Developing and Validating Assessments to Measure and Build Elementary Teachers’ Content Knowledge for Teaching about Matter and Its Interactions within Teacher Education Settings

This collaborative project with Educational Testing Service (ETS) is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation DRK12 program (NSF #s 1813254, 1814275). Our project is creating tools to support the measurement and development of content knowledge for teaching (CKT) -- which is the specialized knowledge teachers use to engage in the work of teaching elementary science. The first tool, created by ETS, is an assessment instrument that can be used to measure CKT proficiency over time. The second tool, created by WWU, is a set of educative curriculum materials designed to support teacher educators in building elementary teachers’ CKT in teacher education and professional development settings.

The content focus for our work in developing materials for CKT is matter. As emphasized in the NGSS and Framework for Science Education, the concept of matter is central to understanding many scientific ideas. While there is a robust empirical base highlighting student difficulties and possible learning progressions for matter there is currently a lack of content-specific teaching knowledge relevant to teaching about matter in the elementary years. Curriculum materials have been suggested as a means of supporting teacher learning for several decades, and this work is innovative in its focus on developing curriculum materials to support teacher educators’ learning. The “CKT Packets” we are developing and testing are built around a CKT  learning task at the intersection of a specific content idea (e.g., conservation of matter) and a science teaching practice (e.g., eliciting student ideas). Packets are flexibly designed for use in a variety of course contexts (e.g., content courses or methods courses) and professional development settings. Educative features of the CKT packets, including annotated lessons, reading pages, and background information, are intended to support teacher educators in engaging elementary teachers and teacher candidates in the task in ways that support the development of their CKT. Specific supports are provided to help teacher educators anticipate, elicit, and understand elementary teachers’ thinking in regard to the focus CKT learning goals.

For more information, visit our project website: or a member of our project team: