Michael Wittmann on research-driven professional development in the MainePSP

Michael C. Wittmann

Rural outreach in Maine: A research-driven professional development teacher community

Published abstract for the APS April Meeting 2016 (part of session R6: Engaging the Public Through a Variety of Collaborations and Initiatives, April 18, starting 10.45 in room 150ABC)

In the Maine Physical Sciences Partnership (MainePSP), researchers at the University of Maine have joined together with the state's Department of Education, non-profits, and teachers in multiple school districts to create a dynamic and growing community dedicated to improving K12 education of the physical sciences. Through ongoing efforts to introduce and adapt instructional materials, guided by education research and research-guided professional development, we have built a community responsive to student and teacher needs. This work has fed back into the university setting, where teachers are playing a role in graduate courses taken by our Master of Science in Teaching students. In this talk, I will focus on the role of education research in the partnership, showing how we use research in professional development, the development of assessments, and the analysis of the resulting data. I will describe two projects, one to understand how teachers' content knowledge affects the development of items assessing knowledge of acceleration, the other to see how teachers use their content knowledge of systems and energy to make pedagogical choices based on students' incorrect ideas about conservation of energy.


Lauren Barth-Cohen and Michael Wittmann on coordination classes and group learning

Barth-Cohen, L. & Wittmann, M. C.

Expanding Coordination Class Theory to Capture Conceptual Learning in a Classroom Environment (scroll to p.386)

2016 Proceedings of the International Conference of the Learning Sciences on Feb 5, 2016.

Barth-Cohen, L. & Wittmann, M. C. (2016). Expanding Coordination Class Theory to Capture Conceptual Learning in a Classroom Environment. In Looi, C. K., Polman, J. L., Cress, U., and Reimann, P. (Eds.), Transforming Learning, Empowering Learners: The International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) 2016, Volume 1 (pp. 386-393) Singapore: International Society of the Learning Sciences.

This article presents an extension to coordination class theory—a theory of conceptual change that was built to capture an individual’s learning in an interview setting. Here we extend that theory to capture group and individual learning in classrooms. The proposed extension focuses on different contexts in the sense of groups’ and individuals’ different interpretations of the same student-generated artifact. We describe instances in which a classroom of 9th grade earth science students created embodied models for a specific scientific concept, the steady state energy of the earth. The students encountered difficulties aligning their embodied models with their conceptual understandings, and yet, they were able to make progress by changing their models to better aligned their understanding of the scientific concept with their newly modified model—instances of individual and group learning. We conclude with discussing implications for designing classrooms learning environments.