Design & Development

A Practice-based Online Learning Environment for Scientific Inquiry with Digitized Museum Collections in Middle School Classrooms

This project will develop and study a prototype online learning environment that supports student learning via Engaging Practices for Inquiry with Collections in Bioscience (EPIC Bioscience), which uses authentic research investigations with digitized collections from natural history museums. 

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1812844
Funding Period: 
Fri, 06/15/2018 to Mon, 05/31/2021
Full Description: 

There are an estimated 2-4 billion specimens in the world's natural history collections that contain the data necessary to address complex global issues, including biodiversity and climate. Digitized natural history collections present an untapped opportunity to engage learners in crucial questions of science with far-reaching potential consequences via object-based research investigations. This project will develop and study a prototype online learning environment that supports student learning via Engaging Practices for Inquiry with Collections in Bioscience (EPIC Bioscience). EPIC Bioscience uses authentic research investigations with digitized collections from natural history museums. The project team will create a curriculum aligned with the Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSS) for middle school students, emphasizing a major disciplinary core idea in grades 6-8 life science, Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics. The project has three major goals: 1) Develop an online learning environment that guides students through research investigations using digitized natural history collections to teach NGSS life science standards. 2) Investigate how interactive features and conversational scaffolds in the EPIC Bioscience learning environment can promote deeper processing of science content and effective knowledge building. 3) Demonstrate effective approaches to using digitized collections objects for contextualized, research-based science learning that aligns to NGSS standards for middle school classrooms.

The project will examine how and when interactive features of a digital learning environment can be combined with deep questions and effective online scaffolds to promote student engagement, meaningful collaborative discourse, and robust learning outcomes during research with digitized museum collections. Research activities will address: How can interactive features of EPIC Bioscience help students learn disciplinary core ideas and cross cutting concepts via science practices through collections-based research? How can effective patterns of collaborative scientific discourse be supported and enhanced during online, collections-based research? How does the use of digitized scientific collections influence students' levels of engagement and depth of processing during classroom investigations? A significant impact of the proposed work is expanded opportunities for research with authentic museum objects for populations who are traditionally underserved in STEM and are underrepresented in museum visitor demographics (Title I schools, racial/ethnic minorities, and rural school populations). Research activities will engage over 1,500 Title I and rural students (50 classes across three years) in meaningful research investigations with collections objects that address pressing global issues.

CAREER: Supporting Elementary Science Teaching and Learning by Integrating Uncertainty Into Classroom Science Investigations

The goal of this study is to improve elementary science teaching and learning by developing, testing, and refining a framework and set of tools for strategically incorporating forms of uncertainty central to scientists' sense-making into students' empirical learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1749324
Funding Period: 
Fri, 06/01/2018 to Wed, 05/31/2023
Full Description: 

The goal of this study will be to improve elementary science teaching and learning by developing, testing, and refining a framework and set of tools for strategically incorporating forms of uncertainty central to scientists' sense-making into students' empirical learning. The framework will rest on the notion that productive uncertainty should be carefully built into students' empirical learning experiences in order to support their engagement in scientific practices and understanding of disciplinary ideas. To re-conceptualize the role of empirical investigations, the study will focus on the transitions between the experiences and processes students seek to understand, classroom investigations, evidence, and explanatory models as opportunities for sense-making, and how uncertainty can be built into these transitions. The project's underlying assumption is that carefully implementing these forms of uncertainty will help curriculum developers and teachers avoid the oversimplified investigations that are prevalent in K-8 classrooms that stand in stark contrast to authentic science learning and the recommendations of the Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council, 2012). Accordingly, the project will seek to develop curriculum design guidelines, teacher tools, professional development supports, and four elaborated investigations, including sets of lessons, videos, and assessments that embed productive uncertainty for second and fifth graders and designed for use with linguistically, culturally, and socio-economically diverse students.

