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Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: DISCOVERY RESEARCH K-12 | Award Amount: 1.38M | Year: 2016

The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. This study will investigate factors influencing the persistence of teacher change after professional development (PD) experiences, and will examine the extent to which modest supports for science teaching in grades K-5 sustain PD outcomes over the long term. Fifty K-12 teachers who completed one of four PD programs situated in small, rural school districts will be recruited for the study, and they will participate in summer refresher sessions for two days, cluster meetings at local schools twice during the academic year, and optional Webinar sessions two times per year. Electronic supports for participants will include a dedicated email address, a project Facebook page, a biweekly newsletter, and access to archived Webinars on a range of topics related to teaching elementary school science. Modest support for replacement of consumable supplies needed for hands-on classroom activities will also be provided. The project will examine the extent to which these modest supports individually and collectively foster the sustainability of PD outcomes in terms of the instructional time devoted to science, teacher self-efficacy in science, and teacher use of inquiry-based instructional strategies. The effects of contextual factors on sustainability of PD outcomes will also be examined.

This longitudinal study will seek answers to three research questions: 1) To what extent do modest supports foster the sustainability of professional development outcomes in: a) instructional time in science; b) teachers self-efficacy in science; and c) teachers use of inquiry-based instructional strategies? 2) Which supports are: a) the most critical for sustainability of outcomes; and b) the most cost-effective; and 3) What contextual factors support or impede the sustainability of professional development outcomes? The project will employ a mixed-methods research design to examine the effects of PD in science among elementary schoolteachers over a 10 to 12 year period that includes a 3-year PD program, a 4-6 year span after the initial PD program, and a 3-year intervention of modest supports. Quantitative and qualitative data will be collected from multiple sources, including: a general survey of participating teachers regarding their beliefs about science, their instructional practices, and their instructional time in science; a teacher self-efficacy measure; intervention feedback surveys; electronic data sources associated with Webinars; teacher interviews; school administrator interviews; and receipts for purchases of classroom supplies. Quantitative data from the teacher survey and self-efficacy measure will be analyzed using hierarchical modeling to examine growth rates after the original PD and the change in growth after the provision of modest supports. Data gathered from other sources will be tracked, coded, and analyzed for each teacher, and linked to the survey and self-efficacy data for analysis by individual teacher, by grade level, by school, by district, and by original PD experience. Together, these data will enable the project team to address the projects research questions, with particular emphasis on determining the extent to which teachers make use of the various supports offered, and identifying the most cost-effective and critical supports.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ICER | Award Amount: 200.00K | Year: 2015

This RAPID project supports the advancement of STEM education among elementary and secondary students and the general public through increasing opportunities to participate in authentic, inquiry-based science investigations of the environment using scientific protocols and infrastructure offered by the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program. The GLOBE program, launched on Earth Day 1995, is a highly successful, science education program that now operates in more than 110 countries. Over 66,000 teachers and millions of students have participated in the program. In conjunction with the upcoming 20th anniversary of the program, GLOBE is launching a new citizen science campaign that will expand GLOBE beyond its traditional focus on formal education settings. If successful, this pilot citizen science effort will allow GLOBE to greatly expand its reach and impact on science literacy worldwide. In addition, GLOBE will initiate a year-long GLOBE@20 campaign of observations and collaborative student research projects that will culminate in a new International Science Fair that will be held during the week of Earth Day 2016. With its focus on inquiry-based science, use of authentic data, and addressing real-world environmental problems, GLOBE supports development of the scientific and critical thinking skills necessary for tomorrows STEM-literate workforce. The opportunities offered by GLOBE to engage and collaborate with an international community of participants also promote global awareness and cross-cultural understanding, collaboration, and environmental stewardship.

