focus on how teachers respond to the newly developed professional learning model, and how students respond to instruction developed through implementing the model.

This project was previously funded under award #1813086.

Usable Measures of Teacher Understanding: Exploring Diagnostic Models and Topic Analysis as Tools for Assessing Proportional Reasoning for Teaching

This project seeks to measure the kinds of knowledge developed in professional development (PD) programs that have been shown to matter for teachers' classroom practices and their students' learning. The project aims to develop an assessment that identifies patterns in the teachers' learning in a way that helps drive subsequent PD.The overall goal of this project is to pursue a potentially transformative approach to the assessment of teacher proportional knowledge by developing a measure that is well aligned with the content and skills taught in various PD programs.

Award Number: 
1813760
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

One of the great challenges related to teachers and their knowledge is measuring their learning in ways that are both formative and meaningful in relation to their likely impact on students. This challenge persists despite efforts to define the knowledge teachers should have and despite previous innovative efforts to create good measures. This project tackles the challenge by specifically aiming to measure the kinds of knowledge developed in professional development (PD) programs that has been shown to matter for teachers' classroom practices and their students' learning. The project aims to develop an assessment that identifies patterns in the teachers' learning in a way that helps drive subsequent professional development.

The overall goal of this project is to pursue a potentially transformative approach to the assessment of teacher proportional knowledge by developing a measure that is well aligned with the content and skills taught in various PD programs. This instrument will be based on a new approach that builds on emerging psychometric models. Specifically, diagnostic classification models (DCMs) will be utilized to diagnose teachers' learning during a PD program as well as employed to identify the progression in teachers' learning.  Statistical topic models (STMs) will be used to look for patterns of understanding that emerge from open-ended responses and provide natural-language insight into teachers' reasoning. A final version of the assessment will be constructed for a national sample based on the results from the predictive validity stage, and this version will be tested with teachers who participate in various types of PD programs targeting proportional reasoning. This project has broad implications for the creation of assessments and for teacher education. It will provide insights about whether there is a clear learning progression for teachers. While much work has been done with students' learning progression, much less is known about how teachers learn. Another implication is that the STM approach allows machine scoring of natural language in a way that highlights strengths and weaknesses in reasoning rather than simply returning a score. For formative use, this is information that is more helpful as it highlights areas for further instruction. A third implication is that DCMs will allow to assess teacher knowledge at a finer-grained understanding than is typically available, thus allowing for careful refinement of PD as well as a tool for showing overall growth in PD. A fourth implication is that a more systematic approach will be followed to capture the kinds of knowledge teachers need. Assessments developed using DCMs and STMs have the potential to serve as models for developing further instruments in other STEM content areas. Such assessments have the potential to not only help identify successful PD programs, but also to provide PD providers with rich data from which they can make instructional decisions.

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.

Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: STRIDES: Customizing Online Curricula for Distance Learning

Presenter(s): Libby Gerard, Sarah Bichler, Phillip Boda, Allison Bradford, Emily Harrison, Jennifer King Chen, Jonathan Lim-Breitbart, Marcia Linn, & Korah Wiley

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

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Transforming Engineering Education for Middle Schools (TEEMS)

Presenter(s): Isabel Huff, Kaia Cormier, Glenn Ellis, Sonia Ellis, Crystal Ford, Kate Lytton, Becky Mazur, Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh, Jeremy Pina, & Al Rudnitsky

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

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Transforming Engineering Education for Middle Schools (TEEMS)

Presenter(s): Isabel Huff, Kaia Cormier, Glenn Ellis, Sonia Ellis, Crystal Ford, Kate Lytton, Becky Mazur, Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh, Jeremy Pina, & Al Rudnitsky

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Transforming Engineering Education for Middle School (TEEMS)

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


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