What Do OpenSciEd Educators Say They Need Most? New Research Offers Insights💡

What Do OpenSciEd Educators Say They Need Most? New Research Offers Insights💡

OpenSciEd Research
[High School science teachers in Iowa attending an OpenSciEd professional learning workshop facilitated by Activate Learning. CREDIT: @Butterfly_Byram | X]

Quick Take: New research by Digital Promise identifies common challenges among educators implementing OpenSciEd curricula. Key findings from the research include critical role of high-quality professional learning in successful implementation, challenges with assessments and grading expectations, and the importance of cultivating ownership and buy-in from teachers.

Insights into Implementing OpenSciEd in the Classroom


"I have to try to figure out what constitutes a letter grade," shared one teacher. "I have to have a grade for their report card and be able to have evidence if it's not an A." 

This teacher's challenge, captured in new research by Digital Promise, echoes a common challenge among educators implementing OpenSciEd curricula. How do we align our assessment practices and grading policies to support the instructional shifts of this innovative program? 


Uncovering Educators' Perspectives

Digital Promise researchers went straight to the source to uncover the most pressing needs of OpenSciEd educators. The research, titled Practitioner-reported Needs for Enacting, Implementing, and Adopting OpenSciEd Curriculum Materials, surveyed over 150 teachers and leaders implementing OpenSciEd across 34 states, and dug deeper through focus groups with 28 of these practitioners. The result is an insightful, comprehensive look at the lived experiences, challenges, and priorities of those on the front lines of this groundbreaking approach to science education.

So, what did researchers find? 


Key Findings: Professional Learning, Assessment, and District Adoption

  • One resounding theme was the critical role of high-quality professional learning (PL) in successful implementation. Educators emphasized the need for PL that goes beyond understanding the curriculum itself—they also want support with instructional practices, assessment, management, and the cultural shifts required in an OpenSciEd classroom. As one district leader put it, "We need to really work to build that capacity so [teachers] understand."


  • Assessment emerged as another critical area where educators are seeking support. While OpenSciEd's approach sets students up for meaningful, performance-based assessment, implementing it can be challenging. Teachers reported needing access to vetted assessment resources, tools to provide feedback efficiently, and models for aligning OpenSciEd with grading expectations. The researchers flag this as a prime opportunity for innovation, such as leveraging AI technologies to support assessment at scale.


  • Beyond the classroom level, district adoption and implementation was another primary focus. The research suggests that district models should empower teachers as collaborative partners, not just top-down mandates. As one leader described, "It kind of took allowing [teachers] to have a seat at the table to make some of the decisions." Districts can cultivate the ownership and buy-in needed for deep, sustained implementation by valuing teacher voices and providing meaningful support structures.


The Digital Promise team also saw fertile ground for further research. They note the potential for efficacy studies under the right implementation conditions to build the evidence base around OpenSciEd's impact. Additionally, they call for investigations into how OpenSciEd can catalyze broader, coherent systems change in science education.


Turning Insights Into Action

As you prepare for summer professional learning and plan for the upcoming school year, the insights from your OpenSciEd peers are not just food for thought, but practical guidance. Whether your district is contemplating adoption or seeking to enhance your existing implementation, these findings provide a roadmap for refining your approach and advocating for necessary teacher supports. We urge you to delve into the full report and use it as a catalyst for discussions with your colleagues.  

If you have questions or want additional information about Activate Learning professional learning services, supplemental assessments, or materials, contact us and our curriculum specialists will help you. Together, we can continue learning and evolving to realize the full potential of OpenSciEd for all our students!


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