3DLA: Three Dimensional Learning Architecture Instructional Planning Tool

Relevance: Young children’s experiences with science and engineering can have long-term effects on their interests and capabilities for learning about and working in these domains (Capobianco, Yu & French, 2015; Morgan et al, 2016). Thus it is imperative that early childhood educators (ECEs) plan and enact meaningful science and engineering instruction. With the widespread adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), United States science teacher educators need to ensure that teacher candidates understand the ideas and language of the NGSS and its three-dimensional conceptualization of scientific and engineering inquiry. It is also important to work with practicing ECE to refresh and reinvigorate their science and engineering instruction as we know science and engineering are generally not currently taught enough or particularly well in the early grades and many ECE do not feel confident about engaging learners in science let alone engineering investigations (Banilower et al., 2013; Piasta, Yeager, Pelatti & Miller, 2013).

We know that robust science and engineering can be challenging to plan (Hixson, Stohr, & Hammer, 2011; Avraamidou, 2017) and given that there are few NGSS-aligned curricula currently available, educators often need to augment existing curricula or design from scratch, unit plans based on the NGSS three dimensions. Additionally, educators are increasingly collaborating with their peers in cycles of lesson planning, enactment, and refining as well as to examine student-generated artifacts to guide the planning of additional instruction (Hapgood, Heuring, Wilson & Czerniak, 2019).

Workshop focus: The primary goal of this workshop is to engage in a collaborative process to unpack the dimensions of NGSS performance expectations at primary grade levels and an inquiry unit planning process using interactive tools called the “Three Dimensional Learning Architecture” (3DLA). This tool/process was developed for use with preschool and early elementary grade teachers as part of an NSF-funded professional development project. It was designed to support conscious consideration of 3 dimensions of science and engineering learning emphasized in the Framework (NRC, 2012) and NGSS (2013).

The 3DLA has similarities to the “Five Tools and Processes for Translating the NGSS” (Kastel & Russell, 2019) and the Three Dimensional Mapping Tool (Sinapuelas, Lardy, Korb, Bae & DiStefano, 2019). However, whereas the 5 Tools process starts with sequencing disciplinary core ideas, the first step of the 3DLA, in line with recommendations from Krajcik, Codere, Dahsah, Bayer & Mun (2015), is to have participants identify NGSS performance expectations related to their curricular demands and to then unpack the 3 dimensions (disciplinary core ideas (DCIs), science and engineering practices (SEPs) and crosscutting concepts (CCs)) inherent in each. Though similar to the 3D Mapping Tool in its emphasis on phenomena to “ground” the inquiry unit planning, within the 3DLA process, phenomena and questions relevant to young child are emphasized after educators have unpacked NGSS performance expectations. Additionally, the 3DLA process was designed to encourage collaborative discussion among educators (preservice or in-service) and be highly interactive using color-coded sticky notes, that can be easily added, moved, revised, and discarded.

When using the 3DLA process, the identified performance expectations are kept constantly visible while educators collaborate to sequence questions and investigations of phenomena accessible to young children, into units of instruction using templates which we will describe in more detail below.

In our experiences to date, what this process yields are dynamic planning sessions. Teachers who have engaged in the process have described it with words like “challenging,” and “difficult,” “energizing,” “informative,” and “insightful.” What we have observed were high levels of engagement resulting in ambitious unit plans with specific attention to the 3D nature of the NGSS.

ASTE appeal: The flexibility of the 3DLA tools make them suitable for various situations with various groups. This workshop will be of interest to ASTE members who are (a) teacher educators, particularly those who work with early childhood teacher candidates and graduate students (b) professional developers with educators (c) curriculum developers, and (d) school district administrators responsible for overseeing curricular decisions and aligning curricula to the NGSS.

Workshop presenters’ expertise: The four workshop presenters have, collectively, a tremendous range and depth of experience working with science and engineering inquiry, particularly with ECE. All have been members of the NURTURES research group at the University of Toledo for many years. The NURTURES project (NSF & #1721059) began as an NSF Math/Science Partnership to increase science and engineering achievement in the Toledo, Ohio area through a concerted multifaceted effort (Paprzycki et al., 2017). In NURTURES Phase II (NSF #1721059), project personnel are conducting research to examine the relative contribution to children’s learning outcomes of family-involvement components of the project. Most pertinent to this workshop, each summer of the project, groups of ECE have participated in a 2-week intensive summer institute involving university scientists and teacher educators. The 3DLA was designed in 2018 to replace another instructional planning tool and was used in the summer of 2018 for the first time and will be used again in summer 2019. Below is more information about the facilitators all of whom have been involved in the development and implementation of 3DLA:

Dr. Charlene Czerniak, PI of NURTURES and Distinguished Professor, holds a current appointment as a Research Professor in the UT College of Engineering. Her extensive background in science education and teacher professional development has generated over 50 publications, including textbooks and book chapters as well as multiple appointments including journal editor and president of several national science education organizations. Her experience in designing and directing successful large-scale professional development programs brings with it an acute awareness of the need for innovation in 3D learning.

