Skip Navigation
Funding Opportunities | Search Funded Research Grants and Contracts

IES Grant

Title: Toward High School Biology: Helping Middle School Students Make Sense of Chemical Reactions
Center: NCER Year: 2010
Principal Investigator: Roseman, Jo Ellen Awardee: American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
Program: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (9/1/2010 – 8/31/2013) Award Amount: $2,441,360
Goal: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A100714
Description:

Co-Principal Investigators: George DeBoer; Janet Carlson; and Kathleen Roth

Purpose:  Research on learning indicates that students have difficulties understanding phenomena involving either living or non-living systems at the molecular level. Despite the well documented difficulties that students have in understanding many science ideas, particularly ideas related to chemical and biochemical change, currently available textbooks do little to help students overcome these difficulties. To address this need, the researchers will develop two instructional units focusing on chemistry and biochemistry that are designed as replacements for, or supplements to, existing middle school science curricula.

Project Activities: The researchers will develop and test two new replacement units for teaching middle school chemistry and biochemistry. Each two-week unit will address significant and persistent problems that many students have in understanding key ideas related to chemical reactions and their application to living and non-living systems.

Products: The products of this project include fully developed prototypes of the Chemistry and Biochemistry units, with each unit including 10 days of lesson plans, student worksheets, kits for carrying out the chemical reactions, teacher guides, and materials for face-to-face and online professional development. Peer reviewed publications will also be produced.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The setting for this study includes middle schools in Colorado, Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Massachusetts.

Sample: Participating schools are diverse in their regional, racial/ethnic, and socioeconomic characteristics. Over the course of project, the researchers will work with approximately 18 science teachers and 2,000 of their students.

Intervention: The intervention will consist of two new replacement units for teaching middle school chemistry and biochemistry. The units include daily lesson plans built around experiences with phenomena to engage students in observing and raising questions. In addition, the lessons include a variety of molecular modeling activities using LEGO bricks, ball-and-stick and space-filling models, computer simulations and animations, formulas and equations to give students different ways to represent and work with abstract ideas and to synthesize or connect seemingly disparate experiences and ideas. At the end of the project, the researchers will have produced prototypes of the Chemistry and Biochemistry units, with each unit including 10 days of lesson plans, student worksheets, and kits for carrying out the chemical reactions and using models to represent the underlying molecular events, teacher guides, and materials for face-to-face and online professional development.

Research Design and Methods: The researchers will follow an iterative curriculum design process in which the units will be drafted, tested in classrooms, and revised based on feedback from teachers and students in participating classrooms. Specifically, during the first year of the project, the researchers will complete drafts of the Chemistry and Biochemistry units, and draft measures of curriculum quality, classroom feasibility, and student understanding. The units and measures will be tested with three middle school science teachers and their students. During the second year of the project, the researchers will revise the units and measures based on feedback from teachers and students. In addition, the researchers will complete drafts of the teacher guides and professional development materials. The revised units and accompanying teacher guides and professional development materials will be tested with six teachers and their students. During the third year of the project, the researchers will field test the revised, completed prototypes of the units and professional development materials with twelve teachers and their students to assess the promise of the intervention for promoting student understanding of science.

Control Condition: Due to the nature of the research design, there is no control condition.

Key Measures: Data collection will include interviews with teachers and students, teacher content knowledge, teacher logs, students’ written class work and homework, paper-and-pencil assessments (pre- and post-tests), video-taped classroom observations, student notebooks, students’ performance on the 8th grade statewide science assessments and, when possible, students’ performance on statewide high school biology tests.

Data Analytic Strategy: The promise of the intervention will be analyzed through descriptive statistics and an analysis of pre- and post-test gains in students’ science understanding for each unit using Rasch modeling.  In using Rasch modeling to analyze change over time, the researchers will use two methods of structuring the data: stacking and racking. For the stacked analysis, the researchers will examine if there is an increase in student ability from pre-test to post-test, which would indicate the unit was effective in improving their understanding of the targeted ideas. Racking the data provides two difficulty measures per item: a pretest difficulty and a posttest difficulty. The difference in the difficulty measures indicates the degree to which the unit successfully targeted the ideas tested by the items. It is expected that items would be easier for students to respond to after participating in the unit and, therefore, the difficulty measure for each item would decrease from pretest to posttest.

Publications

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Herrmann-Abell, C.F., Koppal, M., and Roseman, J. E. (2016). Toward High School Biology: Helping Middle School Students Understand Chemical Reactions and Conservation of Mass in Nonliving and Living Systems. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 15 (4), ar74.

Roseman, J.E., Herrmann-Abell, C.F., and Koppal, M. (2017). Designing for the Next Generation Science Standards: Educative Curriculum Materials and Measures of Teacher Knowledge. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 28 (1), 111–141.


Back