Teacher Content Knowledge

Supporting High School Students and Teachers with a Digital, Localizable, Climate Education Experience

This partnership of BSCS Science Learning, Oregon Public Broadcasting, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration advances curriculum materials development for high quality units that are intentionally designed for adaptation by teachers for their local context. The project will create a base unit on carbon cycling as a foundation for understanding how and why the Earth's climate is changing, and it will study the process of localizing the unit for teachers to implement across varied contexts to incorporate local phenomena, problems, and solutions.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2100808
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2021 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

Teachers regularly adapt curriculum materials to localize for their school or community context, yet curriculum materials are not always created to support this localization. Developing materials that are intentionally designed for localization has potential to support rich science learning across different contexts, especially for a topic like climate change where global change can have varied local effects. This partnership of BSCS Science Learning, Oregon Public Broadcasting, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration advances curriculum materials development for high quality units that are intentionally designed for adaptation by teachers for their local context. It will develop and test a design process bringing together national designers and teachers across the country. Teachers will be supported through professional learning to adapt from the base unit to create a local learning experience for their students. The project will create a base unit on carbon cycling as a foundation for understanding how and why the Earth's climate is changing, and it will study the process of localizing the unit for teachers to implement across varied contexts to incorporate local phenomena, problems, and solutions. The unit will be fully digital with rich visual experiences, simulations, and computer models that incorporate real-time data and the addition of localized data sets. These data-based learning experiences will support students in reasoning with data to ask and answer questions about phenomena. Research will study the unit development and localization process, the supports appropriate for teachers and students, and the impact on classroom practice.

The project will adopt an iterative design process to create a Storyline base unit, aligned to Next Generation Science Standards, for localization, piloting, and an implementation study with 40 teachers. To support teacher learning, the project adopts the STeLLA teacher professional learning model. To support student learning, the project addresses climate change content knowledge with a focus on socioscientific issues and students’ sense of agency with environmental science. The project will research how the educative features in the unit and the professional development impact teachers’ practice, including their content knowledge, comfort for teaching a socioscientific issue, and their ability to productively localize materials from a base unit. The study uses a cohort-control quasi-experimental design to examine the impact of the unit and professional learning experience on dimensions of students' sense of agency with environmental science. The study will also include exploratory analyses to examine whether all students benefit from the unit. It uses a pre-post design to examine impacts on teacher knowledge and practice.

Empowering Teachers to See and Support Student Use of Crosscutting Concepts in the Life Sciences

The project focuses on the development of formative assessment tools that highlight assets of students’ use of crosscutting concepts (CCCs) while engaged in science and engineering practices in grades 9-12 Life Sciences.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2100822
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/01/2021 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

The project focuses on the development of formative assessment tools that highlight assets of students’ use of crosscutting concepts (CCCs) while engaged in science and engineering practices in grades 9-12 Life Sciences. In response to the calls set forth by the Framework for K-12 Science Education and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), the field has most successfully researched and developed assessment tools for disciplinary core ideas and the science and engineering practices. The CCCs, which serve as the connective links across science domains, however, remain more abstractly addressed. Presently, science educators have little guidance for what student use of CCCs looks like or how to assess and nurture such use. This project, with its explicit attention to the CCCs, advances true three-dimensional scientific understanding in both research and the classroom. Leveraging formative assessment as a vehicle for student and teacher development taps into proven successful instructional strategies (e.g., sharing visions of successful learning, descriptive feedback, self-assessment), while also advancing formative assessment, itself, by strengthening and illustrating how these strategies may focus on the CCCs. Further, a strengths-based approach will center culturally related differences in students’ use of CCCs to achieve more equitable opportunities to engage in classroom sensemaking practices. This work impacts the field of science education by 1) enabling a more thorough realization of NGSS ideals, 2) strengthening teachers’ abilities to identify diverse demonstrations of CCCs, and 3) showcasing the impact of novel classroom tools to sharpen teachers’ abilities to solicit, notice, and act upon evidence of emergent student scientific thinking within their instructional practices.

This design-based implementation research project will engage teachers in the iterative development and refinement of rubrics that support three-dimensional science understanding through formative assessment. The high school biology classrooms that compose the study site are engaged in ambitious science teaching-inspired instruction. An inductive, bottom-up approach (Brookhart, 2013) will allow researchers, teachers, and students to co-construct rubrics. Analysis of classroom observations, artifact collection, interviews with teachers and students, and expert-panel ratings will produce a rubric for each CCC that integrates relevant science and engineering practices and is applicable across a range of disciplinary core ideas. These rubrics will illustrate progressions of increasingly advanced use of each of the CCCs, to guide the construction, pursuit, and assessment of learning goals. There will be two design cycles that allow for the collection of validity evidence and produce rubrics with the potential for broad application by educators. Complementary lines of qualitative and quantitative (i.e., psychometric) analysis will contribute to development and validation of the rubrics and their formative uses. Project inquiry will focus on 1) how the rubrics can represent CCCs for key disciplinary practices, 2) the extent to which teachers’ and students’ understandings of the rubrics align, and 3) how implementation of the rubrics impacts teachers’ and students’ understandings of the CCCs.

CAREER: Partnering with Teachers and Students to Engage in Mathematical Inquiry about Relevant Social Issues

This project team partners with the mathematics department of one urban public charter high school that serves 65% students of color (most of whom identify as African American). At the school, 70% of all students qualify for free or reduced lunch, and 25% of the students have Individualized Education Plans.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2042975
Funding Period: 
Sat, 05/01/2021 to Thu, 04/30/2026
Full Description: 

Despite efforts to address racial, gender, income-level and other kinds of inequities, disparities persist throughout society in educational, occupational, financial, and healthcare services and opportunities. To work toward societal equity, mathematics teachers have shown increased interest in both improving students’ achievement and supporting students’ ability to use mathematics to analyze these inequities to create change. For instance, a mathematics task may use rate, ratio, and proportion to explore the gender wage gap, and then use functions to explore disparities in earnings over time. Few resources, such as textbooks, coaching protocols, or video examples of classroom teaching, however, exist to support mathematics teachers’ efforts to teach the mathematics content while investigating relevant social issues. In addition, research indicates several dilemmas teachers face in maintaining the cognitive demand of the task, addressing state standards, and improving student agency through such investigations. Research is needed to understand how teachers learn to adapt and implement mathematics tasks that facilitate students’ mathematics learning and investigation of social issues. This project team partners with the mathematics department of one urban public charter high school that serves 65% students of color (most of whom identify as African American). At the school, 70% of all students qualify for free or reduced lunch, and 25% of the students have Individualized Education Plans. This project investigates: 1) how mathematics teachers learn to teach the mathematics content through investigation of relevant social issues, 2) how teachers negotiate classroom dilemmas related to this approach, and 3) how students feel about mathematics and their ability to enact change toward an equitable society. The professional development will be co-designed with mathematics teacher leaders from the school and the research team and will last three years. Teachers will invite students to become advisory board members to center students’ voices and solicit feedback about the relevance of the social issues embedded in the tasks. Classroom videos will be captured to share on a project website for use by mathematics teacher educators and professional development providers. The website will also host mathematics tasks designed through this project for teachers’ use in their own classrooms.

