STEM Practices

Developing a Generalized Storyline that Organizes the Supports for Evidence-based Modeling of Long-Term Impacts of Disturbances in Complex Systems

This project will support students to develop evidence-based explanations for the impact of disturbances on complex systems.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813802
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/15/2018 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Full Description: 

This project will support students to develop evidence-based explanations for the impact of disturbances on complex systems. The project will focus on middle school environmental science disciplinary core ideas in life, Earth, and physical sciences. There are a wide variety of complex systems principles at work in disturbance ecology. This project serves as a starting point on supporting students to coordinate different sources of information to parse out the direct and indirect effects of disturbances on components of a system and to examine the interconnections between components to predict whether a system will return to equilibrium (resilience) or the system will change into a new state (hysteresis). These same complex systems principles can be applied to other scientific phenomena, such as homeostasis and the spread of infectious disease. This project will bring the excitement of Luquillo Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) to classrooms outside of Puerto Rico, and has a special emphasis on low performing, low income, high minority schools in Chicago. Over 6000 students will directly benefit from participation in the research program. The units will be incorporated into the Journey to El Yunque web site for dissemination throughout Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the LTER network. The units will be submitted for review at the Achieve network, thus extending the reach to teachers around the country. The project will impact science teachers and curriculum designers through an online course on storyline development. This project aims to improve students' ability to engage in argument from evidence and address what the literature has identified as a significant challenge, namely the ability to evaluate evidence. Researchers will also demonstrate how it is possible to make progress on implementing Next Generation Science Standards in low performing schools. Through the web-based platform, these results can be replicated across many other school districts.

Researchers will to use the scientific context of the LTER program to develop a generalized storyline template for using evidence-based modeling to teach basic principles of disturbance ecology. Though a co-design process with middle school teachers in CPS, researchers will test the application of learning principles to a generalized storyline template by developing and evaluating three units on disturbance ecology - one life science, one Earth system science, and one physical science. Through a task analysis, researchers have identified three key areas of support for students to be successful at explaining how a system will respond to a disturbance. First, students need to be able to record evidence in a manner that will guide them to developing their explanation. Causal model diagrams have been used successfully in the past to organize evidence, but little is known about how students can use their causal diagrams for developing explanations. Second, there have been a wide variety of scaffolds developed to support the evaluation of scientific arguments, but less is known about how to support students in organizing their evidence to produce scientific arguments. Third, evidence-based modeling and scientific argumentation are not tasks that can be successfully accomplished by following a recipe. Students need to develop a task model to understand the reason why they are engaged in a particular task and how that task will contribute to the primary goal of explanation.

Developing Preservice Teachers' Capacity to Teach Students with Learning Disabilities in Algebra I

Project researchers are training pre-service teachers to tutor students with learning disabilities in Algebra 1, combining principles from special education, mathematics education, and cognitive psychology. The trainings emphasize the use of gestures and strategic questioning to support students with learning disabilities and to build students’ understanding in Algebra 1.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813903
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Sat, 07/31/2021
Full Description: 

This project is implementing a program to train pre-service teachers to tutor students with learning disabilities in Algebra 1, combining principles from special education, mathematics education, and cognitive psychology. The project trains tutors to utilize gestures and strategic questioning to support students with LD to build connections between procedural knowledge and conceptual understanding in Algebra 1, while supporting students’ dispositions towards doing mathematics. The training will prepare tutors to address the challenges that students with LD often face—especially challenges of working memory and processing—and to build on their strengths as they engage with Algebra 1. The project will measure changes in tutors’ ability to use gestures and questioning to support the learning of students with LD during and after the completion of our training. It will also collect and analyze data on the knowledge and dispositions of students with LD in Algebra 1 for use in the ongoing refinement of the training and in documenting the impact of the training program.

Extending and Investigating the Impact of the High School Model-based Educational Resource (Collaborative Research: Wilson)

This project builds on a line of work that has developed and studied the Model Based Educational Resource (MBER), a year-long curriculum for high school biology. The project will generate rigorous causal evidence on how this approach to biology teaching and learning can support student learning, and foundational information on how to support high school teachers in improving their teaching. It will also provide resources to expand and update MBER to reflect the changing high school science landscape by integrating Earth Science standards into the year long sequence.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813538
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project builds on a line of work that has developed and studied the Model Based Educational Resource (MBER), a year-long curriculum for high school biology. In classrooms using MBER, modeling serves as an anchoring practice that keeps the inquiry tied to the goal of making sense of the world, helping teachers to engage their students in a range of cognitive and social activities that lead to deep understanding of scientific ideas. This project will generate rigorous causal evidence on how this approach to biology teaching and learning can support student learning, and foundational information on how to support high school teachers in improving their teaching. This funding will also provide resources to expand and update MBER to reflect the changing high school science landscape by integrating Earth Science standards into the year long sequence. The study will address the general research question: What is the impact of the Model Based Educational Resource (MBER) on high school students' science achievement, and what factors influence that impact? In addition to generating important research findings, the materials revised and studied in this project will be open-source and freely available to teachers and schools.

