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Department of Education

Current and Continuing Research Projects

Here is a sampling of the current faculty research. Please feel free to get in touch with any of us for more information, questions, or ideas for collaboration.

ConnecTions in the Making: Integrating Science and Engineering to Design Community SolutionsConnecTions in the Making: Integrating Science and Engineering to Design Community Solutions

Kristen Wendell in collaboration with Dr. Tejaswini Dalvi at UMass Boston and local teachers and administrators, the ConnecTions project supports teachers in learning to integrate engineering design with science inquiry in elementary classrooms, in a context of solving local problems that matter in their students' communities. Some of those problems have been identified in collaboration with scientists and engineers from Boston's MBTA transit system, the "T." The project team has co-developed six new curriculum units with collaborating educators and is conducting classroom studies on student reasoning and practice as the units are enacted.

Designing Biomimetic Robots research projectDesigning Biomimetic Robots

Kristen Wendell and Ethan Danahy are collaborating with Debra Bernstein and Gilly Puttick at TERC to use educational robotics — specifically the Hummingbird Robot kit — to develop, refine, and study the impact of a biomimetic robotics design curriculum for sixth through eighth grade students. The project is funded by NSF.

Tufts CampusHip Hop Making Spaces
Tufts PI Brian Gravel, funded by NSF

This collaboration between Drexel, Olin College of Engineering, and TERC explore the relationships between the five elements of hip hop and computational making practices in STEM. Through the design of workshops that draw from hip hop principles, culturally sustaining pedagogy, and aspects of STEM-rich making, we explore youth identities and STEM learning.

The Hybrid Labs research projectThe Hybrid Labs Project
PI Julia Gouvea and Aditi Wagh, funded by the Davis Foundation

The Hybrid Labs project is developing undergraduate biology laboratories that couple computational modeling and experimentation and training graduate student TAs in new pedagogy. Research in the project will study both undergraduate students' and graduate TA's learning of practices in science and approaches to teaching.

Investigating Proportional Relationships from Two Perspectives (InPReP2)Investigating Proportional Relationships from Two Perspectives (InPReP2)
Professor Andrew Izsák with Co-Investigators Sybilla Beckmann and Laine Bradshaw at the University of Georgia

The InPReP2 project is investigating how future middle and secondary school mathematics teachers develop quantitative understandings of multiplication, division, and fractions that they can then use to build understandings of ratios and proportional relationships and applications to linear equations and statistical samples. The study focuses on two perspectives on ratios and proportional relationships, one of which has been largely overlooked in past mathematics education research. The two perspectives are developed in mathematics content courses that future service teachers take as part of their preparation programs. The project examines the future teachers' reasoning as they participate in these courses and compares their facility with proportional relationships to that of future teachers in a "business as usual" content course at a second university.

Re-Making STEM research projectRe-Making STEM
Tufts PI Brian Gravel, James Adler, and Tim Atherton, funded by NSF

Re-Making STEM is a professional development collaboration between Tufts University, TERC, Olin College of Engineering, Malden Public Schools, and Cambridge Public schools. Together, researchers and teachers are exploring the idea of "computational making" within STEM disciplines to examine how computational thinking, computational tools, and multiple ways of knowing come together in "making" to provide powerful opportunities for learning.

Children's Mathematical Representations research projectChildren's Mathematical Representations
Bárbara M. Brizuela

The Children's Mathematical Representations project investigates children's early learning of mathematical notations. It builds from the assumption that conventional knowledge is built on prior understandings. From this assumption, it follows that children's ideas about mathematical notations could be constitutive of their later conventional understandings. One of the central tasks of the investigation is to document how children initially represent numerical and mathematical understandings and how and why their expressive repertoire changes over time.

Dynamics of Learners' Engagement and Persistence in Science research projectDynamics of Learners' Engagement and Persistence in Science
David Hammer

Dynamics of Learners' Engagement and Persistence in Science is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The project looks across educational experiences from elementary school to university to find examples of students' engagement in science, in particular moments, lasting for days, or even personal transformations over a semester. Within each of these, we are studying what contributes to that engagement—how it begins, how it sustains.

Early Algebra research projectEarly Algebra
María Blanton and Bárbara M. Brizuela

Through design based classroom teaching experiments, the Early Algebra Project investigates the ways in which children from Kindergarten through 8th grade generalize, justify, represent, and reason algebraically. Through our research, we have shown that introducing algebra as part of the early mathematics curriculum is highly feasible and we have also clarified how specific representational tools — tables, graphs, numerical and algebraic notation, and certain natural language structures — can be employed to help students express functional relations among numbers and quantities and solve algebra problems.

STEMLiMS: Investigating STEM Literacies in Makerspaces research projectSTEMLiMS: Investigating STEM Literacies in Makerspaces
PI Brian Gravel, in collaboration with Eli Tucker-Raymond at TERC

STEMLiMS is an NSF-funded project project aimed at understanding how participants in makerspaces engage in STEM literacy practices as they create and produce physical products of personal and social value. We are studying how participants in makerspaces interpret, use, and create representational texts, and we will use what we learn to inform the design of makerspaces for learners. Sites for our work include Artisan's Asylum, the South End Tech Center and Sprout & Co. as well as the makerspaces at the Cambridge Friends School and the Somerville STEAM Academy.