Project Details


This project conducts two parallel studies on learning progressions (LPs). LPs embody a developmental approach to learning as they describe the paths that students might take as students develop progressively more sophisticated ways of reasoning about scientific concepts and practices in a domain. Therefore, this project investigates the theoretical validity of LPs based on the outcomes of earlier studies to better understand what can be learned about how student knowledge develops in genetics. Two research questions will guide the studies.1. To what extent does the notion of well-defined and highly constrained learning paths reflect the actual development of students? learning in a domain?2. In what ways do the learning of scientific content and scientific practices interact in science LPs? That is, what are the affordances and constraints that particular content learning paths pose on the learning of scientific practices?The first study addresses both research questions by comparing two genetics LPs through a dual implementation of instructional units that also include a focus on modeling practice. This comparison provides additional evidence regarding the type and relative strength of the conceptual constraints and affordances that drive the development of student knowledge in genetics. The participating mid-sized suburban district uses a physics-first curriculum where biology is taught last in the science sequence at the11th grade. Participants include four high school teachers and their students. The project impacts about 70 students per teacher or 560 over two implementations. The second study addresses only the first research question and employs a cross-sectional design to examine the development of the genetics knowledge of students from late elementary to college. This cross-sectional design provides additional evidence about the conceptual constraints and affordances in the development of genetics knowledge given a much broader sample from varying instructional contexts. Students at 5th, 7th, 9th, and 11th grades from public and private schools as well as undergraduates and graduates from Rutgers, Montclair, and Princeton participate in the second study. The sample includes about 200 students from each group.
Effective start/end date3/15/112/29/16


  • National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation (NSF))

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