Pedagogical Content Knowledge

Three-Dimensional Teaching and Learning: Rebuilding and Researching an Online Middle School Curriculum

This project will develop an online curriculum-based supported by a teacher professional development (PD) program by rebuilding an existing life science unit of Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) Middle School Science. The project is designed to be an exemplar of fully digital Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) aligned resources for teachers and students, creating an NGSS-aligned learning environment combining disciplinary core ideas with science and engineering practices and cross-cutting concepts.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1502571
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2015 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

This project was funded by the Discovery Research K-12 (DRK-12) program that seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models, and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. The project, in collaboration with Oregon Public Broadcasting, will develop an online curriculum-based supported by a teacher professional development (PD) program by rebuilding an existing life science unit of Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) Middle School Science. The materials will include strategically integrated multimedia elements including animations, interactive learning experiences, and enhanced readings for students, as well as classroom videos for teachers that will help all users gain a deeper understanding of three-dimensional learning. The project is designed to be an exemplar of fully digital Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) aligned resources for teachers and students, creating an NGSS-aligned learning environment combining disciplinary core ideas with science and engineering practices and cross-cutting concepts. Using the powerful affordances of a digital environment, the project will invigorate and inspire learners and support teachers as only a media-rich environment can do.

The project will develop and research the project innovation, the combination of digital instructional materials for students and online teacher PD using a proven lesson-analysis framework. Although prior research has demonstrated the efficacy of the lesson analysis PD and curriculum elements independently, there has been little investigation of their joint ability to transform teaching and learning. The project will merge research and development in this project by incorporating a complex array of multi-component assessment activities, including classroom-based assessments, in a quasi-experimental study. Assessment activities will be designed using an evidence-centered design process that will involve the careful selection and development of assessment tasks, scoring rubrics, and criteria for scoring based on the performance expectations (PEs) and the best ways to elicit evidence about student proficiency with those PEs. The research, carried out by SRI International, will use multi-component tasks that will support inferences about student learning and advance understanding of how to assess NGSS learning. Project research and resources, which will include a digital, middle school life sciences unit, teacher PD and online digital resources, and related assessment tools, which will be widely disseminated to policy makers, researchers, and practitioners.

PlantingScience: Digging Deeper Together - A Model for Collaborative Teacher/Scientist Professional Development

This project will design, develop, and test a new professional development (PD) model for high school biology teachers that focuses on plant biology, an area of biology that teachers feel less prepared to teach. The new PD model will bring teachers and scientists together, in-person and online, to guide students in conducting authentic science investigations and to reflect on instructional practices and student learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1502892
Funding Period: 
Thu, 10/01/2015 to Mon, 09/30/2019
Full Description: 

This project will design, develop, and test a new professional development (PD) model for high school biology teachers that focuses on plant biology, an area of biology that teachers feel less prepared to teach. The new PD model will bring teachers and scientists together, in-person and online, to guide students in conducting authentic science investigations and to reflect on instructional practices and student learning. The project will also develop and test the outcomes of a summer institute for teachers and a website that will support the online mentoring of students and the professional development of teachers. Outcomes of the project will include the development of a facilitation guide for the teacher professional development model, a website to support student mentoring and teacher professional development, a series of resources for teachers and scientists to use in working with students, and empirical evidence of the success of the new professional development model.

This full research and development project will employ a pre-test/post-test control group design to test the efficacy of a professional development model for high school biology teachers. The professional development model is grounded in a theory of action based on the premise that when teachers are engaged with scientists and students in a technology-enabled learning community, students will demonstrate higher levels of achievement than those using more traditional instructional materials and methodologies. The means of post-intervention outcome measures will be compared across treatment and comparison groups in a cluster-randomized trial where teachers will be randomly assigned to treatment groups. The study will recruit a nation-wide sample to ensure that participants represent a wide array of geographic and demographic contexts, with preference given to Title 1 schools. The research questions are: a) To what extent does participation in the Digging Deeper community of teachers and scientists affect teacher knowledge and practices? b) To what extent does participation in the Digging Deeper community of teachers and scientists affect scientists? quality of mentorship and teaching? And c) To what extent does student use of the online program and participation in the learning community with scientist mentors affect student learning? Instruments will be developed or adapted to measure relevant student and teacher knowledge, student motivation, and teacher practices. Computer-mediated discourse analysis will be used over the course of the study to track online interactions among students, teachers, and science mentors.

