Educating the Imagination will develop a studio approach to science for underrepresented high school students. The approach integrates scientific and artistic habits of mind and forms of engagement for meaningful learning in water-related sciences. Youth will a) investigate significant water-related phenomena, b) develop creative responses to the phenomena that foster new understandings and possibilities for action, and c) exhibit their responses community-wide to involve others in re-imagining water locally and globally.
TERC, in collaboration with the Boston Arts Academy is developing an innovative studio learning environment for students in grades 7-9. This pilot project focuses on object-centered inquiry about water and water-related problems of local and global significance. The project promotes student learning through multi-faceted studies involving hydrology, history, health, digital media, web-based artifact generation, real world data collection, interactions with scientists and artists, and community exhibitions of student work. The primary goal of the Educating the Imagination project is to develop a more effective model for engaging and improving the science learning and achievement of underrepresented urban students.
Studio learning intentionally integrates experimentation with practices of analysis, interpretation, critique of work and conceptual development. During a four week summer studio program, students, guided by teachers and scientists, will produce research-based projects about water and create plans to exhibit their work in the Boston area during the school year. Students will be assessed along multiple dimensions ranging from the depth of their understanding of water science ideas, their ability to make claims and arguments, their use of multiple tools and modes of representation, and the quality of their presentations. Over a two year period researchers will collect data on the studio design model and student learning to determine which aspects of the studio are effective in engaging students in object-oriented inquiry related to important water science ideas and problems.
Educating the Imagination will provide valuable insights about the studio design model and its application to promote science learning. In addition, this project directly addresses the problem of inequality in opportunities to learn and participate in science by developing and testing an innovative, non-traditional learning model with underrepresented urban students. The results of this project could significantly change how we think about and structure STEM learning environments in urban settings.
Cluster Randomized Trial of the Efficacy of Early Childhood Science Education for Low-income Children
The research goal of this project is to evaluate whether an early childhood science education program, implemented in low-income preschool settings produces measurable impacts for children, teachers, and parents. The study is determining the efficacy of the program on Science curriculum in two models, one in which teachers participate in professional development activities (the intervention), and another in which teachers receive the curriculum and teachers' guide but no professional development (the control).
The research goal of this project is to evaluate whether an early childhood science education program, Head Start on Science, implemented in low-income preschool settings (Head Start) produces measurable impacts for children, teachers, and parents. The study is being conducted in eight Head Start programs in Michigan, involving 72 classrooms, 144 teachers, and 576 students and their parents. Partners include Michigan State University, Grand Valley State University, and the 8 Head Start programs. Southwest Counseling Solutions is the external evaluator.
The study is determining the efficacy of the Head Start on Science curriculum in two models, one in which 72 teachers participate in professional development activities (the intervention), and another in which 72 teachers receive the curriculum and teachers' guide but no professional development (the control). The teacher study is a multi-site cluster randomized trial (MSCRT) with the classroom being the unit of randomization. Four time points over two years permit analysis through multilevel latent growth curve models. For teachers, measurement instruments include Attitudes Toward Science (ATS survey), the Head Start on Science Observation Protocol, the Preschool Classroom Science Materials/Equipment Checklist, the Preschool Science Classroom Activities Checklist, and the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS). For students, measures include the "mouse house problem," Knowledge of Biological Properties, the physics of falling objects, the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Fourth Edition, the Expressive Vocabulary Test-2, the Test of Early Mathematics Ability-3, Social Skills Improvement System-Rating Scales, and the Emotion Regulation Checklist. Measures for parents include the Attitudes Toward Science survey, and the Community and Home Activities Related to Science and Technology for Preschool Children (CHARTS/PS). There are Spanish versions of many of these instruments which can be used as needed. The external evaluation is monitoring the project progress toward its objectives and the processes of the research study.
This project meets a critical need for early childhood science education. Research has shown that very young children can achieve significant learning in science. The curriculum Head Start on Science has been carefully designed for 3-5 year old children and is one of only a few science programs for this audience with a national reach. This study intends to provide a sound basis for early childhood science education by demonstrating the efficacy of this important curriculum in the context of a professional development model for teachers.
Investigating and Supporting the Development of Ambitious and Equitable Mathematics Instruction at Scale
This project is supporting and investigating the implementation of reformed mathematics instruction at the middle school level in two large school districts. The primary goal of the project is to develop an empirically grounded theory of action for implementing reform at school and district levels. The researchers are investigating reform within a coherent system that focuses on leadership and school-based professional development.
