Project 2061 LogoAAAS Project 2061
AAAS  :: Project 2061  :: Textbook Evaluations

Middle Grades Science Textbooks: A Benchmarks-Based Evaluation

Prentice Hall Exploring Earth Science, Exploring Life Science, and Exploring Physical Science. Prentice Hall School, 1997
Earth Science Life Science Physical Science

About this Evaluation Report
Content Analysis
Instructional Analysis
I. [Explanation] 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 to the teacher. The sequence of lessons or activities is also important in accomplishing the stated purpose, since ideas often build on each other.
II. [Explanation] 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.
III. [Explanation] 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.
IV. [Explanation] Science literacy requires that students understand the link between scientific ideas and the phenomena that they can explain. Furthermore, students 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.
V. [Explanation] 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.
VI. [Explanation] 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.
VII. [Explanation] 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.

I. Providing a Sense of Purpose

Conveying unit purpose (Rating = Fair)

Exploring Earth Science consistently provides purposes for each chapter and unit. The purposes for the chapters and units follow a similar pattern, including photographs, introductory texts, and questions. Some purposes are likely to be comprehensible to students. For example, Chapter 15: Erosion and Deposition begins with a brief description of sand dunes in deserts and on other planets. The purpose, stated in the last paragraph, tells students: “Winds—along with glaciers, waves, running water, and gravity—constantly reshape the Earth’s surface. In this chapter you will learn about the effects of these powerful forces of nature” (p. 453s). However, some chapter purposes have more limited comprehensibility. For example, Chapter 12: Plate Tectonics starts by asking students if they have ever noticed that the Earth’s landmasses resemble a giant jigsaw puzzle (p. 371s). The text goes on to pose questions, such as, “Why do places far from one another and with different climates have the remains of the same types of ancient organisms?” The purpose tells students to “[r]ead on, and discover more about the development of a theory that put the pieces of the puzzle together and revealed a better picture of the dynamic planet on which we live” (p. 371). These questions and observations are not likely to be understandable to students.

Although chapter purposes are provided and are somewhat comprehensible, they are not likely to be interesting or motivating to students, and they do not give students an opportunity to think about what they will be learning and why the topic is important. Also, the stated chapter purposes are not returned to at the end of each chapter.

Introductions to units follow the same pattern. For example, Unit 2: Exploring Planet Earth begins by telling students:

In the pages that follow, you will learn about the Earth’s oceans, its freshwater lakes and rivers, and the atmosphere that surrounds it. You will also learn about Earth’s landmasses—its mountains, plains, and plateaus. And you will take a journey to the center of the Earth to study its interior. [p. 175s]

The chapters that follow are consistent with the purposes stated for the unit, but the purposes are not likely to be interesting or motivating to students, and opportunities for students to think about the purposes are not provided. Also, the stated unit purposes are not returned to at the end of each unit.

Conveying lesson/activity purpose (Rating = Poor)

Exploring Earth Science does not provide purposes for student activities, nor are teachers instructed to convey a purpose. Activities presented in the student text have titles, some of which provide a sense of purpose for the activity, such as Making a Model Volcano (p. 361s). However, many activity titles are unclear, such as Under Pressure (p. 334s) and Putting the Pieces Together (p. 372s), and do not convey the activity’s purpose.

Some of the activities in Teaching Resources (a boxed set of booklets) include a background information paragraph that restates information found in the textbook and provides a purpose for the activity. For example, students read about stress and faulting in rocks and then are told: “In this activity you will make models that illustrate the effects of stress and faults on rocks” (Teaching Resources, chapter 10 booklet, p. 1). However, many Teaching Resources activities do not include background information or a statement of purpose but simply begin with instructions, just like activities in the textbook.

Reading sections in the text begin with a statement of purpose; a Guide for Reading is provided in the margin with the instruction to “[f]ocus on this question as you read.” However, these focusing questions often include technical vocabulary and are not likely to be comprehensible to students; for example, “How does ocean-floor spreading relate to continental drift?” (p. 376s).

