This page last changed on Jul 02, 2008 by rtinker.
In a busy classroom that uses computer-based materials, it is hard for a teacher to distinguish between a student who is learning intently by exploring a model or experiment and one who is just going through the motions or is confused. Outwardly, these two students look similar, but one needs attention. As our computer-based materials get more sophisticated, it is increasingly difficult for teachers to play an active role in running a class. Introducing computers should not generate a barrier for teachers. Computer technology should make it even easier for teachers to do what they do best: facilitating learning.
Research based on non-computer classrooms shows that teachers who frequently determine what students are thinking and act on that information are better teachers and their students do better. Professional development that focusses teachers on what students are learning invariably result in student gains. If the students are running smart software that reports their progress, it should be possible to give teachers even better information that ever. They should be able to tell where every student is in an activity. More importantly, the software should be able to provide clues about what each student is learning, what difficulties they have, and what they might be ready to learn next.
Commercial systems are now available that tell where a student is, but what is lacking is any feedback about student thinking and learning. LOOPS will address this absence by providing teachers with timely feedback that provides insights into student learning and gives teachers instructional options that are data-driven.
The project will put teachers squarely in feedback LOOPS based on a variety of data streams that inform their choices of assessments, actions, and curriculum customizations. These feedback loops will be classroom-tested with materials focused on eighth grade physical science standards. The principles derived from this research will inform design of new materials and supporting technologies.
Specifically, LOOPS will:
- Develop LOOPS technology. This project will develop software that unobtrusively monitors student choices and actions while they are engaged in inquiry using probes and models. These data, plus data from student assessments, teacher goals, and science standards, will be summarized for teachers to give a detailed picture of student progress. Teachers will use these data to inform instructional decisions.
- Integrate technology with existing materials. LOOPS will develop two curriculum units that are integrated with this technology: Force and Motion and Chemical Reactions. These will match the 8th grade California content and inquiry standards, representing about 50% of the science required for that year. To develop materials, LOOPS will substantially re-configure classroom-tested activities from prior NSF-funded projects.
- Study inquiry learning. The project will work closely with three teacher-developers from low-income districts who will test the approach in 15 classes during the first three years. Project research will expand to include at least 14 additional teachers and 1,500 students including low-income districts supported by North Carolina Central University by year five. We will also study teachers who spontaneously adopt the materials, available online. Project research will characterize the information teachers want, how teachers use information provided in four distinct time frames, the kinds of data-driven changes they make, and the impact of the changes on students' knowledge integration and inquiry skills.
- Develop professional development strategies. The project will study teacher trajectories using LOOPS technology, starting with the three teacher-developers. We will assess beliefs, knowledge required for effective enactments, and changing practices over two to four
years of using LOOPS. These findings will shape the design of teacher workshops and online mentoring that will be used and tested in the expansion stages.
- Disseminate the materials and approach. To stimulate implementation and further research and development, the materials and teacher resources needed to implement the project will be available electronically. The software will be open source and the learning materi-
als released under the Creative Commons license. Reports, articles, and presentations will reach all relevant educators. Business experts will participate in the project to help ensure commercialization potential that could lead to wide distribution.