Teacher Attitudes/Beliefs

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.

Supporting Instructional Decision Making: The Potential of Automatically Scored Three-Dimensional Assessment System (Collaborative Research: Zhai)

This project will study the utility of a machine learning-based assessment system for supporting middle school science teachers in making instructional decisions based on automatically generated student reports (AutoRs). The assessments target three-dimensional (3D) science learning by requiring students to integrate scientific practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas to make sense of phenomena or solve complex problems.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101104
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2021 to Sun, 08/31/2025
Full Description: 
This project will study the utility of a machine learning-based assessment system for supporting middle school science teachers in making instructional decisions based on automatically generated student reports (AutoRs). The assessments target three-dimensional (3D) science learning by requiring students to integrate scientific practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas to make sense of phenomena or solve complex problems. Led by collaborators from University of Georgia, Michigan State University, University of Illinois at Chicago, and WestEd, the project team will develop computer scoring algorithms, a suite of AutoRs, and an array of pedagogical content knowledge supports (PCKSs). These products will assist middle school science teachers in the use of 3D assessments, making informative instructional changes, and improve students’ 3D learning. The project will generate knowledge about teachers’ uses of 3D assessments and examine the potential of automatically scored 3D assessments.
 
The project will achieve the research goals using a mixed-methods design in three phases. Phase I: Develop AutoRs. Machine scoring models for the 3D assessment tasks will be developed using existing data. To support teachers’ interpretation and use of automatic scores, the project team will develop AutoRs and examine how teachers make use of these initial reports. Based on observations and feedback from teachers, AutoRs will be refined using an iterative procedure so that teachers can use them with more efficiency and productivity. Phase II: Develop and test PCKSs. Findings from Phase I, the literature, and interviews with experienced teachers will be employed to develop PCKSs. The project will provide professional learning with teachers on how to use the AutoRs and PCKSs. The project will research how teachers use AutoRs and PCKSs to make instructional decisions. The findings will be used to refine the PCKSs. Phase III: Classroom implementation. In this phase a study will be conducted with a new group of teachers to explore the effectiveness and usability of AutoRs and PCKSs in terms of supporting teachers’ instructional decisions and students’ 3D learning. This project will create knowledge about and formulate a theory of how teachers interpret and attend to students’ performance on 3D assessments, providing critical information on how to support teachers’ responsive instructional decision making. The collaborative team will widely disseminate various products, such as 3D assessment scoring algorithms, AutoRs, PCKSs, and the corresponding professional development programs, and publications to facilitate 3D instruction and learning.

Supporting Teachers to Teach Mathematics through Problem Posing

This project aims to support teachers to engage their students in mathematical problem posing (problem-posing-based learning, or P-PBL). P-PBL is a powerful approach to the teaching and learning of mathematics, and provides students with opportunities to engage in authentic mathematical practices.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2101552
Funding Period: 
Sun, 08/01/2021 to Thu, 07/31/2025
Full Description: 

This project aims to support teachers to engage their students in mathematical problem posing (problem-posing-based learning, or P-PBL). P-PBL is a powerful approach to the teaching and learning of mathematics, and provides students with opportunities to engage in authentic mathematical practices. For example, conjecturing in mathematics, a form of problem posing, often plays an important role in solving complex problems, and problem posing is an important component of mathematical modeling. Yet despite its importance, widely used curriculum materials fail to incorporate P-PBL in substantial and consistent ways, leaving teachers with few resources to enact this process. This project will develop problem-posing lessons and illustrative cases of teachers implementing P-PBL that will not only support teachers to develop a vision of what P-PBL looks like and how to implement it in their own classrooms, but will also serve as rich resources for professional development (PD) providers. This project will generate valuable findings about teaching using problem posing for district administrators, mathematics teachers, educators, and researchers as well as curriculum developers and policy makers. The team will develop and pilot a set of 20−30 research-based P-PBL cases that provide critical details for the implementation of P-PBL and reveal “lessons learned” from the development process.

The project promises broader impact on the field of mathematics education as the first goal is to support teachers to teach mathematics through engaging their students in mathematical problem posing. By guiding students to construct and investigate their own problems, P-PBL both helps to create mathematical learning opportunities and develops students’ mathematical agency and positive mathematical identities. A networked improvement community of teachers and researchers will integrate problem posing into daily mathematics instruction and continuously improve the quality of P-PBL through iterative task and lesson design. The intellectual merit of this project is its contribution of new and important insights about teaching mathematics through problem posing. This will be realized through the second project goal which is to longitudinally investigate the promise of supporting teachers to teach with P-PBL for enhancing teachers’ instructional practice and students’ learning. A quasi-experimental design coupled with design-based research methodology and improvement science will be used to understand how, when, and why P-PBL works in practice. Specifically, we plan to follow a sample of 36 teachers and their approximately 3,600 students from six middle schools for multiple years to longitudinally explore the promise of P-PBL for developing teachers’ beliefs about problem posing, their beliefs about P-PBL, and their actual instructional practice. We will also investigate students’ learning as measured by problem-posing performance, problem-solving performance, and mathematics disposition. The findings of the project will add not only to the field’s understanding of the promise of supporting teachers to integrate P-PBL into their mathematics instruction, but also to its understanding of the challenges that teachers face when engaging in a networked improvement community that is focused on improving tasks and lessons by integrating P-PBL.

