Early State/Exploratory

Teaching Environmental Sustainability - Model My Watershed (Collaborative Research: Kerlin)

This project will develop curricula for environmental/geoscience disciplines for high-school classrooms. The Model My Watershed (MMW) v2 app will bring new environmental datasets and geospatial capabilities into the classroom, to provide a cloud-based learning and analysis platform accessible from a web browser on any computer or mobile device, thus overcoming the cost and technical obstacles to integrating Geographic Information System technology in secondary education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1418133
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Project Evaluator: 
Education Design
Full Description: 

This project will develop curricula for environmental/geoscience disciplines for high-school classrooms. It will teach a systems approach to problem solving through hands-on activities based on local data and issues. This will provide an opportunity for students to act in their communities while engaging in solving problems they find interesting, and require synthesis of prior learning. The Model My Watershed (MMW) v2 app will bring new environmental datasets and geospatial capabilities into the classroom, to provide a cloud-based learning and analysis platform accessible from a web browser on any computer or mobile device, thus overcoming the cost and technical obstacles to integrating Geographic Information System technology in secondary education. It will also integrate new low-cost environmental sensors that allow students to collect and upload their own data and compare them to data visualized on the new MMW v2. This project will transform the ability of teachers throughout the nation to introduce hands-on geospatial analysis activities in the classroom, to explore a wide range of geographic, social, political and environmental concepts and problems beyond the project's specific curricular focus.

The Next Generation Science Standards state that authentic research experiences are necessary to enhance STEM learning. A combination of computational modeling and data collection and analysis will be integrated into this project to address this need. Placing STEM content within a place- and problem-based framework enhances STEM learning. Students, working in groups, will not only design solutions, they will be required to defend them within the application portal through the creation of multimedia products such as videos, articles and web 2.0 presentations. The research plan tests the overall hypothesis that students are much more likely to develop an interest in careers that require systems thinking and/or spatial thinking, such as environmental sciences, if they are provided with problem-based, place-based, hands-on learning experiences using real data, authentic geospatial analysis tools and models, and opportunities to collect their own supporting data. The MMW v2 web app will include a data visualization tool that streams data related to the modeling application. This database will be modified to integrate student data so teachers and students can easily compare their data to data collected by other students and the government and research data. All data will be easily downloadable so that students can increase the use of real data to support the educational exercises. As a complement to the model-based activities, the project partners will design, manufacture, and distribute a low-cost environmental monitoring device, called the Watershed Tracker. This device will allow students to collect real-world data to enhance their understanding of watershed dynamics. Featuring temperature, light, humidity, and soil moisture sensors, the Watershed Tracker will be designed to connect to tablets and smartphones through the audio jack common to all of these devices.

Taking Games to School: Exploratory Study to Support Game-based Teaching and Learning In High-School Science Classes

This project is building a set of software tools, including a tool for annotating screen recordings of activities in games, a teacher data dashboard for information about students' in-game learning, and tools to help teachers customize activities in games to better align with curricular standards. The project will find out whether these new tools can enhance teaching and/or learning. 

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1415284
Funding Period: 
Tue, 07/15/2014 to Sat, 06/30/2018
Full Description: 

Research shows that educational games can enhance students' science learning, but current work leaves teachers dependent on researchers and games companies to provide good games and game-based curricula. This project aims to study how teachers can be involved in making science learning games more effective, and how educational science games can better support good teaching. This project is building a set of software tools, including a tool for annotating screen recordings of activities in games, a teacher data dashboard for information about students' in-game learning, and tools to help teachers customize activities in games to better align with curricular standards. It will conduct studies with successful research-based educational games for learning science, and popularly available educational games from websites such as BrainPop, in a network of teachers who have experience using 'canned' games in their classrooms. The project will find out whether these new tools can enhance teaching and/or learning. It will also help develop a list of the types of customization options teachers need in order to be able to effectively use educational games in their classrooms. If successful, this research could point the way towards new tools that let teachers create activities that turn any game into an educational game, and to better use existing educational games in their classrooms. This could greatly speed up our ability to deliver high-quality learning experiences through educational games.

This project involves a participatory design process in which a small number of experienced teachers will feed into a principled, iterative refinement of prototypes of the tools (annotation, data dashboard, and level-builder) to be prototyped within the Brainplay suite. In the beta testing phase, a hierarchical linear model analysis will be conducted on both student and teacher outcomes in 25 classrooms. In addition to the quantitative analysis, qualitative studies involving classroom observations, focus groups, and teacher journaling will be conducted to examine impact on teaching practices and refine the functional specifications. Project dissemination will take place through the community around the previously-developed Leveling Up games (played around 10,000 times per week), and through existing professional networks such as Edmodo. The project will also work within the games community to help inform possible approaches to logging learning data and allowing teacher customization across all games.

