California State University, Long Beach
alt=A creative illustration envisioning the evolving classroom. "

The Evolving Classroom

As new curriculum standards are introduced, teachers are finding innovative ways to incorporate those standards into the classroom. Three professors from the College of Education are committed to showing what the evolving classroom looks like in the 21st Century through new ways to approach teaching.

Innovation in math education

For Educational Psychology professor Dr. Hiromi Masunaga, finding innovative ways to cultivate deep understanding of mathematics among elementary school students helped change teachers’ understanding of learning.

Recipients of an award from the 100Kin10 National Research Design Competition in May 2013, Masunaga and Educational Leadership professor Dr. Linda Symcox collaborated on a project that incorporates the Lesson Study method into effective mathematics instruction and professional development of teachers.

The 100Kin10 movement is an initiative that unites the nation’s top academic institutions, nonprofits, foundations, companies and government agencies to train and retain 100,000 excellent STEM teachers by 2021. The CSU system joined the movement in 2011 as the nation’s largest producer of math and science teachers, promising to bring 1,500 more teachers into the STEM field annually.

Masunaga and Symcox were awarded $100,000 from 100kin10 to conduct the research project, results of which would advance quality implementation of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics at the elementary level. The project was conducted in close collaboration with the University of Chicago Education Lab and Education Lab affiliate Kirabo Jackson, an associate professor at Northwestern University.

The CSULB researchers used Lesson Study protocols to build a strong professional community in which teachers collaboratively design a lesson, teach the lesson, observe student learning in the lesson and analyze and reflect on the lesson.

“Lesson Study lets teachers know more about their students,” Masunaga said. “After each cycle, teachers have noted increasingly more often, ‘I know more about how students learn and where they have difficulties. I know the students need time to develop a plan, and talk and think with each other.”

Although it has been a fixture in Japan for many years, Lesson Study is seeing a rapid growth in cities such as Chicago, San Francisco and Oakland. Masunaga and Symcox partnered with Little Lake City School District in Santa Fe Springs, California.

“The focus of Lesson Study is the students rather than the teachers,” Masunaga said. “It’s not just about whether the teacher is doing a good job but more about whether or not and how the students learn.”

The support from the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation enabled Masunaga to continue working with Little Lake City School District after the support from 100Kin10 ended. Collaborating researchers at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University have analyzed the project data using powerful statistical designs that were well suited for identifying the impacts of the Lesson Study on teachers and students.

Although Masunaga’s two-year project working with Little Lake City School District has ended, the model developed in her project is still being used by the school district. She sees Lesson Study continuing to grow in the United States.

“I see more and more groups develop,” Masunaga said. “I think it’s getting increasingly more powerful but we need more experts and coaches to guide and solidify their efforts.”

Applying educational technologies in teacher training in STEM

At the Boys & Girls Clubs of Long Beach, kids have been participating in after-school programs that get them involved in STEM projects, while graduate students from CSULB’s Educational Technology and Media Leadership program gain field experience.

Dr. Stephen Adams, professor of educational technology in the College of Education, coordinates the program, which is part of a project called “Transforming Teaching and Learning through Technology (T2L2T).” Adams sees the project as an important step for teachers to learn how to use technology in STEM teaching.

Adams notes while teachers have an opportunity to gain experience from teaching the workshops, the kids participating in the after-school program at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Long Beach get an added benefit.

“The youth at the Boys & Girls Clubs have the benefit of the extra activities related to STEM, so it ends up being a win-win arrangement. Everybody gets something out of that,” he said.

Using curriculum kits developed as part of the Engineering is Elementary project at Boston’s Museum of Science, teachers are using new ways to incorporate technology into curriculum units that originally didn’t include it. One example included a unit on earthquakes, in which youth designed and created structures to be resistant to shaking.

“The kids built the structures with materials, like index cards,” Adams said. “Teachers incorporated an app that measured the shaking and students were able to calibrate how much shaking they were giving to a structure.”

This process helped the kids test and refine their designs, and they developed excitement about the engineering design process, an important new area of focus within the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

When an earthquake engineer visited CSULB to see what the students were doing, Adams said the engineer was impressed to see them inventing ideas that were parallel to structures and solutions that real engineers would use in buildings.

“We’re seeing some encouraging signs in both of those groups,” said Adams. “Teachers feel more confident about their knowledge of how to use technology in these fields while the youth have more comfort in doing things like the engineers do.”

As new curriculum standards are introduced, teachers are finding innovative ways to incorporate those standards into the classroom. Three professors from the College of Education are committed to showing what the evolving classroom looks like in the 21st Century through new ways to approach teaching.

The T2L2T project has received over $150,000 in support. Google provided initial funding, and the Fluor Corporation has been a long-standing partner. The project has also received support from Chevron, the Noyce Foundation, and 100Kin10, as well as through studies of after-school learning funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and, most recently, research on Linked Learning supported by the James Irvine Foundation. This support covered costs of tuition, academic credit, and curriculum materials, so teachers received the training at no charge and offered workshops to the youth at no charge. This support also made possible development of the innovative program delivery, systematic evaluation, and published research studies and conference presentations.

 Words: Navy Keophan