Systems Reform

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.

CAREER: Black and Latinx Parents Leading chANge and Advancing Racial (PLANAR) Justice in Elementary Mathematics

This project explores possibilities for localized change led by parents and caregivers. By making explicit how to foster and increase Black and Latinx parents’ engagement in solidarity with community organizations and teachers, this project could provide a model for other communities and schools seeking to advance racial justice in mathematics education.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2046856
Funding Period: 
Thu, 07/01/2021 to Tue, 06/30/2026
Full Description: 

Decades of reform efforts in mathematics education continue to fail Black and Latinx children, in part, because parents are excluded from decisions about school mathematics. Nonetheless, Black and Latinx families often persist in supporting their individual children, but a shift toward collective organizing among parents as change agents in school mathematics is necessary for meeting the needs of every student. This project explores possibilities for localized change led by parents. By making explicit how to foster and increase Black and Latinx parents’ engagement in solidarity with community organizations and teachers, this project could provide a model for other communities and schools seeking to advance racial justice in mathematics education.

Through critical community-engaged scholarship and in collaboration with ten Black and Latinx families, ten teachers, and two community organizations, the research team will co-design and co-study two educational programs aimed at advancing racial justice in elementary mathematics. The first program seeks to build parents’ capacity to catalyze change across classrooms and schools within their local communities; and the second program will provide teacher professional development that supports elementary teachers of mathematics to learn with and from Black and Latinx families. A mixed methods research design that utilizes narrative inquiry and social network analysis will facilitate refinement of the educational program models by addressing two research objectives: (1) to understand the experiences of Black and Latinx parents as they build capacity to lead change and (2) to study the development, nature, and impact of parent-teacher-community partnerships that promote a shared vision for racial justice in mathematics. Findings could extend the field's understanding of community-initiated and community-led change in school mathematics and produce a model that helps ensure increased access and opportunity for Black and Latinx students in matheparents are excluded from decisions about school mathematics. Nonetheless, Black and Latinx families often persist in supporting their individual children, but a shift toward collective organizing among parents as change agents in school mathematics is necessary for meeting the needs of every student. This project explores possibilities for localized change led by parents. By making explicit how to foster and increase Black and Latinx parents’ engagement in solidarity with community organizations and teachers, this project could provide a model for other communities and schools seeking to advance racial justice in mathematics education.Through critical community-engaged scholarship and in collaboration with ten Black and Latinx families, ten teachers, and two community organizations, the research team will co-design and co-study two educational programs aimed at advancing racial justice in elementary mathematics.matics education.

Building Networks and Enhancing Diversity in the K-12 STEM Teaching Workforce

The goal of this planning grant is to explicitly focus on broadening participation in the K-12 STEM teaching workforce, with the theory of action that diversifying the K-12 STEM teaching workforce would in the long term help more students see STEM as accessible to them and then be more likely to choose a STEM degree or career.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2040784
Funding Period: 
Tue, 12/01/2020 to Tue, 11/30/2021
Full Description: 

The goal of this planning grant is to explicitly focus on broadening participation in the K-12 STEM teaching workforce, with the theory of action that diversifying the K-12 STEM teaching workforce would in the long term help more students see STEM as accessible to them and then be more likely to choose a STEM degree or career. Currently there is a large demographic discrepancy between students and teachers in K-12 schools. Studies have highlighted that the diverse teaching workforce benefits not only students of color but all students. Since 2017, the Smithsonian Science Education Center has conducted an annual STEM Diversity Summit, with the goal of building a coalition (built on collective impact) for attracting and retaining a diverse K-12 STEM teaching workforce, in which teams of teachers and administrators representing 83 school districts, schools, and states across the country shared their problems and developed a logic model to attract and retain a diverse K-12 STEM teaching workforce in their region with annual support from a matched mentor. This planning grant supports revisiting those former teams to better understand the dynamics of systems change through close examination of the successes and challenges outlined in their logic models with the perspective of the Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT). Under the collaborative infrastructure elements of shared vision and partnerships, this planning grant will inform and lay the foundation for a future alliance focused on diversifying the K-12 STEM teaching workforce.

