The CoreModels Project  

In 1997, MVHS was awarded a second NSF grant in which the focus was the development and implementation of computational modeling activities that addressed Maryland Core Learning Goals. Twenty-seven schools joined this project in an effort to find the answers to these three research questions:

Research Questions

  • Can computational modeling activities be successfully implemented in a variety of science classrooms?
  • Can their effective use enhance the ability of students to attain Core Learning Goal expectations?
  • Can teacher leaders successfully mentor peers through reciprocal site visits, classroom coaching and telecommunications?
The CoreModels Process

Starting with a select group of teacher leaders from the initial MVHS project, the first year of the CoreModels project was spent building a learning community in which classroom observations and peer review of materials became the norm. These leaders then mentored other teachers who joined the project during the second and third years. School year sessions for participating teachers introduced the central ideas of computational science and provided an opportunity for them to work through the activities that they then used in their own classrooms. Each CoreModels activity was constructed using an inquiry-based approach in which the model could be used to help answer a problem that had been posed. Student learning was assessed through two open-ended questions: one required the students to provide a detailed written interpretation of a graph generated by a model and the other asked the students to evaluate the affordances and limitations of the model. Peer observations and coaching ensured that teachers were supported in implementing the activities and served as a valuable source of feedback for materials revision. Teacher-developed rubrics for the student assessments provided an opportunity for in-depth discussions of the concepts essential to each question and ways to aid student mastery of those concepts.

Guiding Principles

MVHS CoreModels integrated curriculum reform efforts, technology integration and teacher professionalism through peer support. MVHS seeks to bring to bear an understanding of human cognition, including sensory functions, short and long term memory, and problem solving to the design of instructional materials, online environment and professional development paradigm. The principles influencing the project are outlined below, with links to further discussion and resources.

CoreModels emphasizes the modeling process which allows students to construct their own understanding of recurring scientific concepts like environmental cycles, equilibrium processes, and feedback - relationships emphasized in both the Maryland Core Learning Goals and AAAS Science Benchmarks.

The MVHS professional development paradigm is centered on the classroom. Center directors and supporting teachers receive leadership training and practice in peer coaching. School year sessions for participating teachers introduce the central ideas of computational science and provide an opportunity for them to work through the activities that they will use in their own classrooms and assist center directors in leading students through these same investigations. A subsequent peer observation and coaching component ensures that teachers are supported in implementing these activities and is used as a valuable source of feedback for materials revision.

Three regional centers, located in Northern, Central and Western Maryland, were established in 1997 to support schools in using computational modeling toward student attainment of the new state standards. Each center was directed by a teacher who was released half time from teaching duties to free up time to work with participating teachers at five or six schools. When funding ended in 2000, the three center directors returned to their full-time teaching schedules; but master teachers from across the three regions continued training other teachers through summer workshops funded through EOT-PACI and EPIC.

Teacher collaboration is both a means and an end for integrating technology into daily school life. In addition to the basics of technology use, teachers consult each other in determining how to use it to help students achieve. Building an online learning community can lessen the isolation of the classroom, enabling teachers and students to work together on authetic community based problems.

Project Status Report - 1999


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