Research and Development Projects

IQWST - Investigating and Questioning the World through Science and Technology - was an NSF-funded project that developed the next generation of inquiry-based science curricula for middle schools that brought together science educators, scientists, cognitive psychologists, and literacy experts from Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, Weizmann Institute of Science, and Project 2061 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The curriculum includes 12 units, 4 in each year, 3 in each of the following disciplines: physics, chemistry, life science, and earth science and is published by Activate Learning in the USA. At present work on the project involves studying its contribution to students' developing understanding of energy and their self-efficacy in using the concept of energy in making sense of phenomena.

Motivating the Learning of Science - Multiple studies have documented that adolescents' motivation to engage with science, in and out of schools, declines as they grow older, especially during the transition from elementary to middle school. This ongoing project investigates the relation between various environmental factors and the development of students' identity, motivation, and self-efficacy toward science as they progress from 4th to 9th grade. It focuses on differences between different kinds of schools (traditional, religious, democratic, and Waldorf), different populations (secular vs. religious, mid to high SES vs. low SES), teacher goals and pedagogical practices, peer and parent influence. We have developed a mathematical model allows us to predict how most students' motivation for science learning will develop over time. At present we are tracking individual students to create rich descriptions of how the environment shapes their science identity. We are also planning a series of workshops for middle school science teachers to enhance their practices that promote student motivation for science.

Science in Waldorf Schools - The Waldorf approach to science education emphasizes the theory-free observation of phenomena, the artistic representation of the phenomena, delaying the introduction of abstract concepts until the end of middle school, rejecting textbooks, and providing the science teacher with great autonomy in selecting the topics of instruction, all with the aim of preserving the students' sense of wonderment of nature, curiosity, and desire to learn more. This project characterized the ways science is taught in most Israeli Waldorf schools and evaluated whether the aims of this approach were being met.

Learning Progression for Energy - Current attempts to improve science learning highlight the importance of cross-cutting concepts such as systems, structure, and function. Energy is one of the most fundamental and cross-cutting of all scientific concepts. Despite its importance, few instructional strategies have demonstrated that their use leads to the construction of an integrated understanding of the energy concept by students. This project's goal is to develop a K-12 learning progression for the concept of energy and its interactions with matter in living and non-living systems, providing curricular elements, identifying key phenomena and socio-cultural contexts, considering ways in which the terminology used when discussing energy should develop across ages, and developing assessment clusters that will serve as examples for what is needed at different stages along the entire learning progression. This is a joint project with Michigan State University and IPN in Germany.