In this planning grant, the Smithsonian in collaboration with Howard University, as well as in partnership with other experts in STEM teacher education, professional development, and diversityincluding from Harvard University, Rutgers University, 100kin10, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, MA Department of Higher Education, STEM Equity Alliance, National Science Teaching Association, and private industrywill work on four primary activities. First, a survey will be developed and conducted with faculty members of Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs), including approximately 100 Minority Serving Institutions, which serve diverse populations in K-12 teacher preparation programs and STEM education across the country. The goal of the survey is to understand what roles IHEs play in organizational change management and strategic planning to diversify the K-12 STEM teaching workforce. Second, a virtual workshop will be convened to bring former STEM Diversity Summit attendees and their extended networks to reflect on their progress and activities in past years and discuss strategic long-term plans. Third, a survey with the virtual workshop participants will be conducted to better understand their practices, attitudes, and perceptions about their roles to create culturally diverse ecosystems in K-12 STEM education. Finally, all the collected information from the above activities will be used to investigate strategies and evidence-based practices of enhancing diversity in the K-12 STEM teaching workforce, and an iterative source book will be developed based on those findings as an initial resource to ground future work. Over a 12 month period, this planning grant will build a network between the former teams and with the extended partners, including the NSF INCLUDES National Network, and help them to grow as regional hubs within a Future NSF INCLUDES Alliance focused on diversifying the K-12 STEM teacher workforce, with the Smithsonian as the backbone organization.

Creating a Model for Sustainable Ambitious Mathematics Programs in High-Need Settings: A Researcher-Practitioner Collaboration

This project will study a successful, ambitious mathematics reform effort in high-needs secondary schools. The goal is to develop resources and tools to support other high-needs schools and districts in transforming and sustaining  their mathematics programs. The model focuses on the resources required for change and the aspects of the organization that support or constrain change in mathematics teaching and learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010111
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2020 to Wed, 07/31/2024
Full Description: 

A long-standing challenge in secondary mathematics education is broadening participation in STEM. Reform of schools and districts to support this goal can be challenging to sustain. This implementation and improvement project will study a successful, ambitious mathematics reform effort in high-needs secondary schools. The goal is to develop resources and tools to support other high-needs schools and districts in transforming and sustaining  their mathematics programs. The model focuses on the resources required for change and the aspects of the organization that support or constrain change in mathematics teaching and learning. The project team includes school district partners that have successfully transformed mathematics teaching to better support students' learning.

The project will develop a model for understanding the demands and resources from an organizational perspective that support ambitious mathematics teaching and learning reforms. Demands are requirements for physical resources or efforts that need to be met in the instructional system. Resources are the material, human, instructional, and organizational requirements needed to address demands. The project will develop the model through a collaboration of researchers, professional development leaders, students, teachers, coaches, and administrators to: (1) understand the demands created throughout a school or district when implementing an ambitious secondary mathematics program in a high-need context; (2) identify the resources and organizational dynamics necessary to address the demands and thus sustain the program; and (3) articulate a model for a sustainable ambitious secondary mathematics program in high-need settings that has validity across a range of implementation contexts. To develop the model over multiple iterations, the project will examine the demands and resources related to implementing an ambitious mathematics program, the perspectives of stakeholders, the organizational structure, and the program goals and implementation. The project will also conduct a systematic literature review to bring together findings from the successful district and other research findings. The data collection and analysis process will include interviews, document analysis, collection of artifacts, and observations across four phases of the project.  Participants will include students, teachers, instructional support personnel, and administrators (from schools and the district).

