Early State/Exploratory

Multimedia Engineering Notebook Tools to Support Engineering Discourse in Urban Elementary School Classrooms (Collaborative Research: Paugh)

This collaborative, exploratory, learning strand project focuses on improving reflective decision-making among elementary school students during the planning and re-design activities of the engineering design process. Five teacher researchers in three elementary schools provide the classroom laboratories for the study. Specified units from Engineering is Elementary, a well-studied curriculum, provide the engineering content.

Award Number: 
1316762
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2013 to Sun, 07/31/2016
Full Description: 

This collaborative, exploratory, learning strand project focuses on improving reflective decision-making among elementary school students during the planning and re-design activities of the engineering design process. Five teacher researchers in three elementary schools provide the classroom laboratories for the study. Specified units from Engineering is Elementary, a well-studied curriculum, provide the engineering content. In year one, the qualitative research observes student discourse as students develop designs. Based on the results, a paper engineering note book with prompts is designed for use in year two while a digital notebook is developed. In year three, the students use the digital notebook to develop their designs and redesigns.

The research identifies patterns of language that contribute to the reflective discourse and determines how the paper and electronic versions of the notebook improve the discourse. An advisory committee provides advice and evaluation. The notebooks are described in conference proceedings and made available online.

This work synthesizes what is known about the use of the notebooks in science and engineering education at the elementary school and investigates how to improve their use through digital media.

Climate Change Narrative Game Education (CHANGE)

This exploratory project helps high school students learn complex Global Climate Change (GCC) science by making it personally relevant and understandable. CHANGE creates a prototype curriculum, and integrates it into elective Marine Sciences high school courses. Research will examine the project's impact on student learning of climate science, student attitude toward science, and teacher instruction of climate science.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316782
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/15/2013 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

This exploratory project helps high school students learn complex Global Climate Change (GCC) science by making it personally relevant and understandable. CHANGE creates a prototype curriculum, and integrates it into elective Marine Sciences high school courses. Research will examine the project's impact on student learning of climate science, student attitude toward science, and teacher instruction of climate science. The goal of this project is to develop a place-based futuristic gaming simulation model that can easily extend to the other locales in other states, based on local climate change effects, local stakeholders, local economic and social effects to motivate the high school students in that area. CHANGE uses: (a) scientifically realistic text narratives about future Florida residents (text stories with local Florida characters, many years in the future based on GCC), (b) local, place-based approach grounded in west-central Florida Gulf Coast using scientific data, (c) a focus on the built environment, (d) simulations & games based on scientific data to help students learn principles of GCC so students can experience and try to cope with the potential long term effect of GCC via role-play and science-based simulation, and (e) a web-based eBook narrative where sections of narrative text alternate with simulations/computer games. The proposed project will work with 25 high school Marine Science teachers in 25 schools in Hillsborough County, Florida. The project delivers new research for instructional technologists and serious game developers regarding effective interface and usability design of intermedia narrative gaming-simulations for education.

This project employs and researches innovative models for delivering high school GCC education. GCC is a complex topic involving numerous factors and uncertainties making teaching this extremely important topic very difficult. The pioneering techniques proposed for this project will advance science education of GCC. It also will deliver new research for instructional technologists and serious game developers regarding effective interface and usability design of intermedia narrative gaming-simulations for education. Effective education is probably the most crucial part in our ability to cope with climate change. CHANGE will educate underserved low SES and minority high school students in Hillsborough County, and later elsewhere, with a model making GCC personally relevant to them.

Advancing Science Performance with Emerging Computer Technologies (ASPECT)

This project combines Unity (a cross-platform game engine and integrated development environment) with cutting-edge haptic technology to provide upper elementary students with a new way of accessing core science content. The core research question that undergirds this exploratory project is: How does the addition of haptic feedback influence users' understandings of core, often invisible, science content?

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316473
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2013 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

Advancing Science Performance with Emerging Computer Technologies (ASPECT) combines Unity (a cross-platform game engine and integrated development environment) with cutting-edge haptic technology to provide upper elementary students with a new way of accessing core science content, reaching beyond what is typically done in today's classrooms. Haptic feedback may engage embodied knowledge that would otherwise lie untapped. This affordance becomes important when one considers the invisible aspects that undergird many school science concepts (e.g. buoyancy, magnetism, and intermolecular forces.) Haptic interfaces provide learners access to invisible forces (often difficult or impossible to create in real-world scenarios) and may help fill gaps in an individual's chain of reasoning about abstract science content. The core research question that undergirds this exploratory project is: How does the addition of haptic feedback influence users' understandings of core, often invisible, science content?

