Grants (narrative)

In the VCU School of Education Guidelines for Promotion & Tenure, §2.3(c), Criteria for Scholarship and Professional Growth, grants and grantsmanship is considered part of the scholarly domain. More specifically, the document states that “[t]he writing of the grant itself, irrespective of the nature of the grant, is considered scholarship.” In my five years at VCU, I have been part of 7 major grant proposals, two of which were funded.

Funded Grants

I am currently (as of August 20, 2012) funded by two grants:

Ecology Disrupted: Using real scientific data about daily life to link environmental issues to ecological processes in secondary school science classrooms

This grant, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), involves the development and testing of unique curricular units to help kids understand ecological principles.  My role in the project is to lead the pilot and field testing of the curriculum units; I am a co-PI on this grant.

GRANT PERIOD: 9/1/09 – 8/31/12 (no cost extension expected through August 2013)

FUNDING: Total: $1,079,699 – VCU (me): $82,138

PROJECT SUMMARY: The City College of New York and the American Museum of Natural History propose to refine and develop four case study modules in order to research the question, “Can curricular units that incorporate the analysis of real data from published research on the consequences of everyday life activities to link environmental issues to ecological principles improve student learning of ecological principles, personal and human environmental impacts and the nature of scientific activity?” The case study modules will use real data from authentic scientific research to link daily life to environmental issues and ecological principles.  The modules will be built around engaging media about the scientists and their research and designed using a strategy that joins together teacher implementers, educators, researchers, and product developers in order to insure a product accessible to all learners. Controlled efficacy studies of modules will be performed in randomized control trials of the classrooms of 60 ninth grade Living Environment New York City public school teachers. Existing New York State Regents assessment items will be examined and new assessment items will be developed, field tested, and analyzed for validity and reliability. Students in the experimental and control classrooms will be pre- and post-tested using the developed assessments.  In addition, teachers and students will complete pre-post surveys, and stratified samples of teachers will be observed and interviewed. To examine the effects of the intervention on student achievement and on instructional practices, descriptive and inferential statistics, including analysis of variance procedures will be employed in addressing the core research question dealing with student achievement. Analysis of variance techniques will also be used to examine main effects and to measure interactions between the intervention and other variables as they relate to student achievement scores.

INTELLECTUAL MERIT: This project seeks to further our understanding of how to frame science concepts and scientific research in a formal classroom setting by determining whether using everyday activities to explicitly link environmental issues to ecological principles is an effective approach for helping students to connect personal and human impacts to ecology.  It also seeks to determine whether analysis of real data and video profiles of scientists and their research will help students to learn about the nature of scientific activity.

BROADER IMPACT:  The focus of these modules on daily life has the potential to personally connect urban students to environmental issues and ecological principles. Also, analysis of published research has the potential to help young learners to begin to think scientifically. Through testing and dissemination, these modules will by used by New York City public schools students that belong to underrepresented groups.  Also local New York City public school teachers and teachers nationally will use these modules through in-person and online courses to explore their own connection to environmental issues and ecology and to reflect upon the role of scientific inquiry in building understanding of the natural world. These resources will also be incorporated as links in Holt, Rinehart and Winston textbooks. Finally, we intend to use technology to develop an innovative approach for online delivery of these curricular resources. We plan to design an online module maker using a “kit of parts” of module components in order for teachers to create a module suitable for implementation into their particular classroom.

Project ALL: Authentic Learning for Leaders

I am the evaluator on VCU’s Project ALL grant from the United States Department of Education. In this role, I have been working with the project team to complete annual reports and to design a formal evaluation of the leadership development program being designed through the grant.
GRANT PERIOD9/1/09 – 8/31/14

FUNDINGTotal: $5,258,547 – VCU (me): $170,131

PROJECT SUMMARY: “Project ALL” (Authentic Learning for Leaders) addresses the need for a continuous pool of instructional leaders by:

