Descriptive

CAREER: Designing and Enacting Mathematically Captivating Learning Experiences for High School Mathematics

This project explores how secondary mathematics teachers can plan and enact learning experiences that spur student curiosity, captivate students with complex mathematical content, and compel students to engage and persevere (referred to as "mathematically captivating learning experiences" or "MCLEs"). The study will examine how high school teachers can design lessons so that mathematical content itself is the source of student intrigue, pursuit, and passion.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1652513
Funding Period: 
Wed, 02/15/2017 to Mon, 01/31/2022
Full Description: 

This design and development project explores how secondary mathematics teachers can plan and enact learning experiences that spur student curiosity, captivate students with complex mathematical content, and compel students to engage and persevere (referred to as "mathematically captivating learning experiences" or "MCLEs"). This study is important because of persistent disinterest by secondary students in mathematics in the United States. This study will examine how high school teachers can design lessons so that mathematical content itself is the source of student intrigue, pursuit, and passion. To do this, the content within mathematical lessons (both planned and enacted) is framed as mathematical stories and the felt tension between how information is revealed and withheld from students as the mathematical story unfolds is framed as its mathematical plot. The Mathematical Story Framework (Dietiker, 2013, 2015) foregrounds both the coherence (does the story make sense?) and aesthetic (does it stimulate anticipation for what is to come, and if so, how?) dimensions of mathematics lessons. The project will generate principles for lesson design usable by teachers in other settings and exemplar lessons that can be shared.

Specifically, this project draws from prior curriculum research and design to (a) develop a theory of teacher MCLE design and enactment with the Mathematical Story Framework, (b) increase the understanding(s) of the aesthetic nature of mathematics curriculum by both researchers and teachers, and (c) generate detailed MCLE exemplars that demonstrate curricular coherence, cognitive demand, and aesthetic dimensions of mathematical lessons. The project is grounded in a design-based research framework for education research. A team of experienced high school teachers will design and test MCLEs (four per teacher) with researchers through three year-long cycles. Prior to the first cycle, data will be collected (interview, observations) to record initial teacher curricular strategies regarding student dispositions toward mathematics. Then, a professional development experience will introduce the Mathematical Story Framework, along with other curricular frameworks to support the planning and enacting of lessons (i.e., cognitive demand and coherence). During the design cycles, videotaped observations and student aesthetic measures (surveys and interviews) for both MCLEs and a non-MCLEs (randomly selected to be the lesson before or after the MCLE) will be collected to enable comparison. Also, student dispositional measures, collected at the beginning and end of each cycle, will be used to learn whether and how student attitudes in mathematics change over time. Of the MCLEs designed and tested, a sample will be selected (based on aesthetic and mathematical differences) and developed into models, complete with the rationale for and description of aesthetic dimensions.

Strengthening Mathematics Intervention: Identifying and Addressing Challenges to Improve Instruction for Struggling Learners

This project's first goal is to study the national landscape of mathematics intervention classes, which are additional classes provided to struggling students, including learners with and without identified disabilities. We administered a survey to a nationally representative sample of 2,024 urban and suburban public schools with grades 6-8 to find out how these classes are being implemented and the types of challenges faced.

Award Number: 
1621294
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

Across the nation, schools face a pressing need to improve instruction for middle grades students who are not reaching proficiency on standardized assessments. One approach is to schedule additional mathematics classes to provide struggling learners with more time for instruction and support. For our study, we defined mathematics interventional classes as classes taken by struggling students during the regular school day in addition to their general education mathematics classes. These classes are for students who have difficulties learning mathematics, including learners who do not have identified disabilities and those with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). 

While recommendations for intervention practices are present in the research literature, little is known about how schools are actually implementing intervention classes, including how often the classes meet, the number of students enrolled, who teaches them and the content focus. To address this gap in the knowledge base, we conducted an observational study and a national survey of current practices and challenges in mathematics intervention classes. The survey was administered to a nationally representative sample of 2,024 urban or suburban public schools with grades 6-8.  Approximately, 43% of schools (876 schools) responded; the findings revealed widespread implementation of mathematics intervention classes and variations in class structures and practices. 

The final aspect of the project involves the design of professional development for mathematics intervention teachers based on the needs identified in the earlier phases of the project. We are developing and testing a blended professional development course to help teachers build the knowledge and practices needed to provide high-quality, targeted instruction to struggling learners in mathematics intervention classes.

