Improving Practice Together

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The Improving Practice Together (IPT) project is a research-practice partnership involving the Center to Support Excellence in Teaching (CSET) at Stanford University, Lawrence Hall of Science at University of California, Berkeley, and the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD).

The goal of this NSF, DRK-12-funded project is to improve science instruction between grades 3 – 5, with a focus on engaging students in argument from evidence. The project uses a Design-Based Implementation Research (DBIR) approach to study how PRACTISE – a research-based Professional Learning (PL) model developed by the Stanford/Lawrence Hall team in a previous NSF-funded project – can be adapted and implemented in SCUSD as it transitions to a Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-compatible science program. Research shows that engaging in argumentation helps students reach a deeper understanding of scientific concepts, and the PRACTISE PL program supports teachers to facilitate argumentation-based classroom discussion. IPT will support the adaptation of the PRACTISE PL model, based on the District’s objectives and constraints, and build the capacity of a cadre of teacher leaders (TLs) and a District program coordinator to implement its own adapted program independently at the conclusion of the project.

The project consists of three cycles of implementation, data collection, analysis, feedback, and revision. The first cohort of SCUSD teachers will participate in a week-long summer academy led by the Lawrence Hall of Science PL team, as well as six follow-up sessions throughout the school year. They will then participate in a Leadership Development Institute to prepare for their role as TLs. The second cohort will participate in a revised academy and follow up sessions co-led by the Hall, SCUSD program coordinator, and TLs. Finally, the third cohort will participate in a revised version of the PL program, led by the SCUSD program coordinator and TLs, with only limited support by the Hall PL team.

The research goals are to understand what modifications and adaptations to the PD are required for implementation by a school district; how effectively the adapted PL program is implemented; how well the PL program impacts classroom discourse practices; and how well the DBIR approach supports scalable, sustainable change in instructional practices around argumentation and discourse.