R&D Studies Video Presentations
Introduction to Center and Conference
The Center's Interventions
Implications of the Findings
This section describes the Center’s science curriculum and professional development interventions and the studies of their effectiveness conducted by Center staff over a five-year period. In addition to the brief written descriptions here, detailed information was presented at the Center’s national conference in May 2013. Videos of these conference sessions are listed and linked in the side panel of this page. Other sessions dealt with cognitive science content, and can be found in the section on Cognitive Science Experts.
As a culminating event, the Center sponsored a national conference in Washington, DC on May 21 and 22, 2013. This conference featured 19 prominent cognitive scientists presenting 11 sessions over the two days. All sessions were audio- and video-recorded and edited by a team from the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, there was a poster session and lively networking discussions at the end of the first day. In all, there were 91 participants from universities, nonprofit organizations, and Federal agencies. As shown in the side panel, the conference presenters represented many institutions from across the U.S. Click on a speaker to see a brief biography and his or her presentation at the national conference.
Center representatives also presented numerous sessions at professional conferences including:
- National Science Teachers Association, (NSTA)
- American Educational Research Association, (AERA)
- American Physical Society,
- Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness, (SREE)
- Institute of Education Sciences conferences, and others.
To enhance science curriculum, the Center modified two widely deployed science curricula – Full Option Science System (FOSS) and Holt Science and Technology Series (Holt) – two popular middle school curricula that are typically used in textbook and hands-on inquiry formats. Within each curriculum, Center cognitive scientists selected three units to modify. These selected units represented the span of physical, earth, and life sciences and were well aligned to science standards in the states that participated in the study. The FOSS units selected were Diversity of Life, Weather and Water, and Earth History. The analogous Holt units were Cells, Heredity, and Classification; Introduction to Matter; and Inside the Restless Earth.
The curriculum modifications were based upon recent research related to four cognitive science principles: analogical reasoning, diagrammatic reasoning, accounting for students’ prior science conceptual understanding, and spaced assessment. Center staff also created extensive professional development based upon the cognitive science principles for the teachers who implemented these curricula, plus relevant traditional science content professional development for a comparison group of teachers. There was a second comparison group that received no modified curriculum units or professional development.
The Center tested for achievement gains of students who received the modified curriculum units plus modified teacher professional development vs. students who received unmodified curricula plus curriculum-relevant teacher professional development vs. students who received no special services. The focal research questions were:
- Can existing curriculum materials enhanced with modifications based on cognitive science principles, plus professional development, make a difference in students’ learning of science?
- Can increasing teachers’ science content knowledge alone make a difference in students’ learning of science?
Approximately 180 schools and over 500 classroom teachers were recruited from two school districts in Pennsylvania and five districts in Arizona; one Pennsylvania district used the Holt materials, while the Arizona districts and the other Pennsylvania district used FOSS. These teachers were divided randomly into three treatment conditions. In the Cognitive Science treatment arm, teachers received the modified curriculum units and professional development on how to implement them. In the Science Content treatment arm, teachers received professional development to enhance their science knowledge pertaining to the particular science unit they were teaching. This arm neither received the modified curriculum nor any pedagogical guidance. The Control treatment teachers received no special support and presumably continued to teach in their normal way. Numerous related questions were also explored in the Center studies. Higher-level statistical models were used.
Videos of conference sessions on the study findings and implications, plus closing remarks are listed and linked in the side panel of this page.