The grant seemed to be accomplishing just what it was meant to accomplish.
Using funds from the Arizona Board of Regents, the National Center for Teacher Education at the Maricopa Community College District was working with middle school teachers from local public schools to improve teaching of inquiry science.
"We'd go and observe the teachers and we thought it was working great," recalled Michael Lang, director of science programs at the national center. Students were designing and conducting investigations, gathering data and talking about their findings. "We thought, 'Wow. This is really successful.'"
But when Lang and others sat down to read the students' written reports, they discovered something startling: The same students who could verbally explain their work couldn't write about it.
"There was a huge gap," Lang said, and it wasn't an isolated one. Researchers soon learned this was a common problem among middle and high school students as well as college students, Lang added.
That discovery prompted the national center to start a new program, with the help of a $2.1 million National Science Foundation grant. The Communication in Science Inquiry Project, a five-year program …