The hypothesis of this work is that if specific forms of scientific uncertainty are carefully selected, and if teachers can implement these forms of uncertainty, elementary students will have more robust opportunities to develop disciplinary practices and ideas in ways consistent with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) (Lead States, 2013). Employing Design-Based Research, the three research questions will be: (1) What opportunities for sense-making do elementary school empirical investigations afford where we might strategically build uncertainty?; (2) How can we design learning environments where uncertainty in empirical investigations supports opportunities for learning?; and (3) In classrooms with sustained opportunities to engage with uncertainty in empirical investigations, what progress do students make in content understandings and the practices of argumentation, explanation, and investigation? The work will consist of three design cycles: Design Cycle 1 will involve two small groups of six teachers in adapting their curricula to incorporate uncertainty, then describe how students engage around uncertainty in empirical investigations. Design Cycle 2 will involve the same small groups in implementing and refining task structures, tools, and teacher instructional strategies. In Design Cycle 3, teachers and researchers will further refine lesson materials, assessments, and supports. The project will partner with one school district and engage in design research with groups of teachers to develop: (1) a research-based description, with exemplars of opportunities for student sense-making within empirical investigations at both early and upper elementary grades; (2) a set of design principles and tools that allow teachers to elicit and capitalize on sense-making about uncertainty in investigations; and (3) four elementary investigations elaborated to incorporate and exemplify the first two products above. These materials will be disseminated through a website, and established networks for supporting implementation of the NGSS. An advisory board will oversee project progress and conduct both formative and summative evaluation.

Developing and Validating Assessments to Measure and Build Elementary Teachers' Content Knowledge for Teaching about Matter and Its Interactions within Teacher Education Settings (Collaborative Research: Hanuscin)

The fundamental purpose of this project is to examine and gather initial validity evidence for assessments designed to measure and build kindergarten-fifth grade science teachers' content knowledge for teaching (CKT) about matter and its interactions in teacher education settings.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1814275
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/01/2018 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Full Description: 

This is an Early-Stage Design and Development collaborative effort submitted to the assessment strand of the Discovery Research PreK-12 (DRK-12) Program. Its fundamental purpose is to examine and gather initial validity evidence for assessments designed to measure and build kindergarten-fifth grade science teachers' content knowledge for teaching (CKT) about matter and its interactions in teacher education settings. The selection of this topic will facilitate the development of a proof-of-concept to determine if and how CKT assessments can be developed and used to measure and build elementary teachers' CKT. Also, it will facilitate rapid and targeted refinement of an evidence-centered design process that could be applied to other science topics. Plans are to integrate CKT assessments and related resources into teacher education courses to support the ability of teachers to apply their content knowledge to the work of teaching and learning science. The project will combine efforts from prior projects and engage in foundational research to examine the nature of teachers' CKT and to build theories and hypotheses about the productive use and design of CKT assessment materials to support formative and summative uses. Likewise, the project will create a set of descriptive cases highlighting the use of these tools. Understanding how CKT science assessments can be leveraged as summative tools to evaluate current efforts, and as formative tools to build elementary teachers' specialized, practice-based knowledge will be the central foci of this effort.

The main research questions will be: (1) What is the nature of elementary science teachers' CKT about matter and its interactions?; and (2) How can the development of prospective elementary teachers' CKT be supported within teacher education? To address the research questions, the study will employ a mixed-methods, design-based research approach to gather various sources of validity evidence to support the formative and summative use of the CKT instrument, instructional tasks, and supporting materials. The project will be organized around two main research and development strands. Strand One will build an empirically grounded understanding of the nature of elementary teachers' CKT. Strand Two will focus on developing and studying how CKT instructional tasks can be used formatively within teacher education settings to build elementary teachers' CKT. In addition, the project will refine a conceptual framework that identifies the science-specific teaching practices that comprise the work of teaching science. This will be used as well to assess the CKT that teachers leverage when recognizing, understanding, and responding to the content-intensive practices that they engage in as they teach science. To that end, the study will build on two existing frameworks from prior NSF-funded work. The first was originally developed to create CKT assessments for elementary and middle school teachers in English Language Arts and mathematics. The second focuses on the content challenges that novice elementary science teachers face. It is organized by the instructional tools and practices that elementary science teachers use, such as scientific models and explanations. These instructional practices cut across those addressed in the Next Generation Science Standards' (NGSS; Lead States, 2013) disciplinary strands. The main project's outcomes will be knowledge that builds and refines theories about the nature of elementary teachers' CKT, and how CKT elementary science assessment materials can be designed productively for formative and summative purposes. The project will also result in the development of a suite of valid and reliable assessments that afford interpretations on CKT matter proficiency and can be used to monitor elementary teachers learning. An external advisory board will provide formative and summative feedback on the project's activities and progress.