Advancing Coherent and Equitable Systems of Science Education

This project will examine how partnerships among state science leaders, education researchers and education practitioners cultivate vertical coherence and equity in state science education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1920249
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Mon, 07/31/2023
Full Description: 

This project will examine how partnerships among state science leaders, education researchers and education practitioners cultivate vertical coherence and equity in state science education. This is an important study because in most states, the student population is becoming more diverse, and states need help in finding ways to better serve schools and districts within their jurisdictions. Through this effort, state science leaders will participate in a networked improvement community model organized to develop and test state-level strategies. Specifically, the focus will be on the adaptation of instructional materials and formative assessment as linked policy strategies for aligning curriculum, instruction, and assessment and for relating instruction to the interests and histories of local communities. State science leaders and researchers will investigate how and under what conditions certain strategies support the emergence of coherent and equitable state systems of science education in which all students have opportunities to meet challenging new science standards. The project will build knowledge and theory about the conditions under which a network of state teams can promote coherent guidance for culturally-based instruction in local districts and schools. Together the partners will collaborate to diagnose current challenges to promoting coherence and equity and then develop knowledge and resources about conditions that promote coherence and equity by testing and studying strategies for cultivating it.

An iterative design-based research approach will be used to build foundational knowledge for the equitable implementation of the vision of science and engineering learning that integrates disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts working from a cultural perspective on learning. A multiple-case study will be used to collect data about the impact of the networked improvement community model on leadership development to effectively improve state efforts. Surveys and interviews will be used to gather information on co-designing efforts, use and adaptation of resources, and knowledge gained by state science leaders. Data will also be collected on political conditions and infrastructures of teamwork as potential facilitators and barriers to the development of strategic knowledge leadership. Analyses of data will identify patterns or configurations of conditions associated with growth in science leaders' strategic knowledge leadership related to equity. This technique will generate evidence-based claims for how and when supports and barriers matter for growth in strategic knowledge leadership for equity.

Aligning the Science Teacher Education Pathway: A Networked Improvement Community

This project will study the activities of a Networked Improvement Community (NIC) as a vehicle to bridge gaps across four identified steps along the science teacher training and development pathways within local contexts of 8 participating universities. The overarching goal of the project is to strengthen the capacity of universities and school districts to reliably produce teachers of science who are knowledgeable about and can effectively enact the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), although prepared in varied organizational contexts.

Award Number: 
1908900
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

California State University will study the activities of a Networked Improvement Community (NIC) as a vehicle to bridge gaps across four identified steps along the science teacher training and development pathways within local contexts of 8 participating universities (NIC sites). Networked Improvement Community (NIC) will co-create a shared vision and co-defined research agenda between university researchers, science educators and school district practitioners working together to reform teacher education across a variety of local contexts. By studying outcomes of shared supports and teacher tools for use in multiple steps along the science teacher education pathway, researchers will map variation existing in the system and align efforts across the science teacher education pathway. This process will integrate an iterative nature of educational change in local contexts impacting enactment of the NGSS in both university teacher preparation programs and in school district professional training activities and classrooms.

The overarching goal of the project is to strengthen the capacity of universities and school districts to reliably produce teachers of science who are knowledgeable about and can effectively enact the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), although prepared in varied organizational contexts. The project will accomplish this goal 1) leveraging the use of an established Networked Improvement Community, composed of science education faculty from eight university campuses and by 2) improving and studying coherence in the steps along the science teacher education pathway within and across these universities and school districts. The project will use a mixed methods approach to data collection and analysis. Consistent with Improvement Science Theory, research questions will be co-defined by all stakeholders.

Testing the Efficacy of the Strategic Observation and Reflection (SOAR) for Math Professional Learning Program

The purpose of this project is to develop, implement and test a professional development program, SOAR for Math, to build capacity for mentors and teachers to improve English learner's academic language development and mathematical content understanding.

Award Number: 
1814356
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 
Professional development is an important way for teachers who are currently in classrooms to learn about new best practices in mathematics teaching and learning and improve their practice. Little is known about what types of professional development (PD) and teacher mentoring programs support teachers' improved practices and ultimately lead to gains in student learning. The purpose of this project is to develop, implement and test a professional development program, SOAR for Math, to build capacity for mentors and teachers to improve English learner's academic language development and mathematical content understanding.
 