  • Recruiting exemplary teachers who are already instructional leaders from an extensive network of teacherleaders developed by the School of Education’s Center for Teacher Leadership to be involved in an innovative, field-based training program that leads to Virginia administrative endorsement.
  • Designing and piloting an instructional leader preparation program based on case studies, school-year simulations, and an internship that will prepare assistant principals to be instructional leaders in Richmond’s middle and high schools.
  • Developing a strong induction program that includes a yearlong instructional assistant principal apprenticeship under the guidance of a team of successful mentor leaders, followed by two years of additional mentoring.
  • Incorporating new training methods and materials into university leadership preparation programs and leadership professional development nationally.
  • Similar to business and military training simulators, the project will develop a school-year simulator that will use fullmotion-based video based on a computermodel of the contingencies, priorities, crises, and decision consequences that make school leadership so demanding.


Unfunded Grant Proposals

Professional Development 2.0: An Investigation of the professional learning conditions that promote the use of technology-supported, research-based literacy practices

This proposal, which was submitted to the Institute of Education Sciences, was for a research grant focused on teacher quality in the areas of reading and writing. Specifically, the proposal was aimed at exploring the professional learning conditions that promote the use of technology-supported, research-based literacy practices. I was to be the principal investigator for this grant.

GRANT PERIOD: not funded


How do teachers learn new ways to teach students how to read and write better? Efforts to promote teacher learning are usually conceived as formal professional development activities, which might range from one-on-one mentoring with a staff development professional to attending large national conferences. Often, corresponding focus is placed on how professional community among teachers facilitates teacher learning (Elmore, Peterson & McCarthey, 1996; Frank & Zhao 2004; Lee & Smith 1996; Louis, Marks & Kruse, 1996; Louis & Marks, 1998; Newmann, King & Youngs, 2000). Increasingly, attention is being paid to how teachers access pedagogical expertise in their professional communities which has been studied as an exchange of social capital (Coburn & Russell, 2008; Penuel, Riel, Krause & Frank, in press).

The increasing ubiquity of technology use in the schooling environment and society raises new questions about facilitating learning, including how teachers learn to integrate technology to teach students how to read and write better. Such teacher learning must encompass identifying which technologies are best suited for teaching and learning particular subject matter and how to integrate these into their instruction in support of student learning. The outcome of efforts to promote teachers’ learning to integrate technology in support of their instruction and students’ learning is increasingly referred to as technological pedagogical content knowledge (Koehler & Mishra, 2006).

Efforts to develop teachers’ technological pedagogical content knowledge face all the challenges identified in the professional development and community literature plus a few more. First, instructional technology support personnel typically either (a) have a lot of experience as teachers (but usually only within a single content area) and took on this specialist role because of their bent towards technology or (b) are extremely technology-proficient but have little experience with or understanding of curriculum and instruction within a content area. Second, and perhaps more problematic, little empirical evidence is currently available on how technological knowledge is best transferred. In their recent review of technology professional development research, Lawless and Pellegrino (2007) write that “The paucity of empirical research examining the area of technology professional development for teachers is astonishing” (p. 584). They note that few studies of technology professional development focus on what teachers learned rather than their learning experience in the professional development offerings and were unable to identify any studies that linked teacher learning to classroom instructional behaviors and then to student learning.

To help fill this gap in the research, the proposed study considers professional learning broadly and aims to uncover conditions within schooling organizations that are associated with teachers’ successful development of new teaching practices in the areas of reading and writing. In particular, this study is a multi-phase examination of how professional learning conditions predict teachers’ use of technology-supported literacy instruction practices (TSLIPs) that are associated with higher student achievement. We begin by asking teachers about their use of literacy instructional behaviors that have been identified in the literature as promoting positive student outcomes and the degree to which they support those instructional practices with technology. Those data will be analyzed with student outcome data to assess the moderating effect of technology integration within research-based literacy practices on student achievement. In addition to addressing important correlational research questions and contributing to the research on the relationship between technology integration and student achievement, these initial analyses will also provide us with a foundation for selecting schools that have been successful in developing teachers’ key technology-supported literacy instructional practices so as to investigate the professional learning conditions at those sites. To gain further insight into key aspects of interventions that are effective in developing teachers’ technological pedagogical content knowledge, we will select a small sub-sample of schools whose teachers will then be the focus of case studies examining how their professional learning conditions helped develop their TSLIPs.


