STEM Practices

Integration of Engineering Design and Life Science: Investigating the Influence of an Intervention on Student Interest and Motivation in STEM Fields

This project will investigate the integration of engineering design, practices, and thinking into middle school life science curriculum while providing opportunities for students to foster knowledge of and increase interest in life and biosciences. The project will specifically respond to the need to create, implement, and evaluate a model intervention that will advance the knowledge base for establishing and retaining underrepresented minorities in STEM fields.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1721141
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

This project will investigate the integration of engineering design, practices, and thinking into middle school life science curriculum while providing opportunities for students to foster knowledge of and increase interest in life and biosciences. The project will specifically respond to the need to create, implement, and evaluate a model intervention that will advance the knowledge base for establishing and retaining underrepresented minorities in STEM fields. Specifically, the project will partner with middle school science teachers from two local school corporations, STEM university faculty members and undergraduate engineering students, and university-based outreach coordinators from a minorities engineering program, the office of future engineers, and women in engineering program. Through this combined effort, both school corporations that serve underserved, culturally diverse, and socioeconomically disadvantaged students in rural communities; will have broad-based support for engaging 36 teachers and 3000 students in integrated life science with engineering design.

The project will employ a mixed methods research design incorporating both qualitative and quantitative approaches for data collection and analyses. The research team will conduct quantitative analyses by using Hierarchical Linear Modeling to determine the extent to which integrating life science with engineering design and thinking impact student learning of life science concepts and interest in life and biosciences. Qualitative approaches, including discourse analysis, will be used to delve deeper into student learning of the targeted life science concepts. Through this research, the project will advance evidence-based understanding of learning, enhance the theoretical models of student life science learning, and merge and extend the successes of previous studies by using the faculty expertise in effective approaches in engineering integration in K-12 science classrooms. Specifically, concept assessments, interest surveys, recordings of classroom discourse, student artifacts (e.g., design reports), interviews, and classroom observations will be used as data sources. Outcomes from the project will advance the knowledge base for establishing and retaining underrepresented minorities in STEM fields. The life STEM focused design tasks will be disseminated through an online peer-reviewed digital library available for use across the U.S. and beyond. Along with the design-based tasks on this website; results from the intervention model will be disseminated through electronic and print media to inform researchers, educators, administrators, and policy makers who play critical roles in enhancing student learning of and interest in STEM, about pathways to broadening participation in STEM.

Science and Engineering Education for Infrastructure Transformation

This project focuses on the research and develop an engineering education technology and pedagogy that will support project-based learning of science, engineering, and computation concepts and skills underlying the strategically important "smart" and "green" aspects of the infrastructure. The project will develop transformative technologies and curriculum materials to turn the campus of a high school or a geographical information system such as Google Maps into an engineering laboratory with virtually unlimited opportunities for learning and exploration.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1721054
Funding Period: 
Sun, 10/01/2017 to Thu, 09/30/2021
Full Description: 

The Concord Consortium in collaboration with Purdue University will research and develop an engineering education technology and pedagogy that will support project-based learning of science, engineering, and computation concepts and skills underlying the strategically important "smart" and "green" aspects of the infrastructure. This project will develop transformative technologies and curriculum materials to turn the campus of a high school or a geographical information system such as Google Maps into an engineering laboratory with virtually unlimited opportunities for learning and exploration. The project will deliver two innovations: 1) The Smart High School is an engineering platform for designing Internet of Things systems for managing the resources, space, and processes of a school based on real-time analysis of data collected by various sensors deployed by students on campus; and 2) the Virtual Solar World is a computational modeling platform for students to design, deploy, and connect virtual solar power solutions for their homes, schools, and regions. Six standards-aligned curriculum units based on these technologies will be developed to guide student learning and support educational research. Approximately 2,000 students from rural, suburban, and urban high schools in Indiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Ohio will participate in this research. project products and findings through the Internet, conferences, publications, and partner networks.

