The M-PLANS Project

Funded by the National Science Foundation, M-PLANS (Motivation - Planning Lessons to Activate eNgagement in Science) is a collaboration between motivation researchers, science education experts, and experienced science practitioners to design a reasonable and sustainable professional learning (PL) model that builds teachers’ capacity to support student motivation and engagement in science.
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) put forth an ambitious call for science educators to create instructional experiences that will enable all their students to participate in the real-world practices of science. The underlying idea is that doing scientific activity — such as designing and carrying out investigations, collecting and making sense of data, weighing claims and evidence, and reporting and debating results — encourages students to actively think about, integrate, and apply what they know. As students do this, they learn how scientists think about the world and they learn that science is an active quest to gain deeper understanding.

The promise of NGSS instruction rests on teachers creating instructional experiences where students are highly active in their learning. However, few resources currently exist to help teachers support and sustain students’ motivation and engagement within ambitious NGSS instruction. The M-PLANS project aims to provide teachers with a PL experience and accompanying toolkit to help them support student motivation and engagement in NGSS instruction. In turn, as students develop positive motivational values and beliefs toward science, they may be more likely to develop a sense of identification and belonging with science, leading to long-term interest and empowerment in science learning and careers. 

The M-PLANS professional learning (PL) approach currently includes:

  • A PL course on motivation design principles that develops teachers’ knowledge about students’ motivational processes and instructional supports for motivation aligned with NGSS.
  • Lesson plan templates and tools to help teachers incorporate motivational practices into their NGSS lessons and instruction.
  • Easy-to-implement student observation checklists for teachers to use to evaluate the impact of their lessons on student engagement.
  • A lesson plan rubric for teacher self-evaluation that assesses the alignment of motivation supports with features of quality NGSS instruction.

The goal of our design is to create a PL approach that can be readily integrated with existing lesson planning activities; that can change teacher knowledge, beliefs, and practices around student motivation; and that can help teachers recognize opportunities to support and sustain engagement and motivation during instruction. The M-PLANS project has the potential to contribute to systemic change by moving motivational processes from an implicit element of educating students to an explicit and intentional set of strategies teachers can enact to facilitate student engagement and learning during science instruction. Each teacher that applies this knowledge could have a positive impact on hundreds of students over time.

M-PLANS is a Level II, Early Stage Design and Development project in the Teaching Strand of the National Science Foundation’s Discovery Research PK-12 program, Award Numbers: 1813047 (MSU), 1812976 (UNLV), 1907480 (WestEd). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed on this website are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.