MSP Program: A Research and Development Effort in K-16 Teaching and Learning

Jim Hamos, National Science Foundation

So I want to take us back to where we started yesterday and then add a little bit more to it, and then give you an opportunity to give us some feedback. So I reminded all of you yesterday morning that we are a R&D effort. So this is both the doing of the work as well as studying the work. So reinforcing things throughout that we care about student achievement, the teacher quality/quantity diversity and evidence. So it's great to have this picked up as a constant message. I do want to show you a little bit about how we talk about all of you. So how we at NSF draw knowledge out of you and try to share that both to stakeholders that constantly are asking us questions again and again and again. And at the end, I'm going to ask you for help.

So, first. So we study, on the aggregate level, impact across all the MSPs. So all of the work of compiling information, setting it into the management information system, MIS that we ask you do. We study it and report it ad nauseam. Believe me, we look for it, it's not to evaluate you. It's to really look to see in the aggregate, can we impact student achievement. And we produce slides like this where you see over years and time, in the aggregate of these experiments. You all are experiments that there is increases in student achievement at multiple levels, multiple grades. It's more difficult in the high school level, the secondary level than the elementary level. But while the nation is moving forward, we as a community are moving forward with increases in student achievement as well.

I do want to let you know - and you know that in dealing with your program officers, you are doing the individual project level work of studying students achievement. But we, again, as an aggregate level, look at it in multiple ways. The year-by-year translated, you just saw before. But there are studies that look in, look and match comparison, schools and school districts that you work with, so those sorts of analyses are happening. There are meta analyses that are occurring as well, again, at a program level, more than any sort of judgment about you. And then, again, you produce data like you see here where in the aggregate, our community is moving data ahead and value-added level, as our colleagues yesterday at the Department of Education talked about their MSP program as well. And lo and behold, there are closing in achievement gaps too if you looked at all these sorts of data.

But now the big piece is, and this comes back to what Joan mentioned, what we've been talking about through all these last 36 hours, is we can see those sort of trends. The big question is, what are we learning? What are the sort of things we could pull out that are worthy of sharing with everyone? And I want to give you a list of these things. In other venues, especially at regional meetings with Department of Education's MSPs, but a in variety of things including something I'll show you in a minute, we share these sort of learnings.

We often point to individual projects, always because we want not just exemplars. But we want to show the evidence piece of it, that these are drawn from real data of real projects doing real work. A series of learnings that I think some of them sometimes seem sort of trivial, but still have resonant meaning. Other ones are still quite profound, all of them of which we want you to build on. Anything I'm going to share with you right now we know or sort of know you could continue to build on it. But we need you to dig deeper, add to it further. And there's quite a, quite a bit of room for all of it.

So, for example, that the whole notion that if you want to impact teacher, teacher knowledge and learning and then translate that to students, you need long-term, coherent courses. And lo and behold, one of the big experimental pieces of the MSP Program is, is there value added to bringing disciplinary faculty into this? And that's one of the centerpieces of this program, a priori, it wasn't any knowledge that I knew about that existed that it's the holy grail of education. But bringing these people into the work, many of you are out in the audience, I am one of you. Lo and behold, you're going to begin to find evidence that if you do long-term pieces of work with teachers and you're intentional about it, I think this builds on literature of the systemic programs of the '90s, other programs at NSF, general knowledge in the field, that it has to be long-term, it has to be intentional, it has be focused. Lo and behold, a lot of professional development that's done in this country is not that. So there's a lot of waste in this system that people need to know this.

That this, you all, are adding to the literature in this. So, and especially our colleagues in the KMD Project, the Knowledge Management and Dissemination Project are indeed studying the empirical literature and then finding the places where you are adding into this. And we will fund more knowledge management and dissemination projects. We have a project, the CACHE project that works with us in higher education. There are other places for us to add to this and not wait for all this work to bubble up maybe ten years from now, and maybe something, someone can use it. This is very much the idea of translational research, of how can we make it more obvious to you right now so you can react to it and make decisions, and again, add to the work.

