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IES Grant

Title: Testing the Effectiveness of CALM for High School Chemistry Students
Center: NCER Year: 2009
Principal Investigator: Plucker, Jonathan Awardee: Indiana University
Program: Mathematics and Science Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years Award Amount: $2,019,816
Goal: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A090195

Co-Principal Investigator: Romualdo de Souza

Purpose: To address the poor science achievement of high school students and to help reduce the achievement gap, high school science teachers need interventions that improve student learning in science. Unfortunately, there are few science interventions currently available to high school science teachers that have rigorous, scientifically based evidence of their impact on student's science achievement. Therefore, this study seeks to assess the efficacy of the Computer Assisted Learning Method (CALM), a fully developed chemistry program widely used in the state of Indiana.

Project: Teachers will be randomly assigned to implement CALM in their chemistry classes or to a business-as-usual condition. The researchers will compare the academic achievement of students in high school chemistry classrooms that used CALM to those classrooms that did not use CALM.

Products: The products of this project will be evidence of the efficacy of the Computer Assisted Learning Method program for high school chemistry and published reports.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The settings for this study are urban, suburban, and rural school districts in Midwestern states.

Population: The study sample will consist of 210 high school chemistry teachers and their students.

Intervention: The Computer Assisted Learning Method (CALM) intervention consists of two primary components: (1) the CALM online learning tool; and (2) the CALM teacher professional development workshop. The CALM online learning tool allows students to practice solving chemistry problems on topics such as balancing chemical reactions, kinetics, equilibrium, or thermodynamics. Unlike most other web-based chemistry tools, CALM uses a Socratic pedagogy to provide adaptive or directed learning for both struggling and advanced students. The CALM online learning tool also provides immediate performance feedback to students and teachers. Teachers receive a two-day professional development workshop to learn about the underlying philosophy of CALM as well as the mechanics of its use. Teacher then create their own CALM course based on their class syllabi. Teachers can assign the CALM courses as homework activities for students or integrate them into their classroom instruction.

Research Design and Methods: This study uses a cluster randomized control trial design with teachers as the unit of random assignment. Prior to randomization, teachers will be matched into pairs based on their years of experience and an index indicating size and resources of their chemistry departments. After teachers are matched on these characteristics, one teacher from each pair will be randomly assigned to the CALM intervention condition or the control condition. A cohort of 70 teachers (35 treatment and 35 control) will be recruited during each of the three years of the study, for a total of 210 teachers across the three years of implementation.

Control Condition: Chemistry teachers in the control condition will teach their Introductory Chemistry students using the standard curriculum in place at the school without the Computer Assisted Learning Method.

Key Measures: Students' mathematics scores on state standardized tests will be used to measure students' pre-existing levels of achievement. The American Chemical Society high school chemistry exam will serve as the primary outcome measure of student achievement.

Data Analytic Strategy: The primary analysis will be a two-level, random intercepts hierarchical linear model to account for the nested nature of the data. Both student and classroom/teacher variables will be entered.