The GLOBE@20 celebration events are being co-developed by NASA (primary sponsor of GLOBE operations), the GLOBE Implementation Office (GIO) based at UCAR, and WestEd, recipient of this award. WestEds role in the GLOBE@20 efforts include: 1) developing the strategies, tools, and resources for communicating with, engaging, and enabling participation of members of the public who seek to participate in the pilot GLOBE citizen science campaign; 2) developing the assessment rubrics, participation protocols and guides, and supporting materials that underpin implementation of the 2016 International Science Fair for GLOBE students; and, 3) developing the coherent communications strategy and resources to showcase the outcomes of GLOBE program activities and promote awareness of opportunities to participate in on-going GLOBE program education and research activities, either through school-based or citizen science-based activities.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: DISCOVERY RESEARCH K-12 | Award Amount: 1.59M | Year: 2015

The Discovery Research K-12 (DRK-12) program seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers through research and development of innovative resources, models, and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. This project is a four-year design and development study submitted to the assessment strand of the program. It will focus on understanding how educational games, designed according to research-based learning and assessment design principles, can better assess and promote students science knowledge, application of science process skills, and motivation and engagement in learning. The project will develop a new genre of games to serve as formative assessment resources designed to collect evidence of science learning during gameplay, provide feedback and coaching in the form of hints, and reinforce middle grade (6th-8th) students life science concepts and investigation practices about ecosystems described in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) (Achieve, 2013). The games will build on the designs of the simulation-based, curriculum-embedded assessments developed in previous NSF-funded efforts, which include student progress reports and reflection activities that allow teachers to provide feedback to students and adjust instruction. The design of the games will draw from multiple lines of research, such as cognition, particularly model-based learning; principled assessment design; and motivation. Intended to provide engaging activities for understanding and investigating the system components, roles, interactions, and population dynamics of ecosystems, the project will produce two sets of comprehensive games: (1) Organisms and Interactions, and (2) Emergent Population Levels: Managing an Ecosystem. Each game will consist of progressively advanced mini-games. Twenty-four California Bay Area middle school teachers will participate in the study. Teacher professional development (PD) will include face-to-face sessions and an online platform that permits a wide range of interactions among participants and the facilitators. The PD will emphasize the alignment of the ecosystem simulation-based curriculum modules with their state standards, instructional materials, and the new games.

The project will address six research questions: (1) How well do the games align with the ecosystem crosscutting concepts, core ideas, and inquiry practices in the NGSS?; (2) How well do game components meet quality standards?; (3) How well do the games integrate with the existing simulation-based curriculum modules and the teachers existing instructional sequence?; (4) What effect does the use of the games have on students understanding of the science concepts, scientific practices, and collaboration skills?; (5) How does success in gameplay relate to improved performance on the external outcome measures comprised of the simulation-based benchmark and the pre/posttest?; and (6) How does the use of the games affect students engagement in science learning? In a Year 1 usability study, the project will test, analyze, and revise alpha versions of the games. In Year 2, a classroom feasibility study of beta versions will inform further revisions. In Year 3, six teachers will pilot-test the games. A second pilot test in Year 4 will examine the effectiveness of the games by comparing student performance in classes using the existing simulation-based curriculum-embedded assessments and reflection activities with classes using the curriculum-embedded assessments plus the new games. Data collection and analysis strategies include: (a) alignment reviews; (b) focus groups and usability testing; (c) cognitive labs for construct validity and usability; (d) game reports (badges); (e) pre/posttest of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) items; (f) benchmark assessment data; (g) student interest in the games and science; (h) teacher surveys; (i) case studies; (j) game quality analysis; (k) differential item functioning; (l) analysis of covariance; and (m) analysis of variance on posttest scores (outcome variable) to compare the means across student groups (by intervention mode) and their prior science achievement levels.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Core R&D Programs | Award Amount: 1.50M | Year: 2016

Researchers will examine the fidelity and quality of their implementation of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in response to an extensive professional development program of workshops and professional learning communities. In addition the study will investigate how individual teacher background characteristics, their personal beliefs about science teaching and learning, the characteristics of their students, and other contextual variables affect such implementation. Study findings will inform district and state policy makers about types of supports teachers need to implement NGSS successfully, and will differentiate between supports for various teacher backgrounds and student groups. As such, the project will support improved science teaching in more sites and for more students nationwide.

