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.
School Organization and Science Achievement: Organization and Leadership Influences On Equitable Student Performance
This project will document factors explaining variations in science achievement across schools enrolling ethnically and linguistically diverse students. The research question is: what leadership and organizational features at the school level are associated with mitigating science achievement gaps? At the conclusion of the five-year project, the findings will take the form of recommendations about leadership practices and school organization that can be implemented in other school settings.
The School Organization and Science Achievement (SOSA) Project will document factors explaining variations in science achievement across schools enrolling ethnically and linguistically diverse students. The research question is: what leadership and organizational features at the school level are associated with mitigating science achievement gaps? Previous school effectiveness studies demonstrate school leadership and social capital influencing student achievement; the SOSA project is unique with its focus on science achievement. Researchers at the University of Connecticut and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, in collaboration with school districts in their respective states, will identify school leadership practices that can be connected with reductions in achievement gaps related to student ethnicity, English fluency, and social status. At the conclusion of the five-year project, the findings will take the form of recommendations about leadership practices and school organization that can be implemented in other school settings.
The project uses a mixed methods design by combining statistical modeling and qualitative data. Multiple regression analyses highlight those schools populated by fifth graders that have greater or lesser achievement gaps in science. Using social capital theory (i.e., school norms, communication channels, and trustworthiness) comparisons of positive and negative outlier schools will be made via interviews of building principals, classroom teachers and community representatives. The expectation is that schools providing more equitable science experiences to all students will exhibit stronger social capital compared to buildings with disparities in science test scores across demographic categories. These insights will be supplemented by multilevel structural equation modeling to determine the strength of association between various school climate measures (e.g., teacher-to-principal trust, correspondence between teacher and principal perceptions of leadership, and school/community ties) and science achievement as measured by statewide fifth grade science tests. In addition, growth analyses will be used to detect shifts over time and provide insights about the links between policy changes or leadership adjustments, inasmuch as science achievement gaps are affected.
By working with 150 schools in two states, this collaborative research project is designed to generate findings applicable in other school systems. Particularly in settings where science achievement gaps are large, and especially when such gaps vary between schools even when the student populations are similar, the findings from this study will have practical leadership implications. Expertise in this project includes science education, educational leadership, and statistical modeling. This complementary combination increases the depth of the project's efforts along with expanding its potential impacts. Key questions addressed by this project include: to what extent is leadership in science similar to or different from leadership in other subject areas? how do variations in leadership design (e.g., top-down versus distributed leadership) contribute to reductions in science achievement gaps? to what degree can effective leadership mitigate other factors that exacerbate the challenges of providing high quality science learning experiences for every child? Findings will be disseminated via the SOSA Project website, along with leadership development strategies. Deliverables include templates to replicate the study, case studies for professional development, and strategies for supporting the development of science teacher-leaders.
This project investigates the outcomes of a teacher education model designed to foster prospective mathematics teachers' abilities to notice and capitalize on important mathematical moments in instruction. The project engages prospective teachers in research-like analysis of unedited teacher-perspective classroom video early in their teacher education coursework in order to help them learn to identify, assess the mathematical potential of, and respond to important student ideas and insights that arise during instruction.
This CAREER awardee at Michigan Technological University is investigating the outcomes of a teacher education model designed to foster prospective mathematics teachers' abilities to notice and capitalize on important mathematical moments in instruction. The researcher engages prospective teachers in research-like analysis of unedited teacher-perspective classroom video early in their teacher education coursework in order to help them learn to identify, assess the mathematical potential of, and respond to important student ideas and insights that arise during instruction.
The research is based on a quasi-experimental design and involves three cohorts of prospective teachers. Practicing teachers from local schools collaborate with the research team. The data collected consists of classroom video. The video is coded and analyzed using Studiocode, which allows for real-time coding and for multiple users to code and annotate video segments.
The research findings are integrated into the institution's teacher education program and are also disseminated more broadly through publication and presentations at professional meetings.
Measuring the Effects of a School-based, Data-driven Professional Learning Model for Raising Secondary Mathematics Achievement
This project is designing and implementing a professional development model that uses data from the Surveys of Enacted Curriculum (SEC) to improve mathematics instruction at the high school level.
The Surveys of Enacted Curriculum Professional Development Model (SECPDM) project, at RMC Research Corporation in Oregon, is designing and implementing a professional development model that uses data from the Surveys of Enacted Curriculum (SEC) to improve mathematics instruction at the high school level. Teachers participating in the professional development work together at the school level to learn how to use the data gathered through the SEC to align their curriculum with state and district standards. The teachers work in professional development communities within schools to better understand the content embedded in curriculum materials and assessments, and to be able to use that understanding to improve their daily instruction.
