Assessing Teacher and Student Effects of the Research Goes to School Project

Alex T Kararo, Purdue University


There have been calls by the Federal government and policymakers for improvements in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education through the development of excellent teachers with the content knowledge and skills to teach and motivate students. A shared goal among teacher professional development (PD) programs is to improve students’ learning outcomes through changes in teachers’ classroom practices. One way to address classroom practice is by studying pedagogical content knowledge and skill (PCK&S), which is the way teachers incorporate both subject matter and teaching strategies to transform the way they teach content to support student learning. PCK&S includes the knowledge and planning as well as the act of teaching. The NSF-funded Research Goes to School (RGS) project sought to impact teachers’ PCK&S through the introduction of a current scientific research topic simultaneously with an evidence-based teaching strategy. As part of the RGS project, high-school STEM teachers from Indiana applied to attend summer PD workshops. At these workshops, aspects of nanoscience taken from the Big Ideas of Nanoscale Science and Engineering book and project-based learning (PjBL) were taught. Nanoscience was chosen due to the rapid growth of this field and the call by scientists and policymakers for the development of standards and curricula focused on nanoscience within K-12 education. Introduction of fundamental nanoscience concepts can expose students to current research within what is considered the next industrial revolution. PjBL was chosen since within this teaching strategy, scientific processes are used to address unstructured authentic problems. As part of PjBL, the students are required to synthesize ideas, collect and analyze data, and work with peers to develop an answer to the authentic question. Teachers who attended the workshops developed a nanoscience-based PjBL unit that aligned with Indiana state standards and implemented these units in their classrooms the following school year. This dissertation involves an assessment of the implementation of these units using two observational protocols, one to provide a description of what occurred in each classroom and one to assess the quality of the implementation of components in each classroom. Interviews with the teachers were conducted to probe their PCK and how they incorporated the nanoscience material and PjBL teaching strategy into their units. Student learning gains were also assessed through a pre- and post-nanoscience-based content exam. This dissertation focuses on two components: (a) the PCK&S of the fourteen teacher participants and (b) nanoscience-related learning gains of students who participated in the nano-based PjBL units. Trends between these two components were also studied. This research has implications in the development of professional development experiences as well as support for STEM teachers when incorporating new subject matter and/or teaching strategies in their classrooms.




Bodner, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Education Policy|Teacher education|Science education

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