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IES Grant

Title: Developing a Spatially-enhanced Elementary Curriculum and Teacher Training Series to Improve Science Achievement
Center: NCER Year: 2017
Principal Investigator: Fisher, Kelly Awardee: Johns Hopkins University
Program: Cognition and Student Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (07/01/17 – 06/30/2021) Award Amount: $1,398,481
Goal: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A170411
Description:

Co-Principal Investigators: Kristin Gagnier, Godfrey Rangasammy (Prince Georges County Public Schools)

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to develop and pilot test an evidence-informed, spatially-enhanced science curriculum for third grade. A growing body of research demonstrates that spatial thinking is a fundamental skill underlying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) success; however, few efforts have been made to translate this research into STEM curriculum. This project will result in a fully developed, spatially-enhanced STEM curriculum, novel measures for assessing spatial knowledge and interest, teacher professional development modules on spatial thinking, and a spatial crosswalk framework to guide future interventions in this area.

Project Activities: In Year 1, the research team will develop the spatially-enhanced curriculum and professional development training modules as well as measures of fidelity of implementation, STEM interest, and teacher knowledge and professional development experience. In Year 2, the research team will conduct focus group testing with teachers on the curriculum and professional development modules, and pilot the student and teacher measures. The curriculum, professional development modules, and measures will be revised in response to user testing. In Year 3, the research team will test the feasibility of the curriculum in four classrooms, analyze the resulting data, and refine all materials and procedures. In Year 4, the research team will conduct a pilot study to test the promise of the spatially-enhanced curriculum relative to the standard version of the curriculum.

Products: Researchers will develop and pilot test an evidence-informed, spatially-enhanced science curriculum with spatial thinking teacher professional development modules for third grade as well as peer-reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This project will take place in schools  located in an urban district in Maryland.

Sample: In Year 2, 10 third-grade teachers will participate in focus groups. In Year 3, 4 third-grade teachers and their students (approximately 80 third-grade students) will participate in a feasibility study. In Year 4, 40 third-grade teachers and their students (approximately 800 third-grade students) will participate in the pilot study. Students will be drawn from a diverse student body, where 62% are eligible for free or reduced lunch, and 90% are racial/ethnic groups underrepresented in STEM fields.

Intervention: The intervention is a spatially-enhanced version of a Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned curriculum for third graders plus four professional development modules for teachers. The participating district's NGSS-aligned curriculum will be enhanced with five evidence-based methods for improving spatial thinking (instruction in visualizations, sketching, gesturing, spatial comparison, and spatial language) within three areas of the curriculum: pedagogy, instruction-focused curricular materials, and student-focused curricular materials. Four professional development modules will be designed to enhance teachers' knowledge of spatial problem-solving in STEM and improve their spatial thinking skills. Each module will be three hours long and will focus on building teachers' knowledge about spatial thinking and its connection to STEM achievement and spatial thinking skills.

Research Design and Methods: In Year 1, the research team will develop the spatially-enhanced curriculum and professional development training modules as well as measures of fidelity of implementation, STEM interest, and teacher knowledge and professional development experience. In Year 2, the research team will conduct focus group testing with teachers on the curriculum and professional development modules, and pilot the student and teacher measures. The curriculum, professional development modules, and measures will be revised in response to user testing. In Year 3, the research team will test the implementation feasibility in four classrooms, analyze the resulting data, and refine all materials and procedures. In Year 4, the research team will implement the pilot study. The pilot study design will be a cluster-randomized controlled trial and will use a stratified sampling technique to divide schools into separate strata based on student demographic characteristics (socioeconomic status, ethnicity). Within each strata, schools will be randomly assigned to either the intervention or control condition. After administering pre-tests/surveys to students and teachers, teachers will implement the curriculum and participate in professional development throughout the school year (curriculum and professional development differ by condition). Members of the research team will observe classrooms to monitor fidelity of implementation throughout the school year. At the end of the school year, students and teachers will complete post-tests/surveys.

Control Condition: Teachers in the control condition will receive standard NGSS-aligned curriculum training and professional development in non-spatial thinking topical areas. Their students will be taught the standard NGSS-aligned curriculum.

Key Measures: Key student measures include the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), the PARCC Research Simulation Tasks (RST), end-of-year grades in science, unit-level assessments of scientific knowledge, Thurstone's Primary Mental Abilities Test (spatial thinking measure), and a survey on STEM interest. Key teacher measures include measures of spatial thinking skills (paper folding, mental rotation), a researcher-developed survey of knowledge of spatial problem-solving in STEM, a survey of teacher professional development experiences, and the Science Teaching Efficacy Belief Instrument (STEBI). Fidelity of implementation will be monitored through classroom observations.

Data Analytic Strategy: For the pilot study, the research team will use hierarchical linear modeling to examine the differential impact of the two conditions on student and teacher outcomes, while controlling for demographic characteristics and student verbal and mathematical skill. They will also conduct exploratory analyses to determine if the impact of the curriculum varies by socioeconomic status, gender, spatial thinking skill at school entry, the science lesson topical area, and the degree of spatial enhancements.


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