Science Teachers Learning from Lesson Analysis

R&D Projects

STeLLA is based on nearly two decades of research and development at BSCS. It has demonstrated impacts on both teacher and student learning above and beyond any impacts from a traditional science teacher professional learning program. See our growing line of research & development at-a-glance.

About Our STeLLA Projects


STeLLA Scale Up and Sustainability
BSCS is partnering with leaders and science educators throughout Tennessee and Kentucky to help address a national need for high quality science teacher professional learning. With the largest research grant in the organization’s history, BSCS will test, refine, and scale up its STeLLA model with the goal of making a new hybrid (online and in-person) version broadly available. During this five-year project, BSCS will work with 4th and 5th grade teachers primarily from high needs, rural districts and schools. Regional leaders including PIMSER (the Eastern Kentucky University Partnership Institute for Math and Science Education Reform), the Tennessee Aquarium, and Instruction Partners, will help ensure the new STeLLA model is aligned to state science standards and the impact is sustainable long-term. Meanwhile, BSCS is exploring strategies to provide equitable access to STeLLA across the country.


STeLLA for A Medical Mystery
BSCS developed a fully-online STeLLA course to support middle school teachers in the enactment of a 3D body systems curriculum unit: A Medical Mystery. This NGSS-aligned unit, developed in partnership with Oregon Public Broadcasting, immerses students in an online environment that challenges them to use scientific reasoning skills and argumentation. For eight weeks, students investigate and ultimately solve, “What’s Wrong with M’Kenna?” Field-test teachers participated in 11 weeks of STeLLA professional learning to enhance their enactment of the unit. The ultimate goal is to make STeLLA for A Medical Mystery broadly accessible to middle school teachers across the country.


STeLLA Online
A decade ago, BSCS introduced STeLLA to 144 teachers and 2,800 students across Colorado’s Front Range. BSCS conducted a rigorous experimental study of this entirely in-person professional learning program. As a result, both teacher and student learning improved significantly. Since then BSCS has wondered: would an entirely online version of the STeLLA CO program be similarly impactful? That’s what BSCS is exploring and evaluating today during its STeLLA Online program. The ultimate goal is to support more teachers than ever before by offering STeLLA in an online format that is convenient, accessible, and effective. Learn more here.

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. Learn more here.


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 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.


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 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.


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 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.


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.