Justifying lesson/activity sequence (Rating = Poor)

At the beginning of each chapter, the Teacher’s Edition includes an overview of the chapter and a description of each section in the chapter. No rationale is provided for the sequence of activities or sections in the chapters or for the sequence of the chapters themselves.

Some chapters seem to have a logical sequence of topics, such as Chapter 12: Plate Tectonics, which includes the historic evidence for continental drift, current evidence for plate tectonics, and geologic events and landforms created by the movement of plates. However, this chapter is not logically sequenced in relation to the other chapters. For example, it presents the evidence for continental drift: specifically, similar fossils and rock layers found in now widely separated continents. Yet fossil formation and sedimentation—important prerequisites for understanding these pieces of evidence—are not addressed until Chapter 19: Earth’s History in Fossils. Likewise, glacial deposits and striations are presented as evidence for continental drift, yet students will not learn about glaciers and how they leave characteristic marks on rocks until Chapter 15: Erosion and Deposition.

II. Taking Account of Student Ideas

Attending to prerequisite knowledge and skills (Rating = Poor)

Exploring Earth Science does not alert teachers to specific prerequisite ideas or make connections between the ideas in a particular unit and their prerequisite ideas. However, it does address a few prerequisites to the key Earth science ideas. For example, Chapter 8: Earth’s Landmasses introduces briefly the variety of landforms on the Earth, although later, when students encounter the processes that created these landforms, there is no link back to this initial introduction. The fact that ice expands when it freezes is addressed in Chapter 14: Weathering and Soil Formation, with a text description and an activity. Gravity is defined (pp. 26–27s) and discussed later as a cause of weathering (p. 436s) and mass wasting (p. 455s); however, these subsequent discussions of gravity do not refer back to the initial definition provided.

Moreover, some important prerequisites are missing. For instance, nothing addresses student understanding of very long time frames or how very small changes can add up to significant changes over time. Furthermore, although throughout the text, students make models of landforms and Earth processes, a general understanding of models (such as their usefulness and limitations or their role in science) is not presented.

Alerting teachers to commonly held student ideas (Rating = Poor)

There are no descriptions, for the teacher’s benefit, of any of the students’ commonly held ideas related to the changing nature of the Earth that have been documented in the research literature. Admittedly, research on students’ ideas in the field of Earth science is limited. Even so, this material fails to alert teachers to a well-documented student belief, that is, that the surface of the Earth is unchanging (Freyberg, 1985).

Assisting teachers in identifying their students’ ideas (Rating = Fair)

Exploring Earth Science provides a few questions or tasks that teachers could use to identify students’ ideas before introducing the key Earth science ideas. These questions are comprehensible and, occasionally, ask students to give explanations. For example, in the opening of Unit 3: Dynamic Earth, the text presents three pictures—a waterfall, a lava flow, and a wave crashing on a beach—and the teacher is told to ask: “What do the three photographs have in common?” and “In what ways do waterfalls, streams, and waves change the Earth’s surface?” and “How does lava build up the island?” (pp. 324–325st). Although the Teacher’s Edition says to accept all logical answers, usually the correct answer is given or the teacher is told to lead students to the correct answer. Without explicit instructions to the teacher to listen to students’ ideas, these questions are unlikely to be used to elicit students’ ideas. Only a few chapters begin with relevant questions that could be used for eliciting students’ ideas. Furthermore, the Teacher’s Edition does not include suggestions about how to interpret students’ responses or probe beneath their initial responses. Because there is not much research on student learning and student preconceptions in Earth science, it is even more important for teachers to find out what their students are thinking before scientific ideas are introduced.

Addressing commonly held ideas (Rating = Poor)

One documented student difficulty relevant to these key Earth science ideas is that students often believe that the surface of the Earth is unchanging. In a few places, this material mentions that the Earth is changing constantly (pp. 278s, 324–325s, 327s, 347s, 434s). For instance, on page 278s, students read that, “Over billions of years, the surface of the Earth has changed many times.” In two places, students are asked about change: “What would you guess the Earth looked like before these mountains were made?” (p. 326s), and “How are lava and water both parts of a continuous process?” (p. 324s). However, students are not prompted to contrast commonly held ideas with scientifically correct ideas and to resolve differences between them. And, the material does not guide teachers in taking into account their students’ ideas.

