Design & Development

Professional Development to Support an Elementary School Science and Integrated Language Curriculum

To help address the need for science classrooms that support language learning for all students, this project will rigorously study the Science and Integrated Language (SAIL) curriculum, a year-long fifth-grade curriculum aligned to current science curriculum standards with a focus on English learners.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2035103
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Sat, 08/31/2024
Full Description: 

The nation's diverse and rapidly changing student demographics includes the rise of English learners, the fastest growing student population. Such demographic shifts highlight the importance of promoting and fostering science classrooms that support language learning for all students, including English learners. To help address this need, this project will rigorously study the Science and Integrated Language (SAIL) curriculum, a year-long fifth-grade curriculum aligned to current science curriculum standards with a focus on English learners. SAIL is grounded in design principles that are based on current research on children's science learning and second language acquisition. The curriculum includes four units that focus on central, driving questions (e.g., What happens to our garbage? or Why do falling stars fall?) to anchor the key physical and life science concepts of interest. The SAIL curriculum was originally developed with a prior DRK-12 grant using iterative cycles of development, field testing, and refinement. The project has three main objectives. First, the team will develop a teacher professional development program to support classroom implementation of SAIL. Second, the project will develop and validate the instruments needed to study the intervention and its impacts on teachers and students. Third, a quasi-experimental field trial will be conducted to assess the SAIL intervention's impacts on teachers and students.

The team will spend first year refining and iteratively developing the SAIL professional development package along with the measures to be used in the field trial. This is followed by the quasi-experimental study, which includes a treatment group of 15 elementary schools. A matched comparison group of 15 elementary schools will be obtained using propensity score matching at the school, teacher, and student levels. Fifth-grade science teachers will participate for 2 years, while two cohorts of fifth-grade students will participate for 1 year each. Measures will focus on student science learning with particular attention to English learner students and observations of teachers' instructional practices. Data will be analyzed using multi-level models accounting for nesting of students within teachers which, in turn, are nested within schools. At the completion of the project the team will have produced: (1) a fully documented professional development program to support teacher implementation of the SAIL curriculum, (2) measures needed to rigorously study the intervention and its impacts on teachers and students, and (3) further evidence of the potential effects of the SAIL intervention on teachers and students through a rigorous quasi-experimental field study.

Online Practice Suite: Practice Spaces, Simulations and Virtual Reality Environments for Preservice Teachers to Learn to Facilitate Argumentation Discussions in Math and Science

This project will develop, pilot, and refine a set of coordinated and complementary activities that teacher education programs can use in both online and face-to-face settings to provide practice-based opportunities for preservice teachers to develop their ability to facilitate argumentation-focused discussions in mathematics and science.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2037983
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/15/2020 to Mon, 07/31/2023
Full Description: 

In teacher education it is widely acknowledged that learning to teach requires that preservice teachers have robust, authentic, and consistent opportunities to engage in the work of teaching—ideally across different contexts, with diverse student populations, and for varied purposes—as they hone their instructional practice. Practice teaching experiences in K-12 classrooms, such as field placements and student teaching, are the most widely used approaches to provide these opportunities. In an ideal world these experiences are opportunities for preservice teachers to observe and work closely with mentor teachers and try out new instructional strategies with individual, small groups, and whole classes of K-12 students. While these experiences are critical to supporting preservice teachers' learning, it can be difficult to help preservice teachers transition from university classrooms to field placements in ways that provide them with opportunities to enact ambitious instructional strategies. This need is particularly acute in mathematics and science education, where classrooms that model strong disciplinary discourse and argumentation are not always prevalent. This challenge is amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic environment; with schools and universities across the nation operating online, many preservice teachers will miss out on opportunities to practice teaching both within their courses and in K-12 classrooms. To address this urgent challenge in STEM education, project researchers will develop, pilot, and refine a set of coordinated and complementary activities that teacher education programs can use in both online and face-to-face settings to provide practice-based opportunities for preservice teachers to develop their ability to facilitate argumentation-focused discussions in mathematics and science, a critical teaching practice in these content areas. The practice-based activities include: (1) interactive, online digital games that create targeted practice spaces to engage preservice teachers to respond to students' content-focused ideas and interactions; (2) facilitating group discussions with upper elementary or middle school student avatars in a simulated classroom using performance-based tasks; and (3) an immersive virtual reality whole-classroom environment that allows for verbal, textual and non-verbal interactions between a teacher avatar and 24 student avatars. The online practice suite, made up of these activities along with supports to help teacher educators use them effectively, represents not just an immediate remedy to the challenge of COVID-19, but a rich and flexible set of resources with the potential to support and improve teacher preparation well beyond the COVID-19 challenge.