The Development of Ambitious and Equitable Mathematics Instruction project is supporting and investigating the implementation of reformed mathematics instruction at the middle school level in two large school districts. Project researchers are asking: What does it take to support mathematics teachers' development of ambitious and equitable instructional practices on a large scale? The project has built on what was learned in a previous, successful project studying the implementation of a middle school mathematics curriculum. The primary goal of the new project is to develop an empirically grounded theory of action for implementing reform at school and district levels. The researchers are investigating reform within a coherent system that focuses on leadership and school-based professional development. In addition, they are facilitating a longitudinal study of the curriculum implementation by continuing the data collection from the original study.
In order to build a theory of action, the project team is synthesizing data from a variety of domains including instructional systems (e.g., curriculum, materials, professional development, support for struggling students, and learning communities), mathematics coaching, networks of teachers, school leadership, and district leadership. Investigators are using a variety of analytic techniques to successfully integrate both quantitative and qualitative data as they seek to understand how school district strategies are playing out in schools and classrooms and how those strategies can be revised in order to improve student learning of mathematics.
An empirically grounded theory of action for implementing reform will help the mathematics education community to implement and to understand the process of reforming mathematics instruction at the middle school level. Many advances in mathematics instruction have been documented within a limited context, but researchers and practitioners need to understand the full range of action necessary to achieve similar successes at a district-wide level. The model developed from this project, in conjunction with longitudinal data, has the potential to guide future reform efforts that seek to provide ambitious and equitable mathematics instruction.
This workshop developed a new, comprehensive, research-based framework for assessing environmental literacy. By bringing together, for the first time, experts in research, assessment, and evaluation from the fields of science education, environmental education, and related social science fields, this project accessed and built its work on the literature and the insights of many disciplines.
Efficacy Study of Metropolitan Denver's Urban Advantage Program: A Project to Improve Scientific Literacy Among Urban Middle School Students
This is an efficacy study to determine if partnerships among formal and informal organizations demonstrate an appropriate infrastructure for improving science literacy among urban middle school science students. The study aims to answer the following questions: How does participation in the program affect students' science knowledge, skills, and attitudes toward science; teachers' science knowledge, skills, and abilities; and families engagement in and support for their children's science learning and aspirations?
This is an efficacy study through which the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Denver Zoo, the Denver Botanic Gardens, and three of Denver's urban school districts join efforts to determine if partnerships among formal and informal organizations demonstrate an appropriate infrastructure for improving science literacy among urban middle school science students. The Metropolitan Denver Urban Advantage (UA Denver) program is used for this purpose. This program consists of three design elements: (a) student-driven investigations, (b) STEM-related content, and (c) alignment of schools and informal science education institutions; and six major components: (a) professional development for teachers, (b) classroom materials and resources, (c) access to science-rich organizations, (d) outreach to families, (e) capacity building and sustainability, and (e) program assessment and student learning. Three research questions guide the study: (1) How does the participation in the program affect students' science knowledge, skills, and attitudes toward science relative to comparison groups of students? (2) How does the participation in the program affect teachers' science knowledge, skills, and abilities relative to comparison groups of teachers? and (3) How do families' participation in the program affect their engagement in and support for their children's science learning and aspirations relative to comparison families?
The study's guiding hypothesis is that the UA Denver program should improve science literacy in urban middle school students measured by (a) students' increased understanding of science, as reflected in their science investigations or "exit projects"; (b) teachers' increased understanding of science and their ability to support students in their exit projects, as documented by classroom observations, observations of professional development activities, and surveys; and (c) school groups' and families' increased visits to participating science-based institutions, through surveys. The study employs an experimental research design. Schools are randomly assigned to either intervention or comparison groups and classrooms will be the units of analysis. Power analysis recommended a sample of 18 intervention and 18 comparison middle schools, with approximately 72 seventh grade science teachers, over 5,000 students, and 12,000 individual parents in order to detect differences among intervention and comparison groups. To answer the three research questions, data gathering strategies include: (a) students' standardized test scores from the Colorado Student Assessment Program, (b) students' pre-post science learning assessment using the Northwest Evaluation Association's Measures for Academic Progress (science), (c) students' pre-post science aspirations and goals using the Modified Attitude Toward Science Inventory, (d) teachers' fidelity of implementation using the Teaching Science as Inquiry instrument, and (e) classroom interactions using the Science Teacher Inquiry Rubric, and the Reformed Teaching Observation protocol. To interpret the main three levels of data (students, nested in teachers, nested within schools), hierarchical linear modeling (HLM), including HLM6 application, are utilized. An advisory board, including experts in research methodologies, science, informal science education, assessment, and measurement oversees the progress of the study and provides guidance to the research team. An external evaluator assesses both formative and summative aspects of the evaluation component of the scope of work.