NGSS classroom implementation will be observed in four California districts receiving extensive professional development and related implementation supports through a program funded by the Bechtel Foundation. The research will include individual case studies and a cross-case analysis on a set of 20 middle school teacher leaders and 40 rank-and-file middle school teachers receiving various levels of support. Teachers will be recruited based on sampling criteria that include prior science teaching experiences, teaching conditions, teacher content backgrounds, characteristics of students served, and location. For each teacher case, researchers will inspect lesson plans and curricular documents, conduct classroom observations, collect teaching artifacts, and interview the teachers. In addition, researchers will conduct teacher surveys, and a survey of students opportunities to learn. This project is supported by NSFs EHR Core Research (ECR) program. The ECR program emphasizes fundamental STEM education research that generates foundational knowledge in the field.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: REAL | Award Amount: 1.50M | Year: 2014

Science is often taught not as a coherent body of knowledge, but as distinct, unrelated topics. The Next Generation Science Standards aim to change this by organizing science teaching around crosscutting concepts, which reflect the coherence of science through their use in explanations of phenomena in different scientific domains. This project will address the research questions of how crosscutting concepts develop longitudinally, how this development can be supported across different science topics, and whether the learning of crosscutting concepts is improved. The project will create computerized, simulation-based instructional modules for use in middle school earth science that teach crosscutting concepts. This project not only will document student learning of these important ideas, but also will analyze how this learning occurs, what support is reliably related to this learning, and how these ideas might develop in response to support across different earth science topics.

The project will focus on learning crosscutting concepts of scale, systems and cycles as they are supported across three middle school earth science topics: ecosystems, plate tectonics and climate. The project will leverage previous work by the PI and other team members by building upon the SimScientists simulations already constructed, and upon their demonstrated technique of embedding assessments in the simulations to inform what students learn while simultaneously providing feedback on the simulation design. Initial efficacy of the simulations will be established with 13 teachers and 1300 students. Results of this project will have impact not only through use of the simulations by these and other middle school students, but also through research on how cross-cutting concepts can be supported over time in multiple scientific domains.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ITEST | Award Amount: 1.35M | Year: 2016

This project will advance efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase students motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) by investigating ways to make science assessment and science instruction more culturally relevant to Native Hawaiians. Closing Gaps: Connecting Assessment and Culture to Increase Achievement, a three-year design and development study, opens new doors for understanding how technology can enhance teaching and learning. The project focuses on ways in which technology-rich learning environments can improve instruction and assessment practices for diverse indigenous students. It combines two innovative learning technologies -- SimScientists and FieldScope -- that support STEM teaching and learning through the practices of science. Teachers in the Na Lei Naauao Native Hawaiian Charter School Alliance use these innovative technologies in their classrooms and on ecosystems-themed field trips. Project researchers will study how features of each technology can foster learning and enhance assessment. The project addresses a persistent limitation of STEM learning: students lack of access to connected and familiar experiences that can help build foundational knowledge. Although new technologies to support STEM learning are available each year, many deliver inaccessible information because the context of the information is unfamiliar and does not relate to childrens own experiences and intuitive knowledge. This promotes fragile understandings rather than the kinds of knowledge valued by NGSS and in work environments. This project explores how to design educational learning tools that can be adapted to a local context yet be standardized enough to align with state and national guidelines. Findings may prove critical in improving test development practices for diverse populations. Testing in diverse indigenous communities is underexplored; little is known about how assessments can be adapted to serve the dual role of assessing content and practice standards while attending to specifics of the local context. This project intends to enhance the educational advancement of all students in STEM areas.

This project intends to advance the field of educational technology to maximize benefits of cultural and contextual diversity in technology-rich learning environments. It addresses four research questions: (1) Can features of two learning technologies be customized to be both contextually relevant and aligned with standardized learning goals?; (2) Can technology-rich learning environments be used to make salient connections between instruction and the culture in which learning is situated?; (3) Can assessment embedded into technology-rich learning environments be responsive to ways of knowing and demonstrating understanding unique to an indigenous culture?; and (4) Can assessment embedded in technology-rich learning environments support inferences about student understanding of the practices, core ideas, and crosscutting concepts of science with appropriate and sufficient evidence? In Year 1, the project will conduct initial feasibility studies with students and teachers to inform revisions to existing SimScientists modules and reflection activities. In Year 2, the project will revise existing modules to enhance their cultural relevance and then conduct small-scale usability and feasibility testing with the revised modules. In Year 3, the customized modules will be piloted with 12 teachers. Data collection and analysis strategies include: (a) design charrettes; (b) focus groups and usability testing; (c) cognitive labs for cultural relevance, construct validity and innovation impacts; (d) pre/posttest of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) items; (e) benchmark assessment data; (f) teacher surveys; (i) case studies; (j) classroom and field trip participant observations (k) differential item functioning; (l) analysis of covariance; and (m) analysis of variance on posttest scores (outcome variable) to compare the means across student groups (by intervention mode) and their prior science achievement levels to measure the technical quality of the assessments. Project success means students will make personal connections between the knowledge they gain throughout the course of their lives and the knowledge that is important in STEM fields, offering additional ways to see the value and possibilities of STEM careers.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: Core R&D Programs | Award Amount: 1.11M | Year: 2014