The research is designed to identify technology-enhanced instructional strategies that can simultaneously foster the growth of skills and self-efficacy in scientific reasoning, design thinking, and computational thinking, all of which are needed to build the future infrastructure. The focus on infrastructure transformation is aligned with NSF's vision of smart and connected communities. Although this project will use the context of smart and green infrastructure to engage students to solve real-world problems, the skills of scientific reasoning, design thinking, and computational thinking that they will acquire through meeting the challenges of this project can be transferrable to other topics and fields. Using a design-based research approach, a rich set of formative and summative data will be collected from these students for probing into three research questions: 1) To what extent does the integrated learning model help students develop and connect scientific reasoning, design thinking, and computational thinking skills?; 2) To what extent is students' interest in cognate careers affected by the authenticity of engineering design challenges?; and 3) How do the variations in the solutions to overcome the cognitive and practical difficulties of real-world problems impact learning outcomes and career interest? The data sources include pre/post-tests, process data, self-reports, observations, surveys, interviews, and participant information.

Promoting Scientific Explorers Among Students with Learning Disabilities: The Design and Testing of a Grade 2 Science Program Focused on Earth's Systems

The purpose of this project is to design and empirically evaluate a second grade science program, Scientific Explorers, aimed at promoting an early foundation for learning science among all students, including students at risk for or with learning disabilities in reading and mathematics.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720958
Funding Period: 
Thu, 06/01/2017 to Mon, 05/31/2021
Full Description: 

A robust understanding of core science concepts and practices is necessary for obtaining jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Despite these occupational and practical affordances, few effective instructional tools exist for the elementary science classroom. Moreover, early elementary school teachers have limited materials at their disposal to promote a rich knowledge of science among the full range of learners. The purpose of this project is to address this need by designing and empirically evaluating a second grade science program, Scientific Explorers, aimed at promoting an early foundation for learning science among all students, including students at risk for or with learning disabilities in reading and mathematics. Scientific Explorers will be designed to improve students' knowledge and understanding of core science concepts. Recognizing the important role of early literacy and mathematics in science learning and teaching, this project will integrate core disciplinary ideas with critical mathematics and literacy standards. To support students as they engage in scientific tasks associated with Earth's Systems, this project will engineer the Scientific Explorers program around a guided inquiry framework. Another aim of this project is to develop and empirically validate a science assessment that measures students' knowledge and application of core science concepts and practices related to Earth's Systems.

Employing a mixed-method approach, this project will investigate the feasibility and efficacy of the Scientific Explorers program. Additional research activities will include establishing the reliability and validity of a second grade science assessment. Approximately 40 second grade classrooms from two different geographical regions will participate in the project. Using multilevel modeling and item response theory techniques, this project will address five primary research questions: (1) To what extent can teachers feasibly implement the Scientific Explorers program in authentic education settings? (2) What is the impact of Scientific Explorers on the science achievement of students in participating classrooms? (3) Do early literacy skills at the beginning of second grade predict differential response to the Scientific Explorers program? (4) Does responsiveness to the Scientific Explorers program differ as a function of reading disability, mathematics disability, or a learning disability in reading and mathematics (comorbid LD)?, and (5) To what extent does the early science achievement measure demonstrate technical adequacy (reliability and validity)?

High School Students' Climate Literacy Through Epistemology of Scientific Modeling (Collaborative Research: Forbes)

This project will focus on learning about model based reasoning in science, and will develop, implement, study, and refine a 6-week climate science module for high school students. The module will feature use of a web-based climate modeling application, and the project team will collect and analyze evidence of model-based reasoning about climate phenomena among students.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720838
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Fri, 12/31/2021
Full Description: 

This project will focus on learning about model based reasoning in science, and will develop, implement, study, and refine a 6-week climate science module for high school students. The module will feature use of a web-based climate modeling application, and the project team will collect and analyze evidence of model-based reasoning about climate phenomena among students. Scientists routinely use data-intensive, computer-based models to study complex natural phenomena, and modeling has become a core objective of current science curriculum standards. The project will provide new insights about student use of scientific models to understand natural phenomena, and advance knowledge about curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices that promote model-based reasoning among students.

This 4-year Design and Development project will examine use of a web-based climate modeling tool designed to provide non-scientists experiences with climate modeling in high school geoscience classrooms. A theoretically-grounded and empirically tested approach to design-based research, instructional design, and assessment development will be used in an iterative cycle of instructional innovation and education research to find answers to two research questions: 1) How do secondary students develop epistemic and conceptual knowledge about climate? And 2) How do secondary science teachers support student use of climate modeling application to develop epistemic and conceptual knowledge about climate? Data associated with conceptual and epistemic knowledge, curriculum-embedded modeling tasks, interviews, and videorecorded observations of instruction will be used to study impacts of the new curriculum module on 55 high school science teachers and 3,000 students. Project participants include students from low socioeconomic populations and other groups underrepresented in STEM fields. The curriculum will also serve as a resource for an existing, online professional development course at the American Museum of Natural History that engages teachers nationwide.