The key outcome of the study is a research-informed and field-tested intervention implemented under specific conditions for enhancing middle school science learning and teaching, and supported by partnerships between formal and informal organizations.
SimScientists Human Body Systems: Using Simulations to Foster Integrated Understanding of Complex, Dynamic, Interactive Systems
This project leverages curricular module development to design, develop, and test new cyberlearning modules that integrate multiple (circulation, respiration, and digestion) systems of the human body. The project aims to deepen science content knowledge, science inquiry skills, and model-based reasoning skills for high school biology students. The project will use simulations showing how individual systems function, how they work together, and how the integration of all three creates a dynamic and reactive biological system.
This research and development project leverages curricular module development to design, develop, and test new cyberlearning modules that integrate multiple (circulation, respiration, and digestion) systems of the human body. The project aims to deepen science content knowledge, science inquiry skills, and model-based reasoning skills for high school biology students. The project will use simulations showing how individual systems function, how they work together, and how the integration of all three creates a dynamic and reactive biological system. It is expected that the presentation of this dynamic system will result in a deeper understanding of the materials and enhanced performance on student achievement measures. The goals of the project are to: 1. Develop an integrated simulation of the human digestive, circulatory and respiratory systems that allows students to develop productive inquiry strategies. 2. Embed the simulation in online instructional modules that provide immediate, individualized coaching as students are challenged with a series of investigative tasks. 3. Provide reports of students' performances during the activities to students and teachers. 4. Develop follow-up online collaborative investigations that provide differentiated instruction to strengthen students' understanding and support transfer and opportunities to engage in scientific discourse. 5. Develop one benchmark assessment that measures outcomes across all three body systems and reports to students and teachers. 6. Develop and deploy professional development to support teachers as they use these materials. 7. Provide evidence of the technical quality, feasibility, and usability of the new materials. 8. Study the influence of these materials on complex science and inquiry learning of the integration of the three human body systems modeled. A small scale randomized, controlled trial will be performed at the end of the project. The project is grounded in model-based learning, cognitive learning research, and an evidence-centered design. Universal Design for Learning is factored into all simulation designs. Questions asked during the evaluation include: Is the project progressing as planned? Are the modules useable? Are the users satisfied? Are the modules used as intended in a typical high school setting? Does this improve teaching and learning of key content? The primary investigator is WestEd; the American Association for the Advancement of Science is a partner and three teachers from nearby schools serve as co-developers. The project has an external evaluator as well as a strong advisory board. The project will create multi-leveled instructional cyber-modules. These modules will contain embedded assessments that provide students and teachers immediate and individualized coaching. Professional development will also provide teachers tools and guidance to increase their learning of human body systems. Dissemination strategies include featuring the modules on WestEd's award-winning website as well as submission of academic papers to journals and national conferences targeted at science educators and education researchers. Because these modules supplement classroom curricula and use online technology, they could potentially be used to teach millions of high school biology students.
This project is conducting a comprehensive study of professional development models designed for mathematics teachers in grades K-12. The research team will identify key constructs and frameworks within professional development programs and identify types of professional development models. The goals of the project are to encourage researchers and professional developers to reconceptualize mathematics professional development, develop a shared language, and renew discussions on effective professional development for teachers of mathematics.