III. Engaging Students with Relevant Phenomena

Providing variety of phenomena (Rating = Poor)

Exploring Earth Science does not provide a sufficient number and variety of phenomena for the key Earth science ideas. For some key ideas, no phenomena are provided, such as the idea that the Earth is changing constantly (Idea a), that the processes that shape the Earth today are similar to those in the past (Idea c), and that some Earth-changing processes are slow while others are fast (Idea d). Also, no phenomena are provided for the idea that slow but continuous changes over long periods of time can cause significant changes on the surface of the Earth (Idea e). Although a few examples of change occurring over time long frames are given, they are not explained in terms of the slow, seemingly unnoticeable changes that occur and accumulate over years to make significant changes to the surface of the Earth.

A few phenomena are provided for other key Earth science ideas. For the idea that several processes contribute to changing the surface of the Earth (Idea b), typically the text provides only brief mentions of real-world instances where processes have made changes to the surface of the Earth. For example, the text explains that, “One way a plateau may be formed is by a slow, flat-topped fold. The Appalachian Plateau, which lies just west of the folded Appalachian Mountains, was created millions of years ago by such a fold” (p. 335s). There is no further discussion or description of a “flat-topped fold” or of the Appalachian Plateau. Since this phenomenon is only mentioned, it is not likely to make the key idea more plausible. For the idea that matching coastlines, rocks, and fossils suggest that today’s continents were once joined (Idea f), students read about Glossopteris fossils found on now widely separated continents (p. 373s), matching rock layers (p. 374s), and glacial features and rock deposits (pp. 374–375s). For the ideas related to plate tectonics (Ideas g, h), they read brief descriptions of land features that were created by the interactions of plates, such as the Appalachian Mountains, Himalayan Mountains, Japan, Indonesia, and the Aleutian islands (p. 385s).

Providing vivid experiences (Rating = Poor)

Typically, the student text describes briefly the processes asserted in the key ideas. It is not likely that middle grades students will be able to form a mental picture of Earth-shaping processes from these written descriptions.

IV. Developing and Using Scientific Ideas

Introducing terms meaningfully (Rating = Poor)

Exploring Earth Science does not provide experiences related to the key Earth science ideas or develop definitions of terms needed to interpret such experiences. Some terms are introduced in relation to a photograph or diagram. However, it is often not clear as to what part of the diagram the term is related; see, for example, “joint” (p. 330s), “talus” (p. 434s), “loess” (p. 458s), and “alluvial fan” (p. 465s).

Frequently, new and technical terms are used to define other new and technical terms. For instance, the text explains that, “A drumlin is an oval shaped mound of till” (p. 468s), with “till” being defined on the previous page. Also, the text provides the following statement about faults (with emphasis added to identify new or recently defined terms): “A special type of reverse fault is a thrust fault. A thrust fault is formed when compression causes the hanging wall to slide over the foot wall” (p. 331s). To a novice in Earth science, these types of sentences are difficult to understand. The terms are not linked to relevant experiences, and the number of terms introduced is daunting.

New and technical terminology is not restricted to what is needed to facilitate thinking and promote effective communication about the key ideas. Extraneous terms found in the text (for example, “silt,” “talus,” “pumice,” “scoria,” “myolite,” “continental shield,” “joints,” “deflation,” “oasis,” “volcanic bombs,” “cinders,” “crater,” and “caldera”) can distract students and teachers from focusing on the main concepts and processes involved in these Earth science ideas.