The work is conducted by a cross disciplinary team from North Carolina State University, the Renaissance Computing Institute a local school system. The projecct includes experts in education, computer science, and art and design. The project uses an informant design approach; actively engaging children and local expert STEM teachers in the development and testing of simulations to help students learn about buoyancy, magnetism, and molecular forces emphasizing crosscutting concepts like cause and effect, systems, and energy. The simulations support student scientific inquiry with in-simulation cognitive tools including the just-in-time presentation of ancillary background information and a virtual science notebook planning tool.

Evaluation and testing includes focus groups with children and STEM teacher informants using low-tech versions of the simulations to elicit feedback on artwork, character features, storyboarded instructional sequences, and potential measures of performance and learning. Usability testing generates data on task performance (including success rate, completion time, and workload) user behavior, and user preference and feeds the iterative development process. Preliminary estimates of the impact are being made through a series of small-scale classroom-based pilot tests near the end of the design cycle for each simulation. These pilot studies employ a randomized pre-test-post-test control group research design with convenience samples of 40-60 grade 3-5 students each year. Participants are split into four groups (based on the haptic and visual rendering of the underlying forces being taught): none (just basic rendering of the objects in the simulation with no visual or haptic forces), visual rendering (including visualization of the forces involved), haptic rendering of forces (with no visualization of forces), and visual plus haptic rendering of forces. A mixed-methods approach is used to garner both quantitative and qualitative data regarding subjects' conceptions of the target content. Measures include open-ended questions, drawing tasks, concept mapping, objective close-ended questions, and retrospective probing.

A main thrust ASPECT is to lay the groundwork for a more inclusive cognitive model of how children integrate and use visual and haptic information in multisensory learning environments. The immediate product of ASPECT's exploratory work is the proof-of-concept that haptics can be successfully integrated with the Unity platform to build simulations that enhance and deepen upper elementary students' science learning. The study will also contribute to the development of design guidelines for the haptic-augmentation of science simulations that can be used by other researchers.

Every Day, Every Child: A Partnership for Research with Elementary Math and Science Instructional Specialists

This exploratory project is studying the use of mathematics and science specialist teachers in elementary schools. The first four studies are in six school districts in Washington State. They are characterizing and categorizing the specialists, investigating the content knowledge, preparation and needs of these teachers, determining their instructional effectiveness, and determining their impact on student learning and attitudes towards mathematics and science.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316520
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/15/2013 to Mon, 02/29/2016
Full Description: 

This exploratory project is studying the use of mathematics and science specialist teachers in elementary schools. The first four studies are in six school districts in Washington State. They are characterizing and categorizing the specialists, investigating the content knowledge, preparation and needs of these teachers, determining their instructional effectiveness, and determining their impact on student learning and attitudes towards mathematics and science. The project is recruiting 25 specialists in math and 15 in science and comparing them with equal numbers of matched non-specialist teachers. The fifth study is conducting a survey of state educational agencies to determine the types of specialist teaching models being used and how they are funded. The project is directed by Western Washington University in partnership with the Mathematics Education Collaboration.

The project is creating interview protocols for teachers and administrators, and utilizing Learning Math for Teaching (University of Michigan) and Assessing Teacher Learning About Science Teaching (ATLAST-Horizon Research). Classroom observations are being conducted using the Reformed Teaching Observational Protocol (RTOP-Arizona State University). Student measures include the Washington State Measures of Student Progress in math and science, an instrument to be created using items released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the Attitudes Towards Math Inventory, and the Modified Attitudes Towards Science Inventory.

