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Equity in Science Education through Project-Based Learning: A Research-Practice Partnership

Given the success of the 6th grade science curriculum, San Francisco Unified District approached SCALE and wanted to partner with them to develop the complementary 7th and 8th grade Learning through Performance courses as well as help revise the 6th Grade curriculum. The plan was to have a science curriculum for all of the middle school science teachers in the district. This work is funded by George Lucas Educational Foundation.

The overarching aim of the long-term work in SFUSD is to increase opportunities for students to learn science so that progress can be made to increase everyone’s success in science while closing persistent achievement gaps in middle school science. Because this was a large and complex aim that will take many years, we chose two areas of focus that define the work for this partnership and contributed to achieving the aim over time:

  1. Launch of a comprehensive middle school science curriculum by

    1. Creating learning experiences that support students to develop agency, authority, and identity as learners of science;

    2. Collaboratively developing the grades 6-8 units within a research-practice partnership that includes teachers, district science leaders, and curriculum developers from SCALE;

    3. Revising curriculum units based upon student and teacher feedback;

    4. Conducting research that informs the processes and products to support the launch.

  2. Develop a comprehensive PD plan that

    1. Supports teachers to move to a more student-centered set of pedagogies through educative curriculum materials and professional learning experiences;

    2. Develops site-based capacity by working with Teacher Leaders (TLs) to support this new vision of teaching and learning;

    3. Creates an instructional coaching program to support shifts in practice

    4. Develops the district capacity to support a rigorous middle school science curriculum for the long term; and

    5. Is informed by research that informs the processes and products used in the district and others who can learn from this example.


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