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SimScientists Crosscutting Concepts: Progressions in Earth Systems: 1420386

Principal Investigator: Matt Silberglitt
CoPrincipal Investigator(s): Daniel Brenner, Jonathan Boxerman, Matt Silberglitt
Organization: WestEd

Science is often taught not as a coherent body of knowledge, but as distinct, unrelated topics. The Next Generation Science Standards aim to change this by organizing science teaching around crosscutting concepts, which reflect the coherence of science through their use in explanations of phenomena in different scientific domains. This project will address the research questions of how crosscutting concepts develop longitudinally, how this development can be supported across different science topics, and whether the learning of crosscutting concepts is improved. The project will create computerized, simulation-based instructional modules for use in middle school earth science that teach crosscutting concepts. This project not only will document student learning of these important ideas, but also will analyze how this learning occurs, what support is reliably related to this learning, and how these ideas might develop in response to support across different earth science topics.

The project will focus on learning crosscutting concepts of scale, systems and cycles as they are supported across three middle school earth science topics: ecosystems, plate tectonics and climate. The project will leverage previous work by the PI and other team members by building upon the SimScientists simulations already constructed, and upon their demonstrated technique of embedding assessments in the simulations to inform what students learn while simultaneously providing feedback on the simulation design. Initial efficacy of the simulations will be established with 13 teachers and 1300 students. Results of this project will have impact not only through use of the simulations by these and other middle school students, but also through research on how cross-cutting concepts can be supported over time in multiple scientific domains.

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