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Middle and High School Science Textbooks
A Standards-Based Evaluation

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Does the material attempt to address commonly held student ideas?

Explanation. The issue here is whether the material includes questions or activities that address students' commonly held ideas (both ideas that are incorrect and ideas that can serve as a foundation for subsequent learning). For example, the material may include experiences that help students change their ideas by providing activities that challenge students' predictions about a phenomenon, or prompt students to react to commonly held misconceptions and resolve differences between these misconceptions and the scientifically correct ideas. Alternatively, the material may include experiences that extend common student ideas that have limited scope.

Pointing out misconceptions—and telling students that they should avoid them—does not adequately address this criterion. Serious difficulties, either with concepts or with skills, are not generally successfully addressed by telling students they are wrong and providing them with the "right answer."

In addition to providing specific suggestions to teachers about how to address commonly held student ideas reported in the research literature, materials can be helpful by including suggestions to teachers about how to take into account their own students' ideas. This is especially important in areas for which there is little information available about commonly held student ideas. Addressing this aspect of the criterion may involve suggesting general strategies that teachers can use to build on or change students' ideas, and providing examples of how these strategies can be implemented in the classroom. For example, teachers can be encouraged to probe students' ideas further, juxtapose them with other students' ideas, encourage students to compare their ideas on a topic before and after instruction on the topic, and so on.

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