PIRE: Crafting Engagement for Science Environments is a five-year, $3.6 million research grant funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The researchers and teachers involved are working to boost interest and engagement in science for all students. They are also providing students with the skills and opportunities to pursue science in the future.
The Crafting Engagement for Science Environments project is a collaboration between researchers and teachers in the U.S. and in Finland. Its purpose is to increase student engagement and interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Project partners are developing and implementing a new set of learning materials for high school physics and chemistry classes in both countries. In particular, they want to allow and encourage all students, including underrepresented groups of students, to pursue STEM learning.
This research project is an international effort that introduces new topics with a new approach that focuses on the importance of project-based learning (PBL). PBL is a teaching method that allows students time to explore and investigate a complex and engaging question or challenge.
Both the United States and Finland are focused on new science standards that challenge conventional teaching techniques in an effort to increase interest in and engagement with STEM. Declines in student interest in STEM fields makes it important to uncover the ways PBL can give young learners the resources and support they need to pursue science.
The researchers are using smartphone technology to gather feedback in real time on how engaged students are and how they feel about science. This technology will allow the team to compare information about student engagement, feelings about science, and knowledge of the course material before and after units. It will also let them measure differences between student reactions to the project-based curriculum and those of similar students in classes taught with a traditional approach.
Specifically, the Crafting Engagement in Science Environments project will:
investigate the effects of implementing project-based learning that aligns with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS),
measure the academic, social and emotional learning of students taking part in the classes,
compare the PBL technique to that of conventional science teaching techniques and topics, in terms of student growth, and
create an exchange program between the United States and Finland that promotes the improvement of science education across borders
Social and emotional learning, alongside academic learning, are also notably important to this research. Students who feel positive emotions (happiness, confidence, enjoyment, fulfillment, etc.) while engaged in learning will be more likely to seek out similar learning experiences. In other words, if they feel good learning science, they are going to want to keep learning science. An increased number of students having frequent positive experiences while learning STEM will ideally lead to an increased number of students pursuing STEM majors and careers. This project will also open doors for underrepresented student groups who have historically turned away from these subjects.
An International Effort: Partnership with Finland
One key aspect of this project is the collaboration with Finland. Finland’s students rank at or near the top of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) scientific literacy exams, much higher than rankings of U.S. students. However, Finland, too, faces the dilemma that many of its students are not engaged enough in science to want to pursue it as a career. For this reason, both Finland and the U.S. can benefit from researching how to encourage students to immerse themselves in learning STEM, and how to cultivate curiosity and the desire to learn more science.
Another of the project’s integral design details is an international exchange program between the participating countries. A series of seminars in which the U.S. team travels to Finland, and vice versa, is strengthening the collaboration between the teachers and research teams and allows for valuable professional development. These seminars provide a medium for large group workshops, presentations, and school visits. In addition, this part of the project promotes the exchange of research expertise between professionals.
Central to this project’s design is the creation of innovative project-based learning units that promote student engagement. Equally important is the data collected on resulting student engagement and attitude, as well as how and by whom it is analyzed.
Below are some specific design principles that make the project possible:
Participating students answer short questions on an individual basis about their learning experiences in regards to social, emotional and academic growth, using special smartphone technology.
Prompted questions follow a randomized schedule to allow for sufficient coverage of a student’s moods and growth.
Students receive a survey at the beginning of each year to provide information about their goals, potential career paths, and interest in STEM.
Teachers complete post-lesson surveys to help researchers understand how teaching the units with a PBL approach affects their decision making.
Data collected is being analyzed by a team of developmental psychologists who are versed in studying responses to these types of electronic response methods.
NSF Award #1545684
The PIRE award aims to enhance secondary science teachers’ skills in promoting engaging activities in classrooms. Recently, both the United States and Finland have developed new science standards that stress the value of instructional activities that are interesting, challenging, and relevant to students? lives and futures. Of particular interest are the classroom messages and instructional tasks in classrooms that have discouraged women, underrepresented minorities, and individuals with special needs from pursuing careers in STEM fields. This project is a collaboration between researchers and teachers in the United States and Finland that: 1) measures the academic, social, and emotional learning of students in secondary science classes; 2) investigates the effect of the implementation of a new form of science instruction modeled after the new Next Generation Science Standards; and 3) creates an integrated exchange program between the United States and Finland for students, teachers, teacher educators, researchers, and policy leaders to foster the professional development of science teachers and improvement of teacher education programs. The planned educational exchange program will involve teams of U.S. teacher educators, science teachers, and science teacher interns traveling to Finland in order to exchange research findings and teaching expertise with their Finnish counterparts. It is anticipated that these exchanges will expand participants? networks providing them more sources of information to elevate the professionalism of teachers and deepen their STEM knowledge.
To capitalize on science activities in secondary chemistry and physics classrooms in the United States and Finland that have been shown through prior research to enhance engagement and learning, the project will create an instructional intervention which advances reforms in science education, specifically project based learning, and compares it with conventional science instructional techniques. Using both innovative single case study design and smartphone technology this research will test when students participate in the instructional intervention do they experience an increase in science relevance both for themselves and society and science learning? Working with teachers, four science units will be created and replicated over a three year period (with additional new schools, teachers, and students in each successive year). By the end of year three a larger field test will be conducted in which the intervention will be implemented in 40 classrooms in twenty treatment high schools affecting nearly 2,000 students representing diverse backgrounds (with matched control populations). The conduct of this work, from its design to implementation, will be jointly undertaken in Finnish schools with similarly aged students.