This qualitative, participatory design study partners with the mathematics department to investigate the following research questions: (1) How do teachers learn to adapt mathematics tasks to make them cognitively demanding and socially relevant for their students? How do contextual factors (e.g., specific school context/location/history, student backgrounds, teacher backgrounds, such as race and class) influence teacher learning? (2) What dilemmas become salient and how do teachers negotiate them while implementing the tasks? (3) How do these tasks improve students’ attitudes about mathematics and feelings of empowerment?  In the first year, the research team and two mathematics teacher leaders from the school will co-design the professional development experience focused on designing and implementing mathematics tasks grounded in issues that are socially relevant to students. In years 2-4, the mathematics department will engage in this professional development, with continual input from teacher participants. Participants will create student advisory boards who will offer feedback to teachers about the relevance of the mathematics tasks. Participants will video tape their own classrooms to share brief vignettes (5-8 minutes long) that highlight dilemmas and/or successes for video club sessions as part of the professional development series. Video club sessions offer opportunities to discuss challenges and successes with colleagues and offer peer support. These video clips will also become video case studies, along with the mathematics task and teacher reflections, for use by mathematics teacher educators and professional development providers through a project website. In addition, years 3-4 the project team will develop four detailed classroom case studies, accompanied with coaching support from the research team. To answer research questions 1 and 2 regarding teacher learning and dilemmas, teachers’ perspectives will be captured through professional development artifacts, coaching debriefs, teachers’ written reflections, and one-on-one semi structured interviews. To answer research question 3 regarding student agency and attitudes about mathematics, student sentiments will be explored through student work, open-ended surveys, and focus group interviews with eight focal students per classroom case study. A project website will share mathematics tasks and video cases with the broader community of mathematics educators. Through distribution of such materials, the project aims to offer much-needed resources and supports for mathematics teachers to use cognitively demanding and socially relevant mathematics tasks with their students. The project will also publish peer-reviewed research articles to share findings with the field.

Improving Professional Development in Mathematics by Understanding the Mechanisms that Translate Teacher Learning into Student Learning

This project explores the mechanisms by which teachers translate what they learn from professional development into their teaching practice. The goal of this project is to study how the knowledge and skills teachers acquire during professional development (PD) translate into more conceptually oriented mathematics teaching and, in turn, into increased student learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2100617
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2021 to Sun, 08/31/2025
Full Description: 

A great deal is known about the effects of mathematics teacher professional development on teachers' mathematical knowledge for teaching. While some professional development programs show meaningful changes in teacher knowledge, these changes do not always translate into changes in teacher practice. This project explores the mechanisms by which teachers translate what they learn from professional development into their teaching practice. The goal of this project is to study how the knowledge and skills teachers acquire during professional development (PD) translate into more conceptually oriented mathematics teaching and, in turn, into increased student learning. The project builds on a promising video-based PD that engages teachers in analyzing videos of classroom mathematics teaching. Previous research indicates that teachers who can analyze teaching by focusing on the nature of the mathematical learning opportunities experienced by students often teach more effectively. The researchers aim to better understand the path teachers follow as they develop this professional competency and translate it into more ambitious teaching that supports richer student learning. The lack of understanding of how a PD program can reach students is a significant barrier to improving the effectiveness of PD. To build this understanding, the researchers aim to test and refine an implementation theory that specifies the obstacles teachers face as they apply their learning to their classroom teaching and the contextual supports that help teachers surmount these obstacles. Lessons learned from understanding the factors that impact the effects of PD will help educators design PD programs that maximize the translation of teacher learning into student learning.

The project will recruit and support a cohort of teachers, grades 4–5 (n=40) and grades 6–7 (n=40) for three years to trace growth in teacher learning, changes in teaching practices, and increases in student learning. The PD will be provided throughout the year for three consecutive years. The researchers will focus on two mathematics topics with a third topic assessed to measure transfer effects. Several cycles of lesson analysis will occur each year, with small grade-alike curriculum-alike groups assisted by trained coaches to help teachers translate their growing analysis skills into planning, implementing, and reflecting on their own lessons. Additional days will be allocated each year to assist the larger groups of teachers in developing pedagogical content knowledge for analyzing teaching. The research focuses on the following questions: 1) What are the relationships between teacher learning from PD, classroom teaching, and student learning, how do hypothesized mediating variables affect these relationships, and how do these relationships change as teachers become more competent at analyzing teaching?; and 2) How do teachers describe the obstacles and supports they believe affect their learning and teaching, and how do these obstacles and supports deepen and broaden the implementation theory? Multi-level modeling will be used to address the first question, taking into account for the nested nature of the data, in order to test a model that hypothesizes direct and indirect relationships between teacher learning and teaching practice and, in turn, teaching practice and student learning. Teachers will take assessments each year, for each mathematics topic, on the analysis of teaching skills, on the use of teaching practices, and on students’ learning. Cluster analysis will be used to explore the extent to which the relationship between learning to analyze the mathematics of a lesson, teaching quality, and student achievement may be different for different teachers based on measured characteristics. Longitudinal analysis will be used to examine the theoretical relationships among variables in the hypothesized path model. Teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching, lesson planning, and textbook curricular material use will be examined as possible mediating variables between teacher learning and teaching practice. To address the second research question, participants will engage in annual interviews about the factors they are obstacles to doing this work and about the supports within and outside of the PD that ameliorate these obstacles. Quantitative analyses will test the relationships between the obstacles and supports with teacher learning and classroom teaching. Through qualitative analyses, the obstacles and supports to translating professional learning into practice will be further articulated. These obstacles and supports, along with the professional development model, will be disseminated to the field.

Developing and Researching K-12 Teacher Leaders Enacting Anti-bias Mathematics Education (Collaborative Research: Heaton)

The goal of this project is to study the design and development of community-centered, job-embedded professional development for classroom teachers that supports bias reduction. The project team will partner with three school districts serving racially, ethnically, linguistically, and socio-economically diverse communities, for a two-year professional development program.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101668
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/01/2021 to Thu, 07/31/2025
Full Description: 

There is increased recognition that engaging all students in learning mathematics requires an explicit focus on anti-bias mathematics teaching. Teachers, even with positive intentions, have biases, causing them to treat students differently and impacting how they distribute students’ opportunities to learn in K-12 mathematics classrooms. Research is needed to examine models of mathematics teacher professional development that explicitly addresses bias reduction. The goal of this project is to study the design and development of community-centered, job-embedded professional development for classroom teachers that supports bias reduction. The project team will partner with three school districts serving racially, ethnically, linguistically, and socio-economically diverse communities, for a two-year professional development program. The aim is to reduce bias through: analyzing and designing mathematics teaching with colleagues, students, and families to create classrooms and schools based on community-centered mathematics; engaging in anti-bias teaching routines; and building relationships with parents, caretakers, and community members. The project team will study teacher leader professional development, including the professional development model, framework, and tools, along with what teacher leaders across district contexts and grade-levels take up and use in their instructional practice.  This will potentially have wider implications for supporting more equitable mathematics teaching and leadership. Project activities, resources, and tools will be shared with the broader community of mathematics educators and researchers for use in other contexts.

The goal of this two-phase, design based research project is to iteratively design and research teacher leaders’ (TLs) participation in community-centered, job-embedded professional development and investigate their subsequent impact on classrooms, schools, and districts. The project builds on the existing Math Studio professional development model to create a Community Centered Math Studio, integrating the Anti-bias Mathematics Education Framework into the work. The project seeks to understand how the professional development model supports the development of teacher leaders' knowledge, dispositions, and practices for teaching and leading anti-bias mathematics education, and how teachers' subsequent classroom practice can cultivate students' mathematical engagement, discourse, and interests. The project will measure aspects of teacher knowledge and classroom practice by integrating existing classroom observation rubrics and STEM interest surveys to assess the impact on teacher classroom practice and student outcomes. The project will engage 12 TLs and approximately 60 additional teachers working with those TLs in two years of professional development using the Community Centered Math Studio Model to support anti-bias mathematics teaching. Data will be collected for all teachers related to their participation in the professional learning, with six teachers being followed for additional data collection and in-depth case studies. The project's outcomes will contribute to theories of how TLs build adaptive expertise for teaching and leading to reduce bias in classrooms, departments, schools, and districts. In addition, the project will contribute new and adapted research instruments on anti-bias teaching and leading. The research outcomes will add to the growing research base that describes the nature of equitable mathematics teaching in K-12 classrooms and increases access to meaningful mathematics for students, teachers, and communities.

