Project Overview

Reflective Assessment for Elementary Science in Iowa (RAES-Iowa) is a three-year project grounded in a sustained professional development program designed to support elementary teachers’ use of formative assessment practices in science. This project is funded by the federal Mathematics and Science Partnership Program, which is a part of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), and is administered by the Iowa Department of Education. It involves a partnership between the University of Iowa (UI) Colleges of Education and Engineering, Grant Wood Area Education Agency (GWAEA) and Van Allen Science Teaching Center (VAST), the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California-Berkeley (LHS), and the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research (CGRER). School district partners are the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD), Washington Community Schools (WCSD), Clear Creek Amana Community School District (CCACSD), Highland Community School District (HCSD), and St. James School. The program will engage 38 3rd-6th-grade teachers in learning to employ Reflective Assessment (RA), a 4-step formative assessment strategy developed by LHS, to teach science modules they currently use through the VAST Center. Research demonstrates that elementary teachers’ use of the RA strategy is strongly correlated with student learning gains in science. Despite a long-standing relationship between LHS and the GWAEA/VAST Center, however, teachers in Eastern Iowa have not yet had an opportunity to participate in professional development to learn about and incorporate RA into their science. The RAES-Iowa professional development program is designed to accomplish four explicit objectives: to a) promote teachers’ effective use of RA in their science instruction and b) teachers’ content knowledge, c) better engage elementary students in scientific practices and d) promote their learning of science concepts. To evaluate the impact of the RAES-Iowa program on teacher and student outcomes, the project team will analyze teacher logs, video recorded lesson enactments, and student assessment data, as well as draw upon formative feedback from a national advisory board, as part of a rigorous research and evaluation effort. The project is research-based and aligns with current statewide efforts to identify scalable STEM educational programs with a track-record of success as articulated in the Iowa STEM Education Roadmap and the goals of Governor Branstad’s STEM Advisory Council.

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