The Models of Professional Development for Mathematics Teachers project is conducting a comprehensive study of professional development models designed for mathematics teachers in grades K-12. The research team will identify key constructs and frameworks within professional development programs and identify types of professional development models. The goals of the project are to encourage researchers and professional developers to reconceptualize mathematics professional development, develop a shared language, and renew discussions on effective professional development for teachers of mathematics. The project team includes faculty and students at North Carolina State University and a research scientist at American Institutes for Research. The project team is coding and analyzing descriptive data on mathematics professional development (MPD) gathered from studying mathematics teacher education research literature. They are also conducting interviews with authors of the studies they have identified. The project is investigating the general question: What are the various models used by mathematics teacher educators when designing and implementing mathematics professional development? Specifically, they are asking: 1. What are similarities and differences across goals, theoretical frameworks, contexts and structures that exist in the design of MPD offered to K-12 teachers? 2. How does the field name and define various characteristics of MPD? 3. How can the characteristics of the various MPD designs be grouped into meaningful models? What are the main elements that define these models? The researchers hope that their efforts to describe models of professional development will help educators to move away from professional development designed around a few salient features and move toward professional development models that contain a theoretical framework and coherent features that work together. They want professional developers and researchers to use a common language to study and assess professional development. Their analysis of existing professional development projects in mathematics teaching will offer the following outcomes: 1. An empirically established definition of characteristics and models of MPD, with explanations of the various elements that comprise these models. 2. A coding protocol for use in the classification of MPD models and the organization of current information about existing MPD. 3. A theoretical framework for organizing knowledge about MPD that can foster new ways to think about these models in the design of innovative MPD for teachers. 4. A set of research-related innovations such as new hypotheses for studying MPD, new approaches to testing the explanatory and predictive validity of various features of professional development, and new formats for describing the state of the art in MPD. 5. Concepts that can support a revision of what is meant by best practices or effective features of MPD. 6. An open-source, web-based, searchable database with descriptions of various MPD. This exploratory project will provide an opportunity for the mathematics education field to learn more about professional development and approaches to conducting research on professional development.
Evaluating the Developing Mathematical Ideas Professional Development Program: Researching its Impact on Teaching and Student Learning
This is a 3.5-year efficacy study of the Developing Mathematical Ideas (DMI) elementary math teacher professional development (PD) program. DMI is a well-known, commercially available PD program with substantial prior evidence showing its impact on elementary teachers' mathematical and pedagogical knowledge. However, no studies have yet linked DMI directly with changes in teachers' classroom practice, or with improved student outcomes in math. This study aims to remedy this gap.
This is a 3.5-year efficacy study of the Developing Mathematical Ideas (DMI) elementary math teacher professional development (PD) program. DMI was developed by staff from Education Development Center (EDC), SummerMath for Teachers, and TERC, the STEM research and development institution responsible for this research. DMI is a well-known, commercially available PD program with substantial prior evidence showing its impact on elementary teachers' mathematical and pedagogical knowledge. However, no studies have yet linked DMI directly with changes in teachers' classroom practice, or with improved student outcomes in math. This study aims to remedy this gap.
The research questions for the study are:
1) Does participation in the Developing Mathematical Ideas (DMI) professional development program lead to increases in reform-oriented teaching?
2) Does participation in DMI lead to increases in students' mathematics learning and achievement, especially in their ability to explain their thinking and justify their answers?
3) What is the process by which a reform-oriented professional development program can influence teaching practice and, thus, student learning? Through what mechanisms does DMI have impact, and with what kinds of support do we see the desired changes on our outcome measures when the larger professional development context is examined?
The dependent variables for this study include a) teachers' pedagogical and mathematics knowledge for teaching; b) the nature of their classroom practice; and c) student learning/ achievement in mathematics.
The study uses experimental and quasi-experimental methods, working with about 195 elementary grades teachers and their students in Boston, Springfield, Leominster, Fitchburg, and other Massachusetts public schools. Volunteer teachers are randomly assigned either to PD with DMI in the first year of the efficacy study, or to a control group that will wait until the second year of the study to receive DMI PD. Both groups of teachers will be followed through two academic years. Analyses use OLS regression, hierarchical modeling, and structural equation modeling, as appropriate, to compare the two groups and to track changes over time. In this way, the project explores several aspects of a conceptual framework hypothesizing relationships among PD, teacher mathematical and pedagogical knowledge, classroom teaching practice, and student outcomes. There are multiple measures of each construct, including video-analysis of teacher practice, and a new video-based measure of teacher knowledge.