Re-Imagining Video-based Online Learning

Despite the tremendous growth in the availability of mathematics videos online, little research has investigated student learning from them. The goal of this exploratory project is to create, investigate, and provide evidence of promise for a model of online videos that embodies a more expansive vision of both the nature of the content and the pedagogical approach than is currently represented in YouTube-style lessons.

Award Number: 
1416789
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

The goal of this exploratory project is to create, investigate, and provide evidence of promise for a model of online videos that embodies a more expansive vision of both the nature of the content and the pedagogical approach than is currently represented in YouTube-style lessons. This goal is pursued through the development and research of videos for two mathematics units--one focused on proportional reasoning at the middle grades level and the other focused on quadratic functions at the high school level, using an approach that could be applied to any STEM content area. The media attention on the Khan Academy and the wide array of massive open online courses has highlighted the internet phenomenon of widespread accessibility to mathematics lessons, which offer many benefits, such as student control of the pace of learning and earlier access to advanced topics than is often possible in public schools. Yet, despite the huge range of topics presented in online videos, there is surprising uniformity in the procedural emphasis of the content and in the expository mode of presentation. Moving beyond the types of videos now used, primarily recorded lectures that replicate traditional classroom experience, this project advances our understanding about how students learn from video and from watching others learn - vicarious learning - as opposed to watching an expert. This project addresses the need for an alternative approach. Rather than relying on an expository style, the videos produced for this project focus on pairs of students, highlighting their dialogue, explanations and alternative conceptions. This alternative has the potential to contribute to learning sciences and to develop a usable tool.

Despite the tremendous growth in the availability of mathematics videos online, little research has investigated student learning from them. This project develops dialogue-intensive videos in which children justify and explain their reasoning, elucidate their own comprehension of mathematical situations, and argue for and against various ideas and strategies. According to Wegerif (2007), such vicarious participation in a dialogic community may help learners take the perspective of another in a discussion, thus "expanding the spaces of learning" through digital technology. Consequently, a major contribution of this proposed work will be a set of four vicarious learning studies. Two qualitative studies investigate the particular meanings and ways of reasoning that learners appropriate from observing the dialogue of the students in the videos, as well as the learning trajectories of vicarious learners for each unit. Two quantitative studies isolate and test the effectiveness of the dialogic and the conceptual components of the model by comparing learning outcome gains for (a) conceptual dialogic versus conceptual expository conditions, and (b) dialogic conceptual versus dialogic procedural conditions. Another mark of the originality of the proposed work is the set of vicarious learning studies that contributes to the emerging literature across several dimensions, by (a) using secondary students rather than undergraduates; (b) exploring longer periods of learning, which is more conducive to deeper understanding; and (c) examining the nature of reasoning that is possible, not just the effectiveness of the approach.

Promoting Active Learning Strategies in Biology (PALS)

This project examines the potential of two research-based and college-tested active learning strategies in high school classrooms: Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) and Peer Instruction by adapting the strategies for implementation in biology classes, with the goal of determining which strategy shows the most promise for increasing student achievement and attitudes toward science.

Award Number: 
1417735
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Thu, 08/31/2017
Full Description: 

The use of active learning strategies has long been advocated in the sciences, but high school science instruction remains highly didactic across the country. This project addresses this longstanding concern by examining the potential of two research-based and college-tested learning strategies in high school classrooms: Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) and Peer Instruction. The POGIL strategy was developed initially for chemistry classes, and Peer Instruction was developed within physics classes. These two learning strategies will be adapted for implementation in biology classes, with the goal of determining which strategy shows the most promise for increasing student achievement and attitudes toward science. The project will also study the influence of these instructional strategies on teacher beliefs about active learning and the contributions of these beliefs on student success in biology. Creation of the professional development model and materials for this project bring together high school biology teachers, university biology faculty, and science education specialists.

The project will conduct design and development research to iteratively develop the instructional materials through a collaboration of high school teachers and college faculty members experienced in using the instructional approaches being compared. Adaptation of the learning strategies for use in biology was chosen because biology is the science course most often taught across schools in the country, and it is required for graduation in the state where this project is being conducted. To compare the outcomes of the two instructional approaches, 42 teacher pairs will be randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups: POGIL, Peer Instruction, or traditional instruction. Outcomes of the instructional approaches will be measured in terms of conceptual gains among teachers and students, attitudes toward science, personal agency beliefs, and instructional implementation fidelity.