This study will use design-based research to create this integrated system of practice teaching opportunities. This approach will involve developing and refining the individual practice activities, the integrated online practice suite, and the teacher educator support materials by working with a teacher educator community of practice and engaging up to 20 teacher educators and 400 preservice teachers in multiple rounds of tryouts and piloting during the three-year project. The project will proceed in three phases: a first phase of small-scale testing, a second phase trying the materials with teacher educators affiliated with the project team, and a third phase piloting materials with a broader group of mathematics and science teacher educators. Data sources include surveys of preservice teachers' background characteristics, perceptions of the practice activities, beliefs about content instruction, perceptions about preparedness to teach, and understanding of argumentation and discussion, videos and/or log files of their performances for each practice teaching activity, and scores on their practice teaching performances. The project team will also observe the in-class instructional activities prior to and after the use of each practice teaching activity, conduct interviews with teacher educators, and collect instructional logs from the teacher educators and instructional artifacts used to support preservice teachers' learning. Data analysis will include pre and post comparisons to examine evidence of growth in preservice math and science teachers' beliefs, perceptions, understanding, and teaching performance. The project team will also build a series of analytic memos to describe how each teacher educator used the online practice suite within the mathematics or science methods course and the factors and decisions that went into that each use case. Then, they will describe and understand how the various uses and adaptations may be linked to contextual factors within these diverse settings. Findings will be used to produce empirically and theoretically grounded design principles and heuristics for these types of practice-based activities to support teacher learning.

SimSnap: Orchestrating Collaborative Learning in Biology through Reconfigurable Simulations (Collective Research: Tissenbaum)

This project will develop and research collaborative learning in biology using tablet-style computers that support simulations of biological systems and that can be used individually or linked together. The project will be implemented over 4 years in middle school life science classes, in which students will solve important socio-scientific problems, such as growing healthy plants in community gardens to address the need to grow sufficient produce to fulfill ever increasing and varying demands.

Award Number: 
2010456
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2020 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

The project will develop and research collaborative learning in biology using tablet-style computers that support simulations of biological systems and that can be used individually or linked together. The project will be implemented over 4 years in middle school life science classes, in which students will solve important socio-scientific problems, such as growing healthy plants in community gardens to address the need to grow sufficient produce to fulfill ever increasing and varying demands. Working within a digital plant habitat simulation, students will investigate how different environmental and genetic factors affect the health of a variety of plants and vegetables. As students engage in design tasks, they will be able to seamlessly move between individual and collaborative work with peers by "snapping" their tablets together (by placing them next to each other) to create a single shared simulation that spans all their devices. Students will be able to drop elements of their individual inquiry activities (e.g., plant types, soil compositions) into their shared simulation, providing opportunities for collaborative discussion and knowledge integration. When students "unsnap" their tablets, their collaborative work will stay with them in a digital journal, for individual reflection or as a resource for future collaborative activities (with potentially new group members). Project curriculum units will help students see the connections between the science concepts and principles they are learning, as they iteratively work on their designs through a combination of individual, collaborative and whole class learning. This work will also develop new approaches that help teachers understand the state of the class when students are taking part open-ended biology investigations, and support the teacher classroom orchestration and facilitation. Project research findings, materials and software will be made available to interested teachers, administrators, policymakers, and researchers nationwide on the project website.

The project will research collaborative learning along three planesindividual, small group and whole classwith technologies and classroom teachers supporting learning in innovative ways. Research has shown that technology can support collaborative learning, but there is limited research on how it can support transitions between individual and collaborative learning. While research has also shown that collaborative or individual learning may be more beneficial depending on the task or learning goal, there are relatively few studies that examine the potential for learning when students move between these social planes. Further, as these configurations become increasingly complex, there is also the challenge of how to support teachers' orchestration and facilitation. Studies will focus around four main research questions: 1) How does engaging in personally relevant biology curriculum through user-driven investigations help students understand the underlying science content? 2) How are students using and sharing the work of others to develop their own understanding about the underlying science concepts? 3) How do designs that allow for the movement between individual, small group, and whole class configurations allow students to work as a learning community? 4) How does the technology platform support teachers in orchestrating and facilitating classroom activities? Project studies will follow a design-based research methodology, guided by the premise that learning in naturalistic settings is the product of multiple interacting variables that cannot be reduced to a small set of controlled factors. The research will be broken down across four main developmental arcs: Technology design and iteration; Facilitation, user testing, and co-design; Classroom implementation; and Research and analysis. Each of the designed technologies will be user tested in the lab prior to being deployed in the classroom. Part of the analysis will focus on how the different technologies (i.e., individual and connected tablets, the teacher orchestration tablet) support learning and collaboration in naturalistic settings. The project research framework provides a way to examine the usability, usefulness and impact of interactions in a multi-user collaborative context using a mixed-method approach with various quantitative measures and qualitative indicators. Teachers will be prepared to use the system through 2-week summer institutes, during which they will also participate in co-design of the curriculum and the technology. Project research findings, materials and software will be made available to interested teachers, administrators, policymakers, and researchers nationwide on the project website, as well as being disseminated to appropriate audiences via conference presentations and publications.

Developing a Modeling Orientation to Science: Teaching and Learning Variability and Change in Ecosystems (Collaborative Research: Miller)

This project addresses the need to make science relevant for school students and to support student interpretation of large data sets by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010155
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

There is an ongoing need to find ways to make science relevant for school students and an increasing need to support student interpretation of large data sets. This project addresses these needs by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts. Students construct and critique models that they and peers invent and, through the lens of models, develop foundational knowledge about the roles of variability and change in ecosystem functioning, as well as the roles of models and argumentation in scientific practice. The context for students' work is a set of citizen science-based investigations of changes in ecosystems in Maine conducted in twelve collaborating classrooms. The project studies how and to what extent students' use of different forms of modeling emerges from and informs how they investigate ecosystems. A parallel research effort investigates how and to what extent the development of teachers' comfort and proficiency with modeling changes students' engagement in these forms of modeling and students' understandings of ecosystems. A key contribution of the project is capitalizing on the Gulf of Maine Research Institutes's Ecosystem Investigation Network's citizen science field research to ground for middle school students the need to invent, revise, and contest models about real ecosystems. The understandings that result from the project's research provide evidence toward first, scaling the learning experiences to the network of 500+ teachers who are part of the Ecosystem Investigation Network, and, second, replication by programs nationally that aim to engage students in data-rich, field-based ecological investigations.

The investigation takes place in twelve collaborating middle-school classrooms, drawn from the network of 500+ Maine teachers trained in Maine's Ecosystem Investigation Network. Over the course of their field investigations, students engage in the construction, critique, and revision of three forms of modeling that play central roles in ecology: microcosms, system dynamics, and data modeling. Two innovations are introduced over the course of the project. The first is focused on enriching classroom supports for engaging in multiple forms of modeling. The second involves enhancing middle school teachers' learning about modeling, especially in the context of large data citizen science investigations. The study uses a mixed methods approach to explore the impact of the innovations on the experiences and understandings of both teachers and students. Instruments include teacher interviews and questionnaires, student interviews, and classroom observation. The understandings that result from the project's research will inform the design of professional development for teachers around data analysis and interpretation, and around how student understanding of modeling develops with sustained support, both of which are practices at the heart of scientific literacy.

Developing a Modeling Orientation to Science: Teaching and Learning Variability and Change in Ecosystems (Collaborative Research: Lehrer)

This project addresses the need to make science relevant for school students and to support student interpretation of large data sets by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010207
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

There is an ongoing need to find ways to make science relevant for school students and an increasing need to support student interpretation of large data sets. This project addresses these needs by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts. Students construct and critique models that they and peers invent and, through the lens of models, develop foundational knowledge about the roles of variability and change in ecosystem functioning, as well as the roles of models and argumentation in scientific practice. The context for students' work is a set of citizen science-based investigations of changes in ecosystems in Maine conducted in twelve collaborating classrooms. The project studies how and to what extent students' use of different forms of modeling emerges from and informs how they investigate ecosystems. A parallel research effort investigates how and to what extent the development of teachers' comfort and proficiency with modeling changes students' engagement in these forms of modeling and students' understandings of ecosystems. A key contribution of the project is capitalizing on the Gulf of Maine Research Institutes's Ecosystem Investigation Network's citizen science field research to ground for middle school students the need to invent, revise, and contest models about real ecosystems. The understandings that result from the project's research provide evidence toward first, scaling the learning experiences to the network of 500+ teachers who are part of the Ecosystem Investigation Network, and, second, replication by programs nationally that aim to engage students in data-rich, field-based ecological investigations.