This award is cofunded by the Division of Research on Learning, Directorate for Education and Human Resources.
Publications Produced as a Result of This Research.
- Bielik, T., Damelin, D., Krajcik, J., & Ke, L.. “Using a free online tool to support students in developing models,” National Science Teachers Association, Los Angeles, California, 2017.
- Bielik, T., Young, L., Finnie, K., & Peek-Brown, D.. “Crafting student engagement for secondary science: Teachers? perspectives on features of project-based learning,” American Education Research Association, San Antonio, Texas., 2017.
- Damelin, D., Krajcik, J., McIntyre, C., and Bielik, T.. “Students making system models: An accessible approach.,” Science Scope, v.40, 2017.
- Hedges, L. V.. “Understanding the generalizability of education research,” Promoting Future Learning Skills: Interventions, Impact, Internationalization, Academy of Finland, Helsinki, Finland., 2017.
- Inkinen, J., Burns, J., & Finnie, K.. “Comparison of curriculum in the US and Finland,” European Science Education Research Association, Dublin, Ireland, 2017.
- Inkinen, J., Salmela-Aro, K., Juuti, K, Schneider, B., Klager, C., & Lavonen, J.. “The impact of scientific practices on student situational engagement: Evidence from Finland and the United States,” International Journal of Science Education, 2017.
- Klager, C.. “Project-based learning in science: A meta-analysis of science achievement effects,” Review of Educational Research, 2017.
- Klager, C., Marjanen, J., & Touitou, I.. “Imagination and problem solving in a project-based learning intervention,” European Science Education Research Association, Dublin, Ireland, 2017.
- Klager, C., & Schneider, B.. “Creativity in a project-based science intervention,” Journal of Research on Adolescence, 2017.
- Klager, C., Schneider, B., Krajcik, J., Lavonen, J., & Salmela-Aro, K.. “Creativity in project based physics and chemistry intervention,” National Association for Research in Science Teaching, San Antonio, Texas, 2017.
- Klager, C., Schneider, B., & Salmela-Aro, K.. “Strategies for evaluating curricular interventions using the experience sampling method,” Journal of Research on Adolescence, 2017.
- Lavonen, J.. “The influence of an international professional development program for the design of engaging secondary science teaching in Finland,” American Education Research Association, San Antonio, Texas., 2017.
- Lavonen, J.. “The influence of an international professional development project for the design of engaging secondary science teaching in Finland,” National Association for Research in Science Teaching, San Antonio, Texas, 2017.
- Lavonen, J.. “The influence of an international professional development project for the design of engaging secondary science teaching in Finland,” Southern African Association of Researchers in Mathematics Science & Technology Education, Bloemfontein, South Africa., 2017
- Linnansaari, J., Viljaranta, J., Lavonen, J., Schneider, B., & Salmela-Aro, K.. “Finnish students? engagement in science lessons,” Nordic Studies in Science Education, v.11, 2015, p. 192.
- Moeller, J., Salmela-Aro, K., Lavonen, J., & Schneider, B.. “Does anxiety in science classrooms impair math and science motivation? – Gender differences beyond the mean level,” International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology, v.7, 2015, p. 229.
- Pellegrino, J.. “Measuring what matters: Challenges and opportunities in assessing STEM proficiency,” Promoting Future Learning Skills: Interventions, Impact, Internationalization, Academy of Finland, Helsinki, Finland, 2017.
- Pottebaum, M., Webb, J., Weatherford, H., & Schneider, B.. “Engagement of students in science classes related to the sensory stimulation of certain activities,” University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum, East Lansing, Michigan, 2017.
- Salmela-Aro, K., Marjanen, J., Schneider, B., Klager, C., & Lavonen, J.. “Does it help to have ?sisu?? Situational grit and challenge in Finnish and American students,” International Journal of Psychology, 2017.
- Salmela-Aro, K., Moeller, J., Schneider, B.; Spicer, J., & Lavonen, J.. “Integrating the light and dark sides of student engagement with person-oriented and situation-specific approaches.,” Learning and Instruction., 2016.
- Schneider, B.. “Guiding principles for evaluating evidence in education,” Asia-Pacific Educational Research Association-Taiwan Education Research Association, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, 2016.
- Schneider, B.. “The measurement of project based learning,” Promoting Future Learning Skills: Interventions, Impact, Internationalization, Academy of Finland, Helsinki, Finland, 2017
- Schneider, B., & Klager, C.. “Engagement in science: A gender perspective,” International Convention of Psychological Sciences, Vienna, Austria, 2017.
- Schneider, B., Krajcik, J., Lavonen, J., Salmela-Aro, K., Broda, M., Spicer, J., Bruner, J., Moeller, J., Linnansaari, J., Juuti, K. and Viljaranta, J.. “Investigating optimal learning moments in U.S. and Finnish science classes.,” Journal of Research in Science Teaching, v.53, 2016.
- Upadyaya, K., Marjanen, J., Schneider, B., Lavonen, J., & Salmela-Aro, K.. “Students? engagement in science and optimal learning moments: Comparing results from Finland and the United States,” American Education Research Association, San Antonio, Texas, 2017.
- Upadyaya, K., Schneider, B., Lavonen, J., Klager, C., Krajcik, J., & Salmela-Aro, K.. “Situational task values and emotional learning experiences during science classes among Finnish and US secondary school students,” International Journal of Psychology, 2017.