Collaborative Math: Creating Sustainable Excellence in Mathematics for Head Start Programs

This project will adapt and study a promising and replicable teacher professional development (PD) intervention, called Collaborative Math (CM), for use in early childhood programs. Prepared as generalists, preschool teachers typically acquire less math knowledge in pre-service training than their colleagues in upper grades, which reduces their effectiveness in teaching math. To address teacher PD needs, the project will simultaneously develop teacher content knowledge, confidence, and classroom practice by using a whole teacher approach.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1503486
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2015 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

This project was submitted to the Discovery Research K-12 (DRK-12) program that seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models, and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. The project will adapt and study a promising and replicable teacher professional development (PD) intervention, called Collaborative Math (CM), for use in early childhood programs. CM content will focus on nine topics emphasized in preschool mathematics, including sets, number sense, counting, number operations, pattern, measurement, data analysis, spatial relationships, and shape. These concepts are organized around Big Ideas familiar in early math, are developmentally appropriate and foundational to a young child's understanding of mathematics. The project addresses the urgent need for improving early math instruction for low-income children. Prepared as generalists, preschool teachers typically acquire less math knowledge in pre-service training than their colleagues in upper grades, which reduces their effectiveness in teaching math. To address teacher PD needs, the project will simultaneously develop teacher content knowledge, confidence, and classroom practice by using a whole teacher approach. Likewise, the project will involve teachers, teacher aides, and administrators through a whole school approach in PD, which research has shown is more effective than involving only lead teachers. Through several phases of development and research, the project will investigate the contributions of project components on increases in teacher knowledge and classroom practices, student math knowledge, and overall implementation. The project will impact approximately 200 Head Start (HS) teaching staff, better preparing them to provide quality early math experiences to more than 3,000 HS children during the project period. Upon the completion of the project, a range of well-tested CM materials such as resource books and teaching videos will be widely available for early math PD use. Assessment tools that look at math knowledge, attitudes, and teacher practice will also be available. 

The project builds on Erikson Institute research and development work in fields of early math PD and curriculum. Over a 4-year span, project development and research will be implemented in 4 phases: (1) adapting the existing CM and research measures for HS context; (2) conducting a limited field study of revised CM in terms of fidelity and director, teacher/aide, and student outcomes, and study of business as usual (BAU) comparison groups; (3) a study of the promise of the intervention promise with the phase 3 BAU group (who offered baseline in phase 2) and (4) a test of the 2nd year sustainability intervention with phase 3 treatment group. The teacher and student measures are all published, frequently used measures in early childhood education and will be piloted and refined prior to full implementation. The project is a partnership between Erikson, SRI, and Chicago Head Start programs. Project research and resources will be widely disseminated to policy makers, researchers, and practitioners.

TRUmath and Lesson Study: Supporting Fundamental and Sustainable Improvement in High School Mathematics Teaching (Collaborative Research: Schoenfeld)

Given the changes in instructional practices needed to support high quality mathematics teaching and learning based on college and career readiness standards, school districts need to provide professional learning opportunities for teachers that support those changes. The project is based on the TRUmath framework and will build a coherent and scalable plan for providing these opportunities in high school mathematics departments, a traditionally difficult unit of organizational change.

Award Number: 
1503454
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2015 to Sun, 06/30/2019
Full Description: 

Given the changes in instructional practices needed to support high quality mathematics teaching and learning based on college and career readiness standards, school districts need to provide professional learning opportunities for teachers that support those changes. The project will build a coherent and scalable plan for providing these opportunities in high school mathematics departments, a traditionally difficult unit of organizational change. Based on the TRUmath framework, characterizing the five essential dimensions of powerful mathematics classrooms, the project brings together a focus on curricular materials that support teaching, Lesson Study protocols and materials, and a professional learning community-based professional development model. The project will design and revise professional development and coaching guides and lesson study mathematical resources built around the curricular materials. The project will study changes in instructional practice and impact on student learning. By documenting the supports used in the Oakland Unified School District where the research and development will be conducted, the resources can be used by other districts and in similar work by other research-practice partnerships.