This study addresses a significant gap in the research on next generation curriculum materials. While there is emerging agreement about the importance of instructional materials in supporting teachers in effectively engaging students in the practices of science, there is very little empirical evidence to support such claims. The goal of this project is to study the impact of the MBER program through a cluster randomized trial and expand the promise of efficacy and feasibility established in previous work. This study will be able to make causal claims by using an experimental design in which 32 high school teachers serve as their own controls, and by using multi-level modeling in the analysis. This study will advance the field's knowledge about the impact of innovative materials on student learning, measured by both project-level assessments and the state science test. Exploratory research questions will examine a) how using the MBER program develops teachers' vision of the Next Generation Science Standards, b) how student learning is mediated by the fidelity of implementation of the materials, c) how teachers interact with materials designed to be modified for their classroom context, and d) to what extent the MBER materials provide equitable opportunities to learn and close achievement gaps.

Science Communities of Practice Partnership

This project will study implementation of an effective professional learning model for elementary science teachers that includes teacher leaders, administrators and university educators in a system perspective for improving science instruction in ways that make it sustainable.

Award Number: 
1813012
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project will study implementation of an effective professional learning model for elementary science teachers that includes teacher leaders, administrators and university educators in a system perspective for improving science instruction in ways that make it sustainable. The working model involves reciprocal communities of practice, which are groups of teachers, leaders and administrators that focus on practical tasks and how to achieve them across these stakeholder perspectives. The project will provide evidence about the specific components of the professional development model that support sustainable improvement in science teaching, will test the ways that teacher ownership and organizational conditions mediate instructional change, and will develop four tools for facilitating the teacher learning and the accompanying capacity building. In this way, the project will produce practical knowledge and tools necessary for other school districts nationwide to create professional learning that is tailored to their contexts and therefore sustainable.

This study posits that communication among district teachers, teacher leaders, and administrators, and a sense of ownership for improved instruction among teachers can support sustainable change. As such, it tests a model that fosters communication and ownership through three reciprocal communities of practice--one about district leadership including one teacher per school, coaches and university faculty; another about lesson study including teachers, coaches and faculty; and a third about instructional innovation including teachers and administrators, facilitated by coaches. The research design seeks to inform what the communities of practice add to the effects in a quasi-experimental study involving 72 third to fifth grade teachers and 6500 students in four urban school districts. Mixed methodologies will be used to examine shifts in science teaching over three years, testing the professional development model and the mediating roles of reform ownership and organizational conditions.

The Spectrum Laboratory: Towards Authentic Inquiry for All

This project proposes to design, implement, and investigate the impact on students of an innovative curriculum supplement called the Spectrum Laboratory. The Spectrum Lab will be an online, interactive learning environment that enables students to make use of the database of publicly available spectra from research scientists, as well as from students.

Award Number: 
1814077
Funding Period: 
Tue, 05/01/2018 to Fri, 04/30/2021
Full Description: 

This project addresses physics, astronomy, and chemistry education at the high-school level. Spectroscopy is the single most important diagnostic tool in the sciences, and is required for inquiry at the frontiers of science across many disciplines, yet is unavailable to most classrooms. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory proposes to design, implement, and investigate the impact on students of an innovative curriculum supplement called the Spectrum Laboratory. The Spectrum Lab will be an online, interactive learning environment that enables students to make use of the database of publicly available spectra from research scientists, as well as from students. The online learning resource and associated materials are purposefully being developed and tested with a demographically diverse set of schools. The project will determine how the design of a spectroscopy workspace can help students to use spectra while gaining fluency with a range of important science practices. The project's significance and importance is to greatly increase the opportunities for high school students to engage in authentic inquiry. Being able to evaluate and interpret real-world data is a hallmark of data literacy that is developed with Spectrum Lab. Project will potentially benefit the field through advances with respect to education and diversity, and benefit society by equipping high school students with the perceptual and cognitive factors that promote students' reasoning about spectra.