WestEd proposes to study the Technical Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program. TEALS, a pioneering work-place intervention of the non-profit Microsoft YouthSpark program, provides multi-year, on-the-job computer science education professional development to high school teachers. The project will identify an effective learning model to prepare in-service teachers to teach computer science. To ensure the model meets workplace requirements, all research will take place in an authentic high school learning context. In addition, the project will synthesize existing research on computer science education, integrate research with practice, and contribute to the development of theory around computer science pedagogy.

This project addresses a major barrier to increasing the number of qualified K-12 computer science teachers in the U.S. Few avenues currently exist for pre-service and in-service teachers to train in computer science pedagogy and become certified to teach computer science. As computer science is becoming increasingly important for many kinds of careers, improving teaching in this area is in the national interest.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: DISCOVERY RESEARCH K-12 | Award Amount: 3.00M | Year: 2013

Project Summary
Using Math Pathways & Pitfalls to Promote Algebra Readiness is a 4-year Full Research and Development project that creates a set of materials for middle grades students and teacher professional development that would support the learning of early algebra. Building on their prior work with an elementary version, the efficacy study focuses on the implementation of the principals underlying the materials, fidelity of use of the materials, and impact on students learning.
The projects goals are to: 1) develop an MPP book and companion materials dedicated to algebra readiness content and skills, 2) investigate how MPP transforms pedagogical practices to improve students algebra readiness and metacognitive skills, and 3) validate MPPs effectiveness for improving students algebra readiness with a large-scale randomized controlled trial.

The iterative design and efficacy studies produce research-based materials to increase student learning of core concepts in algebra readiness. Though the focus of the project is algebra readiness, the study also examines the validity of the pedagogical approach of MPP. The MPP lesson structures are designed to help students confront common misconceptions, dubbed pitfalls, through sense-making, class discussions, and the use of multiple visual representations. If the pedagogical approach of MPP proves to be successful, the lesson structures can be presented as an effective framework for instruction that extends to other content areas in mathematics and other disciplines.

The project addresses a critical need in education, and the potential impact is large. Math achievement in the U.S. is not keeping pace with international performance. The current project focuses on algebra readiness skills, an area that is critical for future success in mathematics. Algebra often serves as a gatekeeper to more advanced mathematics, and performance in algebra has been linked to success in college and long-term earnings potential. Longitudinal studies indicate that students taking rigorous high school mathematics courses are twice as likely to graduate from college as those who do not. Thus, adequately preparing students for algebra can dramatically affect educational outcomes for students. The current project broadens the participation of underrepresented groups of students in math and later science classes that require strong math skills. The intervention builds on materials and pedagogical techniques that have demonstrated positive outcomes for diverse students. The targeted districts have large samples of English language learners and students from groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM so that we may evaluate the impact of the intervention on these populations. At the end of the project, the publication quality materials will be readily available to teachers and districts through our website www.wested.org/mpp.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ROBERT NOYCE SCHOLARSHIP PGM | Award Amount: 600.00K | Year: 2016

The U.S. has ambitious goals for preparing K-8 teachers to excel in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This project seeks to enhance the knowledge and expertise of college faculty who prepare elementary school teachers to teach mathematics. The project will develop and investigate a series of five professional learning modules for college mathematics faculty. Modules are grounded in the types of mathematical knowledge for teaching that future teachers need to provide successful learning experiences in mathematics for the diversity of students with whom they work. Twenty instructors from 2- and 4-year colleges who teach mathematics courses designed for pre-service elementary teachers will participate. These faculty, working in small teams, will meet regularly online throughout a semester to review readings and video focused on K-8 interactions during mathematics learning time and to share their own efforts to incorporate recommendations from the modules into the college courses they teach. Anchored in materials from Sybilla Beckmanns well-respected text for the mathematical preparation of K-8 teachers, the faculty modules will include (1) the different types of knowledge required of teachers in K-8 classrooms, (2) research-based information on learning environments conducive for pre-service teacher learning (which also serve as models for effective mathematics instruction in the K-8 setting), and (3) effective methods for assessing pre-service teachers to capture both what they know and what they are ready to learn next. The overarching goal of the project is to produce informed and effective college instructors whose students become informed and effective K-8 teachers. This project contributes to the improvement of undergraduate education as it attends to the NSF-IUSE framework which promotes new and exciting approaches to using research on STEM learning and education to address STEM education challenges across and within institutions.