This project hypothesizes that the quality of classroom instruction can be defined by five dimensions - quality of the mathematics; cognitive demand of the tasks; access to mathematics content in the classroom; student agency, authority, and identity; and uses of assessment. The project will use an iterative design process to develop and refine a suite of tool, including a conversation guide to support productive dialogue between teachers and coaches, support materials for building site-based professional learning materials, and formative assessment lessons using Lesson Study as a mechanism to enact reforms of these dimensions. The study will use a pre-post design and natural variation to student the relationships between these dimensions, changes in teachers' instructional practice, and student learning using hierarchical linear modeling with random intercept models with covariates. Qualitative of the changes in teachers' instructional practices will be based on coding of observations based on the TRUmath framework. The study will also use qualitative analysis techniques to identify themes from surveys and interviews on factors that promote or hinder the effectiveness of the intervention.

TRUmath and Lesson Study: Supporting Fundamental and Sustainable Improvement in High School Mathematics Teaching (Collaborative Research: Donovan)

Given the changes in instructional practices needed to support high quality mathematics teaching and learning based on college and career readiness standards, school districts need to provide professional learning opportunities for teachers that support those changes. The project is based on the TRUmath framework and will build a coherent and scalable plan for providing these opportunities in high school mathematics departments, a traditionally difficult unit of organizational change.

Award Number: 
1503342
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2015 to Sun, 06/30/2019
Full Description: 

Given the changes in instructional practices needed to support high quality mathematics teaching and learning based on college and career readiness standards, school districts need to provide professional learning opportunities for teachers that support those changes. The project will build a coherent and scalable plan for providing these opportunities in high school mathematics departments, a traditionally difficult unit of organizational change. Based on the TRUmath framework, characterizing the five essential dimensions of powerful mathematics classrooms, the project brings together a focus on curricular materials that support teaching, Lesson Study protocols and materials, and a professional learning community-based professional development model. The project will design and revise professional development and coaching guides and lesson study mathematical resources built around the curricular materials. The project will study changes in instructional practice and impact on student learning. By documenting the supports used in the Oakland Unified School District where the research and development will be conducted, the resources can be used by other districts and in similar work by other research-practice partnerships.

This project hypothesizes that the quality of classroom instruction can be defined by five dimensions - quality of the mathematics; cognitive demand of the tasks; access to mathematics content in the classroom; student agency, authority, and identity; and uses of assessment. The project will use an iterative design process to develop and refine a suite of tool, including a conversation guide to support productive dialogue between teachers and coaches, support materials for building site-based professional learning materials, and formative assessment lessons using Lesson Study as a mechanism to enact reforms of these dimensions. The study will use a pre-post design and natural variation to student the relationships between these dimensions, changes in teachers' instructional practice, and student learning using hierarchical linear modeling with random intercept models with covariates. Qualitative of the changes in teachers' instructional practices will be based on coding of observations based on the TRUmath framework. The study will also use qualitative analysis techniques to identify themes from surveys and interviews on factors that promote or hinder the effectiveness of the intervention.

Science Teachers Learning from Lesson Analysis (STeLLA): High School Biology

This project will develop and test a biology teacher professional model that employs analysis of videotaped lessons to promote increased biology content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge among practicing biology teachers. The content of the professional development activities will focus on the crosscutting concepts of stability and change that link core ideas in three areas of biology: cell biology, heredity, and evolution.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1503280
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2015 to Wed, 07/31/2019
Full Description: 

The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. This project will develop and test a biology teacher professional model that employs analysis of videotaped lessons to promote increased biology content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge among practicing biology teachers. The content of the professional development activities will focus on the crosscutting concepts of stability and change that link core ideas in three areas of biology: cell biology, heredity, and evolution. These are content areas that have been shown to be difficult for students to learn, and difficult for teachers to teach. The professional development model will include: a) a summer institute where teachers gain new knowledge and skills in biology and learn to analyze videotaped lessons; b) opportunities to teach project-developed lessons during the academic year; and c) study group sessions during the academic year where participating teachers analyze videoclips of their own teaching.

The project will design, develop, and test a teacher professional development model that is based on a previously developed approach that has been shown to be effective among elementary school teachers. It is hypothesized that the newly developed program will have a positive impact on the science achievement of high school students, that it will improve teacher science content knowledge and classroom practice, and that the effects on student outcomes will be equitable across student demographic variables. To test thee hypotheses, the project will employ a quasi-experimental research approach in which teachers will serve as their own comparison groups in a cohort control design. Hierarchical linear modeling will be used to differentiate the effects of variances in teacher content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge, student demographic variables, and school factors. It is anticipated that the project will find evidence that the proposed approach to biology teacher professional development has the potential to close the achievement gaps among student populations.

