Statement of Broader Impact Despite longstanding scholarship that calls for science instruction to center student interest, address socio scientific issues, and promote social justice, there continues to be a persistent and problematic relationship between race, class, health and environmental risks. EMPOWER (Enacting Materials to Promote OWnership, Engagement and Relevance) aims to prepare teachers to adapt and use curriculum materials so that students will be engaged, interested, and empowered to enact change in their urban, small urban, and rural communities. EMPOWER will transform the research and practice community by amplifying the voices of students in the process of curriculum design and enactment, and broaden our understanding of the relationships between teachers, curriculum materials, students, and the socio political contexts in which students live.
EMPOWER: Enacting Materials to Promote OWnership, Engagement and Relevance EMPOWER (Enacting Materials to Promote OWnership, Engagement and Relevance) is an ambitious program that empowers students to enact change in their local community. The introduction of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) across the United States has spurred numerous efforts to design and disseminate NGSS-aligned curriculum materials. NGSS-aligned curriculum materials aim to shift science instruction away from rote memorization and toward the active co-construction of ideas by teachers and students. However, these curriculum materials often do not address the persistent, and problematic relationships between race, class, and health and environmental factors that minoritized students of color face in their communities. The goal of the EMPOWER program is to prepare teachers to adapt and enact curriculum materials to address and respond to issues of sociopolitical relevance, so that students will be engaged, interested, and empowered to enact change in their local community. In the EMPOWER program, we will work with a cohort of teachers (~40) in 3 core partner school districts who have committed to using NGSS-aligned units as part of their middle school science curriculum. Our theory of action is that supporting teachers’ understanding of their students, their local teaching contexts, and the curriculum materials will result in shifts in 1) teachers’ views of effective science teaching, 2) teachers’ capacity to adapt curriculum materials to address local issues, and 3) students’ sense of ownership and engagement in science learning. These shifts are mediated by 2 years of professional learning (PL) activities across two contexts: participation in 1) week-long summer workshops, and 2) ongoing cycles of enactment and reflection during the academic year. In the summer workshops, teachers will investigate the environmental and health issues in students’ local community and use this knowledge to adapt the curriculum to directly connect science learning to these issues. During the academic year, teachers will engage in multiple cycles of enactment and reflection on the adapted lesson with researchers and their district colleagues. Across these two contexts, artifacts, surveys and video recordings will be used to study shifts in teacher’s beliefs and adaptive expertise with curriculum materials, as well as students’ participation in science learning. In Year 3, we will work with a subset of teachers in each cohort (~20) to co-develop an open source video case library of curricular adaptations that promote students’ ownership, engagement, and participation. The research activities of the EMPOWER program will result in the development of an open source video case library that documents how curriculum enactments empower students to address human and environmental health issues in their community.