This study will test the efficacy of the Strategic Observation and Reflection (SOAR) for Math professional development program. The mixed methods study is designed to answer several research questions: (1) What is the impact of teachers' participation in SOAR for Math on student achievement outcomes for current and recent grade 3-6 English learner students in treatment schools? (2) What is the impact of SOAR for Math on treatment school teachers' knowledge and practices related to their academic language and literacy development instruction for current and recent English learner students, specifically scores on the Knowledge/Use Scale? (3) What is the impact of SOAR for Math on treatment mentors' knowledge and practices related to their academic language and math instruction? A randomized controlled trial will be conducted in 80 elementary schools in one California school district. Schools serving third- through sixth-grade general education students will be eligible to participate. The research team will randomly assign 40 schools to provide SOAR for Math training to mentor teachers and 40 schools to comprise a control group receiving business-as-usual professional development. Two mentors per school will participate in the study. Measures will include state math scores and a variety of observations and questionnaires to assess fidelity of implementation. Data will be analyzed using hierarchical linear modeling to account for the nested data structure.

Extending and Investigating the Impact of the High School Model-based Educational Resource (Collaborative Research: Passmore)

This project builds on a line of work that has developed and studied the Model Based Educational Resource (MBER), a year-long curriculum for high school biology. The project will generate rigorous causal evidence on how this approach to biology teaching and learning can support student learning, and foundational information on how to support high school teachers in improving their teaching. It will also provide resources to expand and update MBER to reflect the changing high school science landscape by integrating Earth Science standards into the year long sequence.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1814263
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project builds on a line of work that has developed and studied the Model Based Educational Resource (MBER), a year-long curriculum for high school biology. In classrooms using MBER, modeling serves as an anchoring practice that keeps the inquiry tied to the goal of making sense of the world, helping teachers to engage their students in a range of cognitive and social activities that lead to deep understanding of scientific ideas. This project will generate rigorous causal evidence on how this approach to biology teaching and learning can support student learning, and foundational information on how to support high school teachers in improving their teaching. This funding will also provide resources to expand and update MBER to reflect the changing high school science landscape by integrating Earth Science standards into the year long sequence. The study will address the general research question: What is the impact of the Model Based Educational Resource (MBER) on high school students' science achievement, and what factors influence that impact? In addition to generating important research findings, the materials revised and studied in this project will be open-source and freely available to teachers and schools.

This study addresses a significant gap in the research on next generation curriculum materials. While there is emerging agreement about the importance of instructional materials in supporting teachers in effectively engaging students in the practices of science, there is very little empirical evidence to support such claims. The goal of this project is to study the impact of the MBER program through a cluster randomized trial and expand the promise of efficacy and feasibility established in previous work. This study will be able to make causal claims by using an experimental design in which 32 high school teachers serve as their own controls, and by using multi-level modeling in the analysis. This study will advance the field's knowledge about the impact of innovative materials on student learning, measured by both project-level assessments and the state science test. Exploratory research questions will examine a) how using the MBER program develops teachers' vision of the Next Generation Science Standards, b) how student learning is mediated by the fidelity of implementation of the materials, c) how teachers interact with materials designed to be modified for their classroom context, and d) to what extent the MBER materials provide equitable opportunities to learn and close achievement gaps.

Science Communities of Practice Partnership

This project will study implementation of an effective professional learning model for elementary science teachers that includes teacher leaders, administrators and university educators in a system perspective for improving science instruction in ways that make it sustainable.

Award Number: 
1813012
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project will study implementation of an effective professional learning model for elementary science teachers that includes teacher leaders, administrators and university educators in a system perspective for improving science instruction in ways that make it sustainable. The working model involves reciprocal communities of practice, which are groups of teachers, leaders and administrators that focus on practical tasks and how to achieve them across these stakeholder perspectives. The project will provide evidence about the specific components of the professional development model that support sustainable improvement in science teaching, will test the ways that teacher ownership and organizational conditions mediate instructional change, and will develop four tools for facilitating the teacher learning and the accompanying capacity building. In this way, the project will produce practical knowledge and tools necessary for other school districts nationwide to create professional learning that is tailored to their contexts and therefore sustainable.

