Purpose:  Writing and reading of informational texts is an important skill specified by Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Common CORE State Standards (CCSS) for writing. This is an innovative interdisciplinary project to develop and pilot test an intervention of six lessons that guide high school students in writing AND science courses. In both classes, students learn how to use (or analyze) explanatory media and informational text to understand and communicate critical information about climate change. Science students analyze data and writing students produce news stories about climate change. The "reporters" can interview their science peers and "news" produced by the "reporters" can be reviewed by their peers in earth science plus teachers, parents, and professionals for constructive feedback.

Just few of the key outcomes of ScienceBEAT include:
  1. Knowledge gain about climate and the changes being observed
  2. Understanding the many variables that affect our complex climate
  3. Improved writing of informational texts 
  4. Improved coherence in informational texts and text with explanatory media
  5. Improved skills for explaining complex information
  6. Improved skills to use technology for informational text and explanatory media
  7. Enhanced student interest in climate change
  8. Enhance comprehension of scientific information

Figure 1.  The ScienceBEAT Process

Project Activities:  With teacher input during an iterative process, researchers develop the intervention for selected high schools in Prince George's County, Maryland. The ScienceBEAT lessons are supplemented by optional interactive modules for students to view on mobile devices. Paid teacher training is also offered. Student reporters are assigned to one of six climate topics or "beats" and then research information to produce their own explanatory text, data charts and interviews.  

The iterative development includes systematic testing of modules to determine the best practices for the classroom and the project's effectiveness. The pilot test of the six modules (spring 2016) was followed by data analyses plus formative assessments of the intervention's effectiveness for a subsequent proposal for external funding to continue development.

Outcomes:  We predict that ScienceBEAT lessons will enhance the skills of researching, interpreting scientific data, understanding the many debates about climate change, and critically evaluating informational text about science. For student writers, we predict improved skills for researching as well plus better writing and structuring of informational text (with and without media). These outcomes are mediated by the goal to share the information with authentic audiences (peers, teachers, parents and professionals) for their review. Other mediating variables for increasing writing skills include enhanced attitudes for writing, engagement with writing, and efficacy to write with media.  


Setting: Three high schools in Maryland.

Sample: Participants include up to six teachers in grades 9-12. 

Cognitive Apprenticeship: This ScienceBEAT initiative for climate education capitalizes on teacher in-service/student learning through a cognitive apprenticeship model (Anderson, 2000; Bandura, 1997; Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Ghefaili, 2003; Vygotsky, 1997). This is a model in which an expert or master of a skill teaches that skill to an apprentice informs our teacher in-service/student learning model for acquiring and mastering strategies for reading and writing informational text.  Part of the effectiveness of our constructivist cognitive apprenticeship model comes from learning in context and is based on theories of situated cognition (Driscoll, 2005; Lave, 2008).  Collins, Brown, and Newman (1987) identified six (6) pedagogical strategies grounded in cognitive apprenticeship theory, which help teachers and students attain cognitive and metacognitive strategies for “using, managing, and discovering knowledge.”  The first three (modeling, coaching, scaffolding) serve as the foundation for the cognitive apprenticeship model and scaffold cognitive and metacognitive development. The next two (articulation and reflection) are designed to support novice learners with awareness of problem-solving strategies and implementation similar to that of an expert or master.  The final step (exploration/investigation) is designed to guide novice learners towards independence and the ability to solve and identify problems within a specific domain.

Many Maryland high schools have implemented a constructivist cognitive apprenticeship model for their teacher in-service, literacy coach, reading specialist, and TESOL teacher support models mapped onto Maryland’s College and Career-Ready Standards (Maryland State Department of Education, 2013) and Danielson’s Framework for Teaching (FfT) (2013).  Working collaboratively with grant site teachers, literacy coaches, reading, and TESOL specialists, grant researchers will provide informational text reading and writing implementation and learning strategies using the PGCPS gradual release of responsibility Modeling-Coaching-Scaffolding-Articulation-Reflection-Exploration/Investigation framework.  This model will be used for both grant initiative teacher preparation and student learning when engaging with the five (5) climate modules.  Our informational reading and writing instructional model is grounded in constructivist cognitive strategy instruction (Block & Parris, 2008; Pearson & Hiebert, 2015; Pressley, Harris, & Marks, 1992), rhetorical theory (Slater, 2013; Toulmin, 2003), and best practices in the teaching of informational writing (Graham & MacArthur, 2013; MacArthur & Graham, 2008).  

Research Design and Methods: An experimental (pre and post) design will measure student outcomes from the pilot test of the six lessons. In addition, teachers will provide feedback via surveys, and classrooms will be observed during the stage of development.  Based on data collected, components of the intervention will be revised as needed for future implementation. 

Measures: To assess learning outcomes, students will be tested before and after the modules, triangulating the multiple methods of: multiple choice tests, open-ended questions and random interviews.  

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will assess if the intervention produces significant improvements in the understanding of climate change plus writing, attitude and engagement with informational text and explanatory media about climate change.  Comparisons using statistical analyses of variances in within subject (each participant) and between subject analyses (across schools) will be conducted.