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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Arizona State University
  • Ying-Chih Chen
  • (480) 965-5479
  • Michelle Jordan
Award Date:06/15/2021
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 442,293
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 442,293
  • FY 2021=$442,293
Start Date:08/01/2021
End Date:07/31/2024
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.076
Primary Program Source:040106 NSF Education & Human Resource
Award Title or Description:Managing Uncertainty for Productive Struggle: Exploring Teacher Development for Managing Students' Epistemic Uncertainty as a Pedagogical Resource in Project-Based Learning
Federal Award ID Number:2100879
DUNS ID:943360412
Parent DUNS ID:806345658
Program:Discovery Research K-12
Program Officer:
  • Michael Ford
  • (703) 292-5153

Awardee Location

Awardee Cong. District:09

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Arizona State University
Street:P.O. Box 876011
Cong. District:09

Abstract at Time of Award

The research team is exploring teachers' capacity to manage student epistemic uncertainty as a pedagogical resource that supports student’s productive struggle and the development of conceptual knowledge during project-based learning (PBL) instruction in middle school science classrooms. Although scientists consider uncertainty to be a primary driver of the progression of scientific knowledge and making sense of the world, the way science is typically taught in middle school obscures the productive role of uncertainty in science. Indeed, science is typically taught to emphasize its assuredness and authority instead. If teachers are going to shift their teaching practice to engage students with uncertainty in scientifically productive ways, the educational community needs this area to be researched. It is known that managing uncertainty in the classroom is a challenge for teachers and students. Many are not familiar with how scientists and engineers manage uncertainty to make sense of the real world, and few studies explore learning science as an enterprise of uncertainty management nor how student uncertainty is identified by teachers and students, advances discussion, contributes to knowledge development, gets resolved, and appropriately raises new uncertainties, and what strategies are available to teachers to manage students’ desirable uncertainty for productive struggle. This project is exploring how teachers' instructional practices change over time with repeated use of epistemic uncertainty as a pedagogical resource to support students’ engagement in PBL, and what effect those changes have on student perceptions, practice, management of epistemic uncertainty and learning outcomes. The project will result in the following outcomes: (1) an evidence-based model and learning materials for sustained PD that focuses on developing teacher capacity and practice while using targeted materials and approaches; (2) a productive teaching model for managing uncertainty that will promote a culture of scientific inquiry and engineering design as well as a set of strategies to foster student agency; and (3) evidence of increased student learning outcomes when teachers adapt students' epistemic uncertainty as a pedagogical resource to support students' productive struggle in STEM PBL. Using a longitudinal, design-based research, mixed-methods study structure, the research team is investigating middle school science teachers' capacity to recognize, utilize, and manage students' epistemic uncertainty as a pedagogical resource for productive struggle. The study follows the same cohort of 24 sixth-grade teachers in Phoenix, Arizona, for three years beginning in fall 2021. Program activities are impacting approximately 1080 students’ learning outcomes over the life of the project. The following research questions guide the study: (1) How does sustained engagement with professional development in uncertainty management affect teachers' capacity to recognize and utilize students' epistemic uncertainty as a pedagogical resource for engaging students in productive struggle to develop scientific knowledge? (2) How do teachers' instructional practice in managing epistemic uncertainty change over time when they utilize epistemic uncertainty as a pedagogical resource for engaging students in productive struggle? (3) How do teachers' approach to managing uncertainty influence students' perceptions, practice, and management of epistemic uncertainty? Quantitatively, existing measures are being employed an two new instruments are being developed. Qualitatively, interviews and surveys round out the exploration of these questions. The results of this study are informing widely-adopted learning standards, and dissemination will help science teachers to recognize and use students’ epistemic uncertainty as a pedagogical resource to support their learning in science and engineering classrooms. The Discovery Research preK-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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