Exploring the Use of Project 2061 Tools, 3:
To Analyze Curriculum Materials


The workshop options in this section engage participants in careful analysis of how well curriculum materials address science literacy goals. Participants are led to consider what it means to say that curriculum materials address science literacy goals, how well curriculum materials do so, and how materials and instruction based on them might be modified to address specific learning goals more effectively. Two workshop options are included:

Option A: River Cutters (Lawrence Hall of Science), Grades 6-9

Option B: Science Place: Air, Sun, and Water (Scholastic, Inc.), Grade 1, Lessons 10, 11, and 12

Participants analyze curriculum materials in five steps:

Step 1: Identifying benchmarks that appear to be central to the material. Participants become familiar with the material, suggest chapters and sections of Benchmarks for Science Literacy that might contain benchmarks related to the material, list benchmarks the material could address, and shorten this list to a few candidate benchmarks on which the material focuses.

Step 2: Studying the benchmarks to clarify their meaning. Participant groups study benchmarks from the short list and parts of Science for All Americans and Benchmarks for Science Literacy to understand exactly what the benchmarks intend students to know or be able to do.

Step 3: Analyzing how specifically the material addresses the content of the benchmarks. Participants check for a content match by analyzing how well the instructional activities address the substance of the benchmarks in the short list, whether the activities are appropriate for the intended grade level, and whether the whole benchmarks are addressed.

Step 4: Estimating the likelihood that students will learn what the benchmark intends from the presented activities. To check for a pedagogical match, participants consider such questions as whether the activities provide students with direct experiences and opportunities to reflect on them, whether the activities provide opportunities for students to use explanations in varied contexts, and whether the materials call attention to appropriate connections among ideas within and across units. A pedagogical match is only undertaken if the material shows evidence of a content match with the benchmarks.

Step 5: Improving the match by adapting and supplementing the activities. Based on the results of their analyses, participants suggest revisions to activities to increase the likelihood of their helping students reach the benchmarks. For example, they might add questions to prompt student reflection or identify additional contexts in which students can explore concepts.

Educators who have completed the analysis in workshops agree that it is well worth the time and effort expended. These educators are unlikely to accept at face value a statement that a given resource helps students learn benchmarks. Instead, they will want to know exactly how such a conclusion was reached in order to assess its validity. Additional practice of the analysis procedure, however, will probably be necessary before educators are comfortable using it to select and adapt curriculum materials.

In addition to handouts and transparencies, reading materials are included to help you prepare for these workshop options.