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.

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.

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

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: 
2101667
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.

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

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: 
2101666
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.

Online Practice Suite: Practice Spaces, Simulations and Virtual Reality Environments for Preservice Teachers to Learn to Facilitate Argumentation Discussions in Math and Science

This project will develop, pilot, and refine a set of coordinated and complementary activities that teacher education programs can use in both online and face-to-face settings to provide practice-based opportunities for preservice teachers to develop their ability to facilitate argumentation-focused discussions in mathematics and science.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2037983
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/15/2020 to Mon, 07/31/2023
Full Description: 

In teacher education it is widely acknowledged that learning to teach requires that preservice teachers have robust, authentic, and consistent opportunities to engage in the work of teaching—ideally across different contexts, with diverse student populations, and for varied purposes—as they hone their instructional practice. Practice teaching experiences in K-12 classrooms, such as field placements and student teaching, are the most widely used approaches to provide these opportunities. In an ideal world these experiences are opportunities for preservice teachers to observe and work closely with mentor teachers and try out new instructional strategies with individual, small groups, and whole classes of K-12 students. While these experiences are critical to supporting preservice teachers' learning, it can be difficult to help preservice teachers transition from university classrooms to field placements in ways that provide them with opportunities to enact ambitious instructional strategies. This need is particularly acute in mathematics and science education, where classrooms that model strong disciplinary discourse and argumentation are not always prevalent. This challenge is amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic environment; with schools and universities across the nation operating online, many preservice teachers will miss out on opportunities to practice teaching both within their courses and in K-12 classrooms. To address this urgent challenge in STEM education, project researchers will develop, pilot, and refine a set of coordinated and complementary activities that teacher education programs can use in both online and face-to-face settings to provide practice-based opportunities for preservice teachers to develop their ability to facilitate argumentation-focused discussions in mathematics and science, a critical teaching practice in these content areas. The practice-based activities include: (1) interactive, online digital games that create targeted practice spaces to engage preservice teachers to respond to students' content-focused ideas and interactions; (2) facilitating group discussions with upper elementary or middle school student avatars in a simulated classroom using performance-based tasks; and (3) an immersive virtual reality whole-classroom environment that allows for verbal, textual and non-verbal interactions between a teacher avatar and 24 student avatars. The online practice suite, made up of these activities along with supports to help teacher educators use them effectively, represents not just an immediate remedy to the challenge of COVID-19, but a rich and flexible set of resources with the potential to support and improve teacher preparation well beyond the COVID-19 challenge.

This study will use design-based research to create this integrated system of practice teaching opportunities. This approach will involve developing and refining the individual practice activities, the integrated online practice suite, and the teacher educator support materials by working with a teacher educator community of practice and engaging up to 20 teacher educators and 400 preservice teachers in multiple rounds of tryouts and piloting during the three-year project. The project will proceed in three phases: a first phase of small-scale testing, a second phase trying the materials with teacher educators affiliated with the project team, and a third phase piloting materials with a broader group of mathematics and science teacher educators. Data sources include surveys of preservice teachers' background characteristics, perceptions of the practice activities, beliefs about content instruction, perceptions about preparedness to teach, and understanding of argumentation and discussion, videos and/or log files of their performances for each practice teaching activity, and scores on their practice teaching performances. The project team will also observe the in-class instructional activities prior to and after the use of each practice teaching activity, conduct interviews with teacher educators, and collect instructional logs from the teacher educators and instructional artifacts used to support preservice teachers' learning. Data analysis will include pre and post comparisons to examine evidence of growth in preservice math and science teachers' beliefs, perceptions, understanding, and teaching performance. The project team will also build a series of analytic memos to describe how each teacher educator used the online practice suite within the mathematics or science methods course and the factors and decisions that went into that each use case. Then, they will describe and understand how the various uses and adaptations may be linked to contextual factors within these diverse settings. Findings will be used to produce empirically and theoretically grounded design principles and heuristics for these types of practice-based activities to support teacher learning.

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.

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