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IES Grant

Title: Elevating Engineering with English Learners
Center: NCER Year: 2022
Principal Investigator: Daehler, Kirsten Awardee: WestEd
Program: English Learners      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3.5 years (07/01/2022 – 12/31/2025) Award Amount: $2,000,000
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A220456

Co-Principal Investigators: Iveland, Ashley; Cunningham, Christine; Shaw, Jerome

Purpose: When teachers transform classrooms into places that fuel curiosity, enable collaboration, and invite communication, students can become the problem-solvers of tomorrow. With the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), engineering is expected to be taught, yet most elementary teachers do not feel prepared. The goal of this project is to develop, study, and refine a professional learning (PL) intervention that helps grade 3—5 teachers develop the knowledge and skills they need to effectively teach engineering to all students — and especially those who are English Learners (ELs) — through culturally and linguistically responsive pedagogies and engineering instruction that authentically draw on students' funds of knowledge, personal experiences, and cultural knowledge and capital. In turn, the project team anticipates that teachers' enhanced instruction will lead to gains in student achievement and attitudes toward engineering.

Project Activities: Researchers will initially develop a conceptual framework for engineering education with ELs that will guide the Development Team and teachers in co-creating the PL. In Year 2, the team will implement the full intervention with teachers as a pre-pilot of the PL materials and measures, and for usability and feasibility testing. The research team will conduct a pilot study of the PL in Year 3 to evaluate outcomes for teachers, classrooms, and students, including subgroups (e.g., ELs and native English speakers). The team will also perform a cost analysis of the intervention, and revise PL materials based on user feedback. The project team will disseminate what they are learning throughout the project, in collaboration with WestEd's Communications staff and university partners, and target a broad range of stakeholders from teachers to policymakers.

Products: Products from this project include an Engineering Institute (12 hours, summer) that is curriculum-agnostic and materials for Professional Learning Communities (12 hours, school year) for teachers to participate in (a) local grade-level groups that focus on analyzing student work from teachers' own classrooms with plan-teach-reflect cycles and (b) a series of asynchronous and facilitated synchronous online learning sessions on a variety of topics (e.g., engaging in authentic engineering practices, developing students' academic use of language). The team will disseminate project materials and findings through several novel products, including a Digital Practice Guide (modeled after WWC Practice Guides) consisting of a conceptual framework for engineering teaching and learning with ELs and other stand-alone components of the intervention.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place in culturally and linguistically diverse grade 4 classrooms across California that serve high percentages of EL students.

Sample: All pre-pilot and pilot study teachers will be required to teach at least two units focused on NGSS-aligned engineering during the target school year and have a minimum of 20% of the students in their classroom classified as ELs. Co-development teachers and pre-pilot teachers will not be involved in the pilot study.

Intervention: The innovative teacher PL is designed from the ground up to optimize in-person and distance learning in ways that best meet the needs of upper-elementary teachers and achieve cost-effectiveness, allowing for broad use and scalability. Teachers experience firsthand what inspiring standards-aligned science and engineering learning with an asset-based approach can look like during an in-person teacher institute. The support continues throughout the school year as teachers participate in a series of online learning experiences that draw on teacher-developed written and video-based teaching cases of practice. A Facilitation Academy will allow leaders (e.g., coaches, district specialists) to learn to use the PL materials to support teachers locally.

Research Design and Methods: The research team will conduct an underpowered cluster randomized control trial (RCT). To increase the power, the team will use a single-level regression model that takes into account the clustering structure of the data to study the impact of the intervention. Both treatment and control teachers will complete surveys, conduct self-interviews, and use scoop notebooks during the pilot year. For example, teachers will complete surveys at the beginning and end of the pilot study, which will enable the investigation of potential changes over time on key constructs and possible differences between the treatment and control groups. Students in both treatment and control classrooms will complete surveys, and researchers will gather samples of student work through scoop notebooks and obtain demographic data.

Control Condition: During the pilot study, teachers randomly assigned to the control group will not receive the PL or participate in the PLC but will teach according to "business as usual" using their regular NGSS-aligned curriculum.

Key Measures: The project team will use items from validated and widely used survey and assessment instruments. For example, the team will measure teachers' knowledge, self-efficacy, and skill related to employing culturally responsive teaching practices using the Culturally Responsive Teaching Self-Efficacy (CRTSE) scale. They will measure teacher perceptions of engineering education using items from existing instruments, including the Design Engineering and Technology Survey. Student measures include the Purdue Elementary Problem-solving Inventory and the "What is Engineering?" survey. These instruments measure students' understanding of engineering and skills in using engineering practices.

Data Analytic Strategy: The intervention's promise will be judged based on evidence of the theoretical linkage between the intervention and teacher outcomes, while also examining the intervention's impacts on students' opportunities to learn and other educational outcomes. The hypothesis being tested is that the teacher-level intervention will lead to specific outcomes including increases in teachers' knowledge about engineering, the assets of EL students, and the instructional practices that support EL students in learning engineering. Researchers will use a mixed methods approach to analyze teacher outcomes, opportunities for students to learn, and student outcomes with quantitative data informing outcomes across project phases and conditions, while qualitative data will provide additional information about engineering teaching and learning in both conditions and the take-up and impacts of the intervention on the treatment group specifically.

Cost Analysis: The project team will analyze both the treatment and control group costs during the pilot study. Costs will be gathered using the "ingredients method" to ascertain accurate and consistent measures of cost.

Related IES Projects: Understanding Science: Improving Achievement of Middle School Students in Science (R305B070233), Making Sense of SCIENCE: Efficacy Study of a Professional Development Series for Middle School Science Teachers (R305A110515), Understanding Life Science: Improving Student Achievement by Deepening Teacher Content and Pedagogical Content Knowledge in Ways That Transform Instructional Practice (R305A110285)