The investigation takes place in twelve collaborating middle-school classrooms, drawn from the network of 500+ Maine teachers trained in Maine's Ecosystem Investigation Network. Over the course of their field investigations, students engage in the construction, critique, and revision of three forms of modeling that play central roles in ecology: microcosms, system dynamics, and data modeling. Two innovations are introduced over the course of the project. The first is focused on enriching classroom supports for engaging in multiple forms of modeling. The second involves enhancing middle school teachers' learning about modeling, especially in the context of large data citizen science investigations. The study uses a mixed methods approach to explore the impact of the innovations on the experiences and understandings of both teachers and students. Instruments include teacher interviews and questionnaires, student interviews, and classroom observation. The understandings that result from the project's research will inform the design of professional development for teachers around data analysis and interpretation, and around how student understanding of modeling develops with sustained support, both of which are practices at the heart of scientific literacy.

Developing a Modeling Orientation to Science: Teaching and Learning Variability and Change in Ecosystems (Collaborative Research: Peake)

This project addresses the need to make science relevant for school students and to support student interpretation of large data sets by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010119
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

There is an ongoing need to find ways to make science relevant for school students and an increasing need to support student interpretation of large data sets. This project addresses these needs by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts. Students construct and critique models that they and peers invent and, through the lens of models, develop foundational knowledge about the roles of variability and change in ecosystem functioning, as well as the roles of models and argumentation in scientific practice. The context for students' work is a set of citizen science-based investigations of changes in ecosystems in Maine conducted in twelve collaborating classrooms. The project studies how and to what extent students' use of different forms of modeling emerges from and informs how they investigate ecosystems. A parallel research effort investigates how and to what extent the development of teachers' comfort and proficiency with modeling changes students' engagement in these forms of modeling and students' understandings of ecosystems. A key contribution of the project is capitalizing on the Gulf of Maine Research Institutes's Ecosystem Investigation Network's citizen science field research to ground for middle school students the need to invent, revise, and contest models about real ecosystems. The understandings that result from the project's research provide evidence toward first, scaling the learning experiences to the network of 500+ teachers who are part of the Ecosystem Investigation Network, and, second, replication by programs nationally that aim to engage students in data-rich, field-based ecological investigations.

The investigation takes place in twelve collaborating middle-school classrooms, drawn from the network of 500+ Maine teachers trained in Maine's Ecosystem Investigation Network. Over the course of their field investigations, students engage in the construction, critique, and revision of three forms of modeling that play central roles in ecology: microcosms, system dynamics, and data modeling. Two innovations are introduced over the course of the project. The first is focused on enriching classroom supports for engaging in multiple forms of modeling. The second involves enhancing middle school teachers' learning about modeling, especially in the context of large data citizen science investigations. The study uses a mixed methods approach to explore the impact of the innovations on the experiences and understandings of both teachers and students. Instruments include teacher interviews and questionnaires, student interviews, and classroom observation. The understandings that result from the project's research will inform the design of professional development for teachers around data analysis and interpretation, and around how student understanding of modeling develops with sustained support, both of which are practices at the heart of scientific literacy.

From Access to Sustainability: Investigating Ways to Foster Sustainable Use of Computational Modeling in K-12 Science Classrooms

This project investigates how to support sustained engagement in computational modeling in middle school classrooms in two ways: 1) Design and develop an accessible modeling toolkit and accompanying thematically linked curricular units; and, 2) Examine how this toolkit and curriculum enable students to become sophisticated modelers and integrate modeling with other scientific practices such as physical experimentation and argumentation.