Representing ideas effectively (Rating = Poor)

Many representations in this material are either inaccurate or incomprehensible. Furthermore, very few of the key Earth science ideas are represented adequately with diagrams. Particular inaccuracies include melting of the Earth’s crust at subduction zones (pp. 379s, 386s), the exposed mantle (p. 383s), and the mantle shown very close to the surface of the Earth (p. 339s). Many diagrams and photographs do not mention scale or size or include legends and explanations that would make them comprehensible to students. Incomprehensibility is a particular problem in these particular examples: a confusing satellite photograph (p. 462s) and a photograph of talus (p. 434s) that may cause students to wonder if the talus is the hill or the rubble at the bottom of the hill.

The text contains very few before-and-after pictures or diagrams that could help students see how the surface of the Earth has changed as a result of the various processes that act on it. Furthermore, many of the models that are used to represent certain Earth structures and processes are incomprehensible and not linked to the real thing. In Chapter 8: Earth’s Landmasses, the text describes many landforms but no representations are included. Also, some of the pictures are difficult to understand (e.g., page 285s shows the silhouette of a mountain, but the caption discusses the Colorado Plateau and the Grand Canyon).

Demonstrating use of knowledge (Rating = Poor)

Exploring Earth Science does not show how the key ideas can be used to explain Earth science phenomena. The text presents ideas but does not follow up by showing how these ideas are useful in explanations. Such a demonstration is particularly important when students are learning about processes that change the surface of the Earth but are not shown how understanding such processes as erosion and deposition will help to explain a feature on the Earth, such as the Grand Canyon.

Providing practice (Rating = Poor)

The student text and the Teaching Resources worksheets provide a small number of opportunities for students to practice the key Earth science ideas. Most of the questions focus on definitions or text recall and do not require students to use knowledge (for example, “What is a sea cliff? a sea stack?” [p. 474s], “compare faulting and folding?” [p. 337s], “What is a dome?” [p. 337s], “What is the difference between a joint and a fault?” [p. 345s], “What is the difference between magma and lava?” [p. 363s], and “How are deflation and abrasion different?” [p. 459s]). Few questions focus on how processes change the Earth (for example, “How can lava form a plateau?” [p. 345s], “How are deltas and flood plains formed?” [p. 465s], and “How does a glacier erode the surface of the Earth?” [p. 470s]). Very few practice questions ask students to apply their knowledge to new or novel situations. Many key ideas are not practiced (for example, some processes that change the Earth are fast and some are slow [Idea d], and slow but continuous changes can cause significant changes over long times [Idea e]).

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

Encouraging students to explain their ideas (Rating = Poor)

Opportunities for students to express their own ideas are not provided routinely. Generally, questions in the student text or Teacher’s Edition focus on the recall of definitions and facts from the text. In a few instances, teachers are told to accept all answers but then they are instructed to lead students to suggest the right answer. Although the Science Journal writing activities at the start of each chapter ask for students’ own ideas, they usually focus on extraneous topics (for example, the experience of hiking up a mountain [p. 327], living through an earthquake or volcanic eruption (p. 347), not being believed [p. 371], watching a plant grow for a few weeks [p. 433s], and writing a postcard from the Grand Canyon [p. 453s]), rather than on Earth-shaping processes. No information is offered to help teachers give feedback to students about how to correct or develop their ideas further.

Guiding student interpretation and reasoning (Rating = Poor)

Most follow-up questions for activities, reading sections, photographs, and diagrams do not guide student interpretation and reasoning about these experiences. Instead, questions focus more on recall from the text, defining new terms, or describing verbally their observations from an activity.

The questions do not help students to make connections between their own ideas and their experiences or the correct scientific ideas. For example, an activity asks students to observe a new piece of chalk, break it in half, then observe the broken surfaces (p. 330t). The Teacher’s Edition includes two follow-up questions: “What did you observe?” and “What would you call a break in one of your bones?” These questions do not help students to make any sense of this activity, recognize how this experience relates to Earth science, understand what the point of the activity is, or recognize how the activity is relevant to what they were reading about. In another activity, students use clay to model compression, tension, and shearing. The questions that follow ask what happens as a result of compression, tension, and shearing (p. 330t). There are no questions about how this model is similar to, or different from, what really happens to rocks. The Teacher’s Guide at the front of the Teacher’s Edition recommends that the teacher tell students that compression pushes together or compresses the crust of the earth, tension pulls rocks apart, and shearing pushes rocks past one another—which is exactly what is stated in the reading section.