The SEC collects data from K-12 teachers of mathematics, science, and English language arts on course content and instructional practices. Using this data, one can determine the alignment between instruction in a specific school and state standards or assessments. Efforts to use the SEC data for school improvement have been hampered by two key constraints: (1) The survey is lengthy and not easy to complete and (2) The results provide a year-end summary that does not reach teachers in time to adjust instruction for the current year. The SECPDM project is designing a teacher log system in which teachers enter brief reports more frequently and get useful feedback throughout the year. The project is also designing and conducting professional development that will help teachers learn to use the data and feedback to align their instruction with state standards, and it is helping teachers build professional development communities within their schools. This project includes teachers in Ohio, New York, and Oregon. The project is conducting a quasi-experimental research study to test the hypothesis that if a critical mass of mathematics teachers collaboratively implements the professional development plan, then (1) the mathematics courses will be better articulated and aligned with state standards and assessments, (2) teachers will improve their instructional practices, and (3) student achievement in mathematics will increase.
The SECPDM project has the potential to improve the use of the Survey of Enacted Curriculum (SEC) by making the data entry process easier for teachers and the survey data more useful. By piloting this model of professional development and analyzing their findings, the project is making a significant step towards improving the alignment of the mathematics curriculum in high schools, helping teachers use the SEC data to inform instruction, and improving student achievement in mathematics.
This project will (1) identify the characteristics and needs of college-level target learners and their instructors with respect to evolution, (2) articulate the components for expanding the Understanding Evolution (UE) site to include an Undergraduate Lounge in which students and instructors will be able to access a variety of evolution resources, (3) develop a strategic plan for increasing awareness of UE, and (4) develop a strategic plan for maintenance and continued growth of the site.
The University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP) will bring together an experienced group of evolution educators in order to inform the development and maintenance of an effective resource for improving evolution education at the college level. This effort falls under the umbrella of UCMP's highly successful Understanding Evolution (UE) project (http://evolution.berkeley.edu), which currently receives over one million page requests per month during the school year. UE was originally designed around the needs of the K-12 education community; however, increasingly, the site is being used by the undergraduate education community. UCMP intends to embark on an effort to enhance the utility of the UE site for that population, increase awareness of the site at the college level, and secure the project's future so that it can continue to serve K-16 teachers and students. To inform and guide these efforts, UCMP proposes to establish and convene a UE Advisory Board, which will be charged with helping to: (1) identify the characteristics and needs of college-level target learners and their instructors with respect to evolution, (2) articulate the recommended components for expanding the UE site to include an Undergraduate Lounge in which students and their instructors will be able to access a variety of resources for increasing understanding of evolution, (3) develop a strategic plan for increasing awareness of UE within the undergraduate education community, and (4) develop a strategic plan for maintenance and continued growth of the UE site.
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.
Cyber-enabled Learning: Digital Natives in Integrated Scientific Inquiry Classrooms (Collaborative Research: Wang)
This project investigated the professional development needed to make teachers comfortable teaching with multi-user simulations and communications that students use every day. The enactment with OpenSim (an open source, modular, expandable platform used to create simulated 3D spaces with customizable terrain, weather and physics) also provides an opportunity to demonstrate the level of planning and preparation that go into fashioning modules with all selected cyber-enabled cognitive tools framed by constructivism, such as GoogleEarth and Biologica.
There is an increasing gap between the assumptions governing the use of cyber-enabled resources in schools and the realities of their use by students in out of school settings. The potential of information and communications technologies (ICT) as cognitive tools for engaging students in scientific inquiry and enhancing teacher learning is explored. A comprehensive professional development program of over 240 hours, along with follow-up is used to determine how teachers can be supported to use ICT tools effectively in classroom instruction to create meaningful learning experiences for students, reducing the gap between formal and informal learning and improve student learning outcomes. In the first year, six teachers from school districts - two in Utah and one in New York - are educated to become teacher leaders and advisors. Then three cohorts of 30 teachers matched by characteristics are provided professional development and field test units over two years in a delayed-treatment design. Biologists from Utah State University and New York College of Technology develop four modules that meet the science standards for both states - the first being changes in the environment. Teachers are guided to develop additional modules. The key technological resource to be used in the project is the Opensimulator 3D application Server (OpenSim), an open source, modular, expandable platform used to create simulated 3D spaces with customizable terrain, weather and physics.