Designing a Middle Grades Spatial Skills Curriculum

This project will create a portable training system that can be easily deployed in middle grades (5th-7th grade) as a prototype for increasing students' spatial reasoning skills. The project will study gender differences in spatial reasoning and examine how learning experiences can be designed to develop spatial skills using Minecraft as a platform.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720801
Funding Period: 
Sat, 07/01/2017 to Tue, 06/30/2020
Full Description: 

The ability to make spatial judgements and visualize has been shown to be a strong indicator of students' future success in STEM-related courses. The project is innovative because it uses a widely available gaming environment, Minecraft, to examine spatial reasoning. Finding learning experiences which support students' spatial reasoning in an authentic and engaging way is a challenge in the field. This project will create a portable training system that can be easily deployed in middle grades (5th-7th grade) as a prototype for increasing students' spatial reasoning skills. The project will study gender differences in spatial reasoning and examine how learning experiences can be designed to develop spatial skills using Minecraft as a platform. The resources will incorporate hands-on learning and engage students in building virtual structures using spatial reasoning. The curriculum materials are being designed to be useful in other middle grades contexts.

The study is a design and development study that will design four training modules intended to improve spatial reasoning in the following areas: rotation, mental slicing, 2D to 3D transformation and perspective taking. The research questions are: (1) Does a Minecraft-based intervention that targets specific spatial reasoning tasks improve middle grade learners' spatial ability? (2) Does spatial skills growth differ by gender? The experimental design will compare the influence of the virtual spatial learning environment alone vs. the use of design challenges designed specifically for the spatial skills. The data collected will include assessments of spatial reasoning and feedback from teachers' who use the materials. The spatial skills measures will be administered as a pre-test, post-test, and six-month follow-up assessment to measure long term effects.


Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Building Spatial Skills with Minecraft

Presenter(s): Nick Lux, Barrett Frank, & Bryce Hughes


Learning in Places: Field Based Science in Early Childhood Education

This project aims to develop an innovative field-based science learning approach that will support the capacity of culturally diverse students in Grades K-3 to engage in complex ecological reasoning and related problem solving. To provide rich learning environments, outdoor learning gardens will be created in which students, teachers, garden educators, and families participate in activities that facilitate the investigation of tangible ecological challenges such as water capture and food security.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720578
Funding Period: 
Sat, 07/01/2017 to Wed, 06/30/2021
Full Description: 

Recent evidence suggests that reasoning and making decisions about ecological systems is a cultural activity that impacts participation in the core scientific practices of observation, evidence use, and claims making. This project aims to develop an innovative field-based science learning approach that will support the capacity of culturally diverse students in Grades K-3 to engage in complex ecological reasoning and related problem solving. To provide rich learning environments, outdoor learning gardens will be created in which students, teachers, garden educators, and families participate in activities that facilitate the investigation of tangible ecological challenges such as water capture and food security.

Using design-based research, the project team will collaborate with teachers, parents of participating students, and community garden educators to collectively design and develop four key components: 1) field-based curricular units for K-3 classrooms; 2) a model of family and community engagement that strengthens cultural relevance and equity in field-based science learning; 3) a pilot program of teacher professional development that informs future scaling efforts; and 4) research that unpacks student learning and teacher instructional practices that support children?s complex ecological reasoning and the cultural contexts of such knowledge. Data sources will include video, interviews, surveys, and student-created artifacts. A mixed-methods approach will be used to produce research findings at multiple levels including: student learning about complex ecological phenomena and field-based practices; classroom-level learning and high-leverage teaching practices in model units at each grade level; impacts of co-design on professional learning and practice; and family and community organizations learning and engagement in field-based science education. The project will be carried out by a research-practice-community partnership in Seattle, Washington that includes learning scientists (University of Washington), K-3 teachers and school administrators (Seattle Public Schools), garden educators (Seattle Tilth), and parents of participating students. In total, eight schools, 32 teachers, 800 students, and 32 families are expected to participate.

