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IES Grant

Title: Building Students' Understanding of Energy in High School Biology
Center: NCER Year: 2015
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 (9/1/2015-8/31/2018) Award Amount: $1,492,355
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A150310

Co-Principal Investigator: Louisa Stark (Genetic Science Learning Center)

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to develop and test a 6-week replacement unit in high school biology focusing on energy in non-living and living systems. Energy conservation is a core disciplinary idea in physical and life science and is part of a crosscutting concept outlined in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Energy concepts, however, can be challenging for students as they are abstract and often counterintuitive, especially when they occur in the context of living systems. The researchers will develop and test a new approach for helping students build connections between energy concepts in the physical and life sciences. This approach integrates learning across disciplinary core ideas, scientific practices, and crosscutting concepts.

Project Activities: The researchers will develop and test a 6-week curriculum unit designed to help students who are taking high school biology gain a deeper and more integrated understanding of energy-releasing and energy-requiring chemical reactions in non-living and living systems that are aligned with the learning goals of NGSS.

Products: Researchers will produce a fully developed high school biology curriculum unit focusing on energy in non-living and living systems. In addition, researchers will produce peer-reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: Development and testing of the intervention will take place in urban schools in Washington, DC and suburban schools in Maryland.

Sample: Initial development and testing will occur with a sample of four teachers and their students in Maryland and two teachers and their students in Washington, DC. The pilot study will have a sample of 12 high school teachers in Maryland and their students. Participating schools are diverse in their racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic characteristics.

Intervention: The 6-week intervention focusing on energy in non-living and living systems will include student materials, a companion teacher guide, and materials for face-to-face and online teacher professional development activities. Student materials will consist of approximately 20 lessons focusing on energy phenomena that will engage students in several science practices, including working with a variety of models, and guiding students' interpretation of the phenomena and the models. The teacher materials will provide information about the purpose and intent of the unit and of each lesson and activity, including information on the core ideas and practices that are targeted and the instructional strategies that are embedded in each lesson. In addition, the teacher materials will help identify common student learning difficulties and provide examples of correct responses to all of the questions and tasks students are expected to complete.

Research Design and Methods: In Year 1, the development process will include small-scale studies designed to assess the usability of the unit. Based on feedback from the Year 1 studies, researchers will revise and refine the unit activities. A Year 2 classroom feasibility study will test the first full iteration of the unit with six teachers. Researchers will focus on which teachers can implement the unit, the level of student engagement in classroom activities, and student learning outcomes. A Year 3 pilot study will assess the promise of the fully developed curriculum unit. Twelve high school biology teachers will be randomly assigned to the intervention or control condition. The researchers will collect data on curriculum quality, classroom feasibility, fidelity of implementation, and student learning.

Control Condition: The control condition for the pilot study will be students receiving business-as-usual instruction in high school biology.

Key Measures: Key student outcome measures include a researcher-developed assessment of student learning of energy concepts in non-living and living systems and scores from the Maryland State High School Assessment in biology. To assess curriculum quality with respect to NGSS, the researchers will use the Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products (EQuIP) Rubric for Lessons & Units: Science. The researchers will also develop a measure of fidelity of implementation to assess whether teachers are implementing the key features of the intervention.

Data Analytic Strategy: Surveys, interviews, and observational data collected as part of the iterative development process will be coded and analyzed using qualitative methods and descriptive statistics. Data from the pilot study will be analyzed using a two-level hierarchical linear model with students nested within classrooms.