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IES Grant

Title: BSCS Science: An Inquiry Approach—Development of a Conceptually Coherent, Multidisciplinary Science Program for Grade Eight
Center: NCER Year: 2008
Principal Investigator: Carlson, Janet Awardee: Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS)
Program: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $1,498,828
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A080422

Purpose: International comparisons of students' science proficiency show that only three countries outperformed U.S. students at fourth grade; however, at eighth grade, seven countries outperformed U.S. students in science. These findings highlight the importance of improving students' interest and proficiency in science during middle school. To meet this need, effective science instructional materials and curricula are needed. The purpose of this project is to develop and document the feasibility of a standards- and inquiry-based multidisciplinary eighth grade science curriculum that can potentially increase middle school students' interest and proficiency in science. The curriculum will be modeled after the high school science curriculum, BSCS Science: An Inquiry Approach.

Project: The researchers are developing an inquiry-based, multidisciplinary, science curriculum for eighth grade containing five units: science as inquiry, physical science, life science, earth and space, and science in a personal and social perspective. Within each unit, formative and summative assessments will be developed along with curriculum specific resources for teacher professional development.

Products: The products of this project will include a year long inquiry-based, multidisciplinary science curriculum and accompanying instructional materials for eighth grade.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The setting for this study consists of rural, urban, and suburban schools in Florida and Washington.

Population: The study sample will consist of 20 eighth grade teachers and their students. Between 360 and 480 students will participate in the study. The teachers in the sample will have varying levels of teaching experience and students will be ethnically and socio-economically diverse.

Intervention: The BSCS Science: An Inquiry Approach curriculum for eighth grade will use inquiry as the dominant theme by weaving unifying concepts of energy and systems throughout each of the five curriculum units (science as inquiry, physical science, life science, earth and space, and science in a personal and social perspective). Within each unit, the curriculum includes formative and summative assessments to offer teachers an opportunity to improve teaching and classroom practices, plan appropriate activities, develop self-directed learners, and report student progress. The curriculum also includes metacognitive strategies for students to monitor their own thinking and understanding, science literacy strategies, and collaborative learning experiences. In addition, the curriculum contains resources for teacher professional development including a teacher's resource CD and website that will be designed to provide teachers with ready access to important resources that will enhance both their science content and pedagogical content knowledge.

Research Design and Methods: The BSCS Science: An Inquiry Approach curriculum for eighth grade will be developed using a three-stage process. The team will first identify science content aligned with the National Science Education Standards and the BSCS framework, next, develop assessment tasks, and finally, develop an outline for each unit. Throughout the development process, the project's Advisory Board will review the curriculum units and assessments. A small, initial field test of all features in the five units will be conducted, followed by a review of the curriculum units by a panel of science content experts. In addition, there will be two multi-site field tests of the curriculum followed by a review of the field test results by the Advisory Board and the panel of science content experts. For the multi-site field tests, 20 teachers will be recruited. Each teacher will field test one unit in at least two classes. The multi-site field test will involve observations, surveys, a combination of formal and informal interviews, and student assessments.

Control Condition: There is no control condition.

Key Measures: Measures of key outcomes include teacher surveys assessing teachers' perceptions of the value, effectiveness, and level of difficulty of the student and teacher materials; scores from the Science Classroom Observation Rubric to determine teachers' use and understanding of materials; student pre- and post-tests for each curriculum unit to assess how their understanding changes by the end of each unit; and student embedded formative assessment scores to determine specific preconceptions and areas of difficulty.

Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers will conduct analyses using descriptive statistics, correlations, and multiple regressions to determine the usability and feasibility of the curriculum and to determine whether the curriculum has promise for improving students' science learning.