Broadening Participation

Exploratory Evidence on the Factors that Relate to Elementary School Science Learning Gains Among English Language Learners

This project will provide evidence on how school, classroom, teacher, and student factors shape elementary school science learning trajectories for English learners (ELs). The project will broaden ELs’ participation in STEM learning by investigating how individual, classroom, and school level situations such as instructional practices, learning environments, and characteristics of school personnel relate to EL elementary school science learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2100419
Funding Period: 
Sat, 05/15/2021 to Sun, 04/30/2023
Full Description: 

The nation’s schools are growing in linguistic and cultural diversity, with students identified as English learners (ELs) comprising more than ten percent of the student population. Unfortunately, existing research suggests that ELs lag behind other students in science achievement, even in the earliest grades of school. This project will provide evidence on how school, classroom, teacher, and student factors shape elementary school science learning trajectories for ELs. The project will broaden ELs’ participation in STEM learning by investigating how individual, classroom, and school level situations (inputs) such as instructional practices, learning environments, and characteristics of school personnel relate to EL elementary school science learning. Specifically, this study explores (1) a series of science inputs (time on science, content covered, availability of lab resources, and teacher training in science instruction), and (2) EL-specific inputs (classroom language use, EL instructional models, teacher certification and training, and the availability of EL support staff), in relation to ELs’ science learning outcomes from a national survey.

This study provides a comprehensive analysis of English learners’ (ELs) science learning in the early grades and the English learner instructional inputs and science instructional inputs that best predict early science outcomes (measured by both standardized science assessments and teacher-rated measures of science skills). The study uses the nationally representative Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS-K:2011) and employs a regression framework with latent class analysis to identify promising inputs that promote early science learning for ELs. Conceptually, rather than viewing the school-based inputs in isolation, the study explores how they combine to enhance students’ science learning trajectories. The study addresses the following research questions: How do science test performance trajectories vary across and within EL student groups in elementary school? How do access to school, teacher, and classroom level science and EL inputs vary across and within EL student groups in elementary school? Which school, teacher, and classroom level science and EL inputs are predictive of greater science test performance gains and teacher-rated science skills in elementary school? Are the relationships among these school, teacher, and classroom level inputs and student test performance and teacher-rated science skills different for subgroups of EL students, particularly by race/ethnicity or by immigration status? Are there particular combinations of school, teacher, and classroom level inputs that are predictive of science learning gains (test scores and teacher-rated skills) for ELs as compared to students more broadly?

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.

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.

The Impact of COVID on American Education in 2021: Continued Evidence from the Understanding America Study

This study will build upon the team's prior research from early in the pandemic. Researchers will continue to collect data from families and aims to understand parents’ perspectives on the educational impacts of COVID-19 by leveraging a nationally representative, longitudinal study, the Understanding America Study (UAS). The study will track educational experiences during the Spring and Summer of 2021 and into the 2021-22 school year.

Award Number: 
2120194
Funding Period: 
Mon, 03/01/2021 to Mon, 02/28/2022
Full Description: 

The COVID-19 epidemic has been a tremendous disruption to the education of U.S. students and their families, and evidence suggests that this disruption has been unequally felt across households by income and race/ethnicity. While other ongoing data collection efforts focus on understanding this disruption from the perspective of students or educators, less is known about the impact of COVID-19 on children’s prek-12 educational experiences as reported by their parents, especially in STEM subjects. This study will build upon the team's prior research from early in the pandemic. Researchers will continue to collect data from families and aims to understand parents’ perspectives on the educational impacts of COVID-19 by leveraging a nationally representative, longitudinal study, the Understanding America Study (UAS). The study will track educational experiences during the spring and summer of 2021 and into the 2021-22 school year. The team will analyze outcomes overall and for key demographic groups of interest as students and teachers return to in-person instruction during 2021. This RAPID project allows critically important data to continue to be collected and contribute to continued understanding of the impacts of and responses to the pandemic by American families.

Since March of 2020, the UAS has been tracking the educational impacts of COVID-19 for a nationally representative sample of approximately 1,400 households with preK-12 children. Early results focused on quantifying the digital divide and documenting the receipt of important educational services--like free meals and special education servicesafter COVID-19 began. This project will support the continued targeted administration of UAS questions to parents about students’ learning experiences and engagement, overall and in STEM subjects, data analysis, and dissemination of results to key stakeholder groups. Findings will be reported overall and across key demographic groups including ethnicity, disability, urbanicity, and socioeconomic status. This project will also produce targeted research briefs addressing pressing policy questions aimed at supporting intervention strategies in states, districts, and schools moving forward. Widespread dissemination will take place through existing networks and in collaboration with other research projects focused on understanding the COVID-19 crisis. All cross-sectional and longitudinal UAS data files will be publicly available shortly after conclusion of administration so that other researchers can explore the correlates of, and outcomes associated with, COVID-19.

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.

