Elementary School

Systemic Transformation of Inquiry Learning Environments for STEM

This project will help teachers design and facilitate high-quality, real world STEM experiences for students, as teachers move from traditional approaches to organizing their teaching around interdisciplinary questions or problems. The project will work with building administrators to make the structural changes needed for interdisciplinary STEM instruction.

Award Number: 
2010530
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2020 to Sun, 06/30/2024
Full Description: 

This project will address a special challenge for schools: preparing educators to adopt an integrated approach to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). This is especially important for educators in underserved urban populations where teacher expertise and guidance are necessary for meaningful student engagement with STEM. Frameworks for helping teachers make these changes are urgently needed, especially approaches that support new perspectives for STEM teaching and learning at the school level. This project will help teachers design and facilitate high-quality, real world STEM experiences for students, as teachers move from traditional approaches to organizing their teaching around interdisciplinary questions or problems. The project will work with building administrators to make the structural changes needed for interdisciplinary STEM instruction. School-based instructional coaches will develop new strategies for guiding STEM teaching and sustaining the work long-term.

The project goals are to: (1) determine the feasibility and utility of the refined project approach, (2) determine the utility of the project's implementation for facilitating change in teacher knowledge and practices, (3) understand the utility of the project's implementation for fostering student change, and (4) understand the extent to which the refined project model supports organizational change in schools. To do this, the program will make its professional development more accessible by adding a blended learning component, expanding the school leadership program, formalizing a training program for new facilitators, and identifying novel ways of defining student outcomes for transdisciplinary learning. The mixed methods research design will involve twenty schools (elementary and intermediate) in New York City and New Haven, CT. A quasi-experimental, within-school rotation model will randomize grade-level participation at the school level to yield a sample of at least 240 teachers, 3,000 students, 40 school-based coaches, and 20 administrators. Quantitative data will primarily capture teacher and student outcomes, while the qualitative data will describe the context of the model implementation and provide a deeper understanding of the quantitative results.

Bridging Science Teaching and Learning in Title 1 Schools

This project aims to expand opportunities for elementary science in Title 1 schools through the development, implementation, and evaluation of a professional development model that will prepare teachers to effectively utilize science education practices grounded in culturally responsive pedagogy. It provides a new science instruction model that intersects the best practices in science education with the theoretical principles of culturally relevant/responsive pedagogy found to influence students from low economic, diverse communities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010361
Funding Period: 
Fri, 05/01/2020 to Sat, 04/30/2022
Full Description: 

This project addresses a long-standing challenge in science education centered on a national commitment to and interest in advancing the prosperity and welfare of young learners who have been historically underrepresented in science. It addresses challenges with broadening participation in science by providing equity and access to quality science instruction at Title 1 elementary schools in metro Atlanta, Georgia. Title 1 schools are schools with large concentrations of low-income students that receive supplemental funds to assist in meeting educational goals and educational needs of students living near poverty levels. Opportunities to learn science in elementary school are particularly limited; especially in those schools that serve racially and ethnically diverse children and children suffering from poverty. Interventions aimed at broadening participation have been limited in both impact and scope. This project is addressing this challenge through the development, implementation, and evaluation of a professional development model that will prepare teachers to effectively utilize science education practices grounded in culturally responsive pedagogy. It provides a new science instruction model that intersects the best practices in science education with the theoretical principles of culturally relevant/responsive pedagogy found to influence students from low economic, diverse communities. By focusing on both in-service and preservice teachers, the project will make a valuable contribution to the understanding of teacher education across the trajectory of educators' careers and deepen an understanding of how to prepare teachers to adopt and effectively utilize effective practices in their everyday classrooms, particularly in relation to science teaching and learning.

The project will involve 30 preservice and 20 in-service teachers participating in a summer academy and workshops introducing them to instructional features of the model that will later be used during instruction with the students. Instruction provided by the teachers will impact approximately 1,420 students. The goal of the project is to design and test an innovative science instruction model that intersects the best practices in science education with the principles of culturally responsive pedagogy. The two-year design and development project incorporate mixed methods to examine the three components of the model hypothesized as critical for improvements in teacher practice: culturally responsive classroom management, discourse, and anchoring. Use of qualitative and quantitative methods and measures during exploration provides critical information on how to support instruction in Title 1 STEM schools in ways that are feasible, yet effective.

