Supporting Goals-Based Learning with STEM Outreach (Figure 2)

Project 2061 Criteria for Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Support in Textbooks

The criteria are organized in seven categories, each of which focuses on a specific aspect of instructional support.

I. Providing a Sense of Purpose

This category consists of criteria for determining whether the curriculum material attempts to make its purposes explicit and meaningful to students, either in the student text itself or through suggestions made to the teacher. The sequence of lessons or activities is also important in accomplishing the stated purpose, since ideas often build on each other.

Conveying unit purpose. Does the material convey an overall sense of purpose and direction that is understandable and motivating to students?

Conveying lesson/activity purpose. Does the material convey the purpose of each lesson or activity and its relationship to others?

Justifying lesson/activity sequence. Does the material involve students in a logical or strategic sequence of lessons or activities (versus being just a collection of lessons or activities)?

II. Taking Account of Student Ideas

Fostering understanding in students requires taking time to attend to the ideas they already have, both ideas that are incorrect and ideas that can serve as a foundation for subsequent learning. This category consists of criteria for determining whether the curriculum material contains specific suggestions for identifying and addressing students’ ideas.

Attending to prerequisite knowledge and skills. Does the material specify prerequisite knowledge/ skills that are necessary to the learning of the key ideas?

Alerting teachers to commonly held student ideas. Does the material alert teachers to commonly held student ideas (both troublesome and helpful), such as those described in Benchmarks for Science Literacy, Chapter 15: The Research Base (4)?

Assisting teachers in identifying their students’ ideas. Does the material include suggestions for teachers to find out what their students think about familiar phenomena related to the key ideas before the scientific ideas are introduced?

Addressing commonly held ideas. Does the material attempt to address commonly held student ideas?

III. Engaging Students with Relevant Phenomena

Much of the point of science is to explain phenomena in terms of a small number of principles or ideas. For students to appreciate this explanatory power, they need to have a sense of the range of phenomena that science can explain. The criteria in this category examine whether the curriculum material relates important scientific ideas to a range of relevant phenomena and provides either firsthand experiences with the phenomena or a vicarious sense of phenomena that are not presented firsthand.

Providing variety of phenomena. Does the material provide multiple and varied phenomena to support the key ideas?

Providing vivid experiences. Does the material include activities that provide firsthand experiences with phenomena when practical or provide students with a vicarious sense of the phenomena when not practical?

IV. Developing and Using Scientific Ideas

Science literacy requires that students understand the link between scientific ideas and the phenomena that they can explain. Furthermore, they should see the ideas as useful and become skillful at applying them. This category consists of criteria for determining whether the curriculum material expresses and develops the key ideas in ways that are accessible and intelligible to students, and that demonstrate the usefulness of the key ideas and provide practice in varied contexts.

Introducing terms meaningfully. Does the material introduce technical terms only in conjunction with experience with the idea or process and only as needed to facilitate thinking and promote effective communication?

Representing ideas effectively. Does the material include accurate and comprehensible representations of the key ideas?

Demonstrating use of knowledge. Does the material demonstrate/model or include suggestions for teachers on how to demonstrate/model skills or the use of knowledge?

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

V. Promoting Students’ Thinking about Phenomena, Experiences, and Knowledge

Engaging students in experiences with phenomena (category III) and presenting them with scientific ideas (category IV) will not lead to effective learning unless students are given time, opportunities, and guidance to make sense of the experiences and ideas. This category consists of criteria for determining whether the curriculum material provides students with opportunities to express, think about, and reshape their ideas, as well as guidance on developing an understanding of what they experience.

Encouraging students to explain their ideas. Does the material routinely include suggestions for having each student express, clarify, justify, and represent his or her ideas? Are suggestions made for when and how students will get feedback from peers and the teacher?

Guiding student interpretation and reasoning. Does the material include tasks and/or question sequences to guide student interpretation and reasoning about experiences with phenomena and readings?

Encouraging students to think about what they have learned. Does the material suggest ways to have students check and reflect on their own progress?

VI. Assessing Progress

This category consists of criteria for evaluating whether the curriculum material includes a variety of aligned assessments that apply the key ideas taught in the material.

Aligning assessment to goals. Assuming a content match between the curriculum material and a key idea, are assessment items included that match the same key idea?

Testing for understanding. Does the material include assessment tasks the require application of ideas and avoid allowing students a trivial way out, like using a formula or repeating a memorized term without understanding it?

Using assessment to inform instruction. Are some assessments embedded in the curriculum along the way, with advice to teachers as to how they might use the results to choose or modify activities?

VII. Enhancing the Science Learning Environment

The criteria in this category provide analysts with the opportunity to comment on features that enhance the use and implementation of the curriculum material by all students. For this category, the reviewers used criterion-specific ratings in lieu of the general ratings used for categories I through VI.

Providing teacher content support. Does the material help teachers improve their understanding of science, mathematics, and technology as is necessary for teaching the material?

Encouraging curiosity and questioning. Does the material help teachers to create a classroom environment that welcomes student curiosity, rewards creativity, encourages a spirit of healthy questioning, and avoids dogmatism?

Supporting all students. Does the material help teachers to create a classroom community that encourages high expectations for all students, that enables all students to experience success, and that provides all different kinds of students with a feeling of belonging in the science classroom?

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