Professional Development to Support an Elementary School Science and Integrated Language Curriculum

To help address the need for science classrooms that support language learning for all students, this project will rigorously study the Science and Integrated Language (SAIL) curriculum, a year-long fifth-grade curriculum aligned to current science curriculum standards with a focus on English learners.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2035103
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Sat, 08/31/2024
Full Description: 

The nation's diverse and rapidly changing student demographics includes the rise of English learners, the fastest growing student population. Such demographic shifts highlight the importance of promoting and fostering science classrooms that support language learning for all students, including English learners. To help address this need, this project will rigorously study the Science and Integrated Language (SAIL) curriculum, a year-long fifth-grade curriculum aligned to current science curriculum standards with a focus on English learners. SAIL is grounded in design principles that are based on current research on children's science learning and second language acquisition. The curriculum includes four units that focus on central, driving questions (e.g., What happens to our garbage? or Why do falling stars fall?) to anchor the key physical and life science concepts of interest. The SAIL curriculum was originally developed with a prior DRK-12 grant using iterative cycles of development, field testing, and refinement. The project has three main objectives. First, the team will develop a teacher professional development program to support classroom implementation of SAIL. Second, the project will develop and validate the instruments needed to study the intervention and its impacts on teachers and students. Third, a quasi-experimental field trial will be conducted to assess the SAIL intervention's impacts on teachers and students.

The team will spend first year refining and iteratively developing the SAIL professional development package along with the measures to be used in the field trial. This is followed by the quasi-experimental study, which includes a treatment group of 15 elementary schools. A matched comparison group of 15 elementary schools will be obtained using propensity score matching at the school, teacher, and student levels. Fifth-grade science teachers will participate for 2 years, while two cohorts of fifth-grade students will participate for 1 year each. Measures will focus on student science learning with particular attention to English learner students and observations of teachers' instructional practices. Data will be analyzed using multi-level models accounting for nesting of students within teachers which, in turn, are nested within schools. At the completion of the project the team will have produced: (1) a fully documented professional development program to support teacher implementation of the SAIL curriculum, (2) measures needed to rigorously study the intervention and its impacts on teachers and students, and (3) further evidence of the potential effects of the SAIL intervention on teachers and students through a rigorous quasi-experimental field study.

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.

Broadening Participation in Mathematics for English Learners with Mathematics Difficulties: A Multi-Site Impact Study

The purpose of this project is to rigorously test the efficacy of the Precision Mathematics First-Grade (PM-1) intervention on the mathematics outcomes of English learners (ELs) who face mathematics difficulties (MD). The PM-1 intervention is designed to support students with or at risk for MD in developing a robust understanding of the underlying concepts, problem-solving skills, and vocabulary of early measurement and statistical investigation.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010550
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Sun, 08/31/2025
Full Description: 

Success in mathematics has major implications for student success at the public school and postsecondary levels, as well as contributing to the nation's STEM workforce and economy. While building mathematics literacy is important for all learners, it is especially critical for students most vulnerable for academic risk. Among these at-risk subgroups are English learners (ELs). By definition, ELs are not yet proficient in academic English and often come to school unprepared for the linguistic demands of disciplinary learning. Authentic and engaged content learning activities, such as early mathematics, may comprise the ideal context for acquiring the language and literacy skills ELs need. Research suggests ELs represent the fastest growing subgroup in U.S. schools. Currently, U.S. classrooms serve over five million ELs and estimated projections suggest that up to one in four students in 2025 will be an EL. Considering the rising presence of ELs, there is an urgent need to advance equity and eliminate disparities in STEM education among this group of learners who are often underserved by current practice. Overwhelming evidence suggests that ELs place well short of their non-EL peers in the area of mathematics. Therefore, the purpose of this 5-year Impact Project is to rigorously test the efficacy of the Precision Mathematics First-Grade (PM-1) intervention on the mathematics outcomes of ELs who face mathematics difficulties (MD). PM-1 is an innovative, first-grade, English-based, mathematics intervention focused on state-of-the-art technology and hands-on problem-solving activities, the PM-1 intervention is designed to support students with or at risk for MD in developing a robust understanding of the underlying concepts, problem-solving skills, and vocabulary of early measurement and statistical investigation. This study will examine student response to the PM-1 intervention based on variables such as students' initial mathematics skill levels and proficiency in English, and explore how the rate and quality of mathematics discourse opportunities for ELs may predict gains in mathematics outcomes.

This impact study will investigate the efficacy of the Precision Mathematics First-Grade (PM-1) intervention through a methodologically rigorous randomized controlled trial. The study will utilize a randomized block design, blocking on classrooms and randomly assigning first-grade English learners (ELs) who face mathematics difficulties (MD) within first-grade classrooms to one of two conditions: (a) PM-1 intervention or (b) control (business-as-usual). Approximately 900 ELs from 150 first-grade classrooms will participate. Three research aims will guide this study. Aim 1 will systematically evaluate the average effect of PM-1 on student mathematics achievement; while Aim 2 will investigate differential response to the intervention based on student-level variables, including ELs proficiency in English and pretreatment mathematics performance. In Aim 3, researchers will explore whether the frequency and quality of mathematics discourse opportunities for ELs predicts gains in mathematics achievement. Although random assignment will take place at the student level, students will be assigned to small instructional group formats for intervention delivery. Therefore, the design employs a partially nested mixed-model Time × Condition analyses to evaluate the effect of PM-1 on pretest to posttest gains in mathematics achievement (Aim 1) and differential response to PM-1 based on student characteristics (Aim 2). A random coefficients analysis that nests repeated assessments within students and PM-1 intervention groups will explore whether the rate and quality of mathematics discourse opportunities predicts ELs' gains in mathematics achievement (Aim 3).

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.

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).

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