2061 Connections
An electronic newsletter for the science education community

September/October 2005

CCMS Community Shares Research
Continued coverage of the 2005 Knowledge Sharing Institute

The July/August issue of 2061 Connections reported on the Center for Curriculum Materials in Science’s 2005 Knowledge Sharing Institute (KSI) and highlighted several of the many sessions held on science curriculum materials research and development. This article continues our coverage with brief reports on sessions that focused on helping students understand models in science, clarifying learning goals about data collection and analysis for the middle school level, and examining the curriculum design process.

The annual KSI brings together CCMS researchers and other educators, researchers, and curriculum developers to share their work and to foster collaboration. Presenters at this year’s conference included CCMS faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students; CCMS Early Career Research Affiliates; and other invitees with expertise in science curriculum materials. The National Science Foundation (NSF) funds the work of the CCMS partners—AAAS Project 2061, Michigan State University, Northwestern University, and the University of Michigan—to develop new leadership and knowledge that will contribute to more effective science curriculum materials.

KSI sessions were organized around six topical strands:

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

Participants also led “Greenhouse” sessions focused either on specific science topics or on topics relevant to multiple science domains.

What Students Should Learn about Models in Science
Among the “Greenhouse” sessions that focused on topics cutting across science domains was “Helping Students Use and Understand Models in Science.” Organized by Aaron Rogat, a CCMS postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan, and Joseph Krajcik, a CCMS core faculty member and professor of science education at the University of Michigan, the session looked at ways to help students use models in inquiry-based science curricula.

Participants explored two examples of models: an analogical physical model of a lung and a computer simulation of interactions between different organisms in an ecosystem. They sought to identify what the models were modeling, what features of models these examples illustrated, and what challenges students might have in learning about models and modeling. Participants then discussed the key characteristics of models, what knowledge or skills about models students should be expected to know, and how student understanding of models could be supported by instructional scaffolds.

The session further considered how scaffolds, once designed, could be incorporated into curriculum materials. The discussion had particular relevance to researchers involved in the Investigating and Questioning our World through Science and Technology (IQWST) project, which is focusing on ways to support the use and understanding of models as one of several cross-strand inquiry skills.

Data Collection and Analysis: Clarifying Learning Goals
Another cross-strand theme of the IQWST curriculum project is data collection and analysis, which was the focus of a Greenhouse session organized by David Fortus, assistant professor of secondary science education at Michigan State University, and Dr. Krajcik of the University of Michigan. The session aimed to clarify learning goals about data collection, organization, and analysis that are appropriate for middle schools. It also looked at ways to help students develop an understanding of these learning goals and develop skill in applying this understanding in investigations.

This four-part session featured a review of data collection and analysis learning goals articulated by members of IQWST; a discussion of which scientific disciplines offer opportunities to construct an understanding of the various learning goals; a discussion of a possible middle school trajectory for the learning goals; and brainstorming curriculum-embedded scaffolds for the various learning goals.

Understanding and Comparing Curriculum Design Processes
Curriculum development projects vary considerably in their R&D process, including how they articulate intended learning outcomes, the instructional models they use to organize learning, and the kinds of feedback they collect to inform revisions. A key area of CCMS research is the effort to understand the curriculum design process and to identify design elements that may contribute to curriculum materials that support teachers and help students learn important science ideas. To address the design process question, two KSI sessions were organized by Jo Ellen Roseman, director of CCMS and Project 2061, and Luli Stern, a research associate at the Department of Education in Technology and Science, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

In an effort to develop a common language about design processes, the sessions focused on four curriculum projects, all of which are funded by the NSF: Full Option Science System (FOSS) Middle School, Insights in Biology for high school, Constructing Ideas in Physical Science (CIPS), and IQWST. Prior to the conference, developers from each of these projects shared written accounts of their project’s curriculum development process. These accounts, in concert with presentations given by the materials developers at the first session, provided a comprehensive picture for each of the materials by emphasizing aspects such as the history of the project, the developers’ philosophy, the steps of the design process, and the lessons learned in each case. The second session looked at design elements that cut across projects and compared the different processes. Key design elements discussed include the resources (expertise, funds, and time) needed for effective design; the role of specific learning goals in the development process; incorporating pedagogical supports into curriculum materials; and testing the materials.

Developers who served on the panel in both sessions were Linda DeLucci and Larry Malone, co-directors of FOSS; Jacqueline S. Miller, senior scientist and principal investigator of two NSF-funded projects in the Center for Science Education (Insights in Biology); Sharon Bendall, project co-director for CIPS; and Brian Reiser, CCMS core faculty member and Northwestern University professor of education and social policy, and Dr. Krajcik of the University of Michigan (IQWST).

The developers’ presentations were especially helpful in grounding subsequent discussions on the curriculum design process. With similarities and differences between the various projects openly presented, participants and developers were able to compare approaches and comment.

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See more resources from the 2005 Knowledge Sharing Institute, including the conference agenda and abstracts of poster sessions.

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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