Separate education research grants in progress at the University of Missouri may help English language learners understand algebra and open careers in STEM fields to students with disabilities.
The projects also have implications related to legislation approved in Missouri to create an online science, technology, engineering and match curriculum.
The first research project is a $450,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study “flipped instruction” of algebra. In flipped instruction, teachers send video lessons home with students to view, then class time is used for discussion and problem solving.
This is the second year of what is to be a three-year project. Zandra de Araujo, MU associate professor of math education, is one of the researchers.
“We are in the first significant year of data collection,” de Araujo said. “We’re in 30 classes this year.”
She said the project hopes to have 40 algebra teachers on board by year three.
De Araujo said flipped instruction holds promise in helping English language learners to understand alegebra. She said those students have more time to review the information the teacher sends home.
“It could potentially be impactful for them,” de Araujo said.
English language learners is a term used in an academics term describing students who do not speak or write fluently in English. Often they come from countries where English is not the native language.
The second project is a $1.25 million National Institutes of Health grant to develop better ways of teaching science, technology, engineering and math to middle school students. Delinda van Garderen, MU professor of special education, is one of the researchers involved in that project. She said the research is designed to help middle school teachers develop text in their instruction that is easier for all students to understand and work with.
Van Garderen said the project has completed work with its first group of five teachers and it has begun recruiting 10 new middle school teachers to work with researchers beginning in May.
“We really want to integrate good practice of literacy in students’ instruction,” she said. She said the goal is to help students be prepared for life after high school, including in STEM careers.
She said including all students in the research is an important aspect of it, which fits into her field of special education.
“It gives me an opportunity to work with teachers who have a diverse group of learners,” she said. “If a student struggles to read a text, I’m here to help the student. I’m thrilled to be a part of this.”
Van Garderen said the legislation requiring an online STEM curriculum is timely and fits in with the research.
“We want underrepresented students to have every opportunity available,” van Garderen said. “We want to give teachers strategies to help engage those students to pursue STEM careers.”
De Araujo, said she also can see a potential for using the online STEM curriculum in flipped algebra instruction.
“It’s interesting to see how it plays out,” she said of the future research results.