STeLLA: Science Teachers Learning from Lesson Analysis

STeLLA is a nationally-recognized program for teacher professional learning—developed from a 16-year line of research at BSCS Science Learning.

The STeLLA Approach

STeLLA brings together two powerful approaches to teacher professional learning. What teachers learn in STeLLA is a set of high-leverage teaching strategies, identified through research on the instructional practices of highly effective science teachers. How teachers learn in STeLLA is through video-based lesson analysis, in which they study videos of teachers attempting to implement the STeLLA teaching strategies. The combination—learning to use high-leverage STeLLA teaching strategies through video-based lesson analysis—transforms teaching and learning.

Powerful Across Contexts

STeLLA is proving to be powerful across contexts. STeLLA has proven effective in both teacher preparation (preservice) and continuing education (inservice) programs; in district-wide programs and in programs enrolling individual teachers; in programs for elementary, middle, and high school teachers; and in programs facilitated in person and online.

Growing Line of Research

The findings on the STeLLA approach are compelling. Where most studies of teacher professional learning only show effects on the participating teachers, studies of STeLLA show major impacts on both teachers and students.

See our growing line of research at-a-glance:

Development of STeLLA 

STeLLA Timeline



Researcher Kathy Roth laid the foundation for the signature line of STeLLA research that continues at BSCS today. Roth’s team at LessonLab Research Institute partnered with California State Polytechnic University, Pomona in a study involving 32 upper elementary school teachers in California. Researchers compared outcomes for 4th, 5th, and 6th grade teachers in the STeLLA program with outcomes for teachers who participated in a more traditional science teacher professional learning (PL) program focused only on content deepening. Despite a relatively small sample size, the STeLLA study provided strong evidence that elementary teachers can improve their science instruction and deepen their science content knowledge in ways that directly impact students’ learning by participating in a videocase-based, analysis-of-practice program.



BSCS explored the value of a STeLLA-inspired program for preservice elementary science teachers by developing and studying the impact of online, videocase-based modules designed as tools to support teacher education courses. As a result, 30 participating university instructors and their students, the preservice teachers, significantly increased their science content knowledge and ability to analyze video-recorded classroom lessons for powerful instruction practices. Though a small-scale study, ViSTA’s results were promising and inspired future investigation on the effectiveness of science teacher preparation.



BSCS partnered with school districts along Colorado’s Front Range in a randomized-controlled experiment involving 144 teachers and more than 2,800 students. BSCS compared outcomes for 4th and 5th grade teachers in the STeLLA program with outcomes for teachers who participated in a more traditional science teacher PD program focused only on content deepening. The students of teachers in both groups learned as a result of their teachers' participation in PD. However, there was a substantial difference in the learning of students whose teachers were in the STeLLA group compared with those in the comparison group. The difference in scores is equivalent to 23 percentile points. Test results also showed STeLLA students were able to answer questions involving more-complex scientific reasoning.



BSCS developed a free online course to help high school science teachers frame complex energy concepts in a relevant and compelling way for students. The STeLLA course covers six units—Coal, Nuclear, Wind, Geothermal, Biofuels, and Solar Energy—and includes 34 engaging classroom videos, 30 content animations, and 20 interactive learning experiences. While originally designed for teachers, EMAT is also a beneficial resource for teacher educators and district PD leaders. Research findings show EMAT to be effective at enhancing teachers’ content knowledge and their ability to reveal, support, and challenge student thinking.

ViSTA Plus


BSCS partnered with the University of New Mexico and the University of Houston-Victoria on an intensive STeLLA project designed to prepare preservice elementary school science teachers. A much broader and more interactive version of the original ViSTA, this program proved to be a resounding success, demonstrating improvements in teachers’ science content understanding, scientific reasoning skills, and most significantly, an extraordinary advancement in outcomes among these teachers’ students. In their first year of teaching, ViSTA Plus participants performed two standard deviations higher in effectively improving science learning outcomes for students than their university peers who did not participate in the ViSTA Plus program. These findings suggest that the STeLLA approach is effective at preparing new teachers to have immediate and positive impact on student learning.



BSCS partnered with California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and a high-needs, urban district in California to test a dissemination model of the intensive STeLLA program. The ultimate goal was for STeLLA to successfully reach and impact every elementary school teacher and their students in the high-needs, urban district, where more than 65% of students are English language learners. BSCS created model units and professional learning materials covering grades K-6 and conducted leadership development programs to prepare the university science faculty and PUSD elementary school teachers to lead STeLLA programs. Research is being conducted to identify the effectiveness of a STeLLA program delivered by trained school district and teacher leaders on both elementary teacher professional learning and student outcomes. Preliminary results are promising. An initial impact study revealed statistically significant improvements in student outcomes that are comparable to results in BSCS-led STeLLA programs.

Minnesota STeLLA


BSCS partnered with Minneapolis Public Schools, St. Paul Public Schools, and the University of Minnesota to bring STeLLA to a broad audience across the state of Minnesota accessed through online resources. This was the first opportunity for BSCS to expand STeLLA beyond elementary school and to incorporate engineering design in alignment with Minnesota’s new academic standards in science. The resulting STeLLA program covered STEM teaching and learning across elementary, middle, and high schools in Minnesota. BSCS has expanded the impact of this state-wide work by building leadership capacity among STeLLA-prepared teachers.

STeLLA High School


BSCS partnered with Jefferson County Public Schools, Kentucky to deliver a version of the STeLLA program to one-third of the district’s high school biology teachers. Louisville is the first region in the United States to benefit from research on STeLLA’s effectiveness at the high school biology level. The PD program took place throughout the 2017–2018 school year. Following a successful intervention, BSCS is spearheading leadership development work to deliver STeLLA at a broader and sustainable, district-wide level.



BSCS is partnering with University of Colorado, Boulder; University of Colorado, Colorado Springs; and University of Northern Colorado, Greeley. This is the first STeLLA project designed to collaborate with university faculty and cooperating teachers educating preservice middle and high school science teachers. The program has the potential to impact one-third of all new secondary science educators certified in Colorado annually. Research is being conducted to develop a new understanding of the benefits and challenges associated with bringing STeLLA to this new context. And ultimately, research will explore STeLLA’s effectiveness on first-year practice outcomes for preservice secondary science teachers.

Work with Us

High quality science education is more important than ever. Teachers must prepare students to succeed in a 21st century society, where scientific reasoning and critical thinking skills are essential. To prepare teachers to achieve this goal, BSCS is working to bring the STeLLA approach to teachers nationwide through partnerships with schools, districts, teacher educators, and funders.

National Science Foundation logo

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Award Nos. (0310721), (0918277), (0957996), (1118643), (1220635), (1321242), (1503280), (1725389), and (1813127) and by the Minnesota Department of Education under Award No. (2016-00170). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or of the Minnesota Department of Education.

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For more information, please contact Jody Bintz.