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PIRE: Crafting Optimal Learning in Science Environments

Overview:

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.