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Developing a Model of STEM-Focused Elementary Schools (eSTEM)

This project will study five elementary STEM schools from across the U.S. that are inclusive of students from underrepresented groups in order to determine what defines these schools and will use an iterative case study replication design to study the design and implementation of five exemplary eSTEM schools with the goal of developing a logic model that highlights the commonalities in core components and target outcomes across the schools, despite the different school contexts.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621005
Funding Period: 
Mon, 08/15/2016 to Wed, 07/31/2019
Full Description: 

In the United States (U.S.) certain groups are persistently underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and careers, especially Blacks, Hispanics, and low-income students who disproportionately fall out of the high-achieving group in K-12 education. Policymakers argue that future STEM workforce needs will only be met if there is broader diversity participating in STEM education and careers. Recent reports have suggested that the nation would benefit from more STEM-focused schools, including at the elementary school level, to inspire interest and prepare students for future STEM endeavors. However, there is currently little information on the number and quality of elementary STEM (eSTEM) schools and the extent to which underrepresented groups have access to them. This project will study five elementary STEM schools from across the U.S. that are inclusive of students from underrepresented groups in order to determine what defines these schools. The project team, which includes investigators from SRI International and George Mason University, initially identified twenty candidate critical components that define inclusive STEM-focused elementary schools and will refine and further clarify the critical components through the research study. The resulting research products could support the development of future eSTEM schools and research on their effectiveness.

The Discovery Research K-12 (DRK-12) program seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models, and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. This Exploratory Learning Strand project will use an iterative case study replication design to study the design and implementation of five exemplary eSTEM schools with the goal of developing a logic model that highlights the commonalities in core components and target outcomes across the schools, despite the different school contexts. A framework of twenty design components, taken from research on inclusive STEM high schools and research on successful elementary schools, will inform the data collection, analysis, and logic model development. Schools as critical cases will be selected through a nomination process by experts, followed by screening and categorization according to key design components. School documents and public database information, a school survey, and telephone interviews with school administrators will inform screening and selection of candidate schools. Researchers will then conduct multi-day, on-site visitations to each selected school, collecting data from classroom observations, interviews with students, focus groups with teachers and administrators, and discussions with critical members of the school community. The project is also gathering data on school-level student outcome indicators. Using axial and open coding, the analysis aims to develop rich descriptions that showcase characteristics of the schools to iteratively determine a theory of action that illustrates interconnections among context, design, implementation, and outcomes. Research findings will be communicated through a logic model and blueprint, school case study reports, and conference proceedings and publications that will be provided on a project website, providing an immediate and ongoing resource for education leaders, researchers and policymakers to learn about research on these schools and particular models. Findings will also be disseminated by more traditional means, such as papers in peer-reviewed journals and conference presentations, and webinars.

An Online STEM Career Exploration and Readiness Environment for Opportunity Youth

This project aims to create a web-based STEM Career Exploration and Readiness Environment (CEE-STEM) that will support opportunities for youth ages 16-24 who are neither in school nor are working, in rebuilding engagement in STEM learning and developing STEM skills and capacities relevant to diverse postsecondary education/training and employment pathways.

Award Number: 
1620904
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

CAST, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and YouthBuild USA aim to create a web-based STEM Career Exploration and Readiness Environment (CEE-STEM). This will support opportunities for youth ages 16-24 who are neither in school nor are working, in rebuilding engagement in STEM learning and developing STEM skills and capacities relevant to diverse postsecondary education/training and employment pathways. The program will provide opportunity youth with a personalized and portable tool to explore STEM careers, demonstrate their STEM learning, reflect on STEM career interests, and take actions to move ahead with STEM career pathways of interest.

The proposed program addresses two critical and interrelated aspects of STEM learning for opportunity youth: the development of STEM foundational knowledge; and STEM engagement, readiness and career pathways. These aspects of STEM learning are addressed through an integrated program model that includes classroom STEM instruction; hands-on job training in career pathways including green construction, health care, and technology.


Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: STEMfolio: A Portfolio Builder & Career Exploration Tool

Presenter(s): Tracey Hall

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Building a Diverse STEM Talent Pipeline: Finding What Works

Presenter(s): Tracey Hall

2018 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Bridging the Gap Between Ability and Opportunity in STEM

Presenter(s): Sam Johnston


Connected Biology: Three-Dimensional Learning from Molecules to Populations (Collaborative Research: White)

This project will design, develop, and examine the learning outcomes of a new curriculum unit for biology that embodies the conceptual framework of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The curriculum materials to be developed by this project will focus on two areas of study that are central to the life sciences: genetics and the processes of evolution by natural selection.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1620746
Funding Period: 
Sat, 10/01/2016 to Thu, 09/30/2021
Full Description: 

This project will contribute to this mission by designing, developing, and examining the learning outcomes of a new curriculum unit for biology that embodies the conceptual framework of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The curriculum materials to be developed by this project will focus on two areas of study that are central to the life sciences: genetics and the processes of evolution by natural selection. These traditionally separate topics will be interlinked and will be designed to engage students in the disciplinary core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and the science and engineering practices defined by the NGSS. Once developed, the curriculum materials will be available online for use in high school biology courses nationwide.

This project will be guided by two main research questions: 1) How does learning progress when students experience a set of coherent biology learning materials that employ the principles of three-dimensional learning?; and 2) How do students' abilities to transfer understanding about the relationships between molecules, cells, organisms, and evolution change over time and from one biological phenomenon to another? The project will follow an iterative development plan involving cycles of designing, developing, testing and refining elements of the new curricular model. The project team will work with master teachers to design learning sequences that use six case studies to provide examples of how genetic and evolutionary processes are interlinked. An online data exploration environment will extend learning by enabling students to simulate phenomena being studied and explore data from multiple experimental trials as they seek patterns and construct cause-and-effect explanations of phenomena. Student learning will be measured using a variety of assessment tools, including multiple-choice assessment of student understanding, surveys, classroom observations and interviews, and embedded assessments and log files from the online learning environment.


Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: ConnectedBio: Interactive Evolution Across Biological Scales

Presenter(s): Kiley McElroy-Brown, Rebecca Ellis, & Frieda Reichsman


Developing A Discourse Observation Tool and Online Professional Development to Promote Science, Oral Language and Literacy Development from the Start of School

The goal of this project is to develop a classroom observation tool and an online professional development model to help early-elementary teachers improve science instruction among young learners by cultivating scientific discourse.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1620580
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

The goal of this project is to develop resources and a professional development model to help early-elementary teachers improve science instruction among young learners by cultivating scientific discourse. A central component of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is engaging students in discourse with a focus on formulating and communicating scientific explanations. This project will develop a classroom observation tool that will help teachers examine changes in the quantity and quality of science discourse in K-2 classrooms over time. The project will also develop an online professional development (PD) model that uses the new observation tool to help teachers analyze their own classroom practices and the practice of others to improve classroom efforts to foster improved scientific discourse.

This early stage design and development study will employ a Design-Based Implementation Research (DBIR) approach to develop the new classroom observation tool and online professional development model, and then seek answers to the following research questions: 1) How can a classroom observation measure be developed to effectively capture the range in quality of science discourse in early elementary classrooms?; 2) How can an online PD model be developed based on the new observation tool?; 3) How do teachers' knowledge and instructional practice change over the course of participation in the yearlong PD?; and 4) How does the quantity and quality of science discourse change in K-2 classrooms over the course of teachers' participation in a yearlong online PD experience that is built around the new observation tool? The project will engage 36 teachers and their 36 different classrooms in Michigan and use multiple data sources to understand whether and how teacher knowledge and instructional practices change during participation in the new PD model. Multiple iterations of design, data collection, and refinement will be used to understand how, when, and why features of the PD and observation tool might combine to transform science discourse in early elementary classrooms. In years 3 and 4, the project team will conduct two year-long implementation trials with cohorts of 15 teachers and 5 instructional coaches (experienced science teachers) who will use the PD and tool in order study their implementation and make iterative improvements. The project will also gather data to understand changes in teacher knowledge and practice as well as video data to document changes in classroom discourse.

TRUmath and Lesson Study: Supporting Fundamental and Sustainable Improvement in High School Mathematics Teaching (Collaborative Research: Schoenfeld)

Given the changes in instructional practices needed to support high quality mathematics teaching and learning based on college and career readiness standards, school districts need to provide professional learning opportunities for teachers that support those changes. The project is based on the TRUmath framework and will build a coherent and scalable plan for providing these opportunities in high school mathematics departments, a traditionally difficult unit of organizational change.