Co-learning Math Teaching Project: Collaborative Structures to Support Learning to Teach across the Professional Teaching Continuum

This project will design and study an innovative model of collaborative learning for pre-service and experienced secondary mathematics teachers that focuses on equitable mathematics teaching practices that include understanding students' knowledge, math understandings, and experiences they bring to the classroom.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010634
Funding Period: 
Sun, 11/01/2020 to Thu, 10/31/2024
Full Description: 

An ongoing challenge for the preparation of new mathematics teachers is creating quality experiences in classrooms for student teaching. The project will design and study an innovative model of collaborative learning for pre-service and experienced secondary mathematics teachers. Multiple pre-service teachers will collaborate in the same secondary mathematics teacher's classroom for their field placements. The partnership between the school and the university will allow for professional development for the pre-service teachers and the experienced teachers. A particular focus of the project will be equity in mathematics teaching and learning. Developing equitable mathematics teaching practices includes better understanding students' knowledge, math understandings, and experiences they bring to the classroom. Improving the student teaching experience may improve retention in the teaching profession and help pre-service teachers be better prepared for their first years of teaching.

This is an exploratory project about mathematics teaching and teacher development in field experiences for pre-service teachers. The project introduces collaborative learning structures for pre-service teacher education that focus on equitable mathematics teaching practices. The collaborative learning structures include both the cooperating teacher and multiple pre-service teachers working in the same classroom. The project will use a design-based research model to systematically study the process of co-learning and the critical features of collaborative learning structures as they are designed to support co-learning between novice and experienced teachers. Multiple universities are included in the project in order to compare the model in different settings. The project will use Math Studio as a model for the teachers to focus on a lesson taught by one teacher but the group plans, observes, and reflects about the lesson together. A facilitator or math coach supports the group's work during the Math Studio process. The project has two research questions. First, how do pre-service teachers and cooperating teachers co-learn? More specifically, what vision, dispositions, understandings and practices of justification and generalization does each teacher develop during their time together? How does each teacher's vision, dispositions, understandings, and practices of mathematics teaching shift during their time together? Second, what are the design characteristics of the collaborative learning structures that support or inhibit pre-service teachers and cooperating teachers in learning? The qualitative study will collect video recordings and artifacts from the Math Studio, assessments of math teaching practices, and data from the leadership team in order to compare the model's implementation at different sites. The data analysis will occur iteratively throughout the project to refine the coding framework to describe learning and shifts in teacher practice.

Design Talks: Building Community with Elementary Engineering (Collaborative Research: Watkins)

This project explores how classroom conversations can engage children in making sense of the problems that they are addressing and foregrounding ethics while making design decisions. To provide children with opportunities to engage in rich classroom conversations, the project team uses a community-based engineering curricular approach, where students address problems that affect their local school communities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010237
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2020 to Mon, 07/31/2023
Full Description: 

Inclusion of engineering design activities in elementary classrooms has become increasingly common, and teachers are becoming more comfortable with the basics of teaching engineering. There is now a need and an opportunity to understand different approaches teachers can take to support students to deepen their understanding of engineering design content knowledge and engineering practices. While many existing approaches to preK-12 engineering education emphasize problem solving and the development of engineering solutions, this project also explores how classroom conversations can engage children in making sense of the problems that they are addressing and foregrounding ethics while making design decisions. To provide children with opportunities to engage in rich classroom conversations, the project team uses a community-based engineering curricular approach, where students address problems that affect their local school communities. The discussion-focused, community-based engineering curricular approach has promise in providing opportunities for children to practice sense-making and decision-making skills and also develop a perspective of care as central to engineering design work.