Project research results are being disseminated in mathematics and science educational journals and conference presentations and are being posted on the project website. Findings are be shared with the Educational Service Districts in Washington State and other State agencies, as well as the National Educational Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

Developing Critical Evaluation as a Scientific Habit of Mind: Instructional Scaffolds for Secondary Earth and Space Sciences

This exploratory project develops and tests graphical scaffolds which facilitate high school students' coordination of connecting evidence with alternative explanations of particular phenomena, as well as their collaborative argumentation about these phenomena. At the same time, the project examines how high school students use these tools to construct scientifically accurate conceptions about major topics in Earth and space sciences and deepens their abilities to be critically evaluative in the process of scientific inquiry.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316057
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2013 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

This exploratory project develops and tests graphical scaffolds, called model-evidence link (MEL) activities, which facilitate high school students' coordination of connecting evidence with alternative explanations of particular Earth and space sciences phenomena, as well as their collaborative argumentation about these phenomena. At the same time, the project examines how high school students use these tools to construct scientifically accurate conceptions about major topics in Earth and space sciences and deepens their abilities to be critically evaluative in the process of scientific inquiry. The project's research questions are: (1) how does year-long instruction using MEL activities change high school students' critical evaluation abilities; (2) how does use of critical evaluation promote judgment reappraisals about Earth and space science topics with large plausibility gaps; and (3) to what extent does promotion of plausibility reappraisal lead to high school students' construction and reconstruction of scientifically accurate conceptions about fundamental concepts in Earth and space sciences? The project develops three MEL activities that focus on important topics in Earth and space sciences. The topics will be hydraulic fracturing, wetlands, and lunar origin. These MELs were selected because they align with major topical units in Earth and space science (i.e., geology, water resources, and astronomy, respectively).

The project develops effective instructional tools (the MEL activities to stimulate collaborative argumentation) designed to increase high school students' critical evaluation abilities that that are central for fully engaging in these scientific and engineering practices and constructing scientifically accurate understanding. Science topics require students to effectively evaluate connections with evidence and alternative explanations. The development of MEL activities that cover major Earth and space sciences topics will assist teachers in increasing their students' critical evaluation abilities. These tools are developed in geographically diverse settings, including one school district with a Hispanic majority, to gauge their effectiveness in helping all students. Furthermore, the design-based research methods employed in the proposed study are focused on developing tools that can be easily integrated into a variety of science curricula to supplement and reinforce scientific and engineering practices, rather than wholesale replacement. The ability to be critically evaluative is essential for developing a society that characteristically exhibits scientific habits of mind and is equipped to deal with future challenges in a way that is beneficial to our nation.

Primary School Organizations as Open Systems: Strategic External Relationship Development to Promote Student Engagement in STEM Topics

This study explores the following issues in 9 schools across 3 neighborhoods: (1) How student engagement in STEM is enabled and constrained by the school's relations with its external community; (2) The similarities and differences in partnerships across different types of schools in three different urban neighborhoods by mapping networks, and assessing the costs and benefits of creating, maintaining, and dissolving network ties; and (3) How to model school and network decisions, relations, and resources using an operations research framework.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1344266
Funding Period: 
Tue, 10/01/2013 to Fri, 09/30/2016
Full Description: 

This INSPIRE award is partially funded by the Science of Organization Program in the Division of Social and Economic Sciences in the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate, and the Math and Science Partnership Program and the Discovery Research K-12 program in the Division of Research on Learning in the Education and Human Resources Directorate.

Our country faces a decline in student engagement, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines and among underrepresented minority groups. Most often this problem is discussed in the context of an achievement gap, where racial and socioeconomic groups perform unequally on academic assessments. To understand what creates the achievement gap, researchers must understand the STEM "opportunity gap" that exists between students from different backgrounds, where these same students achieve differently because of varying exposure to out-of-school enrichment and learning experiences. The STEM opportunity gap arises from the inequity of out-of-school learning experiences for children. Therefore, efforts to engage minorities and women in STEM in primary schools will only succeed if we consider the complex organizational environment in which primary schools operate. The focus of this study is on what interorganizational relationships are necessary for schools to maintain to ensure equitable, efficient, and effective opportunities for students to engage in STEM. External relationships require schools to commit time and resources, and schools must decide which relationships to develop and maintain. Understanding what kinds of relationships particular school types invest in and what level of effort to commit to maintaining those relationships is important for improving student engagement opportunities in STEM.

Specifically, the study explores the following issues in 9 schools across 3 neighborhoods in Chicago, IL:

(1) How student engagement in STEM is enabled and constrained by the school's relations with its external community.

(2) The similarities and differences in partnerships, particularly STEM-related partnerships, across different types of schools in three different urban neighborhoods by mapping networks, and assessing the costs and benefits of creating, maintaining, and dissolving network ties.