This study posits that communication among district teachers, teacher leaders, and administrators, and a sense of ownership for improved instruction among teachers can support sustainable change. As such, it tests a model that fosters communication and ownership through three reciprocal communities of practice--one about district leadership including one teacher per school, coaches and university faculty; another about lesson study including teachers, coaches and faculty; and a third about instructional innovation including teachers and administrators, facilitated by coaches. The research design seeks to inform what the communities of practice add to the effects in a quasi-experimental study involving 72 third to fifth grade teachers and 6500 students in four urban school districts. Mixed methodologies will be used to examine shifts in science teaching over three years, testing the professional development model and the mediating roles of reform ownership and organizational conditions.

A Partnership to Adapt, Implement and Study a Professional Learning Model and Build District Capacity to Improve Science Instruction and Student Understanding (Collaborative Research: Borko)

This project will work in partnership with the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) to adapt a previously designed Professional Learning (PL) model based on the District's objectives and constraints to build the capacity of teacher leaders and a program coordinator to implement the adapted PL program. The project is examining the sustainability and scalability of a PL model that supports the development of teachers' pedagogical content knowledge and instructional practices.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720930
Funding Period: 
Sun, 10/01/2017 to Thu, 09/30/2021
Full Description: 

The Lawrence Hall of Science (the Hall) and Stanford University teams have previously developed and tested the efficacy of a program of Professional Learning (PL) which is focused on improving teachers' ability to support students' ability to engage in scientific argumentation. Key components of the PL model include a week-long summer institute and follow-up sessions during the academic year that incorporate additional pedagogical input, video reflection, and planning time. In this project, the Hall and Stanford are working in partnership with the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) to adapt the PL model based on the District's objectives and constraints, to build the capacity of teacher leaders and a program coordinator to implement the adapted PL program. This will enable the District to continue to adapt and implement the program independently at the conclusion of the project. Concurrently, the project is studying the adaptability of the PL model and the effectiveness of its implementation, and is developing guidelines and tools for other districts to use in adapting and implementing the PL model in their local contexts. Thus, this project is contributing knowledge about how to build capacity in districts to lead professional learning in science that addresses the new teaching and learning standards and is responsive to the needs of their local context.

The project is examining the sustainability and scalability of a PL model that supports the development of teachers' pedagogical content knowledge and instructional practices, with a particular focus on engaging students in argument from evidence. Results from the Hall and Stanford's previous research project indicate that the PL model is effective at significantly improving teachers' and students' classroom discourse practices. These findings suggest that a version of the model, adapted to the context and needs of a different school district, has the potential to improve the teaching of science to meet the demands of the current vision of science education. Using a Design-Based Implementation Research approach, this project is (i) working with SCUSD to adapt the PL model; (ii) preparing a district project coordinator and cadre of local teacher leaders (TLs) to implement and further adapt the model; and (iii) studying the adaptation and implementation of the model. The outcomes will be: a) a scalable PL model that can be continually adapted to the objectives and constraints of a district; b) a set of activities and resources for the district to prepare and support the science teacher leaders who will implement the adapted PL program internally with other teachers; and c) knowledge about the adaptations and resources needed for the PL model to be implemented independently by other school districts. The team also is researching the impact of the program on classroom practices and student learning.


Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Accomplishments and Struggles in a 3-Way RPP

Presenter(s): Emily Weiss, Hilda Borko, Coralie Delhaye, Jonathan Osborne, Emily Reigh, Tricia Ringel, Craig Strang, & Krista Woodward

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Building District Leadership in Scientific Argumentation

Presenter(s): Coralie Delhaye, Emily Reigh, & Emily Weiss

2018 STEM for All Video Showcase


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