The Spectrum Lab's initial design applies research-based principles recommended for educational interfaces that engage students with graphical data advancing knowledge from prior research into understanding of how students make sense of spectroscopic data and its graphical representations. The project will be developed in collaboration with partner teachers in up to eight high school classrooms, representing a diverse population of learners, and then tested with a national group of 20 teachers with 600 to 800 students. A mix of quantitative and qualitative measures, including pre/post surveys and assessments, analysis of student project work, classroom video, and teacher surveys, will help address researcher's questions about students' experiences with the Spectrum Lab. The data to be gathered will be used to iteratively improve the design of the laboratory to aid students understand the source of these authentic data coming from spectroscopy to address real-world science questions of interest and importance to them. The Spectrum Lab will enable students to engage in a broad range of inquiry projects that were previously inaccessible, including projects near the frontiers of science. The students will become involved in their authentic inquiry projects, where each activity engages them in key science practices, including generating model spectrum plots to make predictions, assessing and interpreting data, and reasoning from evidence (and models) in support of a claim. The students will be using graphs of well-documented experiments and in physics, more challenging graphs of spectra of less familiar wavelength axis. The students in chemistry will learn how to relate the bright lines observed in an atom's spectrum to energy levels of the atom.  There will be studies that track students' eye movements show that students associate the peaks or valleys of a spectrum with individual atoms in a molecule, rather than with the overall properties of the molecule. The resources developed by the project will be freely available online for teachers and researchers. The Spectrum Lab is an advance in education technology that uses modern tools for enabling interactive data visualization. Its features enable students to integrate and apply the most important elements of science practice, such as the ability to draw evidence-based conclusions, as well as the ability to gather, evaluate and interpret data, intended to help students' science practice more closely resemble how research is done. The Spectrum Lab will modernize a critical part of high-school science classrooms, help teachers meet the expectations of the Next Generation Science Standards, and will better prepare students for college work.

Strengthening Data Literacy across the Curriculum (SDLC)

This project is developing and studying high school curriculum modules that integrate social justice topics with statistical data investigations to promote skills and interest in data science among underrepresented groups in STEM.

Award Number: 
1813956
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/01/2018 to Wed, 06/30/2021
Full Description: 

The Strengthening Data Literacy across the Curriculum (SDLC) project is an exploratory/early stage design and development effort that aims to promote understanding of core statistical concepts and interest in quantitative data analysis among high school students from underrepresented groups in STEM. Led by a collaboration of researchers and developers at Education Development Center (EDC), statistics educators at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), and technology developers at The Concord Consortium, the project is creating and studying a set of curriculum modules targeted to high school students who are taking mathematics or statistics classes that are not at advanced-placement (AP) levels. Iteratively developed and tested in collaboration with high school statistics and social studies teachers, the modules consist of applied data investigations structured around a four-step data investigation cycle that engage students in explorations of authentic social science issues using large-scale data sets from the U.S. Census Bureau. The project hypothesizes that students who engage in guided investigations using data visualization tools to explore and visualize statistical concepts may develop deeper understandings of these concepts as well as the data investigation process. Similarly, high school students – particularly those from historically marginalized groups who are underrepresented in STEM fields – may develop greater interest in statistics when they can use data to examine patterns of social and economic inequality and questions related to social justice.

One module, Investigating Income Inequality in the U.S., focuses on describing, comparing, and making sense of quantitative variables. Students deepen their understanding of this content by investigating questions such as: How have incomes for higher- and lower-income individuals in the U.S. changed over time? How much income inequality exists between males and females in the U.S.? Does education explain the wage gap between males and females? Another module, Investigating Immigration to the U.S., focuses on describing, comparing, and making sense of categorical variables. Students investigate questions such as: Are there more immigrants in the U.S. today than in previous years? Where have immigrants to the U.S. come from, now and in the past? Are immigrants as likely as the U.S. born to be participating in the labor force, after adjusting for education? Students conduct these analyses using the Common Online Data Analysis Platform (CODAP), an open-source set of tools that supports data visualization and conceptual understanding of statistical ideas over calculations. Lessons encourage collaborative inquiry and provide students with experiences in multivariable analysis—an important domain that is underemphasized in current high school mathematics and statistics curricula but critical for analyzing data in a big-data world.

The project is using a mixed methods approach to study three primary research questions: 1) What is the feasibility of implementing SDLC modules, and what supports may teachers and students need to use the modules? 2) In what ways may different features and components of the SDLC modules help to promote positive student learning and interest outcomes? 3) To what extent do students show greater interest in statistics and data analysis, as well as improved understandings of target statistical concepts, after module use? To investigate these questions, the project has worked with 12 mathematics and six social studies teachers in diverse public high schools in Massachusetts and California to conduct iterative research with over 600 students. Through this work, the project aims to build knowledge of curriculum-based approaches that prepare and attract more diverse populations to data science fields.

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.

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.

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

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Accomplishments and Struggles in a 3-Way RPP

Presenter(s): Emily Weiss, Hilda Borko, Coralie Delhaye, Jonathan Osborne, Emily Reigh, Tricia Ringel, Craig Strang, & Krista Woodward

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

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Accomplishments and Struggles in a 3-Way RPP

Presenter(s): Emily Weiss, Hilda Borko, Coralie Delhaye, Jonathan Osborne, Emily Reigh, Tricia Ringel, Craig Strang, & Krista Woodward

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


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