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Supporting Elementary Teachers’ Enactment of Equitable Mathematics and Science Instruction

Summer 2023

Project Background

Equitable math and science instruction is crucial for supporting students’ learning in STEM fields. However, elementary teachers encounter many challenges when implementing this instruction. This project is examining how case-based scenarios (also referred to as cases) that present authentic teaching dilemmas can support equitable instruction. In this project, we will work with elementary teachers to develop new cases that attend to elementary students’ cultural resources and lived experiences (e.g. family and home experiences with STEM, such as reasoning about geometry through arts and crafts or learning about Chemistry through cooking).  These newly developed cases will also attend to issues of power and status in the classroom, for instance, how issues of race, ethnicity, and gender can impact turn-taking and interruptions during classroom discussions. In a series of online focus groups, current elementary teachers will reflect on their own teaching experiences, as well as the existing research literature on equitable STEM instruction.  The current elementary teachers will then build on those discussions to develop and revise new cases. We will then interview additional elementary teachers, who will reflect on how they would approach the scenarios presented in cases. Those cases and reflections will then be used with future elementary teachers to support their learning about equitable mathematics and science instruction. Resulting cases will be made available for public use, and the research team will also develop principles that other teachers and researchers can use to design cases focused on equitable mathematics and science teaching. Eventually, the results will contribute to improved K-12 instructional materials and outcomes in math and science.

The research team consists of several faculty members from the College of Education, including Drs. Lauren Barth-Cohen, Tracy Dobie, Lynne Zummo, and Connor Warner along with additional students.

This project is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (#2142136) (PIs: Tracy E. Dobie, Lauren Barth-Cohen, Lynne Zummo, and Connor K. Warner).

Student Role

A student joining this project will become part of a research team consisting of faculty and graduate students in the College of Education. Work will focus on qualitative analysis of data from focus groups and interviews with teachers. The student will use a variety of techniques and software to engage in tasks such as transcribing and coding video and audio data and analyzing written work. (No prior experience is needed with the software or qualitative analysis more generally; the research team will provide support for the student to learn these techniques.) The student will work closely with members of the research team to use existing codes and develop new codes that pertain to equity in mathematics and science instruction. These codes are labels that help identify categories in the data to help find themes and patterns to make the analysis more reliable. The student might also assist the research team with further collection of data to enhance the project, as well as reading and synthesizing relevant research articles. The student will particulate in regular meetings with the research team (once or twice a week). The student is expected to be able to work independently while communicating with the team.

Student Learning Outcomes and Benefits

Participating in this project will allow the student to gain access to a broad scope of STEM Education and teacher education literature, research techniques, and instructional skills. The student will experience how education research is conducted, the kinds of questions asked, and how this work connects back to the classroom. Specifically, the student will learn how to read education research articles and be exposed to key foundational and contemporary ideas that pertain to equity in STEM education. The student will gain familiarity with qualitative research methodologies, including focus groups and interviews as data collection tools and different kinds of data analysis. The student will learn about current instructional techniques that promote equitable math and science learning. Additionally, the student may be involved in the writing of research reports and will gain experience and skills in academic writing. This experience acts as a bridge to introduce the student to a wide range of education research endeavors using a variety of methodologies. The student will be able to use this work as a springboard for future career directions related to equitable STEM teaching and education more broadly; such as graduate school in education, public school teaching, and school district-level opportunities.

Lauren Barth-Cohen

Assistant Professor
Educational Psychology

My mentoring philosophy is to attend to the individual’s needs to support students in working towards their intellectual and career goals. I aim to create an inclusive, caring, and supportive environment where each student feels empowered to explore new avenues in STEM education.

During the summer, hands-on activities will consist of the following: twice weekly in-person meetings with the research team, including students and faculty; Ongoing practice with data analysis in work sessions; Reading of relevant background literature to become familiar with the larger intellectual field; and consistent feedback on ongoing data analysis and writing. We are seeking a motivated and independent student interested in STEM education and curious to explore STEM education research.

Dr. Barth-Cohen’s research focuses on student learning in science and she works to translate that research in ways that can be useful to K-12 teachers. She studies student learning of the often-difficult concepts in science that are foundational to the scientific enterprise and central to science education. In her research, she designs and implements learning environments aiming to scaffold such conceptual learning, video tapes the instruction, and then conducts qualitative video analysis on changes to learners conceptual understanding over time. Her approach to learning focuses on characterizing learners’ knowledge system over time, and she concentrate on contexts where they are engaged in a variety of knowledge building practices that are similar to the practices of professional science and central to reform-based science education efforts (e.g. developing and using scientific modeling, analyzing and interpreting data, and engaging in argument from evidence). One ongoing project focuses on undergraduate students in reformed-based physics that are engaged in sensemaking about the process of collecting and analyzing data (National Science Foundation DUE-IUSE, #1938721). Another project examines how learners come to generate scientific observations that can function as evidence in a field geology setting (National Science Foundation, EHR Core Research, #2201764).