We published a record number of publications in 2022, including 15 journal articles and a book chapter. From articles for educators to implement free resources to research articles to inform the field, we wrote about a wide range of topics, including data science education, artificial intelligence, geoscience education, game-based learning, and more. Most of the articles are open access, so you can read about classroom resources and cutting-edge educational and learning sciences research.
Data science education
We spearheaded the field of data science education and are thrilled to be at the center of several projects and initiatives studying the most effective ways to ensure all students are fluent with data.
Two of our articles in The Science Teacher this year provide educator-oriented views about the importance of teaching with and about data. The first aims to help students understand where data come from, or how the data got their dots (PDF). By using sensors to produce data, students learn to puzzle over data and can begin to see data not as “fact,” but as created by sensors, computers, scientists, and the natural world. A second article shows a different perspective on a similar topic, featuring a set of innovative science experiments using Internet of Things devices (PDF).
Other publications this year invited readers to think differently about data and how it’s used in education, making the case for engaging learners with social justice datasets. And a chapter this year in the book Situating Data Science: Exploring How Relationships to Data Shape Learning took a much broader stance on the nature of data and our relationship to it. Outlining a theoretical framework informed by historical, philosophical, and ethnographic studies of science practice, this chapter argues that we should consider data to be actively produced, rather than passively collected, and that by misconstruing the nature of data for learners, traditional school science laboratory investigations overly constrain students’ agency in data production.
Environmental issues made the headlines this year from natural disasters to issues around fresh water scarcity. We’re designing activities that help middle and high school students prepare to become informed citizens ready to tackle important environmental issues relevant to their lives.
We described a 5E lesson sequence for middle school students designed to make watershed sustainability and conservation an accessible topic and create a generation of environmentally literate citizens. The WATERS (Watershed Awareness using Technology and Environmental Research for Sustainability) project also examined how three seventh grade teachers adapted the WATERS curriculum for asynchronous online delivery during COVID-19, and highlighted both the barriers to transitioning instruction online and the resources that support this transition.
We believe students should see Earth science as a lab science, and that they should view computers as active aids that help them understand the Earth as a system and provide an interactive, accessible proving ground for testing ideas and making original discoveries. We’re creating innovative models and simulations that do this in classrooms across the country.
We shared our GeoCode curriculum module (PDF) in The Earth Scientist. In the module, students engage in science practices and computational thinking, producing data visualizations of GPS movement and creating code to investigate how land movement causes earthquakes. We also shared our online plate tectonics module (PDF) in Science Scope, which includes two innovative tools—Seismic Explorer and Tectonic Explorer—that allow students to make connections between real-world data and plate tectonics models.
With our partners at Pennsylvania State University, we described how to use summary tables to support students’ explanations of science phenomena (PDF), using our plate tectonics module as one example for middle school teachers in Science Scope. Together, we elaborated on using teacher talk moves to help high school students talk like scientists (PDF) while interacting with the plate tectonics module in The Science Teacher. Finally, we described a qualitative case study of four teachers’ learning during professional development surrounding the plate tectonics curriculum in the Journal of Science Teacher Education.
From Earth’s systems to ecosystems to systems in our human bodies, the world is made of interconnected components. We’re creating tools that allow students to build and refine computational models to represent complex systems.
We developed a framework for supporting systems thinking (ST) and computational thinking (CT) through constructing models. Using this framework, we detailed how students interact with the various aspects of ST and CT as they build and refine computational models using our SageModeler system modeling tool in a chemistry unit on evaporative cooling (PDF). We also researched student use of SageModeler in a chemistry unit on gas phenomena. Based on this research, we showed that students engage in complex causal reasoning that may be implicit and unexpected, highlighting that if educators do not recognize this reasoning as it occurs, they cannot respond to it during instruction. We also suggested that model substructures and simple questioning strategies show promise for helping students make their causal reasoning explicit.
AI technologies are rapidly reshaping society. We’re creating tools, materials, and opportunities for students to gain key understandings around how to employ and partner with artificial intelligence tools.
While the world is full of text data, text analytics has not traditionally played a large part in statistics education. In an article designed for high school and college educators, we introduce students to machine learning as they consider four different ways to identify spam email. Through a Model Eliciting Activity, a CODAP-based exploration, an R Shiny-based modeling experience, and more sophisticated R-based coding, we demonstrated multiple ways for students to engage with applications of AI and text analysis.
Leveraging the potential of technology, we’re challenging the notion that young learners cannot access foundational topics in the physical world such as the particulate nature of matter.
By exploring kindergarten students’ learning of simple particle models, we identified ways that technology-based experiences helped them understand and explain the properties and behavior of matter in the solid, liquid, and gas states and during phase transitions (evaporation, melting, freezing, and condensation). Engaging two independent groups in technology-enhanced modeling activities around matter and phase changes, we showed that children who engaged with the digital tools made significant gains over a comparison group in their use of particle models to explain material phenomena.
Finally, because much of our funding comes from grants from the National Science Foundation, we’re working to understand what happens when funding periods end and teachers adopt our materials without the benefit of grant-funded professional development and support.
We presented the results of an in-depth analysis of students’ actions in Geniventure, an interactive digital game designed to teach genetics to middle and high school students. Correlating students’ performance in the game to their learning gains on multiple-choice tests administered before and after, we analyzed classes taught by teachers with and without research project professional development experiences. In a result no doubt pleasing to funders, we found that students of teachers who implemented Geniventure on their own without the benefit of research project support performed as effectively as those whose teachers had the support of the ongoing project. This result bodes well for our extensive body of research-based resources developed by past NSF projects and currently in use by teachers around the world. We invite you to check them out, and to follow the link below to read more about our research.