The research methodology includes the use of the classroom observations using RTOP and Technology Use in Science Instruction (TUSI), selected interviews of teachers and students and validated assessments of student learning. Evaluation, by an external evaluator, assesses the quality of the professional development and the quality of the cyber-enabled learning resources, as well as reviews the research design and implementation. An Advisory Board will monitor the project.
The project is to determine the professional development needed to make teachers comfortable teaching with multi-user simulations and communications that students use everyday. The enactment with OpenSim also provides an opportunity to demonstrate the level of planning and preparation that go into fashioning modules with all selected cyber-enabled cognitive tools framed by constructivism, such as GoogleEarth and Biologica.
Studying Topography, Orographic Rainfall, and Ecosystems (STORE) with Geospatial Information Technology
This project is using innovative Geospatial Information Technology-based learning in high school environmental science studies with a focus on the meteorological and ecological impacts of climate change. The resources developed are using ArcGIS Explorer Desktop and Google Earth software applications to increase students' learning and interest in science and careers and will be adaptable for teachers to improve classroom implementation.
STORE is developing and piloting classroom uses of GIS-based interactive data files displaying climatological, topographical, and biological data about an especially ecologically and topographically diverse section of mid-California and a section of western New York State, plus projected climate change outcomes in 2050 and 2099 from an IPCC climate change model. Both areas contain weather stations. The participating students and teachers live in those areas, hence the place-based focus of the project.
To help teachers make curricular decisions about how to use these data with their students, the project has, with input from six design partner teachers, produced a curriculum module exemplar consisting of six lessons. The lessons start with basic meteorological concepts about the relationship between weather systems and topography, then focus on recent climatological and land cover data. The last two lessons focus on IPCC-sanctioned climate change projections in relation to possible fates of different regional species. Technology light versions of these lessons send students directly to map layers displaying the data for scientific analysis. Technology-heavy versions address the additional goal of building students' capacities to manipulate features of geographic information systems (GIS). Hence, the technology-heavy versions require use of the ARC GIS Explorer Desktop software, whereas the technology light versions are available in both the ARC software and in Google Earth. Google Earth makes possible some student interactivity such as drawing transects and studying elevation profiles, but does not support more advanced use of geographic information system technology such as queries of data-containing shape files or customization of basemaps and data representational symbology.
Answer keys are provided for each lesson. Teachers have in addition access to geospatial data files that display some storm systems that moved over California in the winter of 2010-2001 so that students can study relationships between actual data about storm behavior and relationship to topography and the climatological data which displays those relationships in a summary manner. This provides the student the opportunity to explore differences between weather and climate.
To increase the likelihood of successful classroom implementation and impact on student learning, the professional development process provides the conditions for teachers to make good adaptability decisions for successful follow-through. Teachers can implement the six lessons or adapt them or design their own from scratch. The project requires that they choose from these options, explain on content representation forms their rationales for those decisions, and provide assessment information about student learning outcomes from their implementations. The project provides the teachers with assessment items that are aligned to each of the six lessons, plus some items that test how well the students can interpret the STORE GIS data layers.
All of this work is driven by the hypothesis that science teachers are more likely to use geospatial information technology in their classrooms when provided with the types of resources that they are provided in this project. In summary, these resources include:
1. tutorials about how to use the two GIS applications
2. sufficiently adaptive geospatial data available in free easily transportable software applications
3. lessons that they can implement as is, adapt, or discard if they want to make up their own (as long as they use the data)
4. supportive resources to build their content knowledge (such as overview documents about their states' climates and information about the characteristics of each data layer and each data set available to them).
The growth and evolution of the teachers' technological pedagogical content knowledge is being tracked through interviews, face-to-face group meetings, and classroom observations. Also being tracked is the extent to which the teachers and students can master the technology applications quickly and on their own without workshops, and how well teachers provide feedback to the students and assess their learning outcomes when implementing STORE lessons. As the project moves into its third and final year, we will be studying outcomes from the first classroom implementation year (i.e. year two of the project) and determining to what extent the professional development strategies need to be revised in relation to how the teachers are responding to the project resources and forms of professional support. In the end, the project will contribute to the knowledge base about what professional development strategies are appropriate for getting teachers to use these types of resources, what decisions teachers make about how to use the resources for different courses and student groups they teach, and what are the outcomes of those uses in terms of curricular material, instructional strategies, and student learning.
This project builds on current learning progression research to study the effects of teaching Tools for Reasoning on development of middle school students' capacities to understand the Earth's hydrologic systems. The project applies a design-based research approach using iterative cycles of Tool design/revision, teacher workshops, and small-scale pilot tests of Tools through classroom experiments with teachers and students in Montana and Arizona.
