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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)

In Exploring Life Science, an attempt is made to provide a purpose for both units and chapters. Units and chapters follow a similar pattern in presenting their purpose to students. Students look at picture(s) of something relevant to the chapter, respond to questions about the picture(s), and then read the purpose in the text. Typically, the purpose is comprehensible, although not necessarily interesting to students. For example, the following purposes are stated for Chapter 3: Cells, Tissues, and Organ Systems and Unit 6: Ecology, respectively:
Scientists probe the secrets of cells much as explorers journeying through parts of an uncharted world do. Read on and you too will become an explorer as you take a fantastic journey through the microscopic world of the cell. [p. 69s]
In this textbook, you will first learn about the different kinds of interactions that occur among living things and between living things and their nonliving surroundings. Next, you will read about life cycles and other patterns of change in nature. You will then learn about the basic kinds of places that are home to Earth’s living things. Finally, you will explore the reasons why organisms such as the red-cockaded woodpecker are in danger of disappearing forever from the Earth. [p. 659s]

As the purposes are fairly general, most of the lessons are consistent with them. However, no attempt is made to return to the purpose at the end of the chapter or unit.

Conveying lesson/activity purpose (Rating = Poor)

Neither lessons included in the student text nor those included in the Teacher’s Edition consistently convey a sense of purpose for students. In the student text, purposes are not provided for either student activities (e.g., pp. 232s, 234s) or readings (e.g., pp. 81–83s, 181s, 231–232s, 670–671s). Occasionally, a purpose can be inferred. For example, an activity in the section on food chains and food webs begins with the statement: “Every time you eat, you are assuming a particular place in a food chain. You can determine your place in a food chain through the following activity” (p. 670s). However, this is rare.

Some of the components of Teaching Resources (a boxed set of booklets) provide a purpose. The chapter 9 booklet, for example, contains this statement: “In this activity you will observe the ‘ins and outs’ of photosynthesis and the complementary process of food breakdown, or respiration” (p. 19). However, in many of the booklets, the only clue to the purpose of a given component is in the title (e.g., “Analyzing Photosynthesis and Respiration” [chapter 9 booklet, p. 21] and “Studying the Water Cycle” [chapter 9 booklet, p. 27]).

In instances where a purpose is provided, it is likely to be comprehensible. However, students are not asked to think about the purpose, nor is it related to the purpose given for the unit or chapter.

Justifying lesson/activity sequence (Rating = Poor)

The Teacher’s Edition contains an overview of each chapter and a section-by-section description of its contents. However, no reasons are given for the sequence of sections or for the sequence of readings and activities within each section. Most chapters appear to be mere collections of sections about a topic. For example, Chapter 9: Plants With Seeds consists of the following sections, in this sequence: Structure of Seed Plants, Reproduction in Seed Plants, Gymnosperms and Angiosperms, and Patterns of Growth. In the first section, Structure of Seed Plants, students read first about roots, then about stems, and then about leaves. Since no rationale is provided for this sequence, it is not clear why the plant parts and functions are to be learned in this order. Other sequence possibilities could be justified, such as starting with leaves (where food is produced), moving to roots (where food is sometimes stored), and then to stems (to explain how food gets from where it is produced to where it is stored). Alternatively, a sequence starting from roots (where stored food is readily observed) to leaves (where food is produced) and to stems (to explain how food gets from leaves to roots) could be justified as well. Even relevant activities do not seem to be well sequenced. For example, an activity in which students observe food coloring move up a celery stalk (stem) accompanies the passage of text describing root structure and function (p. 225s), while the description of the structure and function of stems comes later (pp. 227–230s). Similarly, the use of tree rings to determine the age of a tree is treated in the section on stems (pp. 228–230s) rather than in the subsequent section on patterns of growth. Given this seemingly random collection of activities and readings, students are unlikely to get the sense that a story is unfolding as they progress through the chapter.