(3) How to model school and network decisions, relations, and resources using an operations research framework. The model prescribes network configurations that address strategic, tactical, and operational concerns, to ensure the school will equitably, efficiently, and effectively utilize partners to improve student engagement in STEM.

Promoting Students' Spatial Thinking in Upper Elementary Grades using Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

This project explores the potential for enhancing students' interest and ability in STEM disciplines by broadening fourth grade students' understanding and interest in the spatial perspectives inherent in geography and other science disciplines. The project tests a set of hypotheses that posit that the use of GIS in the classroom results in a measureable improvement in students' spatial reasoning and motivation.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316660
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2013 to Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

This project explores the potential for enhancing students' interest and ability in STEM disciplines by broadening fourth grade students' understanding and interest in the spatial perspectives inherent in geography and other science disciplines. The study incorporates the latest developments in the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) within the classroom. The project tests a set of hypotheses that posit that the use of GIS in the classroom results in a measureable improvement in students' spatial reasoning and motivation. Geography teachers in elementary schools are trained to use GIS software to create digital maps specific to the subject matter and projects on which their students work. Students then work in small collaborative groups and engage in open discussions designed to enhance the development and use of their spatial and multi-step causal reasoning.

GIS has been used in middle and high school settings. This project introduces GIS to upper elementary grades particularly to allow students an early opportunity to be involved in meaningful data and map-driven activities to promote their spatial skills. The proposal team predicts that the traditional gap between girls and boys in spatial skills will shrink with training thus will be strongly pronounced in the experimental relative to control groups. The project documents the effectiveness of instructional practices that are likely to enhance multistep reasoning, systems thinking, conceptual and spatial understanding, and motivation for learning while learning to work with maps to solve problems involving geography and ecological awareness. The project develops instructional methods that incorporate innovative tools for promoting problem solving to address real-life issues in this increasingly technology-driven era. The innovative tool is open-source and designed for professionals, but it can be modified to be child-friendly. Classroom activities are integrated with science and social studies curricula and content standards. Teachers are expected to find the curriculum attractive and easy to implement.

Testing a Professional Development Model for High School Science Reform and the Relationship of Key Variables to Student Achievement

This project tests the efficacy of an intensive, three year professional development program, the BSCS National Academy for Curriculum Leadership (NACL) on student science achievement in the state of Washington. The goal of the NACL is to develop the capacity of district-based secondary science leadership teams to sustain the implementation of research-based science instructional materials that promote improvement in teaching and learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316202
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/15/2013 to Mon, 08/31/2015
Full Description: 

This project conducted by the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study(BSCS) tests the efficacy of an intensive, three year professional development program, the BSCS National Academy for Curriculum Leadership (NACL) on student science achievement in the state of Washington. The goal of the NACL is to develop the capacity of district-based secondary science leadership teams to sustain the implementation of research-based science instructional materials that promote improvement in teaching and learning. This study examines the influence of the program on student achievement after the schools and districts have had sufficient time for the effects to take hold.

The project uses existing data gathered from two cohorts of Washington-based NACL teams and archived student achievement data from Washington State?s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). Additional data are collected NACL-participating districts and personnel through surveys and interviews. The project compares student achievement between the 27 districts that participated in the NACL, and a minimum of 27 carefully matched, non-NACL districts using propensity-scoring methodology. Districts have experienced different dosages of the NACL, and the project examines the differential effects of being involved in the NACL over time.

This research study provides an opportunity for multiple stakeholders including NSF, other corporate foundations that have funded the development and implementation of the NACL, BSCS, and participating school districts to determine the extent to which professional development promotes the improvement student science achievement results. The broader impact of the research is testing the extent to which basic elements of teacher professional development models correlate with student achievement and to do so in a way that could be replicated by others in similar contexts. The proposed work would inform educators about the research-based approaches to professional development that has evidence of efficacy. Moreover, by determining the time-scales by which professional development programs might be shown to influence student achievement, the findings provide new information to policymakers and researchers regarding the amount of time that could be required to see a positive impact from new educational policies and programs.

Fostering Pedagogical Argumentation: Pedagogical Reasoning with and About Student Science Ideas

This project will use an iterative approach to design activities and supports that foster pedagogical argumentation for use in undergraduate teacher education courses. This project will examine: 1) whether and how PSTs engage in pedagogical argumentation and 2) whether and how this engagement impacts how they listen and respond to student ideas.

