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IES Grant

Title: Effect of the SUN Teacher Workshop on Student Achievement
Center: NCER Year: 2007
Principal Investigator: Batiza, Ann Awardee: Milwaukee School of Engineering
Program: Teaching, Teachers, and the Education Workforce      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years Award Amount: $1,262,083
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305B070443
Description:

Purpose: A recent instructional analysis of middle school and secondary biology textbooks concluded that the presentation of the ideas of energy and the flow of matter in living things prescribed by them was uniformly poor. The purpose of this project is to develop an in-service training workshop, Students Understanding eNergy (SUN), on the fundamental topic of energy transfer in biological systems (i.e., respiration and photosynthesis), and the impact of these processes on the flow of matter and energy in biology. The workshop material aligns with four of the six areas of the Wisconsin state curriculum for the topic of Life and Environmental Science.

Project Activities: The investigators are developing and conducting an initial evaluation of a teacher professional development program, Students Understanding eNergy (SUN). Materials are being developed with the help of teacher and expert advisory groups, and are being pilot-tested on several convenience samples of classrooms in Wisconsin. In a two-week professional workshop, teachers learn to use physical models of molecular structures that are intended to serve as "thinking tools." The interactive physical models provide multisensory experiences that are intended to help learners develop mental models on which to build a deeper understanding of potentially difficult concepts. In addition to the physical models, teachers are provided with interactive and hyperlinked computer visualizations, animations, pen and paper exercises, schematics, and other materials to help them teach high school biology. In the final year of the project, the team will conduct a random assignment study to examine the potential efficacy of participating in a professional development program that includes a two-week summer workshop and follow-up workshops and focus groups during the school year.

Products: Products from this project include an in-service training workshop for high school biology teachers, teacher resources, and published reports of the initial evaluation of the professional development training program.

Structured Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to develop an in-service training workshop, Students Understanding eNergy (SUN), on the fundamental topic of energy transfer in biological systems (i.e., respiration and photosynthesis), and the impact of these processes on the flow of matter and energy in biology.

Setting: The workshops are being held at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

Population: The development work is being conducted with a number of convenience samples in Wisconsin, including pre-service teachers. The preliminary effectiveness study has participating teachers coming from Milwaukee area high schools and from across the United States. At least 30 percent of the teachers will come from schools with a majority low-income population.

Intervention: In the two-week workshop, teachers learn to use physical models of molecular structures that serve as "thinking tools." The interactive physical models provide multisensory experiences that are intended to help learners develop mental models on which to build a deeper understanding of potentially difficult concepts. In addition to the physical models, teachers are provided with interactive and hyperlinked computer visualizations, animations, pen and paper exercises, schematics, and other materials to help them teach high school biology. The teachers are also provided with three follow-up workshops and at least two focus groups during the school year.

Research Design and Methods: Feedback from teacher and expert advisory groups in addition to data from piloting the workshop with teachers will inform the revisions of the professional development program and resources. To examine the potential impact of the training workshop, the research team is matching high school biology teachers on several background factors related to student achievement. Within each pair, one teacher is randomly assigned to participate in the workshop in the summer of 2009 (treatment group), and the other teacher is assigned to participate in the summer of 2010 (delayed treatment group). Data regarding teacher practice and student performance is being obtained from each group.

Control Condition: Teachers in the delayed treatment control group will continue with their regular instructional practice during the 2009-2010 academic year.

Key Measures: No validated content assessments for students or teachers on bioenergetics currently exist. The research team is adapting measures from existing instruments and developing others for both teachers and students. The assessments measure changes in teacher and student knowledge; confidence in teaching, and student attitudes about learning these topics; and time spent on the topics when teaching them and when teaching other related science topics.

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team is using a two-level hierarchical linear model to determine the impact of the teacher workshop on student outcomes.

Publications

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Batiza, A.F., Gruhl, M., Zhang, B., Harrington, T., Roberts, M., LaFlamme, D., Haasch, M.A., Knopp, J., Vogt, G., Goodsell, D., Hagedorn, E., Marcey, D., Hoelzer, M., and Nelson, D. (2013). The Effects of the SUN Project on Teacher Knowledge and Self-Efficacy Regarding Biological Energy Transfer are Significant and Long-Lasting: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 12(2): 287–305.

** This project was submitted to and funded under Teacher Quality: Mathematics and Science Education in FY 2007.


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