1. Philip Bell
  2. http://education.uw.edu/people/faculty/pbell
  3. Professor of Learning Sciences & Human Development
  5. University of Washington
  1. Dan Gallagher
  2. Science Program Manager
  4. Seattle Public Schools
  1. Andrew Shouse
  3. University of Washington

Research+Practice Collaboratory

NSF Awards: 1238253

2015 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades K-6, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Adult learners

There is a new vision to guide K-12 science education. The NRC Framework for K-12 Science Education and the resulting Next Generation Science Standards asks educators to engage students in authentic disciplinary practices in order to support their learning and application of disciplinary core ideas and cross-cutting concepts from across the sciences. The goal is to promote deeper understanding of fewer concepts more coherently across K-12. This new vision includes significant shifts in what it means to teach and learn science. As a result, new problems of educational practice are emerging at different levels of the system—about classroom instruction, assessment, professional development, and district implementation.

There is a growing recognition that research-practice partnerships might be a way to support educational improvement at systems-level scale. This video shows how one partnership is working to implement the new vision for science education across two urban school districts—Seattle and Renton. Teachers adapt existing instructional materials, teach those units, reflect on student learning, and share resources with peers. Researchers collaborate with teachers around problems of practice that come up in the classroom and engage in the co-design of professional development with staff from the district and with STEM professionals and science educators from a non-profit. Research is focused on teacher and student learning, how ideas and tools flow through the social networks of teachers, and how educational initiatives can be conducted within districts with many—often competing—initiatives. Teacher learning resources are developed and shared broadly through the http://STEMteachingtools.org web site.

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Discussion from the 2015 Teaching & Learning Video Showcase (14 posts)
  • Icon for: Iliya Gutin

    Iliya Gutin

    May 11, 2015 | 09:27 a.m.

    Great video! I noticed one of the components of the study (as well as one of the slides) highlights the role of teacher social networks in spreading ideas and techniques about student learning. I would be interested to learn more about how effective these networks are and how they emerge. Is it mostly word of mouth, or are there are other social networking resources teachers are using to share these ideas – such as forums, social media, online social networking, etc…?

  • Icon for: Philip Bell

    Philip Bell

    Lead Presenter
    Professor of Learning Sciences & Human Development
    May 12, 2015 | 05:34 p.m.

    Hi Iliya: Teachers were encouraged to share the ideas, PD resources, and curriculum modifications with other teachers in their networks / buildings. We haven’t use a formal social media platform to support that sharing — although PD and curriculum resources are accessible through a wiki. Not surprisingly, 85% of the sharing happens within teacher’s buildings — which fits the literature. But this year we did have ~10% who engaged in whole building PD using project materials.

  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    Co-Principal Investigator
    May 11, 2015 | 02:08 p.m.

    Hi, Phil, Andy &Co. I am assuming that there are some reciprocal processes at work — for example, what are you learning about the process of educational research (as opposed to the translation of research into education)?

  • Icon for: Philip Bell

    Philip Bell

    Lead Presenter
    Professor of Learning Sciences & Human Development
    May 12, 2015 | 05:41 p.m.

    Hi Brian: That is an excellent point. We are learning about how we need to shift and engage in research in response to the emergent issues coming up in the fields of practice. The social network analysis is actually driven equally by interests within the district (to document the broader influence of PD resources beyond the teachers immediately involved) as well as by the interests of the researchers. So the research team is prioritizing that work in order to make good use of the info at the district level. We have also been focusing our R&D work substantially on emergent problems of practice that come up within the classrooms (e.g., around pedagogical aspects of engaging youth in engineering design, how to more deeply engage students in argumentation / explanation). On the PD design side of things, the research team has had to also engage in work to support returning teachers in deeper and deeper learning about specific practices across multiple years. There are plenty of knew research topics and methods to sink into. ;-)

  • Barbara Berns

    May 12, 2015 | 11:24 a.m.

    The video clearly described what you are trying to do, and what you are still hoping to do. The interest in having the innovations travel is shared by researchers from so much of the NSF work. I’d like to suggest a sequel with the teachers talking about this experience from their perspectives!