Award Number: 
2010413
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/15/2020 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

Modeling is a core scientific activity in which a difficult-to-observe phenomenon is represented, e.g., visually or in a computer program. Research has shown that sustained experience with modeling contributes to sophisticated understanding, learning, and engagement of scientific practices. Computational modeling is a promising way to integrate computation and science learning. Yet computational modeling is not widely adopted in science classrooms over sustained periods of time because of difficulties such as the time required for students to become adept modelers, the need to better integrate computational modeling with other scientific practices, and the need for teachers to experience agency in using these modeling tools. This Design and Development project investigates how to support sustained engagement in computational modeling in middle school classrooms in two ways: 1) Design and develop an accessible modeling toolkit and accompanying thematically linked curricular units; and, 2) Examine how this toolkit and curriculum enable students to become sophisticated modelers and integrate modeling with other scientific practices such as physical experimentation and argumentation. The project will contribute to the conversation around how to support students and teachers to incorporate computational modeling together with valued scientific practices into their classrooms for sustained periods. For three years, the project will work with six sixth and seventh grade teachers and approximately 400 students.

Through iterative cycles of design-based research, the project will design a computational modeling tool and six curricular units for sixth and seventh-grade students. The team will work closely with two teacher co-designers to design and develop each of the six curricular units. The goal is to investigate: 1) How students become sophisticated modelers as they shift from using phenomenon-level primitives to unpacking and modifying these primitives for extended investigations; 2) How classroom norms around computational modeling develop over time. Specifically, how do student models become objects for classroom reflection and how students integrate modeling into other practices such as explanation and argumentation; 3) How data from physical experiments support students in constructing and refining models; and, 4) How sustained engagement supports students' conceptual learning and learning to model using computing tools. The team will collect and analyze video and written data, as well as log files and pre/posttests, to examine how communities of students and teachers adopt computational modeling as an integral practice in science learning. For video and text analysis, the team will use qualitative coding to detect patterns before, during, and after the activities. For the examination of logfiles from the software, the project will use learning analytics techniques such as the classification and clustering of students' sequences of actions. Finally, the team will also conduct pre/post-tests on both content and meta-modeling skills, analyzing the results with standard statistical tests.

Assessing College-Ready Computational Thinking (Collaborative Research: Wilson)

The goal of this project is to develop learning progressions and assessment items targeting computational thinking. The items will be used for a test of college-ready critical reasoning skills and will be integrated into an existing online assessment system, the Berkeley Assessment System Software.

Award Number: 
2010314
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Sat, 08/31/2024
Full Description: 

Because of the growing need for students to be college and career ready, high-quality assessments of college readiness skills are in high demand. To realize the goal of preparing students for college and careers, assessments must measure important competencies and provide rapid feedback to teachers. It is necessary to go beyond the limits of multiple-choice testing and foster the skills and thinking that lie at the core of college and career ready skills, such as computational thinking. Computational thinking is a set of valuable skills that can be used to solve problems, design systems, and understand human behavior, and is thus essential to developing a more STEM-literate public. Computational thinking is increasingly seen as a fundamental analytical skill that everyone, not just computer scientists, can use. The goal of this project is to develop learning progressions and assessment items targeting computational thinking. The items will be used for a test of college-ready critical reasoning skills and will be integrated into an existing online assessment system, the Berkeley Assessment System Software.

The project will address a set of research questions focused on 1) clarifying computational thinking constructs, 2) usability, reliability of validity of assessment items and the information they provide, 3) teachers' use of assessments, and 4) relationships to student performance. The study sample of 2,700 used for the pilot and field tests will include all levels of students in 10th through 12th grade and first year college students (both community college and university level). The target population is students in schools which are implementing the College Readiness Program (CRP) of the National Mathematics and Science Institute. In the 2020-21 academic year 54 high schools across 11 states (CA, GA, FL, ID, LA, NC, NM, OH, TX, VA, and WA) will participate. This will include high school students in Advanced Placement classes as well as non-Advanced Placement classes.  The team will use the BEAR Assessment System to develop and refine assessment materials. This system is an integrated approach to developing assessments that seeks to provide meaningful interpretations of student work relative to cognitive and developmental goals. The researchers will gather empirical evidence to develop and improve the assessment materials, and then gather reliability and validity evidence to support their use. In total, item response data will be collected from several thousand students. Student response data will be analyzed using multidimensional item response theory models.

