This website is designed to provide a venue for students, teachers, and colleagues to exchange ideas and to hear about our new research findings. We truly hope to build a network of like-minded scholars who are concerned with identifying ways to improve science education in urban communities. There are for basic components of the site including a review of past research, an overview of current projects, video samples of projects and teaching, and university teaching resources. Feel free to use and share accordingly.
The Stress of Academic Language
As indicated in the image, we randomly assigned students into one of two groups. One groups was taught using complex science language, while the other group was taught using accessible every language. After the concept was taught we gave the students psychological tests to measure their potential stress or limited working memory capacity (Stroop Test & Flanker Test). We discovered that although there was no difference accuracy of their answers, students in the control group were uniformly slower in their responses indicated a reduced working memory capacity. A research report explaining the study is available here:
African-American STEM Charter School Project
In 2013 we studied the founding and design of an urban STEM charter school for African-American men. This project was an extraordinary effort of a team of community leaders to intervene with continued problems associated with educating African-American men in urban schools. After working diligently with the leadership team of the school, we used interviews, content analysis, and surveys to explore their vision of an urban STEM charter school.
The project highlight how a mixture of research based understanding of school impact and a practiced based understanding of schools sometimes experience conflict. The study presented below outlines these initial results:
In 2013 we conducted a study of how academic language had the potential to reduce students working memory capacity. In classes like science where there is a wealth of science terms this issue can become particularly challenging. The image below shows the basic design of our study.
Disaggregate Instruction Teaching
In 2007 we made an interesting discovery. We designed lesson plans that taught a science lesson on photosynthesis in two ways. Our control group was taught science in the way that science is typically taught. When the students were taught science they were introduced to the ideas and the concepts simultaneously. For example, if they students were taught about how plants use carbon dioxide, they encountered something that read “Plants use carbon dioxide, which is the ‘bad’ air that humans breathe out, in order to to make their energy. ” To contrast this somewhat standard approach to teaching, we also taught the lesson using what we call the Disaggregate Approach to science teaching. In Disaggregate instruction, the teacher attempts to separate, or disaggregate, the language and concepts to improve students’ learning. To accomplish this, students in the study were taught using everyday language alone. By doing this, students were introduced to the ideas without being taught the science language. The language was taught after the initial idea was explored. For example, a students my encounter something that read “ Plants use the bad air that humans breath out in order to make their own food.” These results of this experiment are above We found that although their pre-test scores are similar, students in the experimental group out performed the control group students. As a result of these early findings, we are now planning to test this type of teaching for second language learners. The Science In The City Group is seeking the support of 5th grade teachers who are interested in participating in this project. If you interested please feel free to contact us. We look forward to hearing from you.
Race, Culture, & Building Urban STEM Program
The growing concern for providing access to science careers for African-American men has lead to many programs that attempt to provide students' access to high end science education. We conducted a year-long study of one organization's attempt to understand the challenges of teaching science in urban context. We monitored how the school's leadership designed and implemented a STEM charter school for boys. The results of the study highlighted how the school's design and implementation was build upon some myths associated with how race and culture impact education. Through pre-and-post year surveys and interviews, we were able to document the leadership's changing perspective on race, culutre, and the teaching of science. 3 primary changes occured: (1) First, the school changed their assumptions about professional development. They originally believed that providing professional development about how to teach boys of color would suffice in preparing their teachers. This belief changed to incorporate a belief that PD, curriculum, and highly skilled teachers was a necessary factor for success. (2) Second, the school believed that they need black male science teachers to achieve success. This view shifted towards a perspective the valued quality science teaching. (3) Third, the leadership was initially optimistic about a need to rely on parents to promote success. After the year's end, the team grew more focused on controlling what happened within the walls of the school. For More information, read below: