UCLA Researchers Win Grant for STEM Ed Research

Researchers from the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies (GSEIS) have won a $2.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop and study a professional development program to help middle and high school science educators teach their students to argue scientifically.

During the four-year study, the researchers will work with 30 teacher leaders in the Montebello Unified School District to help them bring their teaching methods into alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Montebello USD was selected for participation in the study because it is an urban school district, and one component of the research project is to determine "how challenges are influenced by the urban schooling contexts in which project teachers work," according to the NSF award abstract.

According to William Sandoval, principal investigator of the research project, one of the main challenges teachers face in implementing NGSS is replacing "cookbook" classroom experiments with actual scientific inquiry. "What the Next Generation standards are trying to do is … have kids use the data they get from their experiments to learn the scientific concepts we want them to learn," said Sandoval in a news story on UCLA's site. "It's a big change for teachers to focus on practices of experimentation, modeling, arguments and data analysis … and helping them to understand that is one big job."

The science teachers from Montebello USD will take part in intensive summer institutes to learn strategies to promote the development of scientific argumentation skills, and the researchers will conduct two school-based lesson study cycles each year. The researchers will document which aspects of the new teaching strategies the teachers find easier or more difficult to implement. Ultimately, the researchers said they hope to further "understanding of how site-based professional development can be structured to support teacher learning and improvement," according to the NSF award abstract.

The research project is led by William Sandoval, professor of education at UCLA and head of the Urban Schooling Division at GSEIS. Other members of the research team include Jody Priselac, associate dean for community programs is the co-principal investigator on the project, and Lynn Kim-John, director of the UCLA Science Project at Center X.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at [email protected].