High School Students' Climate Literacy Through Epistemology of Scientific Modeling (Collaborative Research: Chandler)

This project will focus on learning about model based reasoning in science, and will develop, implement, study, and refine a 6-week climate science module for high school students. The module will feature use of a web-based climate modeling application, and the project team will collect and analyze evidence of model-based reasoning about climate phenomena among students.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1719872
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Fri, 12/31/2021
Full Description: 

This project will focus on learning about model based reasoning in science, and will develop, implement, study, and refine a 6-week climate science module for high school students. The module will feature use of a web-based climate modeling application, and the project team will collect and analyze evidence of model-based reasoning about climate phenomena among students. Scientists routinely use data-intensive, computer-based models to study complex natural phenomena, and modeling has become a core objective of current science curriculum standards. The project will provide new insights about student use of scientific models to understand natural phenomena, and advance knowledge about curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices that promote model-based reasoning among students.

This 4-year Design and Development project will examine use of a web-based climate modeling tool designed to provide non-scientists experiences with climate modeling in high school geoscience classrooms. A theoretically-grounded and empirically tested approach to design-based research, instructional design, and assessment development will be used in an iterative cycle of instructional innovation and education research to find answers to two research questions: 1) How do secondary students develop epistemic and conceptual knowledge about climate? And 2) How do secondary science teachers support student use of climate modeling application to develop epistemic and conceptual knowledge about climate? Data associated with conceptual and epistemic knowledge, curriculum-embedded modeling tasks, interviews, and videorecorded observations of instruction will be used to study impacts of the new curriculum module on 55 high school science teachers and 3,000 students. Project participants include students from low socioeconomic populations and other groups underrepresented in STEM fields. The curriculum will also serve as a resource for an existing, online professional development course at the American Museum of Natural History that engages teachers nationwide.

Readiness through Integrative Science and Engineering: Refining and Testing a Co-constructed Curriculum Approach with Head Start Partners

Building upon prior research on Head Start curriculum, this phase of Readiness through Integrative Science and Engineering (RISE) will be expanded to include classroom coaches and community experts to enable implementation and assessment of RISE in a larger sample of classrooms. The goal is to improve school readiness for culturally and linguistically diverse, urban-residing children from low-income families, and the focus on science, technology, and engineering will address a gap in early STEM education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621161
Funding Period: 
Sat, 10/01/2016 to Wed, 09/30/2020
Full Description: 

Readiness through Integrative Science and Engineering (RISE) is a late stage design and development project that will build upon the results of an earlier NSF-funded design and development study in which a co-construction process for curriculum development was designed by a team of education researchers with a small group of Head Start educators and parent leaders. In this phase, the design team will be expanded to include Classroom Coaches and Community Experts to enable implementation and assessment of the RISE model in a larger sample of Head Start classrooms. In this current phase, an iterative design process will further develop the science, technology, and engineering curricular materials as well continue to refine supports for teachers to access families' funds of knowledge related to science, technology, and engineering in order to build on children's prior knowledge as home-school connections. The ultimate goal of the project is to improve school readiness for culturally and linguistically diverse, urban-residing children from low-income families who tend to be underrepresented in curriculum development studies even though they are most at-risk for later school adjustment difficulties. The focus on science, technology, and engineering will address a gap in early STEM education.

The proposed group-randomized design, consisting of 90 teachers/classrooms (45 RISE/45 Control), will allow for assessment of the impact of a 2-year RISE intervention compared with a no-intervention control group. Year 1 will consist of recruitment, induction, and training of Classroom Coaches and Community Experts in the full RISE model, as well as preparation of integrative curricular materials and resources. In Year 2, participating teachers will implement the RISE curriculum approach supported by Classroom Coaches and Community Experts; data on teacher practice, classroom quality, and implementation fidelity will be collected, and these formative assessments will inform redesign and any refinements for Year 3. During Year 2, project-specific measures of learning for science, technology, and engineering concepts and skills will also be tested and refined. In Year 3, pre-post data on teachers (as in Year 2) as well as on 10 randomly selected children in each classroom (N = 900) will be collected. When child outcomes are assessed, multilevel modeling will be used to account for nesting of children in classrooms. In addition, several moderators will be examined in final summative analyses (e.g., teacher education, part or full-day classroom, parent demographics, implementation fidelity). At the end of this project, all materials will be finalized and the RISE co-construction approach will be ready for scale-up and replication studies in other communities.