Evolving Minds: Promoting Causal-Explanatory Teaching and Learning of Biological Evolution in Elementary School

Adopting a teaching and curricular approach that will be novel in its integration of custom explanatory storybook materials with hands-on investigations, this project seeks to promote third grade students' understanding of small- and large-scale evolution by natural selection. By studying students across multiple school districts, this research will shed light on the benefits to diverse students of instruction that focuses on supporting children's capacities to cogently explain aspects of the biological world rather than learn disparate facts about it.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2009176
Funding Period: 
Mon, 06/01/2020 to Fri, 05/31/2024
Full Description: 

Natural selection is a fundamental mechanism of evolution, the unifying principle of biology. It is central to understanding the functional specialization of living things, the origin of species diversity and the inherent unity of biological life. Despite the early emergence of tendencies that can make evolution increasingly challenging to learn over time, natural selection is currently not taught until middle or high school. This is long after patterns of misunderstanding are likely to have become more entrenched. The current research responds to this situation. It targets elementary school as the time to initiate comprehensive instruction on biological evolution. Adopting a teaching and curricular approach that will be novel in its integration of custom explanatory storybook materials with hands-on investigations, it seeks to promote third grade students' understanding of small- and large-scale evolution by natural selection. By studying students across multiple school districts, this research will shed light on the benefits to diverse students of instruction that focuses on supporting children's capacities to cogently explain aspects of the biological world rather than learn disparate facts about it. It will also illuminate the value of simple tools, like explanatory storybooks, for elementary school teachers who are often expected to teach counterintuitive topics such as natural selection while not feeling confident in their own understanding.

This project will investigate changes in Grade 3 students' learning and reasoning about living things during implementation of a guided inquiry curriculum unit on evolution by natural selection that emphasizes causal-mechanistic explanation. Classroom inquiry activities and investigations into a range of real-world phenomena will be framed by engagement with a sequence of innovative custom causal-explanatory storybook, animation and writing prompt materials that were developed under prior NSF support to promote transferable, scientifically accurate theory- and evidence-based reasoning about natural selection. In response to the distinctive challenges of life science and evolution learning, the project will integrate and thematically unify currently disparate Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) content and practice standards to create a comprehensive unit that addresses all three NGSS dimensions and is accompanied by evidence-based approaches to teacher professional development (PD). Using a design based research approach, and informed by cognitive developmental findings, this 4-year project will engage at least 700 students and their teachers and include partners from at least four school districts, Boston University, and TERC.

CAREER: Exploring Teacher Noticing of Students' Multimodal Algebraic Thinking

This project investigates and expands teachers' learning to notice in two important ways. First, the research expands beyond teachers' noticing of written and verbal thinking to attend to gesture and other aspects of embodied and multimodal thinking. Second, the project focuses on algebraic thinking and seeks specifically to understand how teacher noticing relates to the content of algebra. Bringing together multimodal thinking and the mathematical ideas in algebra has the potential to support teachers in providing broader access to algebraic thinking for more students.

Award Number: 
1942580
Funding Period: 
Mon, 06/01/2020 to Sat, 05/31/2025
Full Description: 

Effective teachers of mathematics attend to and respond to the substance of students' thinking in supporting classroom learning. Teacher professional development programs have supported teachers in learning to notice students' mathematical thinking and using that noticing to make instructional decisions in the classroom. This project investigates and expands teachers' learning to notice in two important ways. First, the research expands beyond teachers' noticing of written and verbal thinking to attend to gesture and other aspects of embodied and multimodal thinking. Second, the project focuses on algebraic thinking and seeks specifically to understand how teacher noticing relates to the content of algebra. Bringing together multimodal thinking and the mathematical ideas in algebra has the potential to support teachers in providing broader access to algebraic thinking for more students.

