2061 Connections
An electronic newsletter for the science education community

May/June 2006

New Collaboration to Promote Coherence

TELS and CCMS will address how technology-enhanced science instruction can foster coherent understanding

Too often, students learn isolated facts from science texts and previous instruction, form conjectures based on experience or observation, and gather bits of information from peers and media, but do not appreciate the relationships among these varied ideas. Yet the ability to compare ideas, make connections among science ideas, and link ideas into coherent understandings is crucial to becoming science literate. Research on student understanding has shown the value of connections among ideas, but coherence in science instruction remains difficult to achieve.

Recognizing the need to focus attention nationally on coherence in science instruction, the center for Technology Enhanced Learning in Science (TELS) and the Project 2061-led Center for Curriculum Materials in Science (CCMS) are collaborating to bring together their work on instructional design. The project—Delineating and Evaluating Coherent Instructional Designs for Education (DECIDE)—will synthesize research findings and disseminate approaches to creating coherence in science instruction. Funded by the National Science Foundation’s Centers for Learning and Teaching, the two-year collaboration will also address the design opportunities and challenges that technology creates for fostering coherence by examining technology-enhanced curricula (e.g., materials that use interactive models and simulations), creating design principles, and identifying effective assessments.

"Making connections among ideas is crucial for students to understand topics like heredity or matter and energy transformations. But current textbooks don’t give teachers the support they need to promote such connections," said Jo Ellen Roseman, director of CCMS and Project 2061. "This project allows experts from CCMS, TELS, and elsewhere to share their knowledge and recommend ways to design materials that take coherence seriously and make the most of new technologies."

Combining Expertise

DECIDE will combine research, design principles, and criteria about coherence from the work of TELS and CCMS. Each center has its own research related to coherence—the way that ideas are linked and connected—and its own way of describing the key findings of that research. But DECIDE will explore the centers’ overlapping and separate contributions and seek a common perspective on the nature of coherence and the role of design principles. The results will make a needed contribution to the field and help set a national agenda for research.

TELS draws on the knowledge integration framework that has emerged from longitudinal studies of students learning complex science, along with experimental studies comparing alternative approaches to fostering coherent understanding (Linn, 1995; Linn, 2006; Linn, Davis, & Bell, 2004). This framework acknowledges and takes advantage of the ideas that students bring to the science classroom. CCMS builds on Project 2061’s efforts to emphasize and encourage coherence through identifying a coherent set of learning goals, developing criteria for evaluating coherence, and creating the strand maps in Atlas of Science Literacy that depict how students’ understanding in key topics might grow from kindergarten through grade 12 (AAAS, 1989; AAAS, 1993; AAAS, 2001; Kesidou & Roseman, 2002). To explore coherence, DECIDE will draw on specific curricular examples and analyze them from both the TELS and the CCMS perspectives.

The DECIDE project includes a three-day conference of experts and a series of theme papers that feed into the conference. Based on the papers, conference, and subsequent discussions, DECIDE will publish a monograph that synthesizes research and offers recommendations for researchers and curriculum designers who use technology. The project will also produce a policy-oriented book with resources and recommendations for curriculum designers, teachers, and policymakers. A DECIDE Web site will make the project’s publications and related resources available to the public.

# # #

For more information about the DECIDE project, please contact:

Principal Investigator/Director of TELS: Marcia Linn

Co-Principal Investigator/Director of CCMS: Jo Ellen Roseman, (202) 326-6752


American Association for the Advancement of Science. (1989). Science for all Americans. New York: Oxford University Press.

American Association for the Advancement of Science. (1993). Benchmarks for science literacy. New York: Oxford University Press.

American Association for the Advancement of Science. (2001). Atlas of science literacy. Washington, DC: Author.

Kesidou, S., & Roseman, J. E. (2002). How well do middle school science programs measure up? Findings from Project 2061’s curriculum review. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39(6), 522–549.

Linn, M. C. (1995). Designing computer learning environments for engineering and computer science: The scaffolded knowledge integration framework. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 4(2), 103–126.

Linn, M. C. (2006). The knowledge integration perspective on learning and instruction. In R. K. Sawyer (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (pp. 243–264). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Linn, M. C., Davis, E. A., & Bell, P. (Eds.). (2004). Internet environments for science education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

[Table of Contents]