Playing with the Data: Developing Digital Supports for Middle School Science Teachers using Game-based Formative Assessment

This project will use cycles of design-based research to build new knowledge about how to facilitate teachers' interpretation and use of digital game-based formative assessment data. The research will also inform the revision and expansion of Playfully, an existing, online data-reporting dashboard that can be used with multiple digital games.

Award Number: 
1503255
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2015 to Sat, 06/30/2018
Full Description: 

The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

This project will use cycles of design-based research to build new knowledge about how to facilitate teachers' interpretation and use of digital game-based formative assessment data. The research will also inform the revision and expansion of Playfully, an existing, online data-reporting dashboard that can be used with multiple digital games. The project is a collaboration between researchers at Education Development Center Inc.'s Center for Children and Technology (EDC|CCT) and the assessment and game development teams at GlassLab. The research and development teams will engage in a three-year partnership with 60 middle-grade science teachers working in diverse school settings in different parts of the country. The aim of the project is to refine an online formative assessment platform that utilizes data from a video game designed to teach argumentation at the middle school level. It provides rigorous research on the design features of data tools and associated materials available to teachers to inform their ongoing instruction (i.e., formative assessment tools) when using game-based platforms.

Dissemination of the results of this project will include practical, evidence-based suggestions for supporting middle school science teachers' use of digital games for assessment, and for the design and implementation of data dashboards. Key audiences include educational game designers, game-based assessment developers, formative assessment experts, and leaders in middle grade science teaching and learning.

Student-Adaptive Pedagogy for Elementary Teachers: Promoting Multiplicative and Fractional Reasoning to Improve Students' Preparedness for Middle School Mathematics

The project develops a teacher professional development intervention to support student-adaptive pedagogy for multiplicative and fractional reasoning. The idea is that classroom instruction should build on students' current conceptions and experiences. It focuses on students from urban, underserved and low-socioeconomic status populations who often fall behind in the elementary grades and are left underprepared for middle grades mathematics.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1503206
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/15/2015 to Sun, 06/30/2019
Full Description: 

The project develops a teacher professional development intervention to support student-adaptive pedagogy for multiplicative and fractional reasoning. The idea is that classroom instruction should build on students' current conceptions and experiences. The context for the study is grades 3-5 teachers in Aurora Public Schools. It focuses on students from urban, underserved and low-socioeconomic status populations who often fall behind in the elementary grades and are left underprepared for middle grades mathematics. It includes a summer workshop and academic year follow-up including teacher collaboration. The project provides tools for capitalizing on successful, school-based research for promoting teachers' buy-in, adoption, and sustaining of student-adaptive pedagogy. The project also includes measurement of student understanding of the concepts. An extensive plan to share tools and resources for teachers and instructional coaches (scalable to district/state levels) and of research instruments and findings, will promote sharing project outcomes with a wide community of stakeholders (teachers, administrators, researchers, parents, policy makers) responsible for students' growth. This is a Full Design & Development project within the DRK-12 Program's Learning Strand. The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

The project aims to implement and study a professional development intervention designed to shift upper-elementary teachers' mathematics teaching toward a constructivist approach, called student-adaptive pedagogy (AdPed), which adapts teaching goals and activities based on students' conceptions and experiences. The project focuses on multiplicative and fractional reasoning--critical for students' success in key areas of middle school mathematics (e.g., ratio, proportion, and function). The project seeks to design an instrument for measuring teachers' implementation of AdPed, a clinical interview rubric for students' multiplicative reasoning and then an analysis of teachers' content knowledge and the implementation of AdPed following the professional development. The research design is rooted in an innovative, cohesive framework that integrates four research-based components: (i) a model of mathematics learning and knowing, (ii) models of progressions in students' multiplicative and fractional reasoning, (iii) a model of teaching (AdPed) to promote such learning, and (iv) a mathematics teacher development continuum. Capitalizing on successful preliminary efforts in the Denver Metro area to refine a PD intervention and student-adaptive tools that challenge and transform current practices, the project will first validate and test instruments to measure (a) teacher growth toward adaptive pedagogy and (b) students' growth in multiplicative reasoning. Using these new instruments, along with available measures, the project will then promote school-wide teacher professional development (grades 3-5) in multiple schools in an urban district with large underserved student populations and study the professional development benefits for teacher practices and student outcomes. The mixed methods study includes classroom-based data (e.g., video analysis, lesson observations, teacher interviews) and measures of students' multiplicative reasoning specifically and mathematical understanding generally.

