Research Cindy Passmore

Modeling Scientific Practice in High School Biology: Creating a Next Generation Instructional Resource

November 2013

With funding from the National Science Foundation, Cindy Passmore, professor of science education at the UC Davis School of Education, Julia Gouvea, a researcher in the School of Education, Arthur Beauchamp, director of the Sacramento Area Science Project, and Rick Grosberg, founding director of the Coastal and Marine Sciences Research Institute, are leading a three-year $1.963 million effort to design an online resource of curriculum and embedded professional development to support high school biology teachers in the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Ultimately, the project could result in a national model for high school biology instruction.

The basis for the integrated year-long sequence of instruction is work that Passmore and Beauchamp did in model-based inquiry with 57 secondary science teachers (grades 6-12) from 2007 to 2011. During the Innovations in Science Instruction through Modeling (ISIM) project, the researchers worked closely with two different cohorts of teachers in two-year sequences of professional development (over 200 hours) to support teachers’ understanding and practice of model-based inquiry as an approach to support student engagement in authentic scientific practice and deep content learning. Findings from this work showed that participating teachers moved toward a more student-centered, inquiry-based approach and away from a focus on vocabulary and memorization. However, in order to fully enact this kind of pedagogy in their classrooms, it became clear that teachers needed more and better curriculum materials and instructional supports.

“In our work, developing and using scientific models is the fundamental element which anchors the practices of science: asking questions, planning and carrying out investigations, analyzing and interpreting data, constructing explanations, and arguing from evidence,” said Passmore. “As such, our approach is well aligned with the Framework for K-12 Science Education and NGSS.”

The team, which consists of Passmore, Gouvera, Beauchamp, two veteran ISIM teachers, Inverness Research, Inc., and an advisory board made up of three professors of education and one professor of physics, will spend the first year of the project designing and piloting the curriculum with the teachers on the team. Year Two will involve refining the materials and piloting in more classrooms. Year Three will consist of dissemination through a live website.

“A project of this scope is necessary to achieve the coherence needed to fundamentally shift instruction and to understand how to help teachers enact this shift,” said Passmore, who will also be conducting research on teacher and student learning related to the implementation of the online instructional resource. “This is far more than just a repository or collection of extant materials. We will create materials that are explicitly aligned to NGSS,” she said. In addition, the goal is to create a portal of sequenced and interrelated resources augmented by videos, chat rooms, and other resources to allow for embedded professional development and collaboration among teachers.

Passmore believes this work could provide an “architecture” to provide other science curriculum as the country moves forward with adoption of NGSS. To date, seven states, including California, have adopted the new standards, serving nearly one in every five students nationwide.

Log in