ECR Projects

Explore past and current fundamental STEM education research projects across the three research areas that NSF's EDU Core Research (ECR) program funds, as well as across ECR funding types. Other search filters draw from both NSF's data and the ECR Hub's hand coding of award abstracts.

Ninth-grade biology students create cell models using clay.

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Identifying Linguistic Factors Associated with Differential Student Performance on Middle School Science Assessments

Effective Years: 2014-2019

This project, conducted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), seeks to improve assessment of science understanding in K-12 students. The project will cover a wide range of 16 topics within science education. When a student takes a science test, performance will depend on cognitive factors, what the student knows, and linguistic factors, related to language. This project aims to distinguish cognitive and linguistic factors, with a focus on English language learners.

The first stage of the project involves data analysis, using more than 800 assessment items previously developed by AAAS to align with middle and high school science standards, and tested on more than 100,000 students. This stage involves extensive analyses of the test questions (e.g.,, the language used) as well as student performance. After it is determined what are the factors that affect differential performance based on English language learner status, the second stage of the project involves developing and testing new versions of the science assessments.

This project addresses the important issue highlighted by the 2012 National Research Council report, A Framework for K-12 Science Education, that assessment developers must remove barriers to science participation due to English language learner status. In other words, this project aims to produce science tests that accurately assess science knowledge for both English language learners and non-English language learners.

This work helps the Education and Human Resources directorate, and the Division of Research on Learning, pursue the mission of supporting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education research. In particular, this project focuses on improving understanding of STEM learning and STEM assessment, as well as broadening participation in STEM education and ultimately the STEM workforce.