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Middle and High School Science Textbooks
A Standards-Based Evaluation

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Science for All Americans includes in its definition of science literacy a number of important yet quite abstract ideas—for example, key ideas on topics like atomic structure, natural selection, modifiability of science, interacting systems, and common laws of motion for the Earth and heavens. Often, these ideas were developed over many hundreds of years as a result of considerable discussion and debate about the cogency of theory and its relationship to collected evidence. Providing students with experiences with phenomena (Category III) is not sufficient for them to develop an understanding of the principles and concepts of science (Driver, 1983; Smith & Anderson, 1984). Scientific ideas cannot be inferred directly from phenomena; they need to be explicitly introduced and taught to students. Multiple representations are needed to make the ideas intelligible (Champagne, Gunstone, & Klopfer, 1985; Strike & Posner, 1985; Feltovich, Spiro, Coulson, & Anderson, 1989). Students then need help to see how the ideas can be used to describe and explain phenomena, solve practical problems, or consider alternative positions on issues (Anderson & Roth, 1989). Students initially learn new ideas in the context of a specific task and often have difficulty transferring what they have learned to other contexts. Therefore students need opportunities to apply ideas in a variety of contexts. Real competence only comes with extensive practice (Hayes, 1985; Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesche-Romer, 1993; Anderson & Roth, 1989). This category includes criteria that assess whether materials (a) use terms effectively, (b) represent ideas in a variety of ways that are accessible and intelligible to students, (c) model the use of scientific ideas in describing and explaining phenomena, and (d) provide tasks for students to practice using scientific ideas in a variety of situations.

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