II. Taking Account of Student Ideas

Attending to prerequisite knowledge and skills (Rating = Poor)

Exploring Life Science does not alert teachers to specific prerequisite ideas or make connections between the ideas in a particular unit and their prerequisite ideas. Neither the student text nor the Teacher’s Edition provides any information on what the prerequisites are for the concepts that the textbook is attempting to teach. Furthermore, adequate connections are not made between concepts taught in different chapters and sections. For example, in Chapter 26: Interactions Among Living Things, when the text presents the role of producers in food webs (p. 668s), no reference is made to the earlier presentation of the process by which plants make food (p. 232s). Rather, teachers are told: “Explain to students that the ultimate source of energy for all living things is the sun. The sun’s energy is used by green plants to produce food in a process called photosynthesis” (p. 668t). Similarly, in Chapter 27: Cycles in Nature, the text makes no reference to its prior treatment of cell respiration (pp. 82–83s) when presenting the oxygen and carbon cycles (pp. 706–707s). Rather, teachers are told to point out that, “During respiration, both plants and animals give off carbon dioxide and water vapor” (p. 706t). They are also supposed to have students trace the paths of carbon dioxide and oxygen in an accompanying figure (Figure 27–14, p. 707s); however, as the figure has the paths on it, the text is not clear as to what students are to do beyond that. Even so, given the poor presentations of photosynthesis and respiration in the earlier chapters, merely referencing them would be of little use.

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

Exploring Life Science make no reference to any of the ideas commonly held by students related to the flow of matter and energy in ecosystems that have been documented in research studies. For example, research on student understanding of ecosystems reveals that students view matter as being created or destroyed, rather than as being transformed (Smith & Anderson, 1986). Students who do see matter as being transformed view it as being transformed into energy, rather than simpler substances. Students also view plants as taking in food from the environment, rather than as taking in raw materials that they convert to food (Bell & Brook, 1984; Roth & Anderson, 1987; Anderson, Sheldon, & Dubay, 1990). Teachers are not alerted to these ideas that are commonly held by students.

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

The Teacher’s Guide for Exploring Life Science includes numerous questions to ask students, but very few of them could be used by teachers to elicit and identify their students’ ideas. Most of them are not relevant to the key life science ideas about the transfer and transformation of matter and energy. Even the few questions that are relevant to these key ideas seem to focus on eliciting the correct answer, and are not intended to probe students’ ideas.

Questions at the beginning of relevant sections are intended to engage students, rather than to probe their initial ideas about the transfer of matter and energy. For example, at the beginning of the section that deals with photosynthesis, teachers are to bring in a variety of plants for students to observe and to “[a]sk students to identify some of the structures of the plants and to speculate as to the functions of each plant structure” (p. 224t). At the beginning of the section that deals with cellular respiration, teachers are to have students observe prepared slides of onion or cheek cells, compare what they can see both with and without staining, and note what structures can be identified (p. 72t).

On the other hand, relevant questions in either the student text or the teacher’s notes are always accompanied by the correct answer. For example, the question, “Which do you think releases energy, putting together new molecules or breaking down existing molecules?” is followed by the answer: “Breaking down larger molecules into smaller ones releases energy. The buildup of larger molecules from smaller ones uses energy” (p. 82t). Similarly, the question in the legend to Figure 26–8, “Why are producers essential for life on Earth?” (p. 668s), is followed by the answer: “Producers are the source of the food in an ecosystem” (p. 669t). These questions are relevant and could help teachers to identify their students’ ideas, but the intended purpose of the questions is to probe for the correct answer. The one question that is relevant (“How do you think these plants, or other plants, get food?”) is buried in the middle of seven other questions that are mostly trivial (for example, “What do you observe in the picture?” and “What structures of these plants are you able to see?” and “What structures of these plants are you unable to see?” [p. 222t]). Asking questions as a diagnostic tool is not a feature of this material.

Addressing commonly held ideas (Rating = Poor)

Neither the student text nor the Teacher’s Edition provides any help in addressing students’ commonly held ideas. In one instance, teachers are to ask students the question, “How do you think these plants, or other plants, get food?” (p. 222t). However, instead of providing questions to further probe and challenge students’ answers, the suggested way of dealing with a student’s misconception is to tell the student the correct answer. One teacher’s note states, “If students suggest that plants get food from the soil, water, or fertilizers, point out that fertilizer and any other substances are only materials; plants must use materials such as these to make their own food” (p. 222t).

Furthermore, the treatment of this topic may even contribute to students’ misconceptions. Another teacher’s note states:

Animals require oxygen to live, but as they live and breathe, they use oxygen from the atmosphere and replace it with carbon dioxide, a waste product. As plants live, they use carbon dioxide and create oxygen, a waste product of their food-making processes. So plants and animals are dependent on each other for life—eliminating one will eliminate the other. [p. 57t]

Both students and teachers could infer incorrectly that plants do not also require oxygen in order to live. The same incorrect idea could be inferred readily from Figure 27–14 (p. 707s). The figure shows an elephant eating grass. The label next to the grass reads, “Carbon dioxide is used by producers such as green plants.” The labels next to the elephant read, “Oxygen is used by air-breathing organisms” and “Carbon dioxide is released by air-breathing organisms.” Students could easily conclude, incorrectly, that plants do not use oxygen and release carbon dioxide.