To study teacher noticing of multimodal algebraic thinking, this project will facilitate video club sessions in which teachers examine and annotate classroom video. The video will allow text-based and visual annotation of the videos to obtain rich portraits of the thinking that teachers notice as they examine algebra-related middle school practice. The research team will create a video library focused on three main algebraic thinking areas: equality, functional thinking, and proportional reasoning. Clips will be chosen that feature multimodal student thinking about these content areas, and provide moments that would be fruitful for advancing student thinking. Two cohorts of preservice teachers will engage in year-long video clubs using this video library, annotate videos using an advanced technological tool, and engage in reflective interviews about their noticing practices. Follow-up classroom observations will be conducted to see how teachers then notice multimodal algebraic thinking in their classrooms. Materials to conduct the video clubs in other contexts and the curated video library will be made available, along with analyses of the teacher learning that resulted from their implementation.

CAREER: Developing Elementary Preservice Teachers' Understandings and Abilities to Support Emerging Bilingual Students Scientific Sensemaking

This project will study ways to improve classroom instruction grounded in science practices to address inequities in science education for emerging bilingual students. The project will create research-based resources for teacher educators that focus on developing preservice elementary teachers' understanding and abilities to support emerging bilingual students' engagement in science practices.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1942912
Funding Period: 
Wed, 01/15/2020 to Tue, 12/31/2024
Full Description: 

This project will study ways to improve classroom instruction grounded in science practices to address inequities in science education for emerging bilingual students. Currently, many elementary school teachers are unfamiliar with science practices and are unprepared to teach emerging bilingual students since they never received training in either area. This project will address this lack of training and create research-based resources for teacher educators that focus on developing preservice elementary teachers' understanding and abilities to support emerging bilingual students' engagement in science practices. The study will be guided by the following objectives, which are to research: (1) the understandings of exemplary elementary teachers around science, language, and emerging bilingual students, and the relationship between these understandings and their instructional practices for supporting student sensemaking; (2) preservice teachers' understandings and practices related to supporting emerging bilingual students' sensemaking; (3) the development of an elementary science methods course, and educator resources, that support teacher learning about the role of language in science practices and approaches for supporting emerging bilingual students' sensemaking; and (4) the impact of this course, and its teacher educator resources, on preservice teachers' understandings and instructional practices. With little prior research having looked at the intersection of science and language learning, this project will advance knowledge in this regard.

Through a mixed-methods design, this project will investigate interrelated aspects of teacher understandings, teacher practice, and teacher learning around supporting emerging bilingual students' scientific sensemaking. Phase 1 of the project includes examining the instructional approaches around science practices of exemplary elementary school teachers that work in different types of school contexts with emerging bilingual students. Such strategies will go beyond traditional subject-matter knowledge and skills to include teacher encouragement of students using linguistic and nonlinguistic modes for communicating ideas; development of a deeper understanding of natural scientific phenomena; and engagement with and valuing of students' families, communities, and lived experiences. These combined efforts will capture and illustrate compelling examples of possible instantiations of engagement in science practices while being mindful of and responsive to emerging bilingual students' language assets, needs, and English development. Findings from Phase 1 will be used for Phase 2 of this project, which focuses on iteratively designing and analyzing a science methods course and resources for preservice teachers' pedagogical development across science and language learning.

CAREER: Understanding Latinx Students' Stories of Doing and Learning Mathematics

This project characterizes and analyses the developing mathematical identities of Latinx students transitioning from elementary to middle grades mathematics. The central hypothesis of this project is that elementary Latino students' stories can identify how race and language are influential to their mathematical identities and how school and classroom practices may perpetuate inequities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2036549
Funding Period: 
Mon, 06/01/2020 to Sat, 05/31/2025
Full Description: 