To accomplish this project, the researchers extend an ongoing partnership with two elementary teachers to implement the discussion-rich community-based engineering curricular approach and collect video-recordings of the elementary students' engineering design conversations. The videos will be analyzed using discourse analysis to generate evidence-based theory on the characteristics and dynamics of classroom talk that support elementary students' knowledge construction in engineering design contexts, as well as theory on how teachers prompt them and elicit meaningful participation from all students. By providing additional resources and an intellectual framework for investigating and prompting meaningful disciplinary discourse in engineering design, the project will support the two partner teachers to apprentice eight of their colleagues over three years into the work of community-based engineering and design talk. This collaboration will develop resources that will support teachers and students to engage in more caring, ethical discourse around design. Specifically, the project team will create an online video library of design talk resources for grade 1-6 classroom teachers. The Design Talk website will enable elementary teachers to see distinctly different kinds of classroom conversations that make elementary engineering a site for students not just to build products, but also to build knowledge.

Design Talks: Building Community with Elementary Engineering (Collaborative Research: Wendell)

This project explores how classroom conversations can engage children in making sense of the problems that they are addressing and foregrounding ethics while making design decisions. To provide children with opportunities to engage in rich classroom conversations, the project team uses a community-based engineering curricular approach, where students address problems that affect their local school communities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010139
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2020 to Mon, 07/31/2023
Full Description: 

Inclusion of engineering design activities in elementary classrooms has become increasingly common, and teachers are becoming more comfortable with the basics of teaching engineering. There is now a need and an opportunity to understand different approaches teachers can take to support students to deepen their understanding of engineering design content knowledge and engineering practices. While many existing approaches to preK-12 engineering education emphasize problem solving and the development of engineering solutions, this project also explores how classroom conversations can engage children in making sense of the problems that they are addressing and foregrounding ethics while making design decisions. To provide children with opportunities to engage in rich classroom conversations, the project team uses a community-based engineering curricular approach, where students address problems that affect their local school communities. The discussion-focused, community-based engineering curricular approach has promise in providing opportunities for children to practice sense-making and decision-making skills and also develop a perspective of care as central to engineering design work.

To accomplish this project, the researchers extend an ongoing partnership with two elementary teachers to implement the discussion-rich community-based engineering curricular approach and collect video-recordings of the elementary students' engineering design conversations. The videos will be analyzed using discourse analysis to generate evidence-based theory on the characteristics and dynamics of classroom talk that support elementary students' knowledge construction in engineering design contexts, as well as theory on how teachers prompt them and elicit meaningful participation from all students. By providing additional resources and an intellectual framework for investigating and prompting meaningful disciplinary discourse in engineering design, the project will support the two partner teachers to apprentice eight of their colleagues over three years into the work of community-based engineering and design talk. This collaboration will develop resources that will support teachers and students to engage in more caring, ethical discourse around design. Specifically, the project team will create an online video library of design talk resources for grade 1-6 classroom teachers. The Design Talk website will enable elementary teachers to see distinctly different kinds of classroom conversations that make elementary engineering a site for students not just to build products, but also to build knowledge.

Developing a Modeling Orientation to Science: Teaching and Learning Variability and Change in Ecosystems (Collaborative Research: Miller)

This project addresses the need to make science relevant for school students and to support student interpretation of large data sets by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010155
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

There is an ongoing need to find ways to make science relevant for school students and an increasing need to support student interpretation of large data sets. This project addresses these needs by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts. Students construct and critique models that they and peers invent and, through the lens of models, develop foundational knowledge about the roles of variability and change in ecosystem functioning, as well as the roles of models and argumentation in scientific practice. The context for students' work is a set of citizen science-based investigations of changes in ecosystems in Maine conducted in twelve collaborating classrooms. The project studies how and to what extent students' use of different forms of modeling emerges from and informs how they investigate ecosystems. A parallel research effort investigates how and to what extent the development of teachers' comfort and proficiency with modeling changes students' engagement in these forms of modeling and students' understandings of ecosystems. A key contribution of the project is capitalizing on the Gulf of Maine Research Institutes's Ecosystem Investigation Network's citizen science field research to ground for middle school students the need to invent, revise, and contest models about real ecosystems. The understandings that result from the project's research provide evidence toward first, scaling the learning experiences to the network of 500+ teachers who are part of the Ecosystem Investigation Network, and, second, replication by programs nationally that aim to engage students in data-rich, field-based ecological investigations.

