Publications

Sunstones at The Lawrence

Three Transformative Leadership Practices

What does it take to prioritize science instruction in an elementary system? In this article, we’ll examine three transformative leadership practices underway in a Title-1 school district in Central Phoenix and their role in shifting the district culture from little-to-no science instruction for elementary students towards a burgeoning commitment to phenomena-based science teaching and learning. We describe how a focus on allocated and reinforced science instructional time, high-quality literacy-rich science instructional materials, and coordinated opportunities for teacher professional growth worked in concert as crucial elements to enact systems change.

Children playing on the DNA sculpture at the Lawrence

Computational Thinking for Science: Positioning coding as a tool for doing science

The role of computation in science is ever-expanding and is enabling scientists to investigate complex phenomena in more powerful ways and tackle previously intractable problems. The growing role of computation has prompted calls to integrate computational thinking (CT) into science instruction in order to more authentically mirror contemporary science practice and to support inclusive engagement in science pathways. In this multimethods study, we present evidence for the Computational Thinking for Science (CT+S) instructional model designed to support broader participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) pathways by (1) providing opportunities for students to learn CT within the regular school day, in core science classrooms; and (2) by reframing coding as a tool for developing solutions to compelling real-world problems. We present core pedagogical strategies employed in the CT+S instructional model and describe its implementation into two 10-lesson instructional units for middle-school science classrooms. In the first unit, students create computational models of a coral reef ecosystem. In the second unit, students write code to create, analyze, and interpret data visualizations using a large air quality dataset from the United States Environmental Protection Agency to understand, communicate, and evaluate solutions for air quality concerns. In our investigation of the model’s implementation through these two units, we found that participating students demonstrated statistically significant advancements in CT, competency beliefs for computation in STEM, and value assigned to computation in STEM. We also examine evidence for how the CT+S model’s core pedagogical strategies may be contributing to observed outcomes. We discuss the implications of these findings and propose a testable theory of action for the model that can serve future researchers, evaluators, educators, and instructional designers.

Two children and a staff member are working together during a science activity.

Exploring Biotechnology in Middle School: Inspiring Future Problem Solvers

This Program Brief gives an overview of a program that introduces middle school students to the science behind biotechnology, features stories from diverse local biotechnology professionals, and helps students connect the power of biotechnology with their own personal values and ideas. The brief describes the motivating factors and goal of the program and outlines the program structure. Additionally, it includes sample student work, insights from teachers, and a description of the program impact.

The Lawrence Hall of Science

Addressing Sustainability in the High School Biology Classroom through Socioscientific Issues

Developers of SEPUP’s Science and Global Issues high school biology program published an article in the journal Sustainability detailing how their recently revised curriculum is centered around sustainability-related socioscientific issues. In this article, the authors present the framework they developed and used for presenting sustainability to students, as well as the specific contexts that allowed students to develop a deeper understanding of scientific concepts while addressing current and important socioscientific issues.

Children playing on Pheena the Whale

The computational thinking for science framework: Operationalizing CT-S for K-12 science education researchers and educators

Contemporary science is a field that is becoming increasingly computational. Today’s scientists not only leverage computational tools to conduct their investigations, they often must contribute to the design of the computational tools for their specific research. From a science education perspective, for students to learn authentic science practices, students must learn to use the tools of the trade.

A student is outdoors examining nature through a magnifying glass

Improving Outdoor Science Teaching and Learning: The Implementation of a Capacity-Building Model in Outdoor Science Programs

This paper examines the role and value of professional learning and organizational capacity building in outdoor science education by investigating several questions analyzing the Better Environmental Education, Teaching, Learning, and Expertise Sharing (BEETLES) Project

Students in front of The Lawrence

“That’s What Science Is, All This Data:” Coding Data Visualizations in Middle School Science Classrooms

Abstract: In this experience report, we describe the Investigating Air Quality curriculum unit that integrates computational data practices with science learning in middle school science classrooms. The unit is part of the Coding Science Internship instructional model, designed to broaden access to computer science (CS) learning through scalable integration in core science courses, and through confronting barriers to equitable participation in STEM.

A young person looks through a telescope of the view at The Lawrence.

Designing for Engineering: A Model for Integrating Engineering and Science NGSS Middle School Benchmark Assessments

This paper describes the project design approach for developing item sets for the NGSS engineering performance expectations (PEs) for middle school. It further examines how the design approach allows the integration of assessments for engineering PEs and for science PEs and how resulting item sets elicit three-dimensional responses from students for both PEs.

A child looks through a telescope.

A review of augmented reality for informal science learning: Supporting design of intergenerational group learning

Designing for and facilitating intergenerational group learning is an important objective of informal science institutions as most visitors in those settings engage with scientific thinking in the context of a group. New, deeply engaging, and interactive technologies such augmented reality (AR) have been shown to have positive outcomes in educational settings, but their implications have yet to be investigated for the purpose of intergenerational group learning design.

A child and an adult work together on a science project at an exhibit at The Lawrence.