Although the Latino population throughout the United States continues to increase, various researchers have shown that Latino students are often not afforded high quality learning experiences in their mathematics classrooms. As a result, Latino students are underrepresented in higher level mathematics courses and careers involving mathematics. Having a better understanding of Latino students' perspectives and experiences is imperative to improving their opportunities to learn mathematics. Yet, little research has made central Latinos students' perspectives of learning and doing mathematics, especially over a critical period of time like the transition from elementary to middle school. The goal of this study will be to improve mathematics teaching and learning for Latino youth as they move from upper elementary to early middle school mathematics classrooms. The project involves three major parts: investigating the policy, media, and oral histories of Latino families/communities to understand the context for participating Latino students' mathematics education; exploring Latino students' stories about their experiences learning and doing mathematics to understand these students' perspectives; and creating documentary video portraitures (or composite cases) of participants' stories about learning and doing mathematics that can be used in teacher preparation and professional development. Finally, the project will look across the experiences over the duration of the project to develop a framework that can be used to improve Latino students' mathematics education experiences. This project will provide a window into how Latino students may experience inequities and can broaden mathematics educators' views on opportunities to engage Latino students in rigorous mathematics. The project will also broaden the field's understanding of how Latino students racial/ethnic and linguistic identities influence their experiences learning mathematics. It will also identify key factors that impact Latino students' experiences in learning mathematics to pinpoint specific areas where interventions and programs need to be designed and implemented. An underlying assumption of the project is that carefully capturing and understanding Latino students' stories can illuminate the strengths and resilience these students bring to their learning and doing of mathematics.

This research project characterizes and analyses the developing mathematical identities of Latinx students transitioning from elementary to middle grades mathematics. The overarching research question for this study is: What are the developing stories of learning and doing mathematics of Latino students as they transition from elementary to middle school mathematics? To answer this question, this study is divided into three phases: 1) understanding and documenting the historical context by examining policy documents, local newspaper articles, and doing focus group interviews with community members; 2) using ethnographic methods over two years to explore students' stories of learning and doing mathematics and clinical interviews to understand how they think about and construct arguments about mathematics (i.e., measurement, division, and algebraic patterning); and 3) creating video-cases that can be used in teacher education. Traditional ways of teaching mathematics perpetuate images of who can and cannot do mathematics by not acknowledging contributions of other cultures to the mathematical sciences (Gutiérrez, 2017) and the way mathematics has become a gatekeeper for social mobility (Martin, Gholson, & Leonard, 2010; Stinson, 2004). Focusing on Latino students' stories can illuminate teachers' construction of equitable learning spaces and how they define success for their Latino students. The central hypothesis of this project is that elementary Latino students' stories can identify how race and language are influential to their mathematical identities and how school and classroom practices may perpetuate inequities. Finally, the data and video-cases will then be used to develop a conceptual framework for understanding the development of the participating students' developing mathematical identities. This framework will provide an in-depth understanding of the developing racial/ethnic, linguistic, and mathematical identities of the participating Latino students. The educational material developed (e.g. video documentaries, discussion material) from this project will be made available to all interested parties freely through the project website. The distribution of these materials, along with further understanding of Latino students' experiences learning mathematics, will help in developing programs and interventions at the elementary and middle grade level to increase the representation of Latino students in STEM careers. Additionally, identifying the key factors impacting Latino students' experiences in learning mathematics can pinpoint specific areas where interventions and programs still need to be designed and implemented. Future projects could include the assessment of these programs. This project will also inform the development of professional learning experiences for prospective and practicing teachers working with Latino or other marginalized students.

This project was previously funded under award #1941952.

Fourteenth International Congress on Mathematical Education (ICME14) Travel Grant

This project will support the participation of 53 US K-12 mathematics teachers, graduate students, community college/university mathematicians, mathematics teacher educators, and mathematics education researchers to attend the Fourteenth International Congress for Mathematical Education (ICME-14) in Shanghai, China.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908084
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2019 to Mon, 02/28/2022
Project Evaluator: 
Full Description: 

This project will support the participation of 53 US K-12 mathematics teachers, graduate students, community college/university mathematicians, mathematics teacher educators, and mathematics education researchers to attend the Fourteenth International Congress for Mathematical Education (ICME-14) to be held in Shanghai, China July 9-16, 2020. While mathematics education in the United States has its own culture and expectations, the work and conversations of mathematics educators across the world might contribute to our understanding of issues facing our community today such as curriculum development, the use of technology, strategies for reaching all students, teacher education and professional development. The questions we have as a nation about our own mathematics education might be informed and enlightened by international conversations with others confronting similar issues. A research team led by Sharon McCrone, University of New Hampshire, will prepare a 2020 Fact Book on US mathematics education, building on reports for prior ICMEs. The travel grant will increase the number and diversity of the US mathematics education community attending the international congress, which will enable a broader representation from the US to benefit from interaction with the world's leading mathematics educators.

