Science Education Research on Capitol Hill
Science Education Research on Capitol Hill

May 2012

The 18th Annual Exhibition of the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) took place May 15 at the U.S. Capitol. The theme for 2012 was “STEM Research and Education: Underpinning American Innovation,” and the exhibition showcased 36 research and education projects accomplished through National Science Foundation (NSF) grants, including one project sponsored by AERA.

As a member of CNSF, AERA participated for the eighth year with an exhibit booth and as a sponsor of the event. The Association featured the research of William R. Penuel (U of Colorado Boulder), based on a grant to SRI International from NSF’s Education and Human Resources Directorate. His research focuses on the influence of digital tools on student science learning and teachers’ assessments. This research was based on an NSF award to SRI International.

“The CNSF exhibition is a premier venue to demonstrate the value of science funding and the productive outcomes that result from rigorous education research,” stated AERA executive director Felice Levine.

Penuel’s research project, “Integrating Technology-Enhanced Feedback Into a Middle School Science Curriculum,” was designed to improve the quality of middle school teachers' classroom assessments in science. Researchers tested strategies for using "clicker" technology, commonly used in higher-education science classrooms, to allow students to respond instantly to questions and teachers to project a graph of those responses.

Penuel and a team of SRI International researchers tested the classroom tools in Denver Public Schools in cooperation with a group of teachers, many of whom also helped with the design. Finding that the tools improved both student learning and the quality of teachers' assessments, the research team is now working on strategies for integrating the materials into a digital curriculum platform that will be available to all Denver teachers, as well as teachers in other districts.

Penuel is a professor in educational psychology and the learning sciences at the University of Colorado–Boulder. His research interests include teacher learning and organizational processes that shape the implementation of educational policies, school curricula, and after-school programs. He examines learning and development from sociocultural, social capital, and complex social systems perspectives. Widely published in professional journals, Penuel also serves as an associate editor of the Social and Institutional Analysis section of the American Educational Research Journal.

Other social and behavioral science associations participating in the exhibition included the American Psychological Association, the American Sociological Association, and the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences. AERA president-elect Barbara Schneider displayed her research at the ASA exhibit. Schneider's research focuses on STEM education and the development of evidenced based programs aimed at instilling knowledge, know-how and general motivation that students need to be successful in school and in their future careers.
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