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IES Grant

Title: From Cognitive Models of Reasoning to Lesson Plans for Inquiry
Center: NCER Year: 2003
Principal Investigator: Klahr, David Awardee: Carnegie Mellon University
Program: Cognition and Student Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $754,206
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305H030229

International comparisons of student achievement in science show that while U.S. students at fourth grade are among the best in the world, they are only average at eighth grade, and even lower at twelfth grade. Some have attributed this decline to the incoherent, unfocused, and undemanding quality of existing middle school science curricula, and to the lack of emphasis on reasoning and problem solving in science teaching. The purpose of this project is to develop, implement, and assess cognitively-grounded lesson planning methods to improve science achievement during the middle grades.

The researchers are carrying out a three phase design experiment in 5th through 8th grade classrooms in four urban schools serving a predominantly African American population of students, most of whom come from low income families. In the first phase, the researchers are studying how science education is currently being delivered by examining existing state science standards, science curricula, teaching practices, and high-stakes tests and seeing how they relate to one another. The researchers are using content and task analyses of educational materials, ethnographic field observations of science classes, and videotaped lesson analyses. In the second phase, they are carrying out a researcher-teacher design study, in which they develop lesson-planning methods and use those methods to guide their teaching of science in regular classrooms, evaluating the potential efficacy and feasibility of the approach. In the third phase, they are using a professional development process to help regular teachers learn to apply the new lesson planning methods, with the goal of implementing sustainable changes in the teachers' teaching practices and impacting students' science achievement. The researchers will measure changes in participating teachers' instructional practices and their students' academic achievement in science.

Project Website:

Related IES Projects: Training in Experimental Design: Developing Scalable and Adaptive Computer-based Science Instruction (R305H060034) and Promoting Transfer of the Control of Variables Strategy in Elementary and Middle School Children via Contextual Framing and Abstraction (R305A100404)


Book chapter

Li, J., and Klahr, D. (2006). The Psychology of Scientific Thinking: Implications for Science Teaching and Learning. In J. Rhoton, and P. Shane (Eds.), Teaching Science in the 21st Century (pp. 307–351). Arlington, VA: National Science Teachers Association Press.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Klahr, D., and Li, J. (2005). Cognitive Research and Elementary Science Instruction: From the Laboratory, to the Classroom, and Back. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 14(2): 217–238.

Li, J., Klahr, D., and Siler, S. (2006). What Lies Beneath the Science Achievement Gap: The Challenges of Aligning Science Instruction With Standards and Tests. Science Educator, 15(1): 1–12.