The investigation takes place in twelve collaborating middle-school classrooms, drawn from the network of 500+ Maine teachers trained in Maine's Ecosystem Investigation Network. Over the course of their field investigations, students engage in the construction, critique, and revision of three forms of modeling that play central roles in ecology: microcosms, system dynamics, and data modeling. Two innovations are introduced over the course of the project. The first is focused on enriching classroom supports for engaging in multiple forms of modeling. The second involves enhancing middle school teachers' learning about modeling, especially in the context of large data citizen science investigations. The study uses a mixed methods approach to explore the impact of the innovations on the experiences and understandings of both teachers and students. Instruments include teacher interviews and questionnaires, student interviews, and classroom observation. The understandings that result from the project's research will inform the design of professional development for teachers around data analysis and interpretation, and around how student understanding of modeling develops with sustained support, both of which are practices at the heart of scientific literacy.

Developing a Modeling Orientation to Science: Teaching and Learning Variability and Change in Ecosystems (Collaborative Research: Lehrer)

This project addresses the need to make science relevant for school students and to support student interpretation of large data sets by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010207
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

There is an ongoing need to find ways to make science relevant for school students and an increasing need to support student interpretation of large data sets. This project addresses these needs by leveraging citizen science data about ecology and developing instruction to support student analyses of these data. This collaboration between Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bowdoin College and Vanderbilt University engages middle-school students in building and revising models of variability and change in ecosystems and studies the learning and instruction in these classroom contexts. Students construct and critique models that they and peers invent and, through the lens of models, develop foundational knowledge about the roles of variability and change in ecosystem functioning, as well as the roles of models and argumentation in scientific practice. The context for students' work is a set of citizen science-based investigations of changes in ecosystems in Maine conducted in twelve collaborating classrooms. The project studies how and to what extent students' use of different forms of modeling emerges from and informs how they investigate ecosystems. A parallel research effort investigates how and to what extent the development of teachers' comfort and proficiency with modeling changes students' engagement in these forms of modeling and students' understandings of ecosystems. A key contribution of the project is capitalizing on the Gulf of Maine Research Institutes's Ecosystem Investigation Network's citizen science field research to ground for middle school students the need to invent, revise, and contest models about real ecosystems. The understandings that result from the project's research provide evidence toward first, scaling the learning experiences to the network of 500+ teachers who are part of the Ecosystem Investigation Network, and, second, replication by programs nationally that aim to engage students in data-rich, field-based ecological investigations.

The investigation takes place in twelve collaborating middle-school classrooms, drawn from the network of 500+ Maine teachers trained in Maine's Ecosystem Investigation Network. Over the course of their field investigations, students engage in the construction, critique, and revision of three forms of modeling that play central roles in ecology: microcosms, system dynamics, and data modeling. Two innovations are introduced over the course of the project. The first is focused on enriching classroom supports for engaging in multiple forms of modeling. The second involves enhancing middle school teachers' learning about modeling, especially in the context of large data citizen science investigations. The study uses a mixed methods approach to explore the impact of the innovations on the experiences and understandings of both teachers and students. Instruments include teacher interviews and questionnaires, student interviews, and classroom observation. The understandings that result from the project's research will inform the design of professional development for teachers around data analysis and interpretation, and around how student understanding of modeling develops with sustained support, both of which are practices at the heart of scientific literacy.

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