CANLEAD: Leading the Advancement of Science Teachers’ Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge

This proposal, which was submitted to the National Science Foundation, was for a research and development grant around science teaching and teachers’ technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK). I was written in as the co-investigator and Dr. Sara Dexter at the University of Virginia would have been the principal investigator.

GRANT PERIOD: not funded


PROJECT SUMMARY: This proposal is for a research and development grant for a study that will address the challenge of enhancing the ability of educators to provide STEM education. Working with technology integration specialists and middle school principals, this research will investigate leadership for technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK), which we define as practices that guide and develop educators and school organizations in the effective use of technology for teaching and learning. The purpose of this project is to improve teachers’ use of technology to enhance their instruction of STEM subjects by developing the leadership skills and practices of instructional leaders in the schools, principally technology integration specialists and principals. Its primary goals are to (1) create the Cognitive Assistance Network, Learning Environment, and Database (CANLEAD) cyberlearning resource, (2) employ it in a leadership institute created to develop the participants’ leadership capacity to advance science teachers’ technological pedagogical content knowledge, and (3) analyze the data gathered by conducting the institute to deepen our understanding of effective leadership in this area.

The project will explore feasible ways to develop capacity for the distributed leadership of TPCK by means of participation in a face-to-face and online leadership institute within the CANLEAD system that will be developed as a part of this project. This system will combine courseware employing social computing principles with the responsive dissemination of data to create the organizational and interpersonal elements of effective professional learning environments for leaders and, in turn, their work with science teachers. Instructional support personnel in middle schools with primary responsibilities for supporting educational technology integration will participate in a 15-month leadership institute (one week face-to-face, and then primarily online using CANLEAD), during which the technology specialists will work with their principals and other key members of their schools’ instructional leadership teams. The applied nature of this leadership institute will involve school leaders’ engaging their science teachers in learning about technology-supported pedagogy, both through the CANLEAD system and the school-based activities they initiate.

INTELLECTUAL MERIT: The intellectual merits of this project include its contribution to the evolving research in the areas of (a) instructional and distributed leadership, (b) pedagogical content knowledge and its technological dimensions, (c) organizational and interpersonal elements of effective professional learning environments, and (d) cyberlearning. The study will develop a new learning tool for technology leaders, investigate a feasible way to use it in developing leadership for TPCK in science teaching, closely track how technology specialists and principals grow in their understanding of this concept, and measure the impact of that learning on science teachers’ knowledge and skill in technology-supported instruction.

BROADER IMPACT: The broader impact of this study will be an increased understanding of distributed instructional leadership and its development, which in turn will improve the development of leadership capacity, STEM instructional quality, and ultimately student achievement. The proposed research will provide direction and models for professional educational leadership organizations as well as school leaders’ daily work. It will also advance the use of cyberlearning resources as learning and feedback systems for school leadership.


The Engineering Genome Project

I was to be the evaluation sub-contractor on this grant, the proposal for which was sent to the National Science Foundation. This proposal was developed with colleagues at the University of Virginia and Purdue University.

GRANT PERIOD: not funded

FUNDING SOUGHT: $733,809 (total); $76,172 (me)

PROJECT SUMMARY: The Engineering Genome Project is a unique, innovative, scalable initiative which will develop a taxonomy of engineering knowledge, and make that knowledge available to students via a web interface. Leveraging prior work of this investigative team (the HigherEd 2.0 project), the Engineering Genome will consist of: (i) a detailed taxonomy of engineering knowledge, (ii) a set of multimedia educational assets (authored as part of the HigherEd 2.0 project)–tagged with metadata according to the taxonomy, (iii) a database architecture to store the digital assets, (iv) a web-based user interface to search, manage, and share the digital assets, and (v) an evaluation plan to assess the impact of the Engineering Genome on student learning outcomes in specific undergraduate courses.