Analysis of Effective Science Coaching: What, Why and How

This project will conduct an in-depth analysis of instructional coaching by analyzing archived video-recorded coaching sessions with middle and high school science teachers. The goal of the project is to analyzing the videos and previously collected quantitative outcome data to create descriptive profiles of instructional coaching and identify which key coaching elements lead to desired teacher and student outcomes.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621308
Funding Period: 
Sat, 10/01/2016 to Mon, 09/30/2019
Full Description: 

This Exploratory project will conduct an in-depth analysis of instructional coaching by analyzing 520 hours of archived video-recorded coaching sessions with 75 middle and high school science teachers in grades 6-12 collected in a U.S. Department of Education IES-funded coaching research study. The goal of the project is to "unpack" the coaching intervention by analyzing the videos and previously collected quantitative outcome data to (a) create descriptive profiles of instructional coaching and (b) identify which key coaching elements ("active ingredients") lead to desired teacher and student outcomes.

Following a design-based research approach, relying on iterative feedback and using data saturation process to analyze data, the project will translate theorized, conceptual characteristics of coaching into empirical models to guide future coaching research and practical guidance through identification of critical elements needed for coaching to work.

InquirySpace 2: Broadening Access to Integrated Science Practices

This project will create technology-enhanced classroom activities and resources that increase student learning of science practices in high school biology, chemistry, and physics. InquirySpace will incorporate several innovative technological and pedagogical features that will enable students to undertake scientific experimentation that closely mirrors current science research and learn what it means to be a scientist.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621301
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/15/2016 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

This project will create technology-enhanced classroom activities and resources that increase student learning of science practices in high school biology, chemistry, and physics courses. The project addresses the urgent national priority to improve science education as envisioned in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) by focusing less on learning facts and equations and instead providing students with the time, skills, and resources to experience the conduct of science and what it means to be a scientist. This project builds on prior work that created a sequence of physics activities that significantly improved students' abilities to undertake data-based experiments and led to productive independent investigations. The goal of the InquirySpace project is to improve this physics sequence, extend the approach to biology and chemistry, and adapt the materials to the needs of diverse students by integrating tailored formative feedback in real time. The result will be student and teacher materials that any school can use to allow students to experience the excitement and essence of scientific investigations as an integral part of science instruction. The project plans to create and iteratively revise learning materials and technologies, and will be tested in 48 diverse classroom settings. The educational impact of the project's approach will be compared with that of business-as-usual approaches used by teachers to investigate to what extent it empowers students to undertake self-directed experiments. To facilitate the widest possible use of the project, a complete set of materials, software, teacher professional development resources, and curriculum design documents will be available online at the project website, an online teacher professional development course, and teacher community sites. 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.

InquirySpace will incorporate several innovative technological and pedagogical features that will enable students to undertake scientific experimentation that closely mirrors current science research. These features will include (1) educational games to teach data analysis and interpretation skills needed in the approach, (2) reduced dependence on reading and writing through the use of screencast instructions and reports, (3) increased reliance on graphical analysis that can make equations unnecessary, and (4) extensive use of formative feedback generated from student logs. The project uses an overarching framework called Parameter Space Reasoning (PSR) to scaffold students through a type of experimentation applicable to a very large class of experiments. PSR involves an integrated set of science practices related to a question that can be answered with a series of data collection runs for different values of independent variables. Data can be collected from sensors attached to the computer, analysis of videos, scientific databases, or computational models. A variety of visual analytic tools will be provided to reveal patterns in the graphs. Research will be conducted in three phases: design and development of technology-enhanced learning materials through design-based research, estimation of educational impact using a quasi-experimental design, and feasibility testing across diverse classroom settings. The project will use two analytical algorithms to diagnose students' learning of data analysis and interpretation practices so that teachers and students can modify their actions based on formative feedback in real time. These algorithms use computationally optimized calculations to model the growth of student thinking and investigation patterns and provide actionable information to teachers and students almost instantly. Because formative feedback can improve instruction in any field, this is a major development that has wide potential.

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