Mason researchers receive funding for project on quantum teaching and learning in elementary classrooms
Nancy Holincheck, Assistant Professor, Advanced Studies in Teaching and Learning, School of Education; Jessica Rosenberg, Associate Professor, Physics and Astronomy; Stephanie Dodman, Associate Professor, School of Education; and Benjamin Dreyfus, Associate Professor, Physics and Astronomy, received funding from the National Science Foundation for the project: "EAGER: Quantum is Elementary: Quantum Teaching and Learning in Elementary Classrooms."
The researchers will study learning associated with elementary teachers' engagement in professional learning and elementary students' learning related to quantum science, quantum thinking, and careers. The knowledge base required for elementary teachers and students to learn quantum science will be identified in order to explore and compare how elementary students and teachers conceptualize and make sense of quantum science concepts.
The project will also examine how elementary teachers adapt, develop, and implement quantum curricular materials for use in their classrooms. This two-year project will engage 10 elementary teachers and more than 400 elementary students in quantum learning experiences, with an increasing impact in the years following the project.
This study will serve as a first effort to understand how elementary teachers develop their knowledge and conceptualization of quantum ideas and pedagogy for the elementary classroom. By opening the door to research on quantum education at the elementary level, this project will create opportunities for diverse learners to engage with quantum concepts and applications and get excited about this upcoming area of future opportunities.
The goals of this project are to: (a) engage elementary teachers in quantum learning experiences, (b) develop elementary quantum curricular materials, and (c) develop understanding of how quantum concepts and applications can be taught at the elementary level.
Regarding the project's importance, Holincheck said, "Quantum science, computing, and its applications will impact industries across and beyond the STEM fields, yet quantum concepts are rarely taught at the K-12 level. There is almost no research on teaching quantum in elementary classrooms, as many people believe that quantum is only for advanced students or that you have to be a genius to understand it. Identifying ways that quantum concepts can be effectively integrated into elementary school has potential to open up STEM fields to the diverse students in U.S. classrooms, and to broaden participation in STEM by capturing students’ interest at a young age.
This project is co-funded by the Discovery Research preK-12 (DRK-12) program, which seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models, and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.
The researchers received $299,769 from NSF for this project. Funding began in Aug. 2023 and will end in late July 2025.