Visual Access to Mathematics: Professional Development for Teachers of English Learners

This project addresses a critical need, developing professional development materials to address the teachers of ELLs. The project will create resources to help teachers build ELLs' mathematical proficiency through the design and development of professional development materials building on visual representations (VRs) for mathematical reasoning across a range of mathematical topics.

Award Number: 
1503057
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2015 to Fri, 07/31/2020
Full Description: 

The demands placed on mathematics teachers of all students have increased with the introduction of college and career readiness standards. At the same time, the mathematics achievement of English Language Learners (ELLs) lags behind that of their peers. This project addresses a critical need, developing professional development materials to address the teachers of ELLs. The project will create resources to help teachers build ELLs' mathematical proficiency through the design and development of professional development materials building on visual representations (VRs) for mathematical reasoning across a range of mathematical topics. The project will study how to enhance teachers' pedagogical content knowledge that is critical to fostering ELLs' mathematical problem solving and communication to help support fluency in using VRs among teachers and students. To broaden the participation of students who have traditionally not demonstrated high levels of achievement in mathematics, a critical underpinning to further success in the sciences and engineering, there will need to be greater support for teachers of these students using techniques that have been demonstrated to improve student learning. 

The project will use an iterative design and development process to develop a blended learning model of professional development on using VRs with a 30-hour face-to-face summer institute and sixteen 2-hour online learning sessions. Teachers and teacher-leaders will help support the development of the professional development materials. A cluster randomized control trial will study the piloting of the materials and their impact on teacher outcomes. Thirty middle schools from Massachusetts and Maine serving high numbers of ELLs, with approximately 120 teachers, will be randomly assigned to receive the treatment or control conditions. Using a two-level random intercepts hierarchical linear model, the study will explore the impact of participation in the professional development on teachers' mathematical knowledge for teaching and instructional practice. The pilot study will also explore the feasibility of delivering the professional development model more broadly. It builds on prior work that has shown efficacy in geometry, but expands the work beyond a single area in mathematics. At the same time, they will test the model for feasibility of broad implementation.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Designing PD for Math Educators of Students Who are ELs

Presenter(s): Peter Tierney-Fife, Pamela Buffington, Josephine Louie, Jill Neumayer Depiper, & Johannah Nikula

2016 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Visual Access to Mathematics: Supporting Teachers of ELs

Presenter(s): Johannah Nikula, Pam Buffington, Mark Driscoll & Peter Tierney-Fife


Zoombinis: The Full Development Implementation Research Study of a Computational Thinking Game for Upper Elementary and Middle School Learners

This project leverages an existing game by embedding tools for studying patterns of students' decision-making and problem solving in the environment. This allows researchers to understand how students learn about computational thinking within a tool that bridges informal and formal learning settings to engage a wide variety of students. The project will also develop tools and resources for classroom teachers.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1502882
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/15/2015 to Sat, 06/30/2018
Full Description: 

The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis implementation research study examines the development of computational thinking for upper elementary and middle grades students. Computational thinking is the set of ideas and practices considered vital for computer science skills and has been attracting increased attention over the past several years in K-12 education. This project leverages an existing game by embedding tools for studying patterns of students' decision-making and problem solving in the environment. This allows researchers to understand how students learn about computational thinking within a tool that bridges informal and formal learning settings to engage a wide variety of students. The project will also develop tools and resources for classroom teachers. The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

The research examines three questions. First, what strategies do players develop during Zoombinis gameplay that may provide evidence of implicit computational thinking? Second, how can teachers leverage implicit knowledge of computational thinking developed in Zoombinis to improve formal (explicit) learning? Third, how can a large-scale commercial game be used for broad and equitable improvement of computational thinking? The research uses and develops educational data mining techniques to assess students' learning in conjunction with pre-post computational thinking assessments (external to the game), teacher interviews, classroom observations, and case studies of classroom use. The goal is to understand both students' learning of computational thinking and how to bridge the formal and informal learning via classroom implementation of the Zoombinis game.

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