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  1. Amy D'Amico
  2. https://ssec.si.edu/our-staff
  3. Division Director
  4. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  5. Smithsonian Science Education Center
  1. Katherine Blanchard
  2. Program Manager, Leadership Development and International Programs
  3. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  4. Smithsonian Science Education Center

The LASER Model: A Systemic and Sustainable Approach for Achieving High Stand...

U396B100097

2018 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades K-6, Grades 6-8, Adult learners

“LASER i3” refers to a study conducted by evaluators from the Center for Research in Educational Policy (CREP) at the University of Memphis on student performance at schools implementing the Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform (LASER) model. Over three years CREP studied approximately 60,000 students and assessed the impact of the SSEC’s products and services on a subsample of more than 9,000 elementary and middle school students in (1) the Houston Independent School District (HISD), (2) eight school districts in northern New Mexico, and (3) seven school districts in North Carolina.  They found that the inquiry-based science promoted by the LASER model improved achievement not only in science, but also in reading and math. LASER plays a critical role in bolstering student learning, especially among underserved populations including children who are economically disadvantaged, require special education, or are English language learners.

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Original Discussion from the 2018 STEM for All Video Showcase
  • Icon for: Katherine Blanchard

    Katherine Blanchard

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 08:38 a.m.

    Thank you so much for viewing our video! The LASER i3 Project was a labor of love, and we appreciate hearing any feedback that you may have about the work. While the grant has ended, the work has not! Partners in all three of our regions are still working to improve STEM education through high quality curricular materials, superior professional development for teachers, increasing support for materials management, and administrative and community support. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on this project, and this video. 

    A couple of questions to get us started: 

    •  After viewing this video, what would you be interested in learning more about? 
    • If you take part in or administer an educational transformation program, do you involve administrators and the community in your program? If so, how? 
    • In your experience, what models of programs have helped to foster a culture of STEM learning in schools? 

    Thanks for your feedback! 

    -Katherine 

  • Icon for: Mark Windschitl

    Mark Windschitl

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2018 | 12:02 p.m.

    Katherine and Amy, I enjoyed seeing the students really engaged with activity and inestigation. The description of your framework made me wonder, how do you see your classroom teaching practices being aligned with NGSS science practices? Looks like there could be (or are) opportunties for students to engage in argumentation, modeling, data analysis. Can you say a bit about where in the LASER framework you see those practices being used by teachers and by students?

  • Icon for: Katherine Blanchard

    Katherine Blanchard

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 05:34 p.m.

    Hi Mark, 

    Thanks so much for your interest in our work! From my perspective, the Smithsonian Science Education Center's 30+ years of work in inquiry-based science education is inherently linked to the science and engineering practices of NGSS. For the past three decades through our curriculum and professional development we have been engaging students in designing and conducting experiments, collecting and synthesizing data, and engaging in arguments from evidence. It is exciting to see today's standards so well aligned to our philosophy of teaching and learning.

    These standards connect back to the LASER framework specifically in the areas of Curriculum and Professional Development. STC, the curriculum used in this study, is a research-based hands-on curriculum focused on student-centered education, so it naturally lends itself to the practices. The accompanying professional development is also crucial because for many teachers, this student-centered approach to teaching is completely different from what they have experienced, both as teachers and as students. Empowering teachers with the tools to teach in an inquiry-based, hands-on way are very much in line with meeting the NGSS.      

    Just a little aside - we are currently developing and releasing a K-8 curriculum line specifically aligned to the NGSS called "Smithsonian Science for the Classroom." Our development of this curriculum incorporates lessons learned from LASERi3, while honoring the same spirit of hands-on, object-based learning that our STC line does, and the same Smithsonian dedication to researched-based educative materials. We are hoping that we can conduct the same type of rigorous study on the new materials too!  

  • Icon for: Kevin Brown

    Kevin Brown

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2018 | 03:07 p.m.

    Very impressive results indeed! Could you give a bit more detail on the learning outcomes that were measured (the y-axis says % Correct and the principal talks about state assessment scores) and whether these gains were measured against a comparison group? Were you able to measure other targeted outcomes such skills working in teams? I also would be very interested in some details on the components of LASER, particularly around Administrative & Community Support and the kinds of strategies that you used to get district buy-in (I guess coming from the Smithsonian helps!). Finally, do you have plans to disseminate LASER even though i3 funding has ended?

  • Icon for: Katherine Blanchard

    Katherine Blanchard

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 02:40 p.m.

    Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for your question! Participating schools were matched based on demographic and achievement variables. The schools were then randomly assigned to either receive the intervention or serve as the comparison group while conducting “business as usual.” To measure student gains across the three participating regions, our evaluator administered the Partnership for the Assessment of Standards-Based Science (PASS) test, which consisted of multiple-choice and open-ended questions as well as hands-on performance tasks. The Center for Research in Educational Policy (CREP) also analyzed state test data in science, math, and reading. In addition, CREP conducted classroom observations, measuring the frequency with which behaviors like gathering and recording evidence, asking questions, and collaborative learning were observed. If you want more information about this, I would recommend reviewing the executive summary found here: https://ssec.si.edu/laser-i3

    As far as Administrative and Community Support goes, the SSEC offers a tiered set of leadership development programs that provide support and awareness-building for educational leaders throughout the participating school systems and communities. The first of these is a Building Awareness event that brings in stakeholders (anyone from teachers to administrators to parents and community members) to inform them of the work and familiarize them with the materials and the program. This is followed by a Strategic Planning Institute – an opportunity for a team of 5 leaders/champions of STEM to attend and create a five-year strategic plan to build out their program. During this institute, participants take part in sessions that help them to understand the work that needs to be done around each of the five pillars, and then plan their strategy to achieve a sustainable science program. My experience has been that these two institutes really set the stage for administrator and community buy-in, and then work to bring those individuals into the fold, and in-touch with what students and teachers need, enabling them to be stronger leaders.

    To better support the implementation of LASER and supporting materials, the SSEC also sought out local regional partners to help shepherd the work. Regional partners included the North Carolina Science, Mathematics and Technology Education Center (www.ncsmt.org) the LANL Foundation (www.lanlfoundation.org) and the Houston Independent School District. These partners were crucial to success in the regions, and this is a model that we continue to use in other ongoing implementations of LASER. Each year during the grant, we brought together these organizations as well as educational leaders (teachers, administrators and community members) from each region for a Regional Leaders Meeting, enabling folks to share ideas across regions.

    I love that you asked about disseminating LASER more broadly! We have been using this model, and hosting institutes for 25+ years, and have had over 1000 teams representing schools, districts, states or ministries of education take part in this work. We are currently conducting a pilot program using LASER in Colorado and this summer we will host our annual strategic planning institute to engage teams who are not a part of a large-scale funded project like LASER i3, but are interested in using the LASER model to transform their schools.

  • Icon for: Megan McKinley

    Megan McKinley

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2018 | 05:23 p.m.

    Hello, Katherine and Amy. I enjoyed hearing about your systematic approach in LASER and seeing some students in action. To echo Kevin’s comment and one of the questions you posed, I'm interested in hearing more about the involvement of various stakeholders (e.g., admin, community members, teachers, students, parents) in your project. What was your approach in involving stakeholders in the development and implementation of LASER? Beyond what was included in your video, what other key successes and challenges did you experience during the design and implementation process?

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