Encouraging students to think about what they have learned (Rating = Poor)

Exploring Life Science does not provide opportunities for students to revise their initial ideas or to monitor their progress in other ways.

VI. Assessing Progress

Aligning assessment to goals (Rating = Poor)

For the end-of-instruction assessment, Exploring Earth Science provides tests and performance-based assessments for each chapter in the Teaching Resources booklets. In addition, the Chapter Review sections are identified as assessment. These assessment sections have been examined in the chapters that deal most extensively with the key Earth science ideas (chapters 10–12, 14–15).

While two of the key Earth science ideas are assessed adequately in this material, other key ideas, such as the idea that several processes contribute to the changing of the Earth’s surface (Idea b), are inadequately assessed. Furthermore, some of the key ideas, such as the ideas that the seemingly solid Earth’s surface is continually changing (Idea a) and that the processes that shape the Earth’s surface vary in their rate (Idea d), are not assessed at all.

For the key idea that deals with the evidence for the movement of continents (Idea f), four tasks are provided. Students are asked to choose a phrase that completes the statement, “Evidence that supports the theory of continental drift has been provided by…” (p. 392s, Chapter Review, Content Review, Multiple Choice, item 4), describe this evidence (p. 393s, Chapter Review, Concept Mastery, item 2), discuss one example of fossil evidence and one example of rock evidence (Teaching Resources, chapter 12 booklet, p. 37, item 1), and write a skit in which Alfred Wegener and one of his opponents appear on a talk show (p. 393s, Chapter Review, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, item 5). For the idea that several processes contribute to changing the Earth’s surface (Idea b), students are to contrast weathering, erosion, and deposition (Teaching Resources, chapter 15 booklet, p. 69, item 1), explain the formation and movement of sand dunes (Teaching Resources, chapter 15 booklet, p. 70, item 2), and explain how certain landforms were formed (Teaching Resources, chapter 15 booklet, pp. 68–69, items 1–5).

More assessment items are provided for the ideas that the solid crust of the Earth consists of separate plates that move and bring about landforms and geologic events (Ideas g, h). Students are asked to describe “what happens in the three different kinds of plate collisions” (p. 393s, Chapter Review, Concept Mastery, item 3; Teaching Resources, chapter 12 booklet, p. 38, item 2), describe the theory of plate tectonics (Teaching Resources, chapter 12 booklet, p. 38, item 4), choose a phrase to complete the statement, “The collision of two oceanic plates creates…” (p. 392s, Chapter Review, Multiple Choice, item 3), explain how plate movements relate to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes (p. 393s, Chapter Review, Concept Mastery, item 1), describe how plate tectonics explains ocean-floor spreading and the formation of mountains (p. 393s, Chapter Review, Concept Mastery, items 6, 8), compare the theory of plate tectonics to the theory of continental drift (p. 393s, Chapter Review, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, item 1), and consider an alternative theory to plate tectonics (p. 393s, Chapter Review, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, item 4).

Testing for understanding (Rating = Poor)

Of the relevant assessment items described under the previous criterion, only three focus on understanding, and all three are novel tasks. Students write a skit in which Alfred Wegener and one of his opponents appear on a talk show, explain how certain landforms were formed, and consider an alternative theory to plate tectonics:
Mountains almost always appear as long, narrow, curving ranges located at the edges of continents. Mountain ranges vary greatly in age. Most scientists once thought that mountains formed because the Earth was contracting. This caused the surface to wrinkle up like a raisin. If the contraction hypothesis were correct, what would you expect to be true about the age and distribution of mountains? Explain why the theory of continental drift better accounts for the age and distribution of mountains. [p. 393s, Chapter Review, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, item 4]

Using assessment to inform instruction (Rating = Poor)

Assessment aimed at determining the progress of student learning and modifying instruction accordingly is not a feature of Exploring Earth Science. Most questions included in the student text and Teaching Resources can be answered by repeating definitions or statements from the text. In the few cases where questions are provided, the questions are not likely to be used to inform instruction since the material does not make explicit claims about this instructional strategy.

