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IU receives $1.3 million grant to develop student learning assessments for secondary school science

For Immediate Release Nov 16, 2017

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Researchers from the Indiana University School of Education have been awarded over $1.3 million to study and validate tests that are designed to measure student learning in middle and high school science classes.

The grant, through the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education, will help researchers develop assessments to align student performance with the Next Generation Science Standards.

Cindy Hmelo-Silver at desk with bookshelves in background
Cindy Hmelo-Silver

“In addition, the learning progressions that we will develop as part of this project will help provide learning targets of what increasingly sophisticated performance looks like in thinking about systems and structure and function,” IU professor Cindy Hmelo-Silver said. “That allows teachers to understand where their students are along a path from low-level understanding toward more sophisticated target understanding.”

This research will occur over the next three years in diverse middle and high school classrooms in urban, suburban and rural schools across the Midwest and East Coast of the United States.

The research will focus on what the Next Generation Science Standards refer to as crosscutting concepts, which bridge disciplinary boundaries throughout much of science and engineering. In particular, the researchers will examine two crosscutting concepts: systems and system models; and structure and function.

While the concepts are key elements to understanding science, Hmelo-Silver said, teachers don’t have good assessments for this crosscutting content. Research done with this grant will help science teachers evaluate how well their students are learning the concepts in the context of disciplinary subjects such as the human body, ecosystems and earth systems.

Hmelo-Silver, the Barbara B. Jacobs Chair of Education and Technology and professor of learning sciences in the IU School of Education’s Center for Research on Learning and Technology, is principal investigator of the project, along with Adam Maltese, associate professor of science education. Lei Liu, research scientist at the Educational Testing Service, is co-principal investigator.

The Next Generation Science Standards were developed by a consortium of 26 states working with the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Research Council and Achieve. Eighteen states had adopted the standards as of December 2016.

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IU School of Education

Catherine Winkler

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