2061 Connections
An electronic newsletter for the science education community

July/August 2005

CCMS Convenes Third Annual Knowledge Sharing Institute
More than 100 participants meet to exchange research on science curriculum materials

The Center for Curriculum Materials in Science (CCMS) is a partnership of AAAS Project 2061, Michigan State University, Northwestern University, and the University of Michigan aimed at developing new leadership and knowledge that will contribute to the improvement of science curriculum materials. The Center is funded by the National Science Foundation under its Centers for Learning and Teaching program.

Because the success of CCMS research depends on the sharing of information among its partners, the annual Knowledge Sharing Institute (KSI) was initiated to provide a forum for the exchange of information and expertise among CCMS partners and the larger community of educators, researchers, and curriculum developers. This year’s KSI, held July 10–13 at Michigan State University, brought together more than 100 participants to share research and resources and to foster collaboration. Participants included invited guests, CCMS faculty, CCMS graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and Early Career Research Associates from outside the Center with expertise in science curriculum materials.

Through poster sessions, small-group discussions, and large-group sessions, KSI participants shared the specific tools and approaches that they have found useful for science curriculum materials research and development. The topical strands for the meeting were:

  • Strand 1: Diversity. Understanding how science curriculum materials can support diversity issues
  • Strand 2:Teacher & Curriculum. Understanding how teachers use and learn from science curriculum materials
  • Strand 3:Student Learning. Understanding how students learn from science curriculum materials
  • Strand 4: Nature of Science. Understanding how to articulate and assess alignment to learning goals and objectives related to the nature of science
  • Strand 5: Curriculum Design Process. Understanding critical elements of the curriculum design process and comparing different curriculum design processes
  • Strand 6: Language Literacy. Understanding how science curriculum materials can promote language literacy practices and support the needs of students

In addition to sessions that addressed these general topics, participants led “Greenhouse” sessions that focused in on specific science topics (middle school earth science, elementary school astronomy, environmental science) and on topics that cut across science domains (data collection and analysis, models, history of science). In addition, Iris Weiss of Horizon Research, Inc.—the Center’s project evaluator—was a featured speaker and addressed the problems involved in advancing the field of curriculum materials so that policies lead to the widespread, quality use of effective curriculum materials.

With more than two dozen sessions on the conference agenda, the KSI reflected the range of specific research areas being addressed within the larger framework of CCMS’s core principles. For attendee Jennifer Cartier, a CCMS Early Career Research Associate from the University of Pittsburgh, this year’s KSI was a unique opportunity to see how her work fits into the Center’s mission and the field of curriculum materials research. “For me, the Center has become an intellectual center of a young field—being able to hook into some part of its agenda has been crucial for me at this point in my career,” said Cartier. “It’s given me a professional definition and a sense that my work is valued by a larger group of scholars.” The sessions summarized below are just a sampling of the diverse issues addressed by participants. Future issues of 2061 Connections will feature summaries of additional KSI sessions.

Finding the Right Tools to Facilitate CCMS Collaborations
Jay Fogleman, a CCMS graduate student at the University of Michigan, organized a Greenhouse session focused on making the most of technology to support collaboration among the four CCMS partner sites. The session allowed researchers to take stock of their current use of technology in cross-site efforts and to explore emerging technologies that are designed to support online collaboration and knowledge-building. The group looked at several software applications and discussed how each tool could improve the exchange and management of information across CCMS.

Language Literacy Learning and Science Classrooms
CCMS core faculty member Daniel Edelson, an associate professor of education and social policy and of computer science at Northwestern University, organized a session for the Language Literacy strand. The session sought to raise awareness about the role the CCMS community can play in advancing language literacy through science curriculum materials. Participants considered current research on literacy learning and use in science classrooms. They also performed analyses of what makes texts accessible for adolescent readers in order to gain a deeper sense of the design principles for constructing accessible texts for use in project-based science classrooms. Questions addressed in this session included: What is literacy and why does it matter in science? What is text? What does it mean to talk about grade-level and “struggling” readers and writers?

Conducting Research on Issues of Diversity in the Curriculum
A Greenhouse session on Diversity on the last day of the conference considered the implications of two previous Diversity sessions for conducting research on issues of diversity in the curriculum. Organized by James Gallagher, a CCMS core faculty member and professor of education at Michigan State University, the session concentrated on what CCMS could do in the future to more fully respond to the needs of diverse populations. Important questions addressed in the session were:

  • How can materials be designed to support teachers in their efforts to address the needs of diverse learners of science?
  • What tools and resources do we have for conducting research that supports the CCMS mission with particular emphasis on fostering science literacy for all students?
  • What additional tools and resources do we need to address this component of our mission more effectively?

The CCMS Research Agenda was also explored during the session and that spawned additional research questions requiring attention, including:

  • What concepts about diversity are held by curriculum developers and science teachers and others who influence curriculum?
  • How can the reluctance of some students to engage seriously in science learning be understood and addressed in curriculum materials? How can we “target the margins” of the student population?
  • How can current doctoral level students, postdoctoral fellows, and science teachers, from whom future leadership in the field will emerge, focus their work on issues of curriculum, teaching and learning that have all students as a central focus?

Nature of Science Understandings in Classroom Practice
Two sessions addressed the Nature of Science strand. AAAS Project 2061 Deputy Director George DeBoer organized the first session, which featured a discussion about the Project 2061 approach to specifying, justifying, and assessing what students should know about the nature of scientific knowledge. Participants commented on a set of key ideas and their clarifications, and made recommendations for instructional activities to support student learning of those ideas. They also made suggestions for assessment items that could be used to measure students’ understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge.

While the first Nature of Science session focused on articulating and assessing relevant learning goals, the second Nature of Science session explored attempts to engage learners in reasoning about the nature of science in classrooms. Organizers of session two were Brian J. Reiser, CCMS core faculty member and professor of education and social policy at Northwestern University, Lisa Kenyon, a former CCMS postdoctoral fellow who recently accepted an assistant professor position at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and Leema Kuhn, a CCMS graduate student at Northwestern. The session addressed the question “What should it look like when students use the nature of science understandings in classroom practice?” Taking a pragmatic approach, the session focused on nature of science understandings that could directly affect students’ progress in working with scientific ideas in investigations, such as the nature of scientific evidence and the characteristics of scientific arguments.

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For more information about the Center for Curriculum Materials in Science, please contact:

CCMS Director: Dr. Jo Ellen Roseman, (202) 326-6752
CCMS Deputy Director: Dr. George DeBoer, (202) 326-6624

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