Learning Trajectories in Grades K-2 Children's Understanding of Algebraic Relationships

This project will use classroom-based research to teach children about important algebraic concepts and to carefully explore how children come to understand these concepts. The primary goal is to identify levels of sophistication in children's thinking as it develops through instruction. Understanding how children's thinking develops will provide a critical foundation for designing curricula, developing content standards, and informing educational policies.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1415509
Funding Period: 
Tue, 07/15/2014 to Thu, 06/30/2016
Full Description: 

Algebra is a central concern in school mathematics education. Its historical gatekeeper role in limiting students' career and life choices is well documented. In recent years, the response has been to reframe algebra as a K-12 endeavor. To this end, research on children's algebraic thinking in grades 3-5 shows that students can begin to understand algebraic concepts in elementary grades that they will later explore more formally. However, there is much that is unknown about how children in grades K-2 make sense of algebraic concepts appropriate for their age. This project aims to understand specific ways in which grades K-2 children begin to think algebraically. It will identify how children understand mathematical relationships, how they represent the relationships they notice, and how they use these relationships as building blocks for more sophisticated thinking. The project will use classroom-based research to teach children about important algebraic concepts and to carefully explore how children come to understand these concepts. The primary goal is to identify levels of sophistication in children's thinking as it develops through instruction. Understanding how children's thinking develops will provide a critical foundation for designing curricula, developing content standards, and informing educational policies, all in ways that can help children become successful in algebra and have wider access to STEM-related careers.

While college and career readiness standards point to the role of algebra beginning in kindergarten, the limited research base in grades K-2 restricts algebra's potential in K-2 classrooms. This project will develop cognitive foundations regarding how children learn to generalize, represent, and reason with algebraic relationships. Such findings will inform both the design of new interventions and resources to strengthen algebra learning in grades K-2 and the improvement of educational policies, practices, and resources. The project will use design research to identify: (1) learning trajectories as cognitive models of how grades K-2 children learn to generalize, represent, and reason with algebraic relationships within content dimensions where these practices can occur (e.g., generalized arithmetic); (2) critical junctures in the development of these trajectories; and (3) characteristics of tasks and instruction that facilitate movement along the trajectories. The project's design will include the use of classroom teaching experiments that incorporate: (1) instructional design and planning; (2) ongoing analysis of classroom events; and (3) retrospective analysis of all data sources generated in the course of the experiment. This will allow for the development and empirical validation of hypothesized trajectories in students' understanding of algebraic relationships. This exploratory research will contribute critical early-grade cognitive foundations of K-12 teaching and learning algebra that can help democratize access to student populations historically marginalized by a traditional approach to teaching algebra. Moreover, the project will occur in demographically diverse school districts, thereby increasing the generalizability of findings across settings.

Knowledge Assets to Support the Science Instruction of Elementary Teachers (ASSET)

This project will address two obstacles that hinder elementary science instruction: (1) a lack of content-specific teaching knowledge (e.g., research on effective topic-specific instructional strategies); and (2) the knowledge that does exist is often not organized for use by teachers in their lesson planning and instruction. The project will collect existing empirical literature for two science topics and synthesize it with an often-overlooked resource -- practice-based knowledge. 

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1417838
Funding Period: 
Tue, 07/01/2014 to Fri, 06/30/2017
Full Description: 

This project will address two obstacles that hinder elementary science instruction: (1) a lack of content-specific teaching knowledge (e.g., research on effective topic-specific instructional strategies); and (2) the knowledge that does exist is often not organized for use by teachers in their lesson planning and instruction. The problem is particularly acute at the elementary level, where many teachers have limited science background and many have not taught science before. The project will collect existing empirical literature for two science topics and synthesize it with an often-overlooked resource -- practice-based knowledge. The resulting knowledge resources will be made available to teachers on a website. The resource will support elementary teachers as they plan for science instruction, and to enable them to productively adapt their own science materials to improve student learning. The project will work with teachers in high minority schools.

The project will contribute to a developing theory of Collective Pedagogical Content Knowledge (C-PCK) which includes the research literature, practitioner literature and collective wisdom of practice. The researchers will seek to understand how C-PCK can be made more useful for teachers. The research questions are: (1) What are the strengths and weaknesses of the knowledge collection and synthesis method? (2) What factors must be taken into account in applying the knowledge collection and synthesis method across science topics? (3) What affordances and limitations does the web-based resource present for teachers primarily, and for teacher educators and instructional materials developers? (4) How does access to content-specific teaching knowledge affect teachers' planning and instruction? Content-specific teaching knowledge will be collected through literature reviews (for empirical knowledge) and a series of iterative, on-line expert panels (to gather practice-based knowledge). The two sources of knowledge will be synthesized for each of the science topics and organized in a web-based resource for teachers. A group of pilot teachers will use the resource as they plan for and teach a unit of instruction on the science topics. Project researchers will observe their instruction and interview the teachers to look for evidence of the resource facilitating their instruction. In addition, researchers will administer assessments to teachers and their students to gauge changes on content knowledge that might be attributable to the resource. Teacher feedback will be used to modify the web-based resource and maximize its usability.