Award Number: 
1503454
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2015 to Sun, 06/30/2019
Full Description: 

Given the changes in instructional practices needed to support high quality mathematics teaching and learning based on college and career readiness standards, school districts need to provide professional learning opportunities for teachers that support those changes. The project will build a coherent and scalable plan for providing these opportunities in high school mathematics departments, a traditionally difficult unit of organizational change. Based on the TRUmath framework, characterizing the five essential dimensions of powerful mathematics classrooms, the project brings together a focus on curricular materials that support teaching, Lesson Study protocols and materials, and a professional learning community-based professional development model. The project will design and revise professional development and coaching guides and lesson study mathematical resources built around the curricular materials. The project will study changes in instructional practice and impact on student learning. By documenting the supports used in the Oakland Unified School District where the research and development will be conducted, the resources can be used by other districts and in similar work by other research-practice partnerships.

This project hypothesizes that the quality of classroom instruction can be defined by five dimensions - quality of the mathematics; cognitive demand of the tasks; access to mathematics content in the classroom; student agency, authority, and identity; and uses of assessment. The project will use an iterative design process to develop and refine a suite of tool, including a conversation guide to support productive dialogue between teachers and coaches, support materials for building site-based professional learning materials, and formative assessment lessons using Lesson Study as a mechanism to enact reforms of these dimensions. The study will use a pre-post design and natural variation to student the relationships between these dimensions, changes in teachers' instructional practice, and student learning using hierarchical linear modeling with random intercept models with covariates. Qualitative of the changes in teachers' instructional practices will be based on coding of observations based on the TRUmath framework. The study will also use qualitative analysis techniques to identify themes from surveys and interviews on factors that promote or hinder the effectiveness of the intervention.

PBS NewsHour STEM Student Reporting Labs: Broad Expansion of Youth Journalism to Support Increased STEM Literacy Among Underserved Student Populations and Their Communities

The production of news stories and student-oriented instruction in the classroom are designed to increase student learning of STEM content through student-centered inquiry and reflections on metacognition. This project scales up the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL), a model that trains teens to produce video reports on important STEM issues from a youth perspective.

Award Number: 
1503315
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2015 to Wed, 07/31/2019
Full Description: 

The Discovery Research K-12 program (DR-K12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. This project scales up the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL), a model that trains teens to produce video reports on important STEM issues from a youth perspective. Participating schools receive a SRL journalism and digital media literacy curriculum, a mentor for students from a local PBS affiliate, professional development for educators, and support from the PBS NewsHour team. The production of news stories and student-oriented instruction in the classroom are designed to increase student learning of STEM content through student-centered inquiry and reflections on metacognition. Students will develop a deep understanding of the material to choose the best strategy to teach or tell the STEM story to others through digital media. Over the 4 years of the project, the model will be expanded from the current 70 schools to 150 in 40 states targeting schools with high populations of underrepresented youth. New components will be added to the model including STEM professional mentors and a social media and media analytics component. Project partners include local PBS stations, Project Lead the Way, and Share My Lesson educators.

The research study conducted by New Knowledge, LLC will add new knowledge about the growing field of youth science journalism and digital media. Front-end evaluation will assess students' understanding of contemporary STEM issues by deploying a web-based survey to crowd-source youth reactions, interest, questions, and thoughts about current science issues. A subset of questions will explore students' tendencies to pass newly-acquired information to members of the larger social networks. Formative evaluation will include qualitative and quantitative studies of multiple stakeholders at the Student Reporting Labs to refine the implementation of the program. Summative evaluation will track learning outcomes/changes such as: How does student reporting on STEM news increase their STEM literacy competencies? How does it affect their interest in STEM careers? Which strategies are most effective with underrepresented students? How do youth communicate with each other about science content, informing news media best practices? The research team will use data from pre/post and post-delayed surveys taken by 1700 students in the STEM Student Reporting Labs and 1700 from control groups. In addition, interviews with teachers will assess the curriculum and impressions of student engagement.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: How Video Storytelling Reengages Teenagers in STEM Learning

Presenter(s): Leah Clapman & William Swift

2018 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: PBS NewsHour's STEM SRL Transforms Classrooms into Newsrooms

Presenter(s): Leah Clapman & William Swift

2017 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: PBS is Building the Next Generation of STEM Communicators

Presenter(s): Leah Clapman, John Fraser, Su-Jen Roberts, & Bill Swift


Learning Labs: Using Videos, Exemplary STEM Instruction and Online Teacher Collaboration to Enhance K-2 Mathematics and Science Practice and Classroom Discourse