VII. Enhancing the Science Learning Environment

Providing teacher content support (Minimal support is provided.)

The material provides minimal support in alerting teachers to how ideas have been simplified for students to comprehend and what the more sophisticated versions are. Content background notes usually summarize the student text (e.g., p. 174t, Unit Overview), give brief elaboration of one or a few student text concepts (e.g., p. 331t, Background Information), or offer tidbits of questionable relevance (e.g., p. 283t, Facts and Figures). Overall, the teacher content support is brief, localized, and fragmented.

The material rarely provides sufficiently detailed answers to questions in the student text for teachers to understand and interpret various student responses. Most answers are brief and require further explanation (for example, “Accept all logical answers” [p. 326t, Using the Visuals, item 1]), often emphasize factual recall of information from the student text (for example, “The theory of plate tectonics combines the theories of continental drift and ocean-floor spreading to explain how the Earth has evolved” [p. 387t, 12–3 Section Review Answers, answer 1]), and frequently focus solely on the definitions of terms (for example, “Deformation is the breaking, tilting, and folding of rocks. [Applying definitions]” [p. 329t, Teaching Support, item 1]).

The material provides minimal support in recommending resources for improving the teacher’s understanding of key ideas. The material lists references by author, title, and publisher at the beginning of most chapters to help teachers improve their understanding of the key ideas (e.g., “Glen, Williams, Continental Drift and Plate Tectonics, Charles Merrill” [p. 370at]). However, the lists lack annotations about what kinds of information the references provide or how they may be helpful.

Encouraging curiosity and questioning (Minimal support is provided.)

The material provides no suggestions for how to encourage students’ questions and guide their search for answers.

The material provides a few suggestions for how to respect and value students’ ideas. Introductory student notes about concept mapping state that responses may vary. Maps are correct if they show important concepts and relationships, are meaningful to the student, and help the student understand the text (p. 1s). In addition to concept mapping, the material explicitly elicits and values students’ ideas in journal writing and some other activities. For example, the Teacher’s Guide instructs the teacher to “[a]ccept all logical answers” for selected tasks (e.g., p. 372t, Using the Visuals).

The material provides a few suggestions for how to raise questions such as, “How do we know? What is the evidence?” and “Are there alternative explanations or other ways of solving the problem that could be better?” However, it does not encourage students to pose such questions themselves. Specifically, the material includes a few tasks that ask students to provide evidence or reasons in their responses (e.g., p. 371st, Journal Activity; p. 393st, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, item 3a).

The material provides a few suggestions for how to avoid dogmatism. The first chapter portrays the nature of science as a durable yet dynamic human enterprise in which students can participate (pp. 5–19s). The material later illustrates changes over time in scientific thinking leading to the theory of plate tectonics (pp. 371–387s). In the plate tectonics chapter, a Section Review question addresses dogmatism by asking students to explain why “Wegener’s lack of formal training in geology…hurt him in getting his ideas accepted” and to give their opinion about the reasoning behind this view of Wegener (p. 375s, 12–1 Section Review, question 3). However, the teacher’s notes simply state, “Students’ answers will vary” (p. 375t, 12–1 Section Review Answers, answer 3), and they do not give teachers suggestions for how this question may facilitate a discussion of dogmatism in science. In addition, the material contributes to dogmatism by presenting most of the text in a static, authoritative manner with little reference to the work of particular practicing scientists, and by expecting single, specific responses for most student tasks.

The material does not provide examples of classroom interactions (e.g., dialogue boxes, vignettes, or video clips) that illustrate appropriate ways to respond to student questions or ideas. However, a limited sense of desirable student-student interactions may be gained from procedural directions for laboratory and cooperative group activities (e.g., p. 372st, Activity: Discovering; p. 390t, Laboratory Investigation: Mapping Lithospheric Plates; Teacher’s Desk Reference, Cooperative-Learning Strategies).

