Early State/Exploratory

CAREER: Mathematics Instruction for English Language Learners (MI-ELL)

This study is investigating the classroom factors and teacher characteristics that contribute to Latino English Language Learners' (ELL) gains in mathematics learning in the eighth grade. In addition to looking for key characteristics that influence mathematics learning, the researchers are measuring teachers' knowledge of mathematics for teaching, quality of instruction, and knowledge about English learners.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1055067
Funding Period: 
Fri, 07/15/2011 to Sat, 06/30/2018
Full Description: 

This study is investigating the classroom factors and teacher characteristics that contribute to Latino English Language Learners' (ELL) gains in mathematics learning in the eighth grade. Researchers are collaborating with two school districts in Texas to investigate teaching practices. The project includes professional development that incorporates successful strategies found from their investigations. In addition to looking for key characteristics that influence mathematics learning, the researchers are measuring teachers' knowledge of mathematics for teaching, quality of instruction, and knowledge about English learners.

The research design of the five-year study is a two-level cluster design in which students are nested within teachers. The goal is to predict English Language Learners' gains in mathematics achievement on standardized tests from the resources used by teachers. Measures of teacher knowledge include the Learning Mathematics for Teaching instrument, TExES Bilingual Education Supplemental 4-8 Representative Exam, and the Quality of Mathematics Instruction instrument. Variables and their interactions are analyzed to understand their relationship with student achievement. The evaluation plan involves both formative and summative components related to conducting the research and offering the associated professional development. The educational plan includes implementing a Mathematics Bilingual Institute that offers practicing teachers a professional development focused on successful classroom practices.

This project has the potential to help educators throughout the United States understand the best practices that promote mathematical learning for Latino ELL students. It can help us understand teacher characteristics that contribute to student learning and ways to help teachers develop those characteristics.

Integrating Engineering and Literacy

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

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

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

CAREER: Supporting Middle School Students' Construction of Evidence-Based Arguments

Doing science requires that students learn to create evidence-based arguments (EBAs), defined as claims connected to supporting evidence via premises. In this CAREER project, I investigate how argumentation ability can be enhanced among middle school students. The project entails theoretical work, instructional design, and empirical work, and involves 3 middle schools in northern Utah and southern Idaho.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0953046
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/15/2010 to Fri, 07/31/2015
Project Evaluator: 
David Williams
Full Description: 

Doing science requires that students learn to create evidence-based arguments (EBAs), defined as claims connected to supporting evidence via premises. The question chosen for study by a new researcher at Utah State University is: How can argumentation ability be enhanced among middle school students? This study involves 325 middle school students in 12 class sections from 3 school districts in Utah and Idaho. First, students in middle school science classrooms will be introduced to problem-based learning (PBL) units that allow them to investigate ill-structured science problems. These activities provide students with something about which to argue: something that they have explored personally and with which they have grappled. Next, they will construct arguments using a powerful computer technology, the Connection Log, developed by the PI. The Connection Log provides a scaffold for building arguments, allowing each student to write about his/her reasoning and compare it to arguments built by peers. The study investigates how the Connection Log improves the quality of students' arguments. It also explores whether students are able to transfer what they have learned to new situations that call for argumentation.

This study is set in 6th and 7th grade science classrooms with students of diverse SES, ethnicity, and achievement levels. The Connection Log software supports middle school students with written prompts on a computer screen that take students through the construction of an argument. The system allows students to share their arguments with other members of their PBL group. The first generation version of the Connection Log asks students to:

1. define the problem, or state the problem in their own words

2. determine needed information, or decide on evidence they need to find to solve the problem

3. find and organize needed information

4. develop a claim, or make an assertion stating a possible problem solution

5. link evidence to claim, linking specific, relevant data to assertions

The model will be optimized through a process of design-based research. The study uses a mixed methods research design employing argument evaluation tests, video, interviews, database information, debate ratings, and a mental models measure, to evaluate student progress.

This study is important because research has shown that students do not automatically come to school prepared to create evidence-based arguments. Middle school students face three major challenges in argumentation: adequately representing the central problem of the unit; determining and obtaining the most relevant evidence; and synthesizing gathered information to construct a sound argument. Argumentation ability is crucial to STEM performance and to access to STEM careers. Without the ability to formulate arguments based upon evidence, middle school students are likely to be left out of the STEM pipeline, avoid STEM careers, and have less ability to critically evaluate and understand scientific findings as citizens. By testing and refining the Connection Log, the project has the potential for scaling up for use in science classrooms (and beyond) throughout the United States.

CAREER: Examining the Role of Context in the Mathematical Learning of Young Children

This project involves a longitudinal, ethnographic study of children's mathematical performances from preschool to first grade in both formal classroom settings and informal settings at school and home. The study seeks to identify opportunities for mathematical learning, to map varied performances of mathematical competence, to chart changes in mathematical performance over time, and to design and assess the impact of case studies for teacher education.

Award Number: 
1461468
Funding Period: 
Mon, 06/15/2009 to Tue, 05/31/2011
Full Description: 

This project involves a longitudinal, ethnographic study of children's mathematical performances from preschool to first grade in both formal classroom settings and informal settings at school and home. The proposed site for the study is a small, predominately African-American pk-12 school. The study seeks to identify opportunities for mathematical learning by young children across multiple contexts, to map varied performances of mathematical competence by young children, to chart changes in young children's mathematical performance over time, and to design and assess the impact of case studies for teacher education that explore young children's mathematical competencies. Research questions focus on mathematical opportunities for learning in various contexts, children's development of knowledge, skills, and dispositions over time, the characteristics of competent mathematical performances, and the role of case studies in helping beginning teachers to understand young minority children's mathematical thinking. Data collected will include video tapes of classroom activities, written fieldnotes of formal and informal settings, student work, parent focus group transcripts, and children's interview performances. Analysis will involve both thematic coding and construction of case studies. The overarching goal of this project is to transform the ways that researchers think about and study the mathematical learning of young minority children as well as the quality of schooling these children experience.

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