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IES Grant

Title: Developing and Revising Instructional Activities to Optimize Cognitive Engagement
Center: NCER Year: 2015
Principal Investigator: Chi, Michelene Awardee: Arizona State University
Program: Cognition and Student Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (8/16/2015-8/15/2019) Award Amount: $1,456,186
Goal: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A150432

Co-Principal Investigators: Merritt, Joi; Stump, Glenda

Purpose: This research team will develop and pilot test a set of classroom activities for use in middle school science classrooms that will support both constructive and interactive modes of student engagement The value of learning actively is widely recognized, yet teachers are often unsure exactly how to select optimal "active learning" activities. Prior work by this team has led to the development of the Interactive, Constructive, Active, and Passive (ICAP) Framework which defines active learning in terms of a set of four differentiated overt modes of engagement that students can undertake while learning in a variety of instructional contexts across a variety of content domains. Constructive and interactive modes of engagement both provide opportunities for students to generate outputs beyond what is provided in the learning materials, with the main difference being that the interactive mode provides opportunities for constructive dialogue between students. This project builds off of a prior IES funded Development and Innovation grant (Developing Guidelines for Optimizing Levels of Students' Overt Engagement Activities), which developed guidelines for teachers to design or modify their assignments to elicit higher levels of student engagement.

Project Activities: In Years 1 and 2, the research team will design activities to increase student engagement within two middle school science topics, cells and matter, for use with the Holt Science & Technology series. The design process includes opportunities for input from teachers to ensure high quality student engagement as specified by the ICAP framework. The research team will also develop assessments and professional development materials, and carry out a study on effective methods for encouraging productive student interaction. In Year 3, the research team will conduct a study to assess the feasibility of using the materials in classrooms. In Year 4, the research team will conduct a pilot study to see if the intervention shows promise for improving student learning outcomes.

Products: This project will result in a fully developed set of constructive and interactive activities intended for use in middle school science classrooms, professional development materials for teachers to facilitate the integration of these activities into their classrooms, and peer-reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: Participating middle schools will be located in an urban district in Arizona. Iterative development data collection will take place in after school settings while the feasibility and pilot studies will take place in classrooms.

Sample: Participants in the iterative development process will include approximately 15 middle school science teachers and 24 eighth grade students. Two classrooms (approximately 60 eighth grade students and 2 teachers) will participate in the feasibility study, and 20 classrooms (approximately 600 eighth grade students and 20 teachers) will participate in the pilot study. The ethnicity of students in participating schools is 47.7% Caucasian, 39.7% Hispanic, 4.8% Black, 4.4% Native American, 1.7% Asian, 0.5% Pacific Islander, and 1.1% multiple ethnic groups.

Intervention: The intervention will be a set of classroom activities embedded into the teachers' edition of the Holt Science & Technology series for the cells and matter topics that are either constructive (e.g., drawing concept maps, comparing and contrasting to prior knowledge or other material) or interactive (e.g., defending and arguing a position in pairs or small groups, discussing similarities and differences). The intervention will include professional development to help teachers implement the activities in their classrooms.

Research Design and Methods: The team will initially design sets of intervention materials designed to promote constructive and interactive classroom materials. In Years 1 and 2, teachers will provide feedback on the intervention materials through usability testing and semi-structured interviews. In addition, the research team will test optimal ways to teach students about productive interaction to ensure that the interactive activities are effectively implemented in classrooms. Pairs of students will be randomly assigned to one of two conditions, which will differ on the type of instruction students receive about interacting with their partner. All students will be given a pre-test, a brief lesson on a science topic, interaction instructions (differing according to condition), an interactive activity, and a post-test. Findings from this study will inform the development of the instructions given for the interactive activities. In Year 3, the research team will conduct a feasibility study. One teacher will use constructive activities for the cells topic and interactive activities for the matter topic, while the other teacher will do the opposite. Teachers will complete logs of the activities and participate in semi-structured interviews. In Year 4, the research team will conduct a pilot study, using a quasi-experimental design, to compare student learning outcomes between different versions of the intervention (with or without professional development and with constructive or interactive activities) and a control condition. For both the feasibility and pilot studies, students will be given pre- and post-tests to assess learning and the research team will collect products from the classroom activities and video-record the implementation of the activities in the classrooms.

Control Condition: For the pilot study, participants in the control condition will receive standard instruction with the Holt Science & Technology curriculum.

Key Measures: Primary measures include students' pre- and post-tests for the science topics that will be studied, which will include researcher-developed items as well as items drawn from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards Science exam scores (or the forthcoming replacement test). Researchers will also collect teacher feedback from logs and surveys and video recordings of teachers implementing the activities.

Data Analytic Strategy: During iterative development, the research team will use content analysis of interview data to identify feedback that will require revisions to the materials. For the study that tests different ways to teach productive interaction, researchers will compare students' pre-post test scores, students' recorded interactions with their partners, and students' interview responses across the two conditions. For both the feasibility study and pilot study, the research team will use analysis of covariance, with students' pre-test scores as the covariate; the Teacher's Edition and ICAP mode (constructive or interactive) as independent variables; and students' post-test exam scores (or other researcher-developed items) as the dependent variable to determine any effects of the intervention on student learning.

Related IES Project: Developing Guidelines for Optimizing Levels of Students' Overt Engagement Activities (R305A110090)


Book chapter

Stump, G. S., Li, N., Kang, S., Yaghmourian, D., Xu, D., Adams, J., McEldoon, K. L., Lancaster, M., and Chi, M. T. H. (in press). Coding Dosage of Teachers' Implementation of Activities Using ICAP: A Video Analysis. Promoting Spontaneous Use of Learning and Reasoning Strategies: Theory, Research, and Practice.