Instructional Leadership for Scientific Practices: Resources for Principals in Evaluating and Supporting Teachers' Science Instruction

This project will research the knowledge and supervision skills principals' and other instructional leaders' need to support teachers in successfully integrating scientific practices into their instruction, and develop innovative resources to support these leaders with a particular focus on high-minority, urban schools. The project will contribute to the emerging but limited literature on instructional leadership in science at the K-8 school level. 

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1415541
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Thu, 08/31/2017
Full Description: 

Although K-8 principals are responsible for instructional improvement across all subject areas, their focus has traditionally been on literacy and mathematics and only occasionally on science content and practice. New standards and assessments in science require that principals and other instructional leaders provide significant support to teachers to help them successfully integrate scientific practices into their instruction. There is evidence that these instructional leaders often lack the knowledge, resources or skills to provide this support. This project will research the knowledge and supervision skills principals' and other instructional leaders' need to support teachers in successfully integrating scientific practices into their instruction, and develop innovative resources to support these leaders with a particular focus on high-minority, urban schools. The project will contribute to the emerging but limited literature on instructional leadership in science at the K-8 school level.

The resources developed will involve: (1) Introducing scientific practices (including rationales, descriptions and vignettes illustrating each of the 8 scientific practices); (2) Using tools in schools (providing an observation protocol, teacher feedback form and improvement planning template); and (3) Analyzing sample video (including links to video of K-8 science instruction, completed supervision tools, explanations of their coding, and discussion of how to use them with teachers). The project will conduct in-depth interviews with four principals, work with 25 principals in the Boston Public Schools to iteratively design and test the resources. The project will also develop a measure of Leadership Content Knowledge of Scientific Practices (LCK-SP) which will be used to assess principals' knowledge. The project's research component will: (1) investigate principals' current knowledge about scientific practices and methods for supervision of science instruction; and (2) examine how resources can be designed to support instructional leaders' content knowledge of scientific practices.

Identifying an Effective and Scalable Model of Lesson Study

This project investigates the variation in teachers' practice of lesson study to identify effective and scalable design features of lesson study associated with student mathematics achievement growth in Florida. Lesson study is a teacher professional development model in which a group of teachers works collaboratively to plan a lesson, observe the lesson in a classroom with students, and analyze and discuss the student work and understanding in response to the lesson.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1417585
Funding Period: 
Fri, 08/01/2014 to Mon, 07/31/2017
Full Description: 

This project investigates the variation in teachers' practice of lesson study to identify effective and scalable design features of lesson study associated with student mathematics achievement growth in Florida. Lesson study is a teacher professional development model in which a group of teachers works collaboratively to plan a lesson, observe the lesson in a classroom with students, and analyze and discuss the student work and understanding in response to the lesson. Florida is the first state to promote lesson study as a statewide professional development model for implementing the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and improving instruction and student achievement. The original lesson study model imported from Japan poses a challenge for implementation and scalability in the United States, and there is emerging evidence that modifications have been made to make it feasible within the constraints of teachers' work schedules and school structures. Thus, there is an urgent need to investigate the variation in lesson study practice and how modified design features of mathematics lesson study are associated with improvement of student mathematics achievement. The research team will conduct a statewide survey of approximately 1,000 teachers in grades 3-8 who are practicing mathematics lesson study during the 2015-2016 academic year. They will examine variations in four design features of lesson study (structure, facilitator, knowledge resources for lesson planning, and research lesson and discussion) and their associated organizational supports. They will examine the relationships between these design features and the original lesson study model, teacher learning, and students' mathematics achievement growth.

This project is designed to advance the scholarship and practice of lesson study by: (1) identifying an effective and scalable model of mathematics lesson study with specific design features that are associated with positive teacher learning experience and improved student mathematics achievement; (2) advancing practical knowledge on how this effective and scalable model of mathematics lesson study can be practiced, based on in-depth case studies of lesson study groups; and (3) contributing to teacher learning principles that can be applied to various professional development programs in mathematics. The project will disseminate evidence regarding the characteristics of an effective and scalable mathematics lesson study model to state and district-level facilitators across the country. The project will also develop a Florida Lesson Study Network (FLSN) to share resources and facilitate communications regarding lesson study practice.