Award Number: 
1316232
Funding Period: 
Tue, 10/01/2013 to Sun, 09/30/2018
Full Description: 

Effective and ambitious teaching in science requires that teachers listen and respond to student ideas. But research shows that doing so in the classroom can be logistically, socially, and intellectually challenging for both expert and novice teachers. Listening to student ideas requires teachers to anticipate and interpret multiple lines of thinking that may be expressed ambiguously and simultaneously. Responding to student thinking, both in-the-moment and in future instruction, presents further challenges because teachers must balance their choices with other instructional priorities. Unfortunately, little work has been done to date in supporting these challenging practices in those who are learning to teach, pre-service teachers (PSTs). In order to address this gap, researchers in this Exploratory project will introduce a new approach to teacher education: pedagogical argumentation. Pedagogical argumentation creates a supportive environment in which the PSTs learn and refine these practices of listening and responding by using student ideas as evidence to construct and defend potential pedagogical decisions.

Over three years researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison will use an iterative approach to design activities and supports that foster pedagogical argumentation for use in undergraduate teacher education courses. This project will examine: 1) whether and how PSTs engage in pedagogical argumentation and 2) whether and how this engagement impacts how they listen and respond to student ideas. Working with both elementary and secondary PSTs, researchers will probe and explore their changing listening and responding practices by: collecting records of pedagogical argumentation (both video and written) as it occurs in the science teaching methods courses; conducting interviews about PSTs understanding of student ideas; and documenting PSTs teaching experiences in their school placements.

The science teacher education community writ large is in need of systematic approaches to teacher education that better support PSTs in learning ambitious teaching practices such as listening and responding to student ideas. The proposed study addresses this need and, in doing so, will support both immediate PSTs in engaging in this work as well as the broader teacher education community as it struggles with these same challenges. Moreover, the novel practice of pedagogical argumentation advances the fields theoretical understanding of the problem space for supporting these challenges by combining insight from two extensive programs of research in teaching and learning: 1) teacher reasoning about student ideas, and 2) argumentation about science content. As such, the practice of pedagogical argumentation has the potential to transform how teacher educators approach pre-service education.

CAREER: Scaffolding Engineering Design to Develop Integrated STEM Understanding with WISEngineering

The development of six curricular projects that integrate mathematics based on the Common Core Mathematics Standards with science concepts from the Next Generation Science Standards combined with an engineering design pedagogy is the focus of this CAREER project.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1253523
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2013 to Sun, 06/30/2019
Full Description: 

The development of six curricular projects that integrate mathematics based on the Common Core Mathematics Standards with science concepts from the Next Generation Science Standards combined with an engineering design pedagogy is the focus of this DRK-12 CAREER project from the University of Virginia. Research on the learning sciences with a focus on a knowledge integration perspective of helping students build and retain connections among normative and relevant ideas and existing knowledge structures the development of the WiseEngineering learning environment, an online learning management system that scaffolds engineering design projects. WiseEngineering provides support for students and teachers to conduct engineering design projects in middle and high school settings. Dynamic virtualizations that enable learners to observe and experiment with phenomena are combined with knowledge integration patterns to structure a technology rich learning environments for students. The research focuses on the ways in which metacognition, namely self-knowledge and self-regulation interact with learning in these technology-enhanced environments.Embedded assessments and student pre and post-testing of key science and mathematics constructs provide evidence of the development of student understanding.A rubric that examines knowledge integration is used to examine the extent wo which students understand how multiple concepts interact in a given context. A mixed-methods research design will examines how students and teachers in middle school mathematics and science courses develop understanding of the underlying principles in STEM. The PI of this award has integrated research and education in this proposal by connecting her research on engineering design and technology-enabled learning environments with the preservice secondary education methods course that she teachs. In addition, she has folded the research into the instructional technology graduate courses of which she is the instructor.

Engineering design is a key area of the Next Generation Science Standards that requires additional curricular materials development and research on how students integrate concepts across mathematics and science to engage in these engineering practices. The technology-rich learning environment, WISEngineering, provides the context to examine how student engineering design principles evolve over time. The opportunitiy for students to provide critiques of each others' work provides the context in which to examine crucial metacognitive principles. Classroom observations and teacher interviews provides the opportunity to examine how the technology-rich engineering design learning environment integrates STEM knowledge for teachers as well as students.

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