To Analyze Instruction, Option B:
Instruction Aimed at Benchmark 5E, Flow of Matter and Energy (6-8) #1

Estimated Time: 3.5 hours.

Example of Use: Sample 6-Hour Workshop Agenda.

List of Materials

Sample Presentation
Presenter: A key principle of Project 2061’s approach to science education is that explicit learning goals should be addressed. These goals for each learning level are the benchmarks listed in Benchmarks for Science Literacy

Presenter: But how can an educator know when instruction is truly addressing 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 be used to help educators fully understand a benchmark (or learning goal). This procedure can be used for any benchmark. We will begin by focusing on just one benchmark, 5E Flow of Matter and Energy, grades 6-8, #1.  

1. Understanding what Benchmark 5E(6-8)#1 intends students to know. (90 minutes)

TRANSPARENCY: Benchmark 5E Flow of Matter and Energy (6-8)#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 - 5E.

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:

Distribute Science for All Americans, Benchmarks for Science Literacy, and the HANDOUT: Strand Map: Flow of Matter in Ecosystems to each participant.

TRANSPARENCY: Strand Map: Flow of Matter in Ecosystems.

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 - 5E.

Presenter: Your task is to study the reading you’ve been assigned to see how it affects your understanding of what the benchmark intends students to know or be able to do 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. (When the strand map is discussed, display the TRANSPARENCY Strand Map: Flow of Matter in Ecosystems.)

Record participants’ 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.

2. Analyzing how well instruction addresses the benchmark. (90 minutes)

Presenter: You will now look at some scenarios describing instruction. You should consider whether the instruction depicted in the scenarios addresses Benchmark 5E Flow of Matter and Energy (6-8)#1.  

Distribute the three HANDOUTS: Content Match Questions; Pedagogical Match Questions: Analysis of Instruction; and Instructional Scenarios for 5E Flow of Matter and Energy (6-8)#1.

Presenter: These handouts should guide your analysis of the scenarios. The Content Match Questions address whether there is a match between the content of the instruction and the benchmark; the Pedagogical Match Questions address how well the pedagogy depicted in the scenario is likely to help students learn the content.

TRANSPARENCY: Content Match Questions.

Ask participants to read the first question.

TRANSPARENCY: Topic or Substance?

Presenter: This transparency shows two examples to clarify the difference between addressing the topic of the benchmark and addressing the substance of the benchmark.

Presenter: Consider this benchmark:

Some events in nature have a repeating pattern. The weather changes some from day to day, but things such as temperature and rain (or snow) tend to be high, low, or medium in the same months every year. The topic of the benchmark seems to be "weather." Activities that involve students in thinking about what the weather is like in other parts of the world or in gathering temperature data during a month seem to contribute to the learning goal. But if we read the benchmark carefully, we see that the benchmark is really about repeating patterns of weather. To address the substance of the benchmark, an activity would need to involve students in taking temperature or precipitation measurements over a year, comparing them with measurements students took in previous years, and looking for an overall pattern in the same months over several years. 

Presenter: Consider the second benchmark:

Clear communication is an essential part of doing science. It enables scientists to inform others about their work, expose their ideas to criticism by other scientists, and stay informed about scientific discoveries around the world. Presenter: What is the topic of this benchmark?   (Probable response: communication, communication in science).

Presenter: Activities that involve students in communication—working in groups and sharing information—would seem to contribute toward this learning goal. But is communication the substance of the benchmark?   (Take responses.)

Presenter: We can see that the benchmark is really about the essential role of communication in science. Students need to understand that communication is not an end in itself, but a crucial means to sharing information. To contribute to learning this benchmark, activities would have to be structured so that students reflect on the importance of communication, perhaps after having direct experience with needing to communicate. For example, a situation could be set up in which one group of students is responsible for making and recording measurements and another group depends on data from these students. After they finish the activity students could be asked to reflect: "Think back when the first group did their measurements this morning. What if they were wrong? What if they had not written them down correctly? What if they had not recorded the units and they could not remember what they were? What would the effect of that be?"  

TRANSPARENCY: Content Match Questions.

Point to the question "Does the activity reflect the level of sophistication of the benchmark, or does the activity target a benchmark at an earlier or later grade level?" Remind participants that examining strand maps is helpful in thinking about the level of sophistication of the benchmark.

Then, point to the question "Is only a part of the benchmark or the whole benchmark addressed?" Comment that this is done for "accounting" purposes and that there is nothing wrong with an activity if it addresses only a part of the benchmark.

TRANSPARENCY: Pedagogical Match Questions: Analysis of Instruction.

Presenter: How effective is the teaching in this scenario? Use these questions to guide your analysis.

Allow groups time to analyze the instructional scenarios. You may wish to have all groups consider the same scenario, all groups consider several scenarios, or each group consider a different scenario.

Emphasize to participants that as they evaluate how well the instruction addresses the benchmark, they are to consider the instruction exactly as it is portrayed in the scenario. They may wish to suggest changes to the instruction; advise them to hold these suggestions for later.

Have participants report their conclusions and explain them.

Have the large group discuss: How did Benchmarks influence your thinking about the instructional scenarios?  

Invite participants to make notes of their ideas as they consider: How could we make use of the content and pedagogy questions in improving the match?

Then have the large group discuss.

3. Extending instructional scenarios to address other benchmarks. (30 minutes)

This activity is optional but well worth the time. It serves three purposes: It gives participants an opportunity to apply their understanding of how the features of SFAA and Benchmarks can be used in studying a benchmark, it familiarizes them with a greater variety of benchmarks, and it illustrates that good instruction usually addresses benchmarks from several chapters or sections.

Assign each group one of the following benchmarks:

1A The Scientific World View (6-8)#1
1B Scientific Inquiry (6-8)#2
1B Scientific Inquiry (6-8)#3
6C Basic Functions (6-8)#2
6C Basic Functions (6-8)#3
9E Reasoning (6-8)#5
11A Systems (6-8)#2
11B Models (6-8)#1
12E Critical-Response Skills (6-8)#3
12E Critical-Response Skills (6-8)#4

When all groups have had a chance to discuss what their assigned benchmark intends that students should know or be able to do (based on their reading relevant parts of SFAA and Benchmarks) and have brainstormed possible activities, convene the large group to report and discuss their suggestions.