WWC review of this study

Evaluating a Unit Aimed at Helping Students Understand Matter and Energy for Growth and Activity

Herrmann-Abell, Cari F.; Hardcastle, Joseph; Roseman, Jo Ellen (2019). Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) (Toronto, Canada,. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED598354

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
    , grades

Reviewed: November 2022

At least one finding shows moderate evidence of effectiveness
At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards with reservations
General science achievement outcomes—Statistically significant positive effect found for the domain
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

Researcher-developed science test: matter, energy, and scientific practices

Matter and Energy for Growth and Activity (MEGA) vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Full sample;
641 students





Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • 7% English language learners

  • Female: 48%
    Male: 52%
  • Race
    Other or unknown
  • Ethnicity
    Not Hispanic or Latino    
  • Eligible for Free and Reduced Price Lunch
    Other or unknown    


The study took place in high school biology classrooms in two public schools in a school district in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S.

Study sample

The researchers randomly assigned 8 teachers to the intervention group and 7 teachers to the comparison group. Of the initial 735 students in teachers' classrooms at random assignment, a total of 641 students in grades 9-12 were included in the study: 404 in the intervention group and 237 in the comparison group. Approximately 52% were male and 7% were English learners. Sixty-five percent were White, 12% Asian, 9% Black, and 14% did not report race. Eleven percent were Hispanic or Latino and 89 percent were non-Hispanic or Latino.

Intervention Group

The intervention is a 12-week high school biology curricular unit designed to help students better understand the role of energy in chemical reactions that support growth and activity in living things. The unit includes instructional materials for students and supplementary resources and professional development for teachers. In the classroom, students observe changes in matter and energy in both physical and biological processes, such as the cycle of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthesis and breakdown in human muscles during exercise. They use models to understand how matter and energy change during chemical reactions and generate ideas about matter and energy changes in simple physical systems. Students make predictions about matter and energy changes during intense exercise, compare their predictions to data, and examine the biological processes involved in homeostasis.

Comparison Group

Students in the comparison condition received instruction in matter and energy in biological systems using a curricular unit developed by teachers within their school district.

Support for implementation

All intervention teachers received 2 days of in-person professional development prior to delivering instruction in the unit's lessons.


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