Racial equity and inclusion in United States of America-based environmental education organizations: A critical examination of priorities and practices in the work environment

In the United States of America, societal structures of oppression frame and underpin nearly every field and industry, including environmental education. Despite growing attention on efforts to diversify the environmental education workforce in the United States, environmental fields have had minimal success attracting and retaining professionals of color. This study sought to explore how Environmental Educators of Color experience and are impacted by workplace culture, practices, and policies.

Two young people explore an exhibit at The Lawrence.

A Typology of Models for Integrating Computational Thinking in Science (CT+S)

Abstract: In order to expand opportunities to learn computer science (CS), there is a growing push for inclusion of CS concepts and practices, such as computational thinking (CT), in required subjects like science. Integrated, transdisciplinary (CS/CT+X) approaches have shown promise for broadening access to CS and CT learning opportunities, addressing potential self-selection bias associated with elective CS coursework and afterschool programs, and promoting a more expansive and authentic contextualization of CS work.

Two children at an exhibit at The Lawrence.

Supporting Making-Centered Experiences in Distance-Learning Contexts

The paper looks at the challenges and opportunities within the making (hands-on, design-based STEAM learning experiences) movement as program developers and leaders pivoted to online, virtual experiences during the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

A young person is building a structure at The Lawrence.

Bridging the Gap: Evaluating a Design Approach for Curriculum-Neutral NGSS Benchmark Assessments in Middle School

This study focuses on the project approach to item design and eliciting three-dimensional student performances aligned to the NGSS middle school performance expectations. It also examines the curriculum-neutrality and accessibility of items for students, regardless of their curriculum of instruction.

Sunstones at The Lawrence

Articulating a Transformative Approach for Designing Tasks that Measure Young Learners’ Developing Proficiencies in Integrated Science and Literacy

As early elementary classrooms shift to implementing Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) instruction, high-quality assessments are essential for providing teachers with information about where students are in the process of developing proficiency in science. In this paper, we introduce an approach […]

Children playing on the DNA sculpture at the Lawrence

BEETLES: An Evaluation of a Capacity Building Model to Support Outdoor Science Programs

This brief shares (1) the underlying goals and design principles for the BEETLES project, (2) a summary of the field-testing process, and (3) program leaders’ insights about how BEETLES supported their organizational capacity building to provide professional learning for their educational staff.

Two children and a staff member are working together during a science activity.

Impacts from COVID-19: Resilient Outdoor Science Programs Need Support as Challenges Persist

More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic struck the United States and forced widespread lockdowns, closures, and social distancing, the field of outdoor science education continues to be fragile, with many organizations teetering on the brink of collapse. Despite easing restrictions and with new concerns about coronavirus variants, the challenges facing the field persist. 

The Lawrence Hall of Science

Learning to Teach to Argue: Case Studies in Professional Learning in Evidence-Based Science Writing

The emphasis on scientific practices articulated by the National Research Council framework and the Next Generation Science Standards requires significant pedagogical shifts for U.S. science teachers. This study provides a rare window into the challenges and opportunities teachers encounter as they introduce argument writing into their science classrooms with support from the National Writing Project’s Inquiry into Science Writing project.

Children playing on Pheena the Whale

How High School Science Teachers Respond in a Crisis

Emerging best practices for distance learning in the high school science classroom, from a virtual gathering of educators and administrators in May 2020.

Students in front of The Lawrence

A Field at Risk: The Impact of COVID-19 on Environmental and Outdoor Science Education

During April 2020, the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley, conducted a survey to learn about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the environmental and outdoor science educations field nationwide. This policy brief describes the importance of this field, the findings of our survey, and recommendations for mitigating the potentially devastating threats facing this field.

A young person looks through a telescope of the view at The Lawrence.

Experimental and quasi-experimental designs in visitor studies: A critical reflection on three projects

Identifying causal relationships is an important aspect of research and evaluation in visitor studies, such as making claims about the learning outcomes of a program or exhibit. Experimental and quasi-experimental approaches are powerful tools for addressing these causal questions. However, these designs are arguably underused in visitor studies.

A child looks through a telescope.

Service learning as a lever to support STEM engagement for underrepresented youth

Women and people of color are consistently underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields and careers. Though there are myriad factors underlying these gaps, one potential variable may be the extent to which these students feel connected to their STEM classroom experiences.

A child and an adult work together on a science project at an exhibit at The Lawrence.

Scientific sensemaking supports science content learning across disciplines and instructional contexts

Science consists of a body of knowledge and a set of processes by which the knowledge is produced. Although these have traditionally been treated separately in science instruction, there has been a shift to an integration of knowledge and processes, or set of practices, in how science should be taught and assessed. We explore whether a general overall mastery of the processes drives learning in new science content areas and if this overall mastery can be improved through engaged science learning.

Two young people explore an exhibit at The Lawrence.

From the classroom to the floor: Applying language supports to new museum contexts

The Lawrence Hall of Science implemented a two-phase project, Building Understanding in Language Diverse Students, to modify school group workshops and drop-in public programs to better support linguistically diverse students and visitors. As we applied language support strategies developed for the school group workshops to additional areas of the science center, we encountered emergent complexities related to understanding our audience, designing program-specific modifications, and implementing professional learning opportunities for part-time facilitators and volunteers.