III. Engaging Students with Relevant Phenomena

Providing variety of phenomena (Rating = Poor)

There is a significant lack of phenomena that support the different key life science ideas. Furthermore, most of the phenomena that are provided are not included in the main text but in Teaching Resources or in the Activity Bank at the end of the student text and Teacher’s Edition.

To support the ideas that plants make sugar molecules from carbon dioxide (in the air) and water (Idea c1) and that, while doing so, they use the energy from light to make “energy-rich” sugars (Idea d1), there is an activity in which students observe that Elodea grown in the light changes the color of bromthymol blue solution (Activity Bank, pp. 801–802st). Elodea grown in the dark does not cause this color change. For the idea that other organisms break down the sugars into simpler substances (Idea c3), students incubate yeast and sugar, smell the alcohol produced, and observe a color change that indicates the production of carbon dioxide (Teaching Resources, chapter 3 booklet, p. 25). However, because students do not observe what happens when sugar (or yeast) is not added, they will not be able to conclude legitimately that the carbon dioxide results from the breakdown of the sugar. For the idea that organisms get energy from breaking down the sugars (Idea d3), students are told (in the context of describing parts of a cell), “The more active the cell, the more mitochondria it has” (p. 79s). Unfortunately, only one example—the human liver cell—is given to support this generalization (p. 79s). For the idea that decomposers transform dead organisms into reusable substances (Idea c4), students observe the process of composting in a soda bottle (Activity Bank, pp. 841–843st). Unfortunately, the link between this activity and the key idea is not made explicit. Lastly, students build and observe a terrarium over time, but this activity is linked to feeding relationships only and not to the transformation of matter (pp. 846–847st). No other phenomena are provided to support the other ideas.

Providing vivid experiences (Rating = Poor)

Of the relevant phenomena that are described under the previous criterion, only one is likely to provide a vivid experience for students—the one in which students make compost in soda bottles (pp. 841–843st). The other phenomena either are presented too briefly for students to get a vicarious sense of them (e.g., many mitochondria in liver cells) or require illegitimate conclusions from an uncontrolled experiment.

IV. Developing and Using Scientific Ideas

Introducing terms meaningfully (Rating = Poor)

Examples are provided to illustrate the meaning of the terms used, but not in a way that makes the terms comprehensible. For instance, on the two occasions when the term “decomposers” is introduced, examples of decomposers are presented. However, little effort is made to link the term to students’ experiences with substances being broken down to simpler substances so that the ingredients are available for other organisms. The two examples are as follows: “Other bacteria feed on dead things. These bacteria are decomposers” (p. 140s), and “After living things die, organisms called decomposers use the dead matter as food. . . . You may be familiar with the term ‘decay,’ which is often used to describe this process. Molds, mushrooms, and many kinds of bacteria are examples of decomposers” (pp. 669–670s). Furthermore, no effort is made in the material to limit the number of terms to those needed for science literacy. Technical terms are used for leaf layers, cell parts, and plant parts, rather than emphasis being placed on important processes common to plants and animals.

Representing ideas effectively (Rating = Poor)

The representations included in Exploring Life Science are not likely to make the abstract ideas of matter and energy transformations more intelligible to students. After “consumers” and “producers” are defined, students are asked:
[C]hefs and cooks prepare food for others. The people who eat these meals are naturally called consumers. Why aren’t chefs and cooks called producers? (Answers will vary. Students should suggest, however, that chefs and cooks do not actually make food—they only prepare it.) [p. 49t]

While this analogy could help students appreciate the distinction between synthesizing energy-rich sugars and using the energy-rich sugars to make tasty dishes, the distinction is not well developed. In a subsequent analogy likening plant cells to food factories, the distinction between synthesizing and preparing is also confused.

There is an attempt to develop the analogy comparing plant cells to food factories. A diagram illustrating this concept is shown (p. 82s), but because students’ attention is not drawn to the similarities and differences between a plant cell and a factory, it is rather confusing. A caption for a cross section of a leaf says, “A