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BEST Profile

Boston Energy in Science Teaching (BEST)


The Boston Energy in Science Teaching (BEST) project is a Phase II MSP that explores the use of one of the organizing principles of science, Energy, as a vehicle to extend and research how teacher in-depth conceptual understanding translates into deeper student engagement, exposition and learning of science. This innovative focus on Energy will allow the Partnership to examine how fundamental organizing principles (e.g., energy, models, scale, systems, and constancy/change) can be used to better teach science at the elementary through the undergraduate level.

The BEST Partnership is comprised of the University of Massachusetts-Boston (UMB), the Boston Public Schools (BPS), Northeastern University (NEU), and Roxbury Community College (RCC). The Educational Development Center (EDC) and UMB conduct the BEST educational research and the Program Evaluation Research Group at Lesley University provides the independent project evaluation.

The BEST project researches whether and to what extent participation in concept-driven vs. discipline-driven professional development improves grade 3-8 science teachers and university faculty members conceptual understanding, the nature of their instruction, the outcomes of their students, and/or faculty members' interactions with teachers, as well as their thinking about their own research.

The BEST theory of action exemplifies the hypothesis that in order to understand how the world works, people require a deep understanding of the fundamental concepts of science, a broad base of scientific observations, and a multi-dimensional and coherent approach to learning. It recognizes, however, that current science curricula, course materials, and university science departments are predominantly organized into single scientific disciplines. Teachers and students, especially at the intermediate level (grades 3-8), are re-teaching and re-learning the same concepts within disciplinary silos. These conceptual disconnects and the segregated way of teaching fail to take advantage of the innate curiosity students bring to learning and the real-world connections that they experience daily. At the same time, huge advances in science and technology have recently resulted from a new emphasis on "interdisciplinary" or "cross-disciplinary" research. Therefore, the BEST Partnership effort hypothesizes that similar advances in science learning can be made for teachers and their students through a new emphasis on the foundational concepts that straddle all science disciplines.

The Partnership extends and modifies two of its Phase I successful strategies, Contextualized Content Courses (CCC) and Collaborative Coaching and Learning in Science (CCLS), by using Energy, a theme that integrates the fundamental concepts that pervade science, to develop better teaching of science at elementary through undergraduate levels.

The BEST vision is one of a growing community of STEM higher education faculty that works side-by-side with K-12 teachers in science education reform; Boston teachers having a deep sense of the organizing principles of science and their connection to disciplinary curricula; and students from all backgrounds entering and remaining in the STEM pipeline supported by the Boston Science Partnership.

The goals of this Partnership are to 1) better understand how increasing teacher knowledge increases student achievement and research why the BEST model is effective, 2) increase teacher understanding of science and therefore teacher efficiency and effectiveness at teaching existing curricula, 3) engage disciplinary higher education faculty in a deep discussion of cross-disciplinary research and science education in order to spark new research directions and center institutional changes in STEM education, and 4) increase student interest and achievement in science in the intermediate grades.

The BEST project will result in an innovative instructional approach integrating the theme of Energy, a science education masters degree, a growing community of strong science educators, a highly effective and innovative professional development model for both college faculty and teachers which will be disseminated to other university-school district partnerships, and significant research on teaching and learning.