  • Icon for: Philip Bell

    Philip Bell

    Lead Presenter
    Professor of Learning Sciences & Human Development
    May 12, 2015 | 05:44 p.m.

    Thank you, Barbara. We are planning just this sort of thing. And this spring we captured some classroom teaching around specific techniques associated with the focus of the project that will be posted publicly—which includes getting the teacher’s perspective as well. And we have more of that planned in the near future.

  • Icon for: Andrew Shouse

    Andrew Shouse

    May 12, 2015 | 05:47 p.m.

    Hi Barbara, You are so right! As you know there are many, many cooks in the kitchen.

  • May 12, 2015 | 03:49 p.m.

    I like your focus on adaptation. If you have K-6 teachers who would like to share their lessons with teachers nationwide, we would like to have contact with them to see how to make it work. Too often, teachers have great ideas and great lessons for their students. We would like to help them share “lessons that lead to grweat discussion” with other teachers.

  • Icon for: Philip Bell

    Philip Bell

    Lead Presenter
    Professor of Learning Sciences & Human Development
    May 12, 2015 | 05:48 p.m.

    Hi Charles: I totally agree. Part of the project effort is focused on making the curriculum modifications and new lessons publicly available. You can find interim drafts of these at http://pseponline.wikispaces.com — which is the project wiki. Please note that teachers are continuing to iterate on these as they get enacted and refined by the teachers. Teachers and district staff will be crafting some more penultimate and polished versions in the next few months. Those will be clearly marked on the wiki site when they are to that level.

  • May 12, 2015 | 06:50 p.m.

    Thanks, Philip. I’ll check it out.

  • Icon for: Tony Streit

    Tony Streit

    Senior Project Director
    May 12, 2015 | 10:22 p.m.

    Nice piece Phillip and team! I’d love to hear more about what you’re discovering regarding the equity aspect of this work. What are some of the challenges in getting educators to build the cultural competency to make learning authentic? What are the biggest barriers to the motivation and engagement of underrepresented young people and how do educators address them?

  • Icon for: Philip Bell

    Philip Bell

    Lead Presenter
    Professor of Learning Sciences & Human Development
    May 15, 2015 | 02:41 a.m.

    Hi Tony: As you question implies, the underlying vision in the NRC Framework for K-12 Science Education makes a clear research-based argument that all science learning is a cultural accomplishment and that it is very powerful to instructionally build on learners’ prior interest and identity (see Chapter 11 for details). These ideas are integrated into our professional development and collaborative work with teachers — especially during the curriculum adaptation work (where we focus on relating the practice-focused enhancements on the interests of youth and communities to the degree possible). Beyond that, there are different instructional techniques that teachers can use to work towards these cultural / equity goals. Another that we have used quite successfully prompts students to self-document (in pictures or short videos) how the science subject matter relates to their personal lives / interests and then ask students to conduct research in those directions. Taking up a cultural frame is relatively tricky, so we have ongoing discussions about what it does / does not mean (in terms of the design research literature). We also have some teachers who serve large numbers of culturally and linguistically diverse students. In those spaces we work with them to put in instructional supports for emerging English Learners. Chapter 11 has some relevant ideas around relating youth discourse to scientific discourse, and Appendix D of the NGSS points to specific research-based strategies to explore for science ed. This focus on ELL supports and capacity building in relation to practice-focused instruction is an area that the partners in our effort wanted to sink into —so we will be sinking into more specific work in that direction for the next three years. Stay tuned. Thanks for the question.

  • Icon for: Elizabeth Hassrick

    Elizabeth Hassrick

    Research Scientist
    May 14, 2015 | 12:02 p.m.

    Any suggestions on how to best measure capacity building?

  • Icon for: Andrew Shouse

    Andrew Shouse

    May 14, 2015 | 12:10 p.m.

    We’ve used a combination of surveys to generate social networks and qualitative case studies at the classroom and school level.

    Spending a lot of time in the field in collaboration with partners within the school systems provides wonderful views into the emerging capacity… but that’s far from “measurement.”

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