Supporting all students (Some support is provided.)

The material generally avoids stereotypes or language that might be offensive to a particular group. For example, photographs include a diverse cultural mix of students and adults (e.g., pp. 40s, 292s, 318s), but the number of photographs that include people throughout the material is limited.

The material provides some illustrations of the contributions of women and minorities to science and as role models. Most of the contributions of women and minority scientists, however, appear in a separate essay entitled Science Gazette at the end of each unit. For example, one such Science Gazette describes both the accomplishments and struggles of NASA scientist Joanne Simpson, who was “the first American woman to receive a PhD in meteorology” (pp. 582–583s). The material also includes related features entitled Careers, Multicultural Strategy, and Connections. The Careers feature briefly describes a scientific occupation related to the chapter content, provides information on how students can learn more about the career, and includes a photograph of a scientist, who in some instances is a woman or minority (e.g., p. 385s). The Multicultural Strategy feature consists of general directions in teacher’s notes for projects related to the chapter content in which students often research particular characteristics of a cultural group (e.g., p. 277t). Connections are essays in the student text that sometimes address scientific contributions of particular cultures and relate to one of the text’s overarching themes: energy, evolution, patterns of change, scale and structure, systems and interactions, unity and diversity, or stability (e.g., p. 341s). Teacher’s notes associated with the essays provide suggestions for student discussion or research projects (e.g., pp. 340–341t). All of these sections highlighting cultural contributions are interesting and informative, but may not be seen by students as central to the material because they are presented in sidebars and teacher’s notes.

The material suggests multiple formats for students to use to express their ideas during instruction, including individual journal writing (e.g., p. 347s), cooperative group activities (e.g., p. 325t, Discovery Activity), laboratory investigations (e.g., p. 366s), whole class discussions (e.g., p. 280t, Develop), essay questions (e.g., pp. 305s, 304t, Concept Mastery, question 2), concept mapping (e.g., p. 392st), and making models (e.g., p. 286t, Reteach). In addition, multiple formats are suggested for assessment, including essay (e.g., Teaching Resources, chapter 10 booklet, pp. 38–39, item 4), performance (e.g., Teaching Resources, Performance-Based Assessment booklet, pp. 39–41), and portfolio (e.g., p. 305t, Keeping a Portfolio). However, the material does not usually provide a variety of alternatives for the same task in either instruction or assessment.

The material does not routinely include specific suggestions about how teachers can modify activities for students with special needs. However, the Teacher’s Edition and supplemental Teaching Resources (which includes activities, review and reinforcement work sheets, laboratory investigation work sheets, science reading skills work sheets, and a Laboratory Manual) provide additional activities and resources for students of specific ability levels. Each chapter in the Teacher’s Edition includes ESL Strategy, Enrich activities, and Going Further: Enrichment activities. The ESL Strategy activities provide English-as-a-second-language students with practice in writing tasks often emphasizing vocabulary related to a chapter topic (e.g., p. 314t), and Enrich and Going Further: Enrichment activities allow interested students to further study a specified topic from the chapter (e.g., pp. 367t, 386t). One of the Teaching Resources booklets is a Spanish glossary that provides Spanish speakers with pronunciation assistance and definitions of key text concepts in Spanish. However, placing such supplemental resources in individual booklets separate from the main text may discourage their use.

The material provides some strategies to validate students’ relevant personal and social experiences with scientific ideas. Many text sections intersperse brief references to specific, personal experiences students may have had that relate to the presented scientific concepts (e.g., p. 328s). In addition, some tasks—including Journal Activity (e.g., p. 307s) and Multicultural Strategy (e.g., p. 309t)—ask students about particular, personal experiences they may have had or suggest specific experiences they could have. However, the material rarely encourages students to contribute relevant experiences of their own choice to the science classroom and sometimes does not adequately link the specified personal experiences to the scientific ideas being studied (e.g., p. 371s, Journal Activity). Overall, support is brief and localized.