Links to Publications on SMILE Programs

Research & Evaluation

Troy E. Hall, Jay Well, and Elizabeth Emery, 2021

Fact-Checking in an Era of Fake News: A Template for a Lesson on Lateral Reading of Social Media Posts

NSTA/Connected Science Learning May-June 2021 (Volume 3, Issue 3)

As all science teachers know, the rate of scientific advancement is accelerating, far outpacing the ability of teachers or students to master. Nevertheless, scientific understanding is crucial to address contemporary social and environmental challenges, from climate change to food supply to vaccines. Citizens must be able to interpret scientific claims presented in the media and online to make informed personal and political decisions. Informed decision-making requires scientific literacy, the ability to decipher fact from fiction, and a willingness to engage in open-minded, productive discussions around contentious issues. Scientific literacy does not come naturally for most people; these skills need to be taught, practiced, and honed (Hodgin and Kahne 2018). Such scientific literacy skills are recognized specifically in the science and engineering practice of Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information described in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; NGSS Lead States 2013). However, these skills can be difficult to integrate into lessons because—while these practices have been identified as important—it is not well understood how to teach them in the digital age.   

This article describes a biology lesson we developed that incorporates a relatively new approach to teaching middle and high school students how to fact-check online information. This lesson emerged out of a partnership between school science teachers, an academic unit at Oregon State University (OSU), and OSU’s Science and Math Investigative Learning Experiences (SMILE) program. SMILE is a longstanding precollege program that increases underrepresented students’ access to and success in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and careers. For more than 30 years, the program has provided a range of educational activities, predominantly in rural areas, to help broaden underrepresented student groups’ participation in STEM and provide professional development resources to support teachers in meeting their students’ needs. Our lesson focuses on social media posts about genetic engineering (GE) of plants, but this promising approach to digital literacy can be adopted for other scientific topics and internet information sources.


Talamantes, Adam, 2020
Equity Strategies: Community Hosts and Design Thinking in a Middle School Summer Camp
NSTA/Connected Science Learning July - September 2020 (Volume 2, Issue 3)
Abstract: There is a growing need to document, assess, and evaluate strategies used to successfully engage historically underserved youth in equitable Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) learning experiences (Penuel 2017). Equity strategies relate to ways that organizations leverage research and practice to promote “the agency of the educators and the learners, and they present opportunities for collective efforts to challenge historically shaped inequities that many engaged in everyday science seek to address” (Penuel 2017, p. 520). iINVENT attempts to enact and assess ongoing equity strategies to provide underrepresented youth (e.g., rural, low-income, Spanish speaking, first-generation college student) access to equitable STEM education experiences framed as invention. The specific strategies are (1) using Design Thinking, undergraduate mentors, and open-ended invention projects to support engagement in camp activities and (2) partnering with community hosts to find a location for the camp and recruit local youth.


Rowe, Shawn, Riggio, Mariapaola, De Amicis, Raffaele, and Rowe, Susan, 2020
Teacher Perceptions of Training and Pedagogical Value of Cross-Reality and Sensor Data from Smart Buildings
Education Sciences, Received: 31 July 2020; Accepted: 2 September 2020; Published: 4 September 2020
Abstract: This paper discusses elementary, and secondary (K-12) teachers’ perceptions of cross-reality (XR) tools for data visualization and use of sensor data from the built environment in classroom curricula. Our objective was to explore the use of sensor-informed XR in the built environment and civil engineering (BECE) field to support K-12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) experiential learning and foster BECE-related career awareness. We conducted surveys and informal questionnaires with 33 primary and secondary teachers attending an annual two-day university-based teacher professional development workshop as part of a statewide STEM afterschool program serving students in rural communities. We assessed teachers’ familiarity with, knowledge about, and appraisal of using cross-reality platforms and sensor data in classrooms and after school curricula. Findings show that, while all teachers reported relatively high interest in learning about sensor applications and innovative interactive techniques, middle school teachers in particular were most likely to see value in using these applications for teaching and learning. Implications for teacher professional development are discussed.


Taylor, Seth, Calvo-Amodio, Javier, and Well, Jay, 2020
A Method for Measuring Systems Thinking Learning
Systems 2020, 8(2), 11
Abstract: The myriad of problems facing the world today are increasingly complex, dynamic, and transcend multiple domains. This necessitates the need for trans-disciplinary approaches capable of providing a framework to help solve these problems. Systems thinking provides the skills necessary for people to approach these types of problems. However, a lack of awareness and understanding of systems thinking hinders a potential systems-literate and systems-capable society. Systems thinking is comprised of four underlying concepts or skills: distinction-making, organizing systems, inter-relating, and perspective-taking. The path to becoming a systems thinker follows a process comprised of three levels—sensibility (awareness of systems), literacy (knowledge of systems), and capability (understanding of systems)—repeated across multiple learning phases. During this research study, a method was defined to measure whether non-experts learned the underlying systems thinking concepts according to this learning process. An experiment was conducted with 97 middle and high school students who were asked to draw a fish-tank system before and after being taught to apply the systems thinking concepts as skills for identifying elements, interactions, and roles/purposes. The results provide evidence to conclude that student learning of systems thinking significantly increased from the first drawing to the second drawing.


Traphagen, Kathleen and Traill, Saskia, 2014
How Cross-Sector Collaborations are Advancing STEM Learning
Working Paper
Abstract: STEM learning ecosystems harness unique contributions of educators, policymakers, families, and others in symbiosis toward a comprehensive vision of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education for all children. This paper describes the attributes and strategies of 15 leading ecosystem efforts throughout the country with the hope that others may use their lessons to deepen rich STEM learning for many more of America's children.


Bottoms et al., 2017  S.I. Bottoms, K. Ciechanowski, K. Jones, J. de la Hoz, A.L. Fonseca
Leveraging the community context of Family Math and Science Nights to develop culturally responsive teaching practices
Teaching and Teacher Education, 61 (2017), pp. 1-15
Abstract: This paper examines how elementary teacher candidates experience Family Math and Science Nights with culturally and linguistically diverse children and families. Weekly reflections were analyzed using Gay's (2002, 2013) Culturally Responsive Teaching framework to highlight the process of enacting and thinking in key areas: (1) Changing attitudes and beliefs, (2) Leveraging culture and difference, (3) Grappling with resistance, and (4) Improving pedagogical connections. An action-oriented focus underscores that teacher candidates need multiple rounds of practice to disrupt traditional notions of teaching and move towards cultural responsiveness. Findings suggest the importance of repeated practice, context, and focused guided reflection.