The projects significance lies in its promise to strengthen the preparation of future teachers while also adding to the limited existing research on the design and implementation of online professional development for college mathematics faculty. Researchers will examine the construct of mathematical knowledge for teaching future teachers (MKT-FT) during the course of the project. Sandwiched between a facilitated online launch (module 1) and an online wrap-up (module 5), three self-paced modules will be designed for use by teams of at least two instructors and include multi-media resources such as video-based segments demonstrating pre-service teacher and K-8 student mathematical thinking. The project will investigate four research questions: (1) Are module materials accessible and useful to mathematics faculty? (2) Does the use of the materials foster knowledge growth for teaching among instructors and among their undergraduate pre-service elementary teacher students? (3) Are the materials used by faculty in a manner consistent with developer intent and aligned with recommendations from research on the professional growth of college instructors? (4) What does the projects pilot survey of faculty allow us to identify regarding needs and challenges to feasibility and fidelity of implementation across institution types? Data collection includes observations and interviews of participating faculty at several 2- and 4- year colleges in addition to measures of their students knowledge growth using reliable and validated Learning Mathematics for Teaching tools. The knowledge gained from project research will provide a foundation for future research-based development efforts to increase tools and resources available for content area experts who are novice teacher educators.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: IUSE | Award Amount: 250.00K | Year: 2015

The preparation of the highest quality teachers and learners of mathematics is a national imperative. As undergraduates, future secondary school teachers take many courses from professors with advanced degrees in mathematics. However, university faculty members often do not possess deep knowledge of the kinds of teaching demands faced by new school teachers. There is a notable need for instructional materials that deliberately and explicitly connect undergraduate mathematics content to the knowledge needed for teaching secondary mathematics. This project will leverage the existence of Capstone Courses for future teachers found in many universities, which bring together ideas from across the college mathematics experience, as well as recent developments in policy and school accountability, to create and refine activities for use by university faculty in mathematics pre-service teachers Capstone Courses. This project will develop Capstone Course modules which provide access to advanced mathematical ideas along with opportunities to unpack mathematics in ways helpful for teaching it in middle and high school settings. The proof-of-concept work of the project has two parts. One is the development and refinement of two full modules, each designed to take about a week of instructional time in a Capstone Course. The second aspect is refining the module development process itself.

This project is significant in that it intends to strengthen the pre-service preparation of teachers while it will also contribute to educational research on the improvement of pre-service teacher learning experiences in mathematics. The design for each module will use assessments linked to state mathematics standards as anchors for discussion, sites for development of mathematical knowledge, and foundations for other mathematics-specific knowledge used in teaching. Modules will include mathematical task exploration, analysis of middle and high school student thinking illustrated in video-recorded clinical interviews, and examination of sample formative and summative assessment items. The project brings together WestEd with San Francisco State University and the University of Maine to: (1) develop and pilot multi-media instructional modules for advanced pre-service secondary mathematics teacher learning; (2) create guidance for college mathematics faculty for effective use of the modules with target audiences; and (3) gather information from instructors and the pre-service teachers in their courses to inform future module development work. Design-based implementation research (DBIR) strategies will be employed, using an iterative process to examine a persistent problem of college instructional practice, to develop theory and tools for systematic inquiry into feasibility and fidelity of implementation of the modules. Intellectual Merit of the project resides in the expertise of the PI team, the materials that will be developed, and a research agenda that will examine feasibility (accessibility and usability by mathematics faculty), promise (pre-service teacher learning based on the modules), and scalability (identification of challenges to effective implementation). The Broader Impacts are present in the intention to have faculty members at other institutions pilot test materials during the project and in the potential for faculty, nationwide, to use the modules to replace parts of, or enrich, current capstone course designs. Also contributing to the Broader Impacts is that knowledge gained from project research will provide a foundation for future research-based development efforts to increase tools available for preparing mathematics teachers.

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