Grant Wilson, Project Director of NURTURES, has over 7 years of experience developing and providing professional development for classroom teachers in science education. He holds degrees in Geography and is currently pursuing a PhD in Spatial Integrated Social Science. He has experience implementing the use of 3DLA with ECE during multiple summer professional development experiences.

Jeanna Heuring, Assistant Project Director of NURTURES, has over 12 years of experience teaching in the elementary classroom, instructing pre-service ECE, and providing professional development to practicing teachers. She holds degrees in education and is currently pursuing a PhD in Gifted Education. She is involved in data collection and analysis regarding the use of 3DLA with educators.

Dr. Susanna Hapgood, Associate Professor at UT and co-PI of NURTURES, has been working in EC education, in formal and informal settings, for more than 30 years. She has also been a literacy teacher educator with a passion for the intersections between science and literacy for 13 years. While pursuing her PhD at the University of Michigan, she worked on the Guided Inquiry supporting Multiple Literacies project directed by Drs. A. Palincsar and S. Magnusson in which she developed curricular materials for and documented science instruction in elementary school classrooms. She is spearheading the research regarding and iterative refinement of 3DLA.

Workshop Learning Objectives
(Figures at: https://tinyurl.com/y4wprok5)
• Analyze NGSS performance expectations’ SEPs, DCIs & CCs
• Identify child-appropriate questions & phenomena related to NGSS performance expectations’ DCIs.
• Brainstorm actions students could take during instruction that facilitates 3D learning.
• Rephrase actions to make explicit reference to SEP, CC & DCI most relevant to the investigation of particular phenomena to generate “Learning Performances” (e.g. Students utilize a SEP to experience a relevant Phenomena through a specific CC to learn key DCI.)
• Refine and synthesize questions & learning performances.
• Create tasks & outcomes, supporting & assessing intended 3D learning goals.
• Evaluate learning performances’ tasks & outcomes to check they provide learner-appropriate meaningful learning opportunities in alignment with NGSS performance expectations.
• Sequence learning performances to facilitate learner-meaning making.
• Discuss practical implications of using the 3DLA with teacher candidates &/or in-service educators.

Assessment of Learning Objectives:
We will informally assess groups’ attainment of the learning objectives by monitoring their progress using the 3DLA tools. Mid-process there will be a sharing time, using a set of provided prompts. A quick write and a substantive discussion after exposure to the whole process will also provide information about participants’ attainment of the learning objectives, particularly their thinking regarding the practical applications of the 3DLA in their various contexts. Finally, we will have a brief exit survey.

Workshop Activities Outline:
1. Introduction to the workshop’s goals and facilitators & quick self-intros from participants
2. Divide into groups of 4-6
3. Each group will analyze a set of 3-4 performance expectations using the 3D Specifications Sheet (see Figure 1 ) using color coded sticky notes for SEPs, DCIs and CCs. We expect ASTE participants will accomplish this more readily than ECEs with whom we have worked, a point we will discuss during #11
4. Continue work with 3D Specification Sheet, workshop participants are guided to brainstorm learner-appropriate phenomena & questions related to the learning expectations and create learning performances. Scaffolding will be provided with examples to the whole group and facilitators will be circulating throughout the workshop to support participants as needed.
5. Utilizing the phenomena & question brainstorming from the 3D Specifications, participants will be guided (with examples) to select questions & learning performances that will structure and motivate the advancement of 3D learning as the planned unit progresses. Participants use the “3DLA Blueprint” board to brainstorm and organize learning performances and to brainstorm “tasks” that align (see Figure 2).
6. Groups rearrange stickies to create a logical progression of questions & learning performances.
7. Each group shares some information about their learning performances and process to this point. Groups invited to make suggestions to one another.
8. With supportive examples, participants use the 3DLA “Learning Map” to estimate the time and duration of the inquiry unit (Figure 3).
9. We will introduce participants to the 3DLA Lesson Plan template (Figure 4), but we do not anticipate having time for them to actually use it.
10. Small group debrief. Groups will be asked to identify aspects of the process they found helpful or challenging.
11. Whole group sharing & discussion. After debriefing the small groups’ findings, we will facilitate a discussion regarding how this process could be applicable in their respective contexts, starting with a 1-minute quick write.
12. Participants will be given exit slips and thanked for their participation!

Post-Workshop Support:
3DLA facilitators will be available following the workshop by:
• Offering an online meeting(s) to debrief on participant use/enactment
• Posting process materials (guides, sheets, resources, etc.) in an accessible online venue
• Providing individual forms of contact (phone, email) for questions and further discussion