The whole notion - I remember back in 2002 when we first started having MSP projects, the whole notion of professional learning communities was barely in a proposal, barely an idea. There was a literature already by DuFour and others that were beginning to use this literature. But we just see this richly across MSPs. It's been a strong flavor in many, many of our learning network conferences, that this indeed is a powerful way to conduct professional development. It's a powerful way to engage disciplinary faculty and other people and other stakeholders, education faculty in these sorts of learning communities. And when you do that, lo and behold, students perform better and there's greater achievement. But you then have to think about all the institutional structures to enable professional learning communities. Because they don't happen willy-nilly. And they're not just another name for a meeting. They truly are something much, much deeper.

Well, certainly a part of this meeting, if you care about partnerships and you think they're important and you want to study these partnerships, this is not just about, how do you know something about content knowledge? That you need the tools of social, social sciences to really study them and give yourself points of evidence. I think Karen gave great examples of social network analysis. Many of you have found that as methodology as well. Ethnography's out there, that that is a very reasonable tool. These are sets of tools that are, that are absolutely indispensable to what you can know about a partnership. And lo and behold, if you think the partnership is important, they provide bits of evidence for you down the line to give to others, and say, "Okay, this is value-added. Who's going to fund it? It's not NSF's job to continue funding it."

So, but you get to point to evidence it's these sorts of tools that enable that. That lo and behold, we can engage our colleagues in higher education, especially the STEM faculty, to think about teaching and learning. That they do it on their own in undergraduate education. So it's not only about our work with MSPs, but that they are thinking more and more about it, that when you bring - especially when you bring teachers on to college campuses, that would be teachers-in-residence, where they gain from the college experience, those individuals help change the lives of college faculty and their own thinking about teaching and learning. And so these mixtures are quite profound, and again, many wonderful examples across the MSP community. That if you wanted to enable it even further, you begin to create institutional structures to make it stronger. And then this is the whole notions of K-16 math and science institutes, centers that exist on campuses that can outlive partnerships. These are real structures with a couple of people that then are the boundary spanners, are the nodes, whatever, to enable these on the campuses and to interact the community.

So more and more of you, there are quite a few examples in this room, of these sort of centers that have come on board and I believe will outlive us, and again, have justified the reasons for existence and will continue to be the centerpiece connectors. And then finally, it is indeed possible to challenge the holy grail in that if this work is important and if you find evidence for it, that you do have to face some of the institutional barriers that are out there, especially in higher education, where many of us in higher education came there for one purpose, found a rich, rewarding value in this. But then the whole process is against it. And so many of you are beginning to, to touch on this and really think that the faculty reward structure can change. And believe that there is room for work in this, by the way, in the K-12 environment, that thinking about the whole K-12 environment, about what their reward structure is, how they operate. So these are professional learning communities. But what does that, how can that change to embolden teachers to be part of this work? I think there is room in that avenue.

So all of these-- So these are all findings that we've drawn over you for the last couple years. If you remember back in 2007, we produced the first ever National Impact Report and got that published out there. We are now-- Many of the findings that we just had and actually reflecting on individual projects, will be found in a new national impact report that should come out in the next month or so. To really publicly put this out there. So we are out there. This will be emblems of all of you. And it's time now to think about the next ideas. So we're-- These are our firm ideas, build on them. And we, we, as our-- We are now going around the room.

We've said, "Okay, we've shared some of those. We have to make sure that these continue to get built on." Again, the idea of translational research. But now I want to share with you just a few new ideas that we think are glimmers of hope. And then I'm going to call on you to give us more. So some of the newest ones that need to be codified and added in coming years. Number one, when we talk about STEM education, much of the focus has been on the first S letter and the last M letter.