This project will develop and study two sets of instructional materials for K-2 teacher professional development in mathematics and science that are aligned with the CCSS and NGSS. Teachers will be able to review the materials online, watch video of exemplary teaching practice, and then upload their own examples and students' work to be critiqued by other teachers enrolled in professional learning communities as well as expert coaches.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1417757
Funding Period: 
Wed, 04/15/2015 to Sat, 03/31/2018
Full Description: 

The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. The investigators of this study propose to develop and study two sets of instructional materials for K-2 teacher professional development in mathematics and science that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CCSS) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). They will develop two modules in each subject area and an introductory module that prefaces and integrates the science and mathematics materials. Teachers will be able to review the materials online, watch video of exemplary teaching practice, and then upload their own examples and students' work to be critiqued by other teachers enrolled in professional learning communities as well as expert coaches. New instructional materials aligned with the standards are needed to assist teachers in meeting the challenging instructional practices recommended. To date, scant few resources of this type exist and, given many school districts have limited resources, more cost-effective forms of development such as this must be found. A particular strength of this project is that teachers will be able to engage in the courses online, on an ongoing basis and integrate what they have learned into their daily teaching practice.

The investigators propose a program of design research to develop and improve the modules. The central hypothesis is a test of the Teaching Channel model--that the modules and professional learning communities result in significant changes in the quality of instructional practice. Text analytics will be performed on the online discussion to detect changes in group discourse over time. Changes in instructional quality and vision will be measured by observing the videos posted by teachers. Pre-post tests of student work will be performed. The findings of the research will be disseminated through conference presentations, publications, and the Teaching Channel website.

Thinking Spatially about the Universe: A Physical and Virtual Laboratory for Middle School Science (Collaborative Research: Goodman)

This project will develop and study three week-long middle school lab units designed to teach spatial abilities using a blend of physical and virtual (computer-based) models. "ThinkSpace" labs will help students explore 3-dimensional astronomical phenomena in ways that will support both understanding of these topics and a more general spatial ability. Students will learn both through direct work with the lab unit interface and through succeeding discussions with their peers.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1503395
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2015 to Sat, 06/30/2018
Full Description: 

Critical breakthroughs in science (e.g., Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, and Watson & Crick's discovery of the structure of DNA), originated with those scientists' ability to think spatially, and research has shown that spatial ability correlates strongly with likelihood of entering a career in STEM. This project will develop and study three week-long middle school lab units designed to teach spatial abilities using a blend of physical and virtual (computer-based) models. "ThinkSpace" labs will help students explore 3-dimensional astronomical phenomena (moon phases and eclipses; planetary systems around stars other than the Sun; and celestial motions within the broader universe) in ways that will support both understanding of these topics and a more general spatial ability. Students will learn both through direct work with the lab unit interface and through succeeding discussions with their peers. The research program will determine which elements in the labs best promote both spatial skills and understanding of core ideas in astronomy; and how then to optimize interactive dynamic visualizations toward these ends. Virtual models of the sky and universe will be created using WorldWide Telescope, a free visualization tool that runs on desktop computers, tablets, and mobile devices. The ThinkSpace lab materials will be available at no cost on popular curriculum-sharing sites, including PBS Learning Media and BetterLesson.

The ThinkSpace team will address two main research questions: 1) How can spatial tasks that blend physical and virtual models be embedded into a STEM curriculum in ways that lead to significant improvements in spatial thinking? and 2) How can practitioners optimize design of interactive, dynamic visualizations for teaching spatially complex concepts? The first year of the study will examine two of the lab units with four teachers and about 320 students. The second year of the study will be similar. The third year of the study will test all three lab units in 10 classrooms. Over this study, each week-long ThinkSpace Lab will be formatively tested, using pre/post written assessments of astronomy content and spatial thinking; pre/post interviews with students; and in-class video of students using the lab activities. Scaffolded learning designs will support students in making connections between different spatial views of the phenomena, and will guide them to construct explanations and argue from evidence about how various phenomena (e.g. moon phases) arise in the real Universe, as Next Generation Science Standards demand. The impact of the ThinkSpace labs will be felt far beyond astronomy because the learning models being tested can transfer to other fields where spatial models are critical, and findings on optimization of dynamic visualizations can help to inform instructional design in the age of online learning. The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

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