We are using advanced analytics that draw on logs of students’ actions and scores of their products (e.g., models, graphs, sketches, critiques, and explanations) to monitor progress and provide individualized guidance. PLANS is investigating how analytic tools in a project-based learning environment can help students achieve deeper understanding of science. Check out PLANS projects:
In middle school math, students typically graph only linear functions. They rarely encounter the features of graphs common in science, such as units, scientific notation, non-integer values, noise, oscillations, and exponentials. Often students are left to learn science without recourse to this key tool for learning and doing science, and better understanding complex topics. GRIDS Research Questions:
- What do middle school students know about constructing and interpreting graphs of science concepts and how does this develop over time?
- How can we design instruction that enables students to link graphing and science disciplinary knowledge and gain lifelong skills for understanding complex scientific phenomena?
- How can Graph-Science Knowledge Integration (KI) in independent student projects promote deeper understanding and student identity as science learners?
We examined how student guidance based on CLASS scores can improve learning outcomes and design professional development resources to help teachers use CLASS scores to improve inquiry instruction as well as help administrators make informed decisions about supports for science learning. The main goals for CLASS were:
- Develop five automated inquiry assessment activities that capture students’ abilities to integrate their ideas and form coherent scientific arguments.
- Customize the WISE learning platform by incorporating automated scores.
- Investigate how students’ systematic feedback based on these scores improve their learning outcomes.
- Design professional development resources to help teachers use scores to improve classroom instruction, and administrators to make better informed decisions about teacher professional development and inquiry instruction.
The VISUAL project studied how visualizations can transform science instruction by addressing the following research questions: 1. When and how do visualizations improve science learning outcomes?
- How do students with a wide range of disciplinary knowledge, socioeconomic backgrounds, beliefs about science, and spatial experience learn from visualizations?
- What makes some visualizations succeed and others fail?
2. How can visualization-rich curriculum materials enable all students to learn complex science topics?
- What are the best ways to embed visualizations in instruction, combine hands-on, probeware, and visualization experiences, and design assessments to enable all students to succeed?
- How can teachers support students as they engage in these practices?
3. What design practices and cyberlearning tools generalize to new curricula?
- Which principles and patterns work for new topics and visualizations?
- Which cyberlearning features consistently help students and teachers use visualizations successfully?
- How can visualizations connect formal and informal learning?
- How can we communicate our findings in authoring tools, teachers support tools, and curriculum design environments?
CLEAR’s three main goals: 1. Improve the cumulative learning of students in the topic area of energy.
Traditionally, there has seldom been the expectation of students applying concepts learned in prior units to the next topic or course. To remedy this situation, we explored ways to ensure that science learning is cumulative. Cumulative learning involves retaining instructed material and building on it.
Delving into this question raised many issues such as: What sorts of ideas should be retained? What sort of understanding do we desire of students after several years of instruction? How can instruction enable students to appreciate the ubiquitous role of fundamental science concepts like energy? How can we help students understand the dependencies and connections across science topics and disciplines? What are key features of cumulative learning? What is the trajectory of a cumulative learner?