So I didn't say S&M, so ...(inaudible) Lo and behold, if one has been following the conversation now, probably 15-20 years, the engineering education community has slowly been pushing, prodding, hoping for, waiting for legislation, whatever, and thinking that there's a room for engineering education in the K-12 curriculum. That's a hard fight. I mean, I often talk about the holy grail of biology, chemistry, physics, that is, you know, one way of doing it.

It's hard enough to make physics first, let alone move, make some room for other sorts of things. Well, I believe parts of this community have been dealing with engineering education for a few years now. Some new members are on board. I firmly believe that the whole notion of engineering education at the K-12 level is ready for prime time and all of us should think about, how does that happen? Engineering education is one example of where there's room in K-12 education. There are other things to think about too. I know that computer scientists wonder about it. And it may not be computer science per se in the K-12 system, but it could be the whole notion of computational thinking. How does that get embedded in this sort of work?

And there are other ideas out there too. So all of us, those people that want care about it and the K-12 curriculum should be wondering about opportunities, but realize that engineering education I fully believe is ready for primetime. And there will be several of you in this room contributing strongly to that. If one has followed the literature of how people learn in the national academies and the argument about taking science to school. There is a bubbling discussion about learning progressions, core science standards, really figuring out, what is it we really do want in science education? Redefining that. It's a very new conversation. It draws from the cognitive sciences, the learnings sciences; and then tries to think about, what does this mean for schools? There is not a lot of work out there. But some of you now are beginning to-- There's just a couple, only one or two in MSP, thinking about the notions of learning progressions,and how this can be a different way of drawing on conceptual knowledge and building into the science curriculum.

I can tell you, personally, and I've been doing this work now, god, it's hard to imagine a couple decades. But the first time that I came across this conversation, I said, "Oh, my god. We just have to stop doing, teaching any science for about two decades and figure this out." Because it's a fundamentally different way of thinking about the curriculum. So look at that literature carefully. I can tell you about one example in this room that, that looked at something very, very different and is a way of an explanation for why there can be a dramatic shift in a very severe urban environment that typically failed students. And is there a possibility to create an intervention and that, and restructure how schools happen, and actually build on peer-to-peer relationships as another way to restructure a classroom and produce some positive impacts for the classroom environment, for the students that were the, the students receiving the peer interaction, and the peer teaching assistants. And they are producing powerful impacts.

And it's something that's-- I only know at this point, at the K-12 level, with an N of one, but it's worthy to look at this project, it's the Math and Science Partnership Project in New York City, that has a very, very interesting set of findings they presented at this meeting. And it's very, very interesting a little bit different. And then, finally, I know there's constant conversation inside of the National Science Foundation, how do we, how do we bring in cyber-enabled tools into the whole teaching learning environment, and more than believing that it truly can make changes in teaching and learning, actually produce outcomes. And these things need to be studied. Many of you in this room are trying a variety of different kinds of tools and online approaches, and perhaps, even newer methodologies that are worthy of really getting out there, finding the evidence for and bringing up to a different level of scale.

So these are a couple things to think about. We need you all to be thinking further. So this comes to highlight season. This is the time of the year. This is the moment. Hopefully, you've gotten emails from your program officers. But if not, now you're hearing it from me -- that we in government, try to talk about our projects and their work. Even before they're published, just the snippets of thoughts and pictures. But this is the way in some ways we build up this knowledge. It's one of the pieces in the ways that we get to share your work. And I could tell you that people have captured on MSP Highlights in different kinds of reporting structures again and again and again. They are the ways that we get to share what you do early on. So we do care about the evidence, pushing a publication, other venues. But this is - and I'm going to ask you to do this very actively. It's -- the time is now.