This exploratory project, led by faculty at the University of Montana, Michigan State University, and the University of Arizona, collaborating with teachers from the Missoula, MT schools, builds on current learning progression research to study the effects of teaching Tools for Reasoning on development of middle school students' capacities to understand the Earth's hydrologic systems. The project applies a design-based research approach using iterative cycles of Tool design/revision, teacher workshops, and small-scale pilot tests of Tools through classroom experiments with teachers and students in Montana and Arizona.
The central research question being addressed is: How can learning progression-based Reasoning Tools support students in using models and representations to engage in principled reasoning about hydrologic systems? This question will be answered by analysis of data from assessments of student learning, student clinical interviews, teacher assessments, classroom observations, and teacher focus groups.
The Reasoning Tools project will contribute insight into the challenge of developing students' environmental science literacy and the reasoning skills needed to make informed citizenship decisions about 21st century water issues. Project outcomes will include materials for teaching middle school students to reason about hydrologic systems, theoretical and practical insights into the effects of teaching Tools for Reasoning, strategies for supporting students and teachers in use of the Tools, and refinements of a water systems learning progression framework.
Zydeco: A Mobile "Nomadic Inquiry" System to Support and Bridge Science Inquiry Between Classroom and Museum Contexts
This project will explore how new mobile and web-based technologies can support content-rich nomadic inquiry; that is, science inquiry that takes place on-the-go, across integrated K-12 formal and informal settings. Students will begin the inquiry process in the classroom using curricular activities and the Zydeco web software developed in the project to help define goals and questions and to design data collection strategies and categories for use on a field trip to an informal setting.
Although students may engage in scientific inquiry in their classrooms, it is also essential for them to practice scientific inquiry in real-world settings outside the classroom context to build enduring skills and deep, meaningful understanding of core science content ideas. The goal of the Zydeco project is to explore how new mobile and web-based technologies can support content-rich nomadic inquiry; that is, science inquiry that takes place on-the-go, across integrated K-12 formal and informal settings. Students will begin the inquiry process in the classroom using curricular activities and the Zydeco web software developed in the project to help define goals and questions and to design data collection strategies and categories for use on a field trip to an informal setting. With a mobile device and the Zydeco mobile software populated with the students' preparatory work, students will continue their inquiry in the museum, collecting relevant data and information in an organized, scaffolded manner, in the form of tagged, captioned, and voice-annotated photographs, video, and text. The Zydeco system will store the students' collected data on a web server, which students can access upon their return to the classroom. Thus students can access, sort, and analyze their collected data, using curricular and web-based scaffolds to help evaluate and explain their findings to complete the inquiry process.
The project will involve middle school teachers and students from the Ypsilanti and Detroit Public Schools; educators, researchers, and scientists at the University of Michigan Exhibit Museum of Natural History and the Detroit Science Center; and researchers from the University of Michigan School of Education and Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The science content will be tailored to both the museum partners' foci and the teachers' curricula: biology, earth science, and physical science.
The Zydeco project explores three major research questions:
(1) How can mobile and web technologies coordinate with school curricula to scaffold nomadic inquiry and enhance student learning?
(2) How can scaffolded mobile technologies support teachers and students to connect classroom and museum experiences more closely in order to enhance science inquiry and content learning?
(3) What impacts do scaffolded nomadic inquiry experiences have on classroom-based science inquiry and science learning?
The collaborative team will use an iterative, learner-centered approach to develop the Zydeco web and mobile systems and the associated student activities. For each iteration, the researchers will videotape and audio-tape students' discussions and activities, and collect artifacts and logs of student work as they engage with the curriculum the web and mobile systems in the classroom and museum. This data will be analyzed using rubrics designed to gauge the quality and variety of students' inquiry, the scientific content of their discussions and work, and their engagement throughout the process. In addition, pre-and post-program assessment tasks will be used to gauge the program's short-term and long-term impacts on targeted inquiry skills and content understanding. Student and teacher interviews will be administered to gather feedback about the program content and usability. Technology evaluation rubrics will be used to evaluate the different scaffolding features in the Zydeco mobile and web systems to gauge how well those systems help students overcome the complexities of scientific inquiry in multiple settings.
The products of this research will include a web-based software application that will support pre-visit and post-visit inquiry activities and applications for the mobile device to support student inquiry on their visit to an informal learning environment. The project will produce documentation to enable teachers and museum educators to use the developed nomadic inquiry system. Research papers about scaffolding nomadic inquiry, developing adaptable technologies to help teachers connect classroom curricula and field trip experiences, curriculum design for learning across formal and informal settings, and developing technologies to enhance learning and inquiry in informal settings will be written.