GRIDS: Graphing Research on Inquiry with Data in Science

The Graphing Research on Inquiry with Data in Science (GRIDS) project will investigate strategies to improve middle school students' science learning by focusing on student ability to interpret and use graphs. GRIDS will undertake a comprehensive program to address the need for improved graph comprehension. The project will create, study, and disseminate technology-based assessments, technologies that aid graph interpretation, instructional designs, professional development, and learning materials.

Award Number: 
1418423
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

The Graphing Research on Inquiry with Data in Science (GRIDS) project is a four-year full design and development proposal, addressing the learning strand, submitted to the DR K-12 program at the NSF. GRIDS will investigate strategies to improve middle school students' science learning by focusing on student ability to interpret and use graphs. In middle school math, students typically graph only linear functions and rarely encounter features used in science, such as units, scientific notation, non-integer values, noise, cycles, and exponentials. Science teachers rarely teach about the graph features needed in science, so students are left to learn science without recourse to what is inarguably a key tool in learning and doing science. GRIDS will undertake a comprehensive program to address the need for improved graph comprehension. The project will create, study, and disseminate technology-based assessments, technologies that aid graph interpretation, instructional designs, professional development, and learning materials.

GRIDS will start by developing the GRIDS Graphing Inventory (GGI), an online, research-based measure of graphing skills that are relevant to middle school science. The project will address gaps revealed by the GGI by designing instructional activities that feature powerful digital technologies including automated guidance based on analysis of student generated graphs and student writing about graphs. These materials will be tested in classroom comparison studies using the GGI to assess both annual and longitudinal progress. Approximately 30 teachers selected from 10 public middle schools will participate in the project, along with approximately 4,000 students in their classrooms. A series of design studies will be conducted to create and test ten units of study and associated assessments, and a minimum of 30 comparison studies will be conducted to optimize instructional strategies. The comparison studies will include a minimum of 5 experiments per term, each with 6 teachers and their 600-800 students. The project will develop supports for teachers to guide students to use graphs and science knowledge to deepen understanding, and to develop agency and identity as science learners.

Developing and Testing the Internship-inator, a Virtual Internship in STEM Authorware System

The Internship-inator is an authorware system for developing and testing virtual internships in multiple STEM disciplines. In a virtual internship, students are presented with a complex, real-world STEM problem for which there is no optimal solution. Students work in project teams to read and analyze research reports, design and perform experiments using virtual tools, respond to the requirements of stakeholders and clients, write reports and present and justify their proposed solutions. 

Award Number: 
1418288
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

Ensuring that students have the opportunities to experience STEM as it is conducted by scientists, mathematicians and engineers is a complex task within the current school context. This project will expand access for middle and high school students to virtual internships, by enabling STEM content developers to design and customize virtual internships. The Internship-inator is an authorware system for developing and testing virtual internships in multiple STEM disciplines. In a virtual internship, students are presented with a complex, real-world STEM problem for which there is no optimal solution. Students work in project teams to read and analyze research reports, design and perform experiments using virtual tools, respond to the requirements of stakeholders and clients, write reports and present and justify their proposed solutions. The researchers in this project will work with a core development network to develop and refine the authorware, constructing up to a hundred new virtual internships and a user group of more than 70 STEM content developers. The researchers will iteratively analyze the performance of the authorware, focusing on optimizing the utility and the feasibility of the system to support virtual internship development. They will also examine the ways in which the virtual internships are implemented in the classroom to determine the quality of the STEM internship design and influence on student learning.

The Intership-inator builds on over ten years of NSF support for the development of Syntern, a platform for deploying virtual internships that has been used in middle schools, high schools, informal science programs, and undergraduate education. In the current project, the researchers will recruit two waves of STEM content developers to expand their current core development network. A design research perspective will be used to examine the ways in which the developers interact with the components of the authorware and to document the influence of the virtual internships on student learning. The researchers will use a quantitative ethnographic approach to integrate qualitative data from surveys and interviews with the developers with their quantitative interactions with the authorware and with student use and products from pilot and field tests of the virtual internships. Data-mining and learning analytics will be used in combination with hierarchical linear modeling, regression techniques and propensity score matching to structure the quasi-experimental research design. The authorware and the multiple virtual internships will provide researchers, developers, and teachers a rich learning environment in which to explore and support students' learning of important college and career readiness content and disciplinary practices. The findings of the use of the authorware will inform STEM education about the important design characteristics for authorware that supports the work of STEM content and curriculum developers.

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