Unlike many other online information portals, the Genome is explicitly designed for direct use by the learner. We will construct the Genome such that it is scalable in both the number of assets it contains, and the number of users it can support–the Genome is
therefore replicable by simply inviting more users. We are immediately partnering with aUVa library metadata specialist to ensure that our taxonomy and metadata practices conform to prevailing international standards–the Genome is therefore sustainable. We
will engage students in several core undergraduate courses in our learning outcomes study, which will probe the key question: does access to the Engineering Genome have an impact on student achievement? We expect to find that the Genome–which clearly
conveys to students the richness of the underlying relationships between pieces of engineering knowledge–positively impacts student achievement, and we will invite students at many institutions to use the Genome during and after grant period.


MObile Game Based Intelligent Learning (MOGBIL)

This proposal was submitted to the Qatar National Research Fund, NPRP grant program. This was to be a collaborative effort between the VCU School of Engineering, the VCU School of the Arts (in Richmond and at VCU-Q), and the VCU School of Education. I was to be in charge of field testing the system.

GRANT PERIOD: not funded


PROJECT SUMMARY: The proposed project aims to address increasing the performance of Qatari pre-college students in the subject of science through the development of a game-based learning system for smart phones and tablets. According to the Qatar Supreme Education Council, in 2008 65-80% of students in grades 4-11 performed below standards in science and mathematics. The trend between 2005 and 2008 has demonstrated an increase in low performance. Alongside these trends, Qatar has seen a rapid implementation and expansion of information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure in all sectors, including education. The technology with the highest penetration rate is the mobile phone at nearly 100%.

Additionally, research is starting to demonstrate that games can be applied effectively in many learning contexts. Games also allow students to develop collaboration, problem-solving, and communication skills. There is tremendous potential to combine game-based methods with mobile technology to enhance the learning process.

The user interface of our system will encourage students to research and explore science subject matter through innovative games design. The core of our system is learning analytics architecture that will allow dynamic data mining and analysis of student performance and progress, ultimately increasing engagement, enrollment and success in university science programs.

BROADER IMPACT: The development of human capital and sustainable future economic growth in any nation are greatly affected by the performance of the students in subjects closely associated with innovation, research and creativity, in particular mathematics and science. According to the Qatar Supreme Education Council, in 2008 65-80% of students in grades 4-11 performed below standards in science and mathematics, and most likely has continued through 2010. This report coincides with the trend toward decreased enrollments of Qatari students in university science majors.

There is tremendous potential to integrate information and communication technologies (ICT) and education at all levels of Qatari pre-college students, specifically through digital game-based learning. Digital game-based learningadvocates emphasize collaboration, problem-solving and communication as three primary benefits from game-based learning. Social game-based learning involves a population of players and emphasizes learner participation and the creation of knowledge communities, i.e., interactive and active learning which fosters innovation, personal ownership of knowledge, and the application of knowledge to real-world situations, instead of the repetition and transmission of received wisdom.

The proposed project entitled MObile Game Based Intelligent Learning (MOGBIL), aims to address increasing the performance of Qatari pre-college students in the subject of science through the development of an intelligent  digital game-based learning system for smart phones and digital tablets. The context of this intelligent game is a rapidly developing nation such as Qatar. Players are tasked with creating scientific innovations that will help their nation balance challenges in five areas identified in the Qatar National Vision 2030: modernization and preservation of traditions; the needs of the current generation and the needs of future generations; managed growth and uncontrolled expansion; the size and quality of an expatriate labor force andthe selected path of development; and economic growth, social development and environmental management. Players will be tested to devise solutions for the five areas of the Qatar National Vision 2030. Using game mechanics to develop challenges for students in science, students will build skills and knowledge through problem solving experiences. Game-based feedback loops using data mining and analysis, informs the player’s progress in the learning environment, providing increasingly difficulty challenges as players gain expertise.

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