Collaborative Research: Focus on Energy: Preparing Elementary Teachers to Meet the NGSS Challenge

September 1st, 2014 - August 31st, 2018 | PROJECT

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) identify an ambitious progression for learning energy, beginning in elementary school. To help the nation's teachers address this challenge, this project will develop and investigate the opportunities and limitations of Focus on Energy, a professional development (PD) system for elementary teachers (grades 3-5). The PD will contain: resources that will help teachers to interpret, evaluate and cultivate students' ideas about energy; classroom activities to help them to identify, track and represent energy forms and flows; and supports to help them in engaging students in these activities. Teachers will receive the science and pedagogical content knowledge they need to teach about energy in a crosscutting way across all their science curricula; students will be intellectually engaged in the practice of developing, testing, and revising a model of energy they can use to describe phenomena both in school and in their everyday lives; and formative assessment will guide the moment-by-moment advancement of students' ideas about energy. This project will develop and test a scalable model of PD that will enhance the ability of in-service early elementary teachers to help students learn energy concepts by coordinating formative assessment, face-to-face and web-based PD activities. Researchers will develop and iteratively refine tools to assess both teacher and student energy reasoning strategies. The goals of the project include (1) teachers' increased facility with, and disciplined application of, representations and energy reasoning to make sense of everyday phenomena in terms of energy; (2) teachers' increased ability to interpret student representations and ideas about energy to make instructional decisions; and (3) students' improved use of representations and energy reasoning to develop and refine models that describe energy forms and flows associated with everyday phenomena. The web-based product will contain: a set of formative assessments to help teachers to interpret student ideas about energy based on the Facets model; a series of classroom tested activities to introduce the Energy Tracking Lens (method to explore energy concept using multiple representations); and videos of classroom exemplars as well as scientists thinking out loud while using the Energy Tracking Lens. The project will refine the existing PD and build a system that supports online implementation by constructing a facilitator's guide so that the online community can run with one facilitator.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Team Members

Sara Lacy, Principal Investigator, TERC, Inc.
Roger Tobin, Co-Principal Investigator, TERC, Inc.
Nathaniel Brown, Co-Principal Investigator, TERC, Inc.
Stamatis Vokos, Principal Investigator, Seattle Pacific University
Rachel Scherr, Co-Principal Investigator, Seattle Pacific University
Kara Gray, Co-Principal Investigator, Seattle Pacific University
Lane Seeley, Co-Principal Investigator, Seattle Pacific University
Amy Robertson, Co-Principal Investigator, Seattle Pacific University


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ISE/AISL
Award Number: 1418052
Funding Amount: 1567134

Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: DRK-12
Award Number: 1418211
Funding Amount: 517560


Audience: Educators | Teachers | Elementary School Children (6-10) | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Education and learning science | General STEM | Physics
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Informal | Formal Connections | K-12 Programs | Media and Technology | Professional Development | Conferences | Networks | Professional Development and Workshops | Websites | Mobile Apps | Online Media