To Understand the Nature of Benchmarks, Option E:
Case Study of Discrepant-Results Benchmark

Estimated Time: 90 minutes.

List of Materials

Sample Presentation
Presenter: The purpose of this activity is to explore the use of Project 2061 tools for science literacy. A key principle of Project 2061’s approach to science education is that instruction should target specific learning goals. These goals at each learning level are called benchmarks, listed in Benchmarks for Science Literacy (Benchmarks).

But how can an educator know when curriculum or instruction is truly relevant to a goal? To know that, we have to understand the goal clearly and thoroughly. In this part of today’s workshop we will demonstrate a procedure that can help educators fully understand a specific learning goal. This procedure can be used for any learning goal. We will begin by focusing on a single benchmark.  

Understanding what benchmark 1A (3-5)#1 intends students to know.

TRANSPARENCY: Benchmark 1A The Scientific World View (3-5)#1.

Presenter: According to this benchmark, what are students expected to know?  

Ask the participants to describe to their partners their understanding of the benchmark. Have several pairs report to the whole group. Record some of their comments on a transparency.

TRANSPARENCY: Exploring Project 2061 Tools - 1A.

Presenter: We are now going to see how Science for All Americans and Benchmarks for Science Literacy can be used to give us additional insights about this benchmark. We will study the benchmark in relation to the five readings shown on the transparency. 

Briefly review for participants the purposes of the five readings shown on the transparency:

  • The section in Science for All Americans from which the benchmark originated.
  • SFAA recommends goals for adult science literacy; Benchmarks recommends specific learning goals for grades 2, 5, 8, and 12 that can contribute to adult literacy. There is a corresponding Benchmarks section for each SFAA section. Reading the SFAA section helps participants understand what literacy in that whole topic is defined to be, and thus where the benchmark is aiming.
  • All other benchmarks in the K-12 list of benchmarks in the same Benchmarks section.
  • Reading the other benchmarks helps participants understand the level of sophistication intended by the benchmark.
  • Introductory essays in the Benchmarks section for the benchmark being studied.
  • The section introduction and grade-level essays help participants understand difficulties students may have with the benchmark topic. They also offer some suggestions for helping students achieve the benchmark.
  • Summaries of research on the topic from Benchmarks, Chapter 15.
  • The research selection suggests likely limitations in student understanding of the benchmark (and therefore its grade placement) and points participants to the original research articles.
  • A relevant strand map, if one is available, from Benchmarks on Disk.
  • A strand map helps participants see how other benchmarks relate to the benchmark being studied and their importance for understanding that benchmark.
    Note: The purpose of this assignment is to help participants perceive how exploring relevant parts of Project 2061’s tools for science literacy enhances their understanding of benchmarks. The assignment requires a lot of reading. You may wish to distribute the five readings so that one person in each group reads the SFAA selection, another the list of benchmarks, and so on. After completing their reading, individuals explain to other members of their group what they learned from it. Another effective approach is to use the jigsaw, or expert groups, strategy.

    Distribute SFAA, Benchmarks, and the HANDOUT: Strand Map: Considering Costs and Benefits of Technology  to each participant.

    TRANSPARENCY: Strand Map: Understandability of the World.

    Presenter: Before we begin the readings, I’ll take a moment to introduce the strand map. Strands are networks of benchmarks through which students might progress on their way to the adult literacy goals defined in Science for All Americans. The strands show the development of concepts from rudimentary benchmarks at the elementary level through middle school learning to the sophisticated level of understanding expected of high school graduates. Strand maps show how related benchmarks build on and reinforce one another. There are 30 strand maps on Benchmarks on Disk.  

    TRANSPARENCY: Exploring Project 2061 Tools - 1A.

    Presenter: Your task is to study the reading you’ve been assigned to see how it affects your understanding of the benchmark and then share what you have learned with your group. 

    After they have completed their studies, ask individuals to explain to other members of their group or to the total group what their particular reading contributed to their understanding of the benchmark. Record these comments on a blank transparency. Use this transparency and the one you created earlier in the session to compare understanding before and after the study.

    Distribute HANDOUT: Exploring Project 2061 Tools.

    Presenter: This handout shows the five readings used to increase understanding of a particular benchmark. You may want to refer to it when you use benchmarks in the future.