Creating a Model for Sustainable Ambitious Mathematics Programs in High-Need Settings: A Researcher-Practitioner Collaboration

This project will study a successful, ambitious mathematics reform effort in high-needs secondary schools. The goal is to develop resources and tools to support other high-needs schools and districts in transforming and sustaining  their mathematics programs. The model focuses on the resources required for change and the aspects of the organization that support or constrain change in mathematics teaching and learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010111
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2020 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

A long-standing challenge in secondary mathematics education is broadening participation in STEM. Reform of schools and districts to support this goal can be challenging to sustain. This implementation and improvement project will study a successful, ambitious mathematics reform effort in high-needs secondary schools. The goal is to develop resources and tools to support other high-needs schools and districts in transforming and sustaining  their mathematics programs. The model focuses on the resources required for change and the aspects of the organization that support or constrain change in mathematics teaching and learning. The project team includes school district partners that have successfully transformed mathematics teaching to better support students' learning.

The project will develop a model for understanding the demands and resources from an organizational perspective that support ambitious mathematics teaching and learning reforms. Demands are requirements for physical resources or efforts that need to be met in the instructional system. Resources are the material, human, instructional, and organizational requirements needed to address demands. The project will develop the model through a collaboration of researchers, professional development leaders, students, teachers, coaches, and administrators to: (1) understand the demands created throughout a school or district when implementing an ambitious secondary mathematics program in a high-need context; (2) identify the resources and organizational dynamics necessary to address the demands and thus sustain the program; and (3) articulate a model for a sustainable ambitious secondary mathematics program in high-need settings that has validity across a range of implementation contexts. To develop the model over multiple iterations, the project will examine the demands and resources related to implementing an ambitious mathematics program, the perspectives of stakeholders, the organizational structure, and the program goals and implementation. The project will also conduct a systematic literature review to bring together findings from the successful district and other research findings. The data collection and analysis process will include interviews, document analysis, collection of artifacts, and observations across four phases of the project.  Participants will include students, teachers, instructional support personnel, and administrators (from schools and the district).

Geological Construction of Rock Arrangements from Tectonics: Systems Modeling Across Scales

This project will create two curriculum units that use sophisticated simulations designed for students in secondary schools that integrate the study of the tectonic system and the rock genesis system. The project seeks to overcome the more typical approaches taken in earth science classrooms where such geologic processes are treated as discrete and highly predictable, rather than intertwined and dynamic.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2006144
Funding Period: 
Thu, 10/01/2020 to Mon, 09/30/2024
Full Description: 

Plate tectonics is the fundamental theory of geology that underlies almost all geological processes, including land and rock formation. However, the geologic processes and immense timeframes involved are often misunderstood. This study will create two curriculum units that use sophisticated simulations designed for students in secondary schools. The simulations will integrate the study of the tectonic system and the rock genesis system. Data from the simulations would be students' sources of evidence. For instance, the Tectonic Rock Explorer would use a sophisticated modeling engine that uses the physics involved in geodynamic data to represent compressional and tensional forces and calculate pressure and temperature in rock forming environments. This project seeks to overcome the more typical approaches taken in earth science classrooms where such geologic processes are treated as discrete and highly predictable, rather than intertwined and dynamic. In addition, this study would include work on students with disabilities in earth science classrooms and explore the practices that seem to be particularly useful in helping understand these systems. By working with simulations, the researchers intend to engage students in scientific practices that are more authentic to the ways that geologists work. The researchers will study if and how these simulations and the computer-based tools allow students to observe and manipulate processes that would be may otherwise be inaccessible.

This work follows on from prior work done by the Concord Consortium on simulations of earth systems. The design and development progression in Years 1 and 2 would create two units. The first module focuses on the relationship between tectonic movement and rock formation. The second would investigate geochronology and dating of rock formations. The researchers would work with 3 teachers (and classes), and then 15 teachers (and classes) using automated data logs, class observations, and video of students working in groups in Years 1 and 2. Professional development for teachers would be followed by the creation of educative materials. Researchers will also develop the framework for an assessment tool that includes understanding of geologic terms and embedded assessments. The researchers will used a mixed methods approach to analyze student data, including analyses cycles of analysis of students pre- and post-test scores on targeted concepts, reports of student performances on tasks embedded in the simulations, and the coding of videos to analyze discourse between partners and the supports provided by teachers. Teacher data will be analyzed using interviews, surveys and journals, with some special focus on how they are seeing students with identified disabilities respond to the materials and simulations. The research team intends to make materials widely available to thousands of students through their networks and webpages, and pursue outreach and dissemination in scholarly and practitioner conferences and publications.

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