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Middle and High School Science Textbooks
A Standards-Based Evaluation

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Does the material provide tasks/questions for students to practice skills or use knowledge in a variety of situations?

Explanation. The purpose of a science literacy curriculum should be to help students learn important science ideas and habits of mind, such as those specified in Benchmarks for Science Literacy and the National Science Education Standards, and be able to draw upon them in a variety of contexts. Among the ways science literate adults use their knowledge and skills are to describe and explain phenomena, to solve practical problems, and to consider alternative positions on issues. Given that students learn well what they practice doing, an important part of learning science consists of giving students several opportunities to exercise their understanding of science, in particular giving them opportunities to practice using scientific knowledge in describing and explaining phenomena, solving practical problems, and considering alternative positions on issues.

Moreover, science literacy means that people will be able to draw upon and use their understanding of science when they encounter events that do not come with labels such as "chemistry," "physics," or "biology"—such as political arguments, discussions of literature, or walks on the beach. Therefore, students will need practice in applying key ideas and skills to new situations. The expectation is that after a few successful transfers of an idea, students would be more likely to scan for it in new situations.

Responding to this criterion involves examining whether the material includes tasks for students to practice using their knowledge to describe, explain, or make predictions about phenomena, to solve practical problems, and to discuss issues (versus just restating information found in the text). For each key idea, the set of tasks provided is examined for sufficiency (in terms of the number and variety of contexts in which the ideas or skills are to be used) and for inclusion of novel tasks (in addition to familiar tasks). When several tasks are provided for a key idea they should increase in complexity (rather than all requiring only simple applications of the key idea or all requiring quite complex applications of it). When several similar tasks are provided, the material is examined to see whether it initially provides feedback to students and then gradually decreases support over the set of similar tasks.

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