The study tests the impact of DMI in a range of districts (large urban, small urban, suburban) serving an ethnically and economically diverse mix of students. It provides much needed, rigorous evidence testing the efficacy of this reform-oriented professional development program. It also directly explores the commonplace theory that teachers' understanding of content and student thinking and their encouragement of rich mathematical discourse for student sense-making lead to improvement on measures of mathematics achievement. Findings from the study are disseminated to both research and practitioner communities. The project provides professional development in mathematics to about 195 teachers to improve their ability to teach important concepts. If the evidence for efficacy is positive, then even larger-scale use of this PD program is likely.
This synthesis project is a systematic review of experimental research evaluating programs and practices in elementary science. The systematic review addresses all areas of science in the elementary grades. The review uses an adaptation of best-evidence synthesis previously applied to elementary and secondary mathematics and reading, and includes experimental and quasi-experimental research on the outcomes of alternative approaches to elementary science.
This synthesis project is a systematic review of experimental research evaluating programs and practices in elementary science. The systematic review addresses all areas of science in the elementary grades. Different versions of the synthesis are written for audiences of researchers, policy makers, principals, and teachers. The review uses an adaptation of best-evidence synthesis previously applied to elementary and secondary mathematics and reading, and includes experimental and quasi-experimental research on the outcomes of alternative approaches to elementary science. The review is a part of a series of reviews that are part of the Best Evidence Encyclopedia (BEE), an on-line resource that disseminates systematic reviews of research on achievement outcomes of programs at all subject areas and grade levels (see www.bestevidence.org), and is led by Robert Slavin of Johns Hopkins University.
The review is carried out by a US-UK partnership of science educators and experts on systematic reviews of research. An advisory group of scientists, science educators, and experts on research review oversees the design of the review, monitors review procedures, and comments on drafts. This review takes a broad approach to searching the literature in order to locate every study that meets inclusion requirements for valid research. It includes electronic searches of educational databases (JSTOR, ERIC, EBSCO, Psych INFO, Dissertation Abstracts) using different combinations of key words (for example, "elementary students" and "science achievement"), covering the years 1970-2010. Results are narrowed by subject area (for example, "educational software", "science achievement", "instructional strategies"). Web-based repositories and education publishers' websites are included. The review also discusses each study that meets the inclusion requirements for a valid research design.
A strength of this work is that it takes on the synthesis of what is known about best practice for elementary science education, relying only on studies that meet the criteria for inclusion as having credible research designs. This is a review that is sorely needed in the field of science education. The lengthy and detailed review will be available on the BEE network, along with educator-friendly summaries. The work is also vetted via publication in a top, peer-reviewed journal. The study will include a set of tables showing ratings of programs according to consistent criteria in terms of the strength of the evidence base for each, with brief descriptions of the methods and findings. This educators' summary, patterned on Consumer Reports, is intended primarily for superintendents, principals, and teachers who are making choices among programs for implementation with their children.
Rethinking How to Teach Energy: Laying The Foundations in Elementary School (Collaborative Research: Lacy)
This project is a collaborative effort that aims to develop a grade 3-5 Learning Progression that will provide a coherent approach to teaching energy in elementary school and lay a strong foundation for further learning in middle school. The project will identify a network of core concepts and principles about energy that are fundamental and general enough to be compatible with scientific ideas about energy, yet within reach of 5th graders.
This project is a collaborative effort involving scientists, science educators, and teachers from TERC, Clark University, Tufts University,and urban Massachusetts schools that aims to develop a grade 3-5 Learning Progression that will provide a coherent approach to teaching energy in elementary school and lay a strong foundation for further learning in middle school. The work draws on and complements the learning progression and curriculum for matter developed and tested in the Inquiry Project (NSF award 0628245). The project will identify a network of core concepts and principles about energy that are fundamental and general enough to be compatible with scientific ideas about energy, yet within reach of 5th graders.
This project explores the hypothesis that, while the scientific concept of energy is too abstract and difficult to understand in early grades, useful foundations can be established early on by elaborating a learning progression for energy. Clinical interviews will be administered to 24 pairs of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders recruited from urban after-school programs, to identify precursors to the core ideas as well obstacles to learning them. This research will help the investigators design key learning experiences that could allow students to progress from initial ideas toward a scientific understanding of energy. Those learning designs will then be tested in teaching interviews with 3 small groups of students in the same settings.
The result of the project will be an outline for a grade 3-5 learning progression for energy taking into account the project research findings as well as relevant standards, curricula, and science education literature.