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How Well Do Middle School Science Programs Measure Up? Findings from Project 2061’s Curriculum Review
Sofia Kesidou, Jo Ellen Roseman
Abstract: The purposes of this study were to examine how well middle school programs support the attainment of key scientific ideas specified in national science standards, and to identify typical strengths and weaknesses of these programs using research-based criteria. Nine widely used programs were examined by teams of teachers and specialists in research on teaching and learning. Reviewers found that whereas key ideas were generally present in the programs, they were typically buried between detailed or even unrelated ideas. Programs only rarely provided students with a sense of purpose for the units of study, took account of student beliefs that interfere with learning, engaged students with relevant phenomena to make abstract scientific ideas plausible, modeled the use of scientific knowledge so that students could apply what they learned in everyday situations, or scaffolded student efforts to make meaning of key phenomena and ideas presented in the programs. New middle school science programs that reflect findings from learning research are needed to support teachers better in helping students learn key ideas in science. The criteria and findings from this study on the inadequacies in existing programs could serve as guidelines in new curriculum development.