Through a careful selection process, experts in the field will identify travel recipients most likely to benefit from attending ICME-14 and well-positioned to disseminate insights from their experience. Fostering understanding of international issues and practices among educators and researchers in the US may enhance their capacity to take an informed, global perspective in their work, which, in turn, may benefit their local communities. Digital media will allow educators and classrooms to make and maintain contact across the world, enabling ICME-14 grantees to maintain connections initiated at the meeting and have an impact on large numbers of school children and teachers, both preservice and practicing, in the US. At ICME-14 these educators will engage in learning about the "state of the art" with respect to research and practice in mathematics education from a wide variety of perspectives and will be able to discuss common challenges in teaching and learning mathematics.

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Looking Back and Looking Forward: Increasing the Impact of Educational Research on Practice

The focus of this conference is to carefully examine past and current research with an eye toward improving its impact on practice and to create concrete steps that could shape the nature and impact of mathematics education research.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1941494
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2019 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

The focus of the proposed conference is to carefully examine past and current research with an eye toward improving its impact on practice. This conference is designed to create concrete steps that could shape the nature and impact of mathematics education research for years to come. A diverse group of 50 participants will be invited to participate. Participants include 10 experienced K-12 educators whose perspectives will be used to anchor the conference in problems of practice. Other participants represent senior through more junior scholars who have demonstrated a commitment to addressing the disconnect between research and practice, along with technology experts to advise participants on capabilities and innovative uses of modern technologies for instruction, assessment and data management.

The overarching goal for the conference is to help the field of mathematics education think deeply about the most productive ways to answer the following questions: [1] Why hasn't past research had a more direct impact on practice? What can be learned from this historical analysis for future research? [2] What is a possible vision for research that would have a more direct impact on practice? What questions should be asked? What methods should be used? What concrete steps can be taken to launch the new research programs? [3] What are the implications of adopting new kinds of research programs? If they gain traction, how will such changes affect the broader education community and infrastructure, including preservice teacher education, teacher professional development, and the training of future researchers? How should the roles of researchers and teachers change? What incentive structures might motivate these changes? How will new programs of research interact with existing programs?

Design and Implementation of Immersive Representations of Practice

This project will address the potential positive and negative impacts of using 360-degree video for bridging the gap between theory and practice in mathematics instruction by investigating how preservice teachers' tacit and explicit professional knowledge are facilitated using immersive video technology and annotations.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908159
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2019 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

Various researchers have documented that a large proportion of preservice teachers (PSTs) demonstrate less sophisticated professional knowledge for teaching both fractions and multiplication/division. Use of representations of practice (i.e., video, animation), and accompanying annotation technology, are effective in improving such professional knowledge, but PSTs continue to demonstrate a lack of precision in attending to or noticing particular mathematics in classroom scenarios. Fortunately, a new technology, 360-degree video, has emerged as a means of training novices for professional practice. This project will address the potential positive and negative impacts of using 360-degree video for bridging the gap between theory and practice in mathematics instruction. Specifically, PSTs demonstrate difficulty in synthesizing explicit knowledge learned in the college classroom with tacit professional knowledge situated in professional practice. The initial pilot of the technology resulted in PSTs demonstrating specific attention to the mathematics. The purpose of the project will be to investigate how PSTs' tacit and explicit professional knowledge are facilitated using immersive video technology and annotations (technologically embedded scaffolds). To do this, the project will examine where and what PSTs attend to when viewing 360-degree videos, both at a single point in the classroom and through incorporating multiple camera-perspectives in the same class. Additionally, the project will examine the role of annotation technology as applied to 360-degree video and the potential for variations in annotation technology. Findings will allow for an improved understanding of how teacher educators may support PSTs' tacit and explicit knowledge for teaching. The project will make video experiences publicly available and the platform used in the project to create these video experiences for teacher educators to use, create, and share 360-degree video experiences.

