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Exploring Science Teaching in Elementary School Classrooms

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Dr. Wai-Ying Chow
(202) 245-8198


In FY 2016, the Institute initiated a new grant program, Research Networks Focused on Critical Problems of Policy and Practice, to focus resources and attention on education problems or issues that are high priorities for the nation, and to create both a structure and process for researchers who are working on these issues to share ideas, build new knowledge, and strengthen their research and dissemination capacity. Each Network consists of several research teams working on the same issue, and is coordinated by a Network Lead. The ultimate objective of each Network is to advance the field's understanding of a problem or issue beyond what an individual research project or team is able to do on its own, and to assist policymakers and practitioners in using this information to strengthen education policies and programs and improve student education outcomes.

The Exploring Science Teaching in Elementary School Classrooms Network (Science Teaching Network) will conduct in-depth, exploratory research in school districts or schools where there is an emphasis on early elementary science education and a commitment to closing achievement gaps between different income, racial/ethnic, and linguistic groups. The ultimate objective of this Network is to build a more comprehensive understanding of the specific science teaching actions related to improved learning and reduced student achievement gaps. This understanding may in turn lead to more refined theoretical constructs of teaching and better understanding of how it affects student outcomes; stronger measures of science teaching for use in research, practice improvement, and high-stakes decision making; as well as more actionable guidance, training, and supports for educators and teacher educators.

Each Research Team will conduct three complementary, prospective studies: (1) an observational study of early elementary science teaching that describes specific teaching actions, student responses to these actions during science lessons, and the correlations of these with student outcomes; (2) a study to develop reliable and valid measures to capture these teaching actions; and (3) a longitudinal study following one or more cohorts of students in early elementary science classes over multiple school years to explore the relations between exposure to the specific observable teaching actions and student outcomes. The Science Teaching Network will meet regularly to discuss ways to coordinate and strengthen its collective work.