2. Design and customize technology-enhanced instructional materials, consistent with California standards, to foster cumulative understanding of energy. From our prior work on knowledge integration, we know that students come to science class with a repertoire of disconnected and often contradictory ideas. We wanted to spur students to develop more coherent ideas and enable them to integrate their ideas and promote the most fruitful, generative, and useful ideas. We aimed to help students distinguish new ideas from existing ideas and reconcile discrepancies with scientific evidence. We expect that cumulative learners would test and refine their ideas by applying them in situations they encounter in their lives. Ideally cumulative learners would continue to expand, refine, and integrate their understanding all during their lives. Our curriculum materials and professional development implemented the patterns and principles developed to support knowledge integration. We worked to develop criteria for effective instructional materials. Questions included: What sorts of learning activities and topic sequences contribute to cumulative learning? What role can inquiry with visualizations and virtual experiments and connections to everyday experiences play? How can teachers support cumulative learning? How can regular use of a technology-enhanced learning environment that tracks student progress support cumulative learning? 3. Design and implement a suite of assessments that monitor progress of participants and also serve as learning events Knowledge integration assessments require generation of explanations. They have acceptable psychometric properties and can be distinguished from typical multiple-choice items used in international tests. Embedded assessments in WISE also serve as learning activities. Typically, pairs of students perform these activities. They require generation of ideas, a valuable learning activity. To take advantage of recent technological advances, we can now track student activities. For example, we can record the experiments that students conduct and reliably capture inquiry activities. And we can determine the conditions under which students return to a visualization or evidence page. For CLEAR, we developed two new item types called Energy Stories and MySystem. These items are intended to capture longer sequences of reasoning. Energy Stories overlap with some of the knowledge integration items we have used in the past. MySystem is intended to enable students to visually represent connections between energy sources, energy transfer, and energy transformations. It was inspired by modeling environments such as STELLA or Model-It but is much less sophisticated.
The LOOPS project was based on the idea that accurate and timely data about student learning can help teachers make adaptations to their teaching that will increase student learning. We explored this idea in the context of what we believe is already an excellent, research-based learning environment: guided explorations that use computer-based models and probes. In all of our curriculum development, we emphasized “loops” – i.e., feedback, reporting, and actions. We focused our research on four kinds of feedback loops:
- Flagged student work that teachers could share with the class and discuss.
- Polling of the class where the teacher pushed multiple-choice, multimedia questions to studenta dn received summarized responses that could be projected or sent to student computers for discussion.
- Inquiry indicators from activities that returned data about how systematic students were in exploring a model or using a probe.
- Smart graphs that automatically identified features such as inflection points, monotonic regions, maxima and minima, etc.
LOOPS made innovative use of technology to create timely, valid, and actionable reports to teachers by analyzing assessments and logs of student actions generated in the course of using online inquiry curriculum units. The reports helped teachers to make data-based decisions about alternative teaching strategies.
Students grapple with multiple, conflicting, often confusing ideas about science. Research by TELS Director Marcia C. Linn and others has shown that instruction is most effective when teachers use students’ views as a starting point for investigating scientific phenomena – guiding learners as they articulate their repertoire of ideas, add new ideas, sort out these ideas in a variety of contexts, make connections among ideas at multiple levels of analysis, develop more nuanced criteria for evaluating ideas, and, ultimately, formulate a linked set of views about the phenomena. This approach to helping students articulate their perceptions about science and reflect upon these perceptions in light of new information – which Linn characterizes as Knowledge Integration (KI) – was the basis for TELS curricular projects and assessments. TELS participants identified four research themes for exploring our overall research question: What impact do scientific simulations embedded in inquiry projects have on science learning? The design and investigation activities associated with these themes involved the collaboration of multiple universities, school districts, and research organizations.
|Research Theme||Design Activities||Investigation|
|Curriculum Design: Designing and implementing inquiry projects with embedded, high quality simulations||TELS curriculum design process; KI patterns||Test KI inquiry projects in every TELS classroom; Investigate alternative designs for projects|
|Teacher Learning: Designing and implementing programs for teachers||TELS mentored professional development model; TELS leadership model||Test professional development in every TELS school; Evaluate programs for TELS principals, superintendents, and school boards|
|Assessment: Designing and interpreting assessments||KI items, benchmark tests; KI embedded assessments||Study student performance on KI benchmarks and learning on KI pre- and post-tests; Examine impacts of projects using embedded assessments|
|TELS Technologies: Designing and implementing open source information technology and building communities of designers||WISE architecture; TELS authoring system for simulations, inquiry projects, and communities; Design Principles Database||Test efficacy of software in educational design community; Expand TELS partnerships to other projects involved in technology-enhanced learning|