So you finish this meeting, you get to ride home. Think for a second, if you can. Bring these to us. And these are our ways that we share what you work. Actually, I'm going to make the request, even if you want to leave me notes as you're leaving, you can do this. Because this follows up on an email that, Joan, that you sent me over the weekend. And this just shows you how government can happen. And I don't know, you can think what I'm thinking going to say about. But this is-- So we have people in Congress -- and you're going to know this conversation in a second -- that wonder about possible changes in education and does the federal government enable opportunities for different kinds of innovations and what have you? And I'm going to bring us to the notion of charter schools Okay, so the notion of charter schools and are we supporting them when they are working, are we enabling them? Are we in their way? Those are-- That's an important conversation. And lo and behold, we do have colleagues around that are doing some work in this. What I'm going to ask you do-- Because it's a, it's a very timely request.

We are drawing from our databases just to try to understand more about those of you who are doing work in this. So it's not a failure if you're not working with charter schools, but we do want to know if you are. So if you are doing some sort of work in this field, just let us know. And this could be a note just-- This is one of those cases, as much as I love data, anecdotal bits are fine for the start. We will try to aggregate up some sort of things. So there are even quick bits of information that we are constantly drawing upon. I do want to give you an update about where we're heading, okay.


So this is the opportunity for funding. So you can see on this slide, we're pointed to the idea that there will be an MSP solicitation this year. Okay, right now you see it's NSF 10-xxx. Those are supposed to be numbers. But you only, but you only get a number when you go through our whole clearance process. And my colleagues and I are just now drawing, pulling together our solicitation. But I want to point out that all the things that we've, we've funded in the past, we expect to fund in this next competition. Okay, so if you are interested in these, especially those of you who are MSP starts, we have deliberately waited for the moment, the first cohort of MSP starts, which had about two years to think about this work. We wanted to make sure that there were funds available and opportunity available for you to bring up your two years of planning and ideas and work and innovative work to have an opportunity to compete in a competition.

So this solicitation will be, will be, we hope, evolving through the clearance process over the next month, which means that, hopefully it gets out sometime late-February, maybe early-March. And then 90 days later is when proposals will be due. So sometime you can expect that in the May-June timetable is when there will be a due date. And if you're interested in any of these opportunities, they will again be available to you. And we certainly encourage you to be parts of these competitions. Those of you who are current awardees and heard about Kathleen ran the session on it for the Phase II ideas. That will continue to be out there. Nothing precludes anyone from submitting a proposal. You can submit one proposal in the partnership category. Feel free to bring those ideas to us. So that's a little bit about the solicitation update.

And then, finally, I do want to bring this to a close by bringing you some data points from your very first session yesterday morning. And this was the whole concept of defining what a learning network-- And what you have here is my colleagues,led by Jessica Slater, but other parts of the MSP staff, pull together what the 17 rooms brought together as words and tried to define a learning network. I know that the rooms-- I don't know if this happened to every single room. But several of you tried to define what is an MSP learning network. That was a, defined subset of the question. Because what we first wanted you to find was, what is a learning network? What would it be? And then figure out what does it mean to you with an MSP? That's a, that's a later question. And the words that you're seeing here, this is a frequency analysis. And the words that are largest are the words that you used the most. And then the words get smaller and smaller for words that are used a little frequently. I'm not going to give you an answer to this, because all of these are personal answers. We will put this back on MSPnet for you to think about and to really, you define the next stage of what is this learning network?

And as I leave you, there is an evaluation form on your desk. Okay, so we're going to ask you to fill out an evaluation form. The last page of the evaluation form frames both the goals of the conference. So that's up front, how we define what this conference was about. We knew we didn't give you a lot of free time just to roam around DC, as I said before, so that we kept you quite active. We do want-- The very last page of the form, or side four, whatever it is, reframes these questions. You do not have to answer these questions for us. Okay, so those words are parroted back to you. But we do want you to internalize and have conversations continually about, you know, what have you learned about learning networks? Not about the MSP learning, but just about learning networks?And then how will you engage with what is the MSP learning network? And then maybe we'll have further data points down the line of what is our social network here in the future?

So I hope you've had a great meeting. I'll put you back to this slide as you finish the evaluation form. Safe travels as you go back to all your home destinations, and we look forward to hearing from you soon.