Two children at an exhibit at The Lawrence.

What drives visitor engagement in exhibits? The interaction between visitor activation profiles and exhibit features

This paper explores the use of science learning activation to understand how various types of visitors engage with different exhibits. In particular, we examined how learners engaged in two very different resource-rich exhibits using two distinct analytic techniques.

A young person is building a structure at The Lawrence.

Development of the International Ocean Literacy Survey: measuring knowledge across the world

The Ocean Literacy movement began in the U.S. in the early 2000s, and has recently become an international effort. The focus on marine environmental issues and marine education is increasing, and yet it has been difficult to show progress of the ocean literacy movement, in part, because no widely adopted measurement tool exists.

Sunstones at The Lawrence

When I grow up: the relationship of science learning activation to STEM career preferences

This paper proposes three new measures of components STEM career preferences (affinity, certainty, and goal), and then explores which dimensions of science learning activation (fascination, values, competency belief, and scientific sensemaking) are predictive of STEM career preferences.

Children playing on the DNA sculpture at the Lawrence

How personal, behavioral, and environmental factors predict working in STEMM vs non-STEMM middle-skill careers

Much of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medical (STEMM) education policy and research centers around developing the upper levels of the STEMM workforce sector. However, there are many positions in this workforce, “middle-skill careers,” that are largely responsible for executing the innovations and are largely ignored in STEMM education research.

Two children and a staff member are working together during a science activity.

How science learning activation enables success for youth in science learning experiences

Expanding on recent advances in science education, cognitive and social psychology, and sociocultural studies, the paper explores a construct called science learning activation and a theoretical framework that describes the characteristics, function, and impact of this construct. Authors define science learning activation as a set of dispositions, skills, and knowledge that commonly enable success in proximal science learning experiences and are in turn influenced by these successes.

The Lawrence Hall of Science

Assessment at the intersection of science and literacy

The authors of this article, all of whom have been a part of this effort to assess argumentation in literacy-rich science curriculum, have struggled with our attempts to build 3 argument-related assessments—understanding, critiquing, and constructing arguments about scientific phenomena in both oral and written modes.

Children playing on Pheena the Whale

The learning benefits of being willing and able to engage in scientific argumentation

Engaging in science as an argumentative practice can promote students’ critical thinking, reflection, and evaluation of evidence. However, many do not approach science in this way. Furthermore, the presumed confrontational nature of argumentation may run against cultural norms particularly during the sensitive time of early adolescence. This paper explores whether middle-school students’ ability to engage in critical components of argumentation in science impacts science classroom learning.

Students in front of The Lawrence

Problematizing the STEM pipeline metaphor: Is the STEM pipeline metaphor serving our students and the STEM workforce?

Researchers and policy makers often use the metaphor of an ever-narrowing pipeline to describe the trajectory to a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) degree or career. This study interrogates the appropriateness of the STEM pipeline as the dominant frame for understanding and making policies related to STEM career trajectories.

A young person looks through a telescope of the view at The Lawrence.

High Hopes – Few Opportunities: The Status of Elementary Science Education in California

High Hopes – Few Opportunities: The Status of Science Education in California summarizes new and extensive research examining the status of science education in the state’s classrooms and schools.

A child looks through a telescope.

The Effect of the Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading Curriculum (Planets and Moons Unit) for Developing Literacy through Science in Fifth Grade

This is an evaluation which examined the Planets and Moons unit of the Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading® curriculum to determine the efficacy of the curriculum on general education students and ELL students.

A child and an adult work together on a science project at an exhibit at The Lawrence.

Evaluation of Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading: Effective Tools for Developing Literacy through Science in the Early Grades. The National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) at UCLA

The National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) at the University of California, Los Angeles conducted a study on the grades 3–4 unit Light Energy. The study compared student learning from the Light Energy unit with that of students who experienced the usual science curriculum for the same topics.

Two young people explore an exhibit at The Lawrence.

Exploring the Influence of Science Writing Instruction on Fourth Graders’ Writing
Development

This paper, presented at the National Reading Conference in December 2009, examines the affordances of an integrated science-literacy curriculum on students’ writing development. As part of the efficacy study on the Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading® unit Light Energy, students were given a writing prompt that was scored on several dimensions, including science content, vocabulary, and clarity. Students in Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading classrooms outperformed students in control classrooms on all but two dimensions of science writing.

Two children at an exhibit at The Lawrence.

Integrating Literacy and Science: The Research We Have, the Research We Need

In this chapter, the authors review the research base that informs the Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading® curriculum, and trace the development of the Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading® model. Each guiding principle of the curriculum is discussed, along with preliminary assessment results that point to the advantage of integrating science and literacy. The chapter closes with questions around the science-literacy interface that merit further research.

A young person is building a structure at The Lawrence.

Reading and Writing in the Service of Inquiry-Based Science

This paper presents a working model of the science-literacy interface. The authors include insights gained from developing theSeeds of Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading® program, and guidance for educators in shaping an appropriate and supportive role for text and for literacy practices in inquiry-based science.