Developing and Validating Assessments to Measure and Build Elementary Teachers' Content Knowledge for Teaching about Matter and Its Interactions within Teacher Education Settings (Collaborative Research: Mikeska)

The fundamental purpose of this project is to examine and gather initial validity evidence for assessments designed to measure and build kindergarten-fifth grade science teachers' content knowledge for teaching (CKT) about matter and its interactions in teacher education settings.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813254
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/01/2018 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Full Description: 

This is an Early-Stage Design and Development collaborative effort submitted to the assessment strand of the Discovery Research PreK-12 (DRK-12) Program. Its fundamental purpose is to examine and gather initial validity evidence for assessments designed to measure and build kindergarten-fifth grade science teachers' content knowledge for teaching (CKT) about matter and its interactions in teacher education settings. The selection of this topic will facilitate the development of a proof-of-concept to determine if and how CKT assessments can be developed and used to measure and build elementary teachers' CKT. Also, it will facilitate rapid and targeted refinement of an evidence-centered design process that could be applied to other science topics. Plans are to integrate CKT assessments and related resources into teacher education courses to support the ability of teachers to apply their content knowledge to the work of teaching and learning science. The project will combine efforts from prior projects and engage in foundational research to examine the nature of teachers' CKT and to build theories and hypotheses about the productive use and design of CKT assessment materials to support formative and summative uses. Likewise, the project will create a set of descriptive cases highlighting the use of these tools. Understanding how CKT science assessments can be leveraged as summative tools to evaluate current efforts, and as formative tools to build elementary teachers' specialized, practice-based knowledge will be the central foci of this effort.

The main research questions will be: (1) What is the nature of elementary science teachers' CKT about matter and its interactions?; and (2) How can the development of prospective elementary teachers' CKT be supported within teacher education? To address the research questions, the study will employ a mixed-methods, design-based research approach to gather various sources of validity evidence to support the formative and summative use of the CKT instrument, instructional tasks, and supporting materials. The project will be organized around two main research and development strands. Strand One will build an empirically grounded understanding of the nature of elementary teachers' CKT. Strand Two will focus on developing and studying how CKT instructional tasks can be used formatively within teacher education settings to build elementary teachers' CKT. In addition, the project will refine a conceptual framework that identifies the science-specific teaching practices that comprise the work of teaching science. This will be used as well to assess the CKT that teachers leverage when recognizing, understanding, and responding to the content-intensive practices that they engage in as they teach science. To that end, the study will build on two existing frameworks from prior NSF-funded work. The first was originally developed to create CKT assessments for elementary and middle school teachers in English Language Arts and mathematics. The second focuses on the content challenges that novice elementary science teachers face. It is organized by the instructional tools and practices that elementary science teachers use, such as scientific models and explanations. These instructional practices cut across those addressed in the Next Generation Science Standards' (NGSS; Lead States, 2013) disciplinary strands. The main project's outcomes will be knowledge that builds and refines theories about the nature of elementary teachers' CKT, and how CKT elementary science assessment materials can be designed productively for formative and summative purposes. The project will also result in the development of a suite of valid and reliable assessments that afford interpretations on CKT matter proficiency and can be used to monitor elementary teachers learning. An external advisory board will provide formative and summative feedback on the project's activities and progress.

Measuring Early Mathematical Reasoning Skills: Developing Tests of Numeric Relational Reasoning and Spatial Reasoning

The primary aim of this study is to develop mathematics screening assessment tools for Grades K-2 over the course of four years that measure students' abilities in numeric relational reasoning and spatial reasoning. The team of researchers will develop Measures of Mathematical Reasoning Skills system, which will contain Tests of Numeric Relational Reasoning (T-NRR) and Tests of Spatial Reasoning (T-SR).