The project will examine how representations of practice can facilitate preservice teachers' professional knowledge for teaching fractions and multiplication/division. The project will: examine the effect of single versus multiple perspective in PSTs' professional knowledge; examine how PSTs use annotation technology in immersive video experiences, and its effect on PSTs' professional knowledge for teaching fractions and multiplication/division; and design a platform for teacher educators to create their own 360 video immersive experiences. Using an iterative design study process, the project team will develop and pilot single and multi-perspective 360-degree video experiences in grade 3-5 classrooms including developing a computer program to join multiple 360-degree videos. They will also develop an annotation tool to allow PSTs to annotate the single and multi-perspective 360 video experiences. Using a convergent mixed methods design, the project team will analyze the quantitative data using multiple regressions of pre-post data on mathematical knowledge for teaching and survey data on PSTs reported immersion and presence in viewing the videos to compare single and multi-perspective 360-degree video data. They will also qualitatively analyze heat maps generated from eye tracking, written responses from PSTs' noticing prompts, and field notes from implementation to examine the effect of single versus multiple perspectives. The team will use similar methods to examine how PSTs use the annotation technology and its effect. The results of the research and the platform will be widely disseminated.


Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Use of 360 Video in Elementary Mathematics Teacher Education

Presenter(s): Karl Kosko, Christina Austin, Richard Ferdig, Enrico Gandolfi, Qiang Guan, Jennifer Heisler, Annette Kratcoski, Cheng-Chang Lu, Yuxin Yang, & Maryam Zolfaghari


Teaching Science Outdoors: A Next Generation Approach for Advancing Elementary Science Teaching in Urban Communities

This project project is designed to enhance the capacity of elementary teachers in high-poverty urban communities for enacting Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned science approaches using the outdoors as part of their classroom. The goal of the project is to advance elementary teachers' pedagogical practices and determine how this affects cognitive and non-cognitive learning outcomes of their students, particularly those who are traditionally marginalized in science classrooms.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1907506
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

This project addresses a long-standing challenge in science education centered on providing meaningful science education opportunities to students living in communities of high poverty and attending under-resourced elementary schools. These students are significantly less likely to receive high-quality science learning opportunities and to be encouraged to engage in (rather than simply learn about) science. This Michigan State University research project is designed to enhance the capacity of elementary teachers in high-poverty urban communities for enacting Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned science approaches using the outdoors as part of their classroom. It builds on and advances prior outdoor education work for the current context of science education that requires elementary teachers to engage students in making sense of phenomena using next generation science and engineering practices. The goal of this project is to advance elementary teachers' pedagogical practices and determine how this affects cognitive and non-cognitive learning outcomes of their students, particularly those who are traditionally marginalized in science classrooms. It also will advance knowledge on ways to bridge informal and formal learning environments. To achieve these goals, the project will develop, enact and study a program that involves a scaffolded series of summer professional development sessions focused on outdoor learning and school year follow-up meetings and classroom-based coaching for elementary teachers and informal educators from two high-need districts.

Design-based research will be utilized to: 1) foster teacher practices and study how these develop over time, 2) work with teachers to measure student outcomes, and 3) determine what aspects of this formal/informal approach are productive, measures of student engagement and student learning artifacts--will be analyzed. The project will serve as a model for developing partnerships between informal science organizations, educators, and K-12 programs. Revised measures and outcomes of teacher practices and student learning; outdoor-focused lesson plans; cases illustrating how elementary teachers develop and enact NGSS-aligned outdoor lessons; a revised informal-formal theoretical model; and information about dissemination of products including facilitation guidelines and coaching approaches will be developed and disseminated.

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