Award Number: 
1721100
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/15/2017 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

Numeric relational reasoning and spatial reasoning are critical to success in later mathematics coursework, including Algebra 1, a gatekeeper to success at the post-secondary level, and success in additional STEM domains, such as chemistry, geology, biology, and engineering. Given the importance of these skills for later success, it is imperative that there are high-quality screening tools available to identify students at-risk for difficulty in these areas. The primary aim of this study is to develop mathematics screening assessment tools for Grades K-2 over the course of four years that measure students' abilities in numeric relational reasoning and spatial reasoning. The team of researchers will develop Measures of Mathematical Reasoning Skills system, which will contain Tests of Numeric Relational Reasoning (T-NRR) and Tests of Spatial Reasoning (T-SR). The measures will be intended for use by teachers and school systems to screen students to determine who is at-risk for difficulty in early mathematics, including students with disabilities. The measures will help provide important information about the intensity of support that may be needed for a given student. Three forms per grade level will be developed for both the T-NRR and T-SR with accompanying validity and reliability evidence collected. The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

The development of the T-NRR and T-SR measures will follow an iterative process across five phases. The phases include (1) refining the construct; (2) developing test specifications and item models; (3) developing items; (4) field testing the items; and (5) conducting validity studies. The evidence collected and evaluated during each phase will contribute to the overall evaluation of the reliability of the measures and the validity of the interpretations made using the measures. Item models, test specifications, and item development will be continuously evaluated and refined based on data from cognitive interviews, field tests, and reviews by mathematics educators, teachers of struggling students, teachers of culturally and linguistically diverse populations, and a Technical Advisory Board. In the final phase of development of the T-NRR and T-SR, reliability of the results will be estimated and multiple sources of validity evidence will be collected to examine the concurrent and predictive relation with other criterion measures, classification accuracy, and sensitivity to growth. Approximately 4,500 students in Grades K-2 will be involved in all phases of the research including field tests and cognitive interviews. Data will be analyzed using a two-parameter IRT model to ensure item and test form comparability.

Networking Urban Resources with Teachers and University to Enrich Early Childhood Science (NURTURES) Phase II: Expansion and Evaluation

Building on successful prior work, this project simultaneously targets young children's teachers and families/caregivers in an effort to build both parties' capacity to promote student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1721059
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

Building on successful prior work, this University of Toledo project, Networking Urban Resources with Teachers and University to enRich Early Childhood Science (NURTURES): Researching the impact of teacher professional development and family engagement on PreK-3 achievement, simultaneously targets young children's teachers and families/caregivers in an effort to build both parties' capacity to promote student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning. Teachers participate in a two-week summer professional development program and receive support across the school year in the form of individualized coaching and participation in professional learning communities. Families receive science inquiry packets (sent home from school) four times a year and attend community STEM events throughout the year. Inquiry packets and community events encourage science inquiry, discourse, and further exploration of key science ideas. Project participants will include 120 teachers, 2,400 PreK-3 children and over 7,200 family members in Ohio and Michigan.

Extending the initial NURTURES project, developed with NSF Math and Science Partnership funding, this follow-up project aims to: 1) Transform early childhood science teaching based upon Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to measurably increase student science, literacy, and math achievement, and 2) Engage families of PreK-3 students in science inquiry practices to measurably improve student science, literacy, and math achievement. A particularly important facet of this follow-up project is the research effort to parse and understand how each component (teacher professional development versus family engagement) impacts student learning. The project will use a randomized control group research design (RCT) to compare student achievement outcomes among three groups: Children whose teachers received professional development and family engagement activities, children whose teachers received only professional development, and a control group. The project will use standardized tests (the TerraNova Complete Battery) to measure impact on learning gains in science, mathematics, reading, and early literacy for children in grades K- 3. The Lens on Science assessment will measure science learning in preschool children. This project will result in an NGSS-based program for teachers and families that has been systematically tested and may ultimately be scaled up to an impact study and dissemination at a broad level.

Developing Teacher Noticing in Engineering in an Online Professional Development Program

This project will research how elementary (K-5) teachers in the Teacher Engineering Education Program (TEEP) program progress in one particular aspect of responsive teaching, noticing student thinking. Project research will also contribute to literature on how to support responsive teaching in web-based environments, expanding understanding of how design principles and features developed in in-person professional development settings can be implemented online.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720334
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

The project will research how elementary (K-5) teachers in the Teacher Engineering Education Program (TEEP) program progress in one particular aspect of responsive teaching, noticing student thinking. TEEP includes four graduate-level courses that help them learn engineering content and pedagogical approaches. There has been little investigation of teacher professional development in engineering design. The work that has been done focuses on increasing teachers' content knowledge and familiarity in engineering. Most teacher professional development and research focus on teachers learning engineering content and process, with less attention on helping teachers develop new instructional practices necessary to help students navigate the complex, ill-defined problems in engineering. TEEP focuses on helping teachers develop practices of responsive teaching in engineering design, where teachers base their instructional moves on what they notice in their students are doing and saying. Project research will also contribute to literature on how to support responsive teaching in web-based environments, expanding understanding of how design principles and features developed in in-person professional development settings can be implemented online. The project will refine a program for engineering teachers nationwide, identify key features that are effective in developing teachers' practice, and create video resources for other professional development programs to use.

The project will address three research questions: (1) What do beginning engineering teachers notice in students' engineering design work? (2) What shifts occur in teachers' noticing over the course of a professional development program focused on responsive teaching and how do these shifts correlate with key features of the program? (3) What shifts occur in how teachers' talk about their goals for students' engineering and their instructional practice? The project will conduct independent analyses from two cohorts of teachers of three data streams: pre-post interviews about practice; teacher-captured classroom videos; video-stimulated interviews, and teachers' coursework. The analyses will then connect these analyses to address the research questions. Videocases of students' engineering will be disseminated for other teacher educators to use in supporting teacher noticing. The research outcomes of the research will not only advance our understandings of teacher learning, but will provide evidence that teachers can recognize, value, and leverage students' diverse resources for engineering. Research on the TEEP program will also provide much-needed empirical support on whether and how online programs can be effective for teachers' instructional practice.

A Partnership to Adapt, Implement and Study a Professional Learning Model and Build District Capacity to Improve Science Instruction and Student Understanding (Collaborative Research: Borko)

This project will work in partnership with the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) to adapt a previously designed Professional Learning (PL) model based on the District's objectives and constraints to build the capacity of teacher leaders and a program coordinator to implement the adapted PL program. The project is examining the sustainability and scalability of a PL model that supports the development of teachers' pedagogical content knowledge and instructional practices.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720930
Funding Period: 
Sun, 10/01/2017 to Thu, 09/30/2021
Full Description: 

The Lawrence Hall of Science (the Hall) and Stanford University teams have previously developed and tested the efficacy of a program of Professional Learning (PL) which is focused on improving teachers' ability to support students' ability to engage in scientific argumentation. Key components of the PL model include a week-long summer institute and follow-up sessions during the academic year that incorporate additional pedagogical input, video reflection, and planning time. In this project, the Hall and Stanford are working in partnership with the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) to adapt the PL model based on the District's objectives and constraints, to build the capacity of teacher leaders and a program coordinator to implement the adapted PL program. This will enable the District to continue to adapt and implement the program independently at the conclusion of the project. Concurrently, the project is studying the adaptability of the PL model and the effectiveness of its implementation, and is developing guidelines and tools for other districts to use in adapting and implementing the PL model in their local contexts. Thus, this project is contributing knowledge about how to build capacity in districts to lead professional learning in science that addresses the new teaching and learning standards and is responsive to the needs of their local context.

The project is examining the sustainability and scalability of a PL model that supports the development of teachers' pedagogical content knowledge and instructional practices, with a particular focus on engaging students in argument from evidence. Results from the Hall and Stanford's previous research project indicate that the PL model is effective at significantly improving teachers' and students' classroom discourse practices. These findings suggest that a version of the model, adapted to the context and needs of a different school district, has the potential to improve the teaching of science to meet the demands of the current vision of science education. Using a Design-Based Implementation Research approach, this project is (i) working with SCUSD to adapt the PL model; (ii) preparing a district project coordinator and cadre of local teacher leaders (TLs) to implement and further adapt the model; and (iii) studying the adaptation and implementation of the model. The outcomes will be: a) a scalable PL model that can be continually adapted to the objectives and constraints of a district; b) a set of activities and resources for the district to prepare and support the science teacher leaders who will implement the adapted PL program internally with other teachers; and c) knowledge about the adaptations and resources needed for the PL model to be implemented independently by other school districts. The team also is researching the impact of the program on classroom practices and student learning.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Building District Leadership in Scientific Argumentation

Presenter(s): Coralie Delhaye, Emily Reigh, & Emily Weiss

2018 STEM for All Video Showcase


A Partnership to Adapt, Implement and Study a Professional Learning Model and Build District Capacity to Improve Science Instruction and Student Understanding (Collaborative Research: Weiss)

This project will work in partnership with the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) to adapt a previously designed Professional Learning (PL) model based on the District's objectives and constraints to build the capacity of teacher leaders and a program coordinator to implement the adapted PL program. The project is examining the sustainability and scalability of a PL model that supports the development of teachers' pedagogical content knowledge and instructional practices.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720894
Funding Period: 
Sun, 10/01/2017 to Thu, 09/30/2021
Full Description: 

The Lawrence Hall of Science (the Hall) and Stanford University teams have previously developed and tested the efficacy of a program of Professional Learning (PL) which is focused on improving teachers' ability to support students' ability to engage in scientific argumentation. Key components of the PL model include a week-long summer institute and follow-up sessions during the academic year that incorporate additional pedagogical input, video reflection, and planning time. In this project, the Hall and Stanford are working in partnership with the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) to adapt the PL model based on the District's objectives and constraints, to build the capacity of teacher leaders and a program coordinator to implement the adapted PL program. This will enable the District to continue to adapt and implement the program independently at the conclusion of the project. Concurrently, the project is studying the adaptability of the PL model and the effectiveness of its implementation, and is developing guidelines and tools for other districts to use in adapting and implementing the PL model in their local contexts. Thus, this project is contributing knowledge about how to build capacity in districts to lead professional learning in science that addresses the new teaching and learning standards and is responsive to the needs of their local context.

The project is examining the sustainability and scalability of a PL model that supports the development of teachers' pedagogical content knowledge and instructional practices, with a particular focus on engaging students in argument from evidence. Results from the Hall and Stanford's previous research project indicate that the PL model is effective at significantly improving teachers' and students' classroom discourse practices. These findings suggest that a version of the model, adapted to the context and needs of a different school district, has the potential to improve the teaching of science to meet the demands of the current vision of science education. Using a Design-Based Implementation Research approach, this project is (i) working with SCUSD to adapt the PL model; (ii) preparing a district project coordinator and cadre of local teacher leaders (TLs) to implement and further adapt the model; and (iii) studying the adaptation and implementation of the model. The outcomes will be: a) a scalable PL model that can be continually adapted to the objectives and constraints of a district; b) a set of activities and resources for the district to prepare and support the science teacher leaders who will implement the adapted PL program internally with other teachers; and c) knowledge about the adaptations and resources needed for the PL model to be implemented independently by other school districts. The team also is researching the impact of the program on classroom practices and student learning.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Building District Leadership in Scientific Argumentation

Presenter(s): Coralie Delhaye, Emily Reigh, & Emily Weiss

2018 STEM for All Video Showcase


Project MAPLE: Makerspaces Promoting Learning and Engagement

The project plans to develop and study a series of metacognitive strategies that support learning and engagement for struggling middle school students during makerspace experiences. The study will focus narrowly on establishing a foundational understanding of how to ameliorate barriers to engaging in design learning through the use of metacognitive strategies.

Award Number: 
1721236
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

The project plans to develop and study a series of metacognitive strategies that support learning and engagement for struggling middle school students during makerspace experiences. The makerspace movement has gained recognition and momentum, which has resulted in many schools integrating makerspace technologies and related curricular practices into the classroom. The study will focus narrowly on establishing a foundational understanding of how to ameliorate barriers to engaging in design learning through the use of metacognitive strategies. The project plans to translate and apply research on the use of metacognitive strategies in supporting struggling learners to develop approaches that teachers can implement to increase opportunities for students who are the most difficult to reach academically. Project strategies, curricula, and other resources will be disseminated through existing outreach websites, research briefs, peer-reviewed publications for researchers and practitioners, and a webinar for those interested in middle-school makerspaces for diverse learners.

The research will address the paucity of studies to inform practitioners about what pedagogical supports help struggling learners engage in these makerspace experiences. The project will focus on two populations of struggling learners in middle schools, students with learning disabilities, and students at risk for academic failure. The rationale for focusing on metacognition within makerspace activities comes from the literature on students with learning disabilities and other struggling learners that suggests that they have difficulty with metacognitive thinking. Multiple instruments will be used to measure metacognitive processes found to be pertinent within the research process. The project will tentatively focus on persistence (attitudes about making), iteration (productive struggle) and intentionality (plan with incremental steps). The work will result in an evidence base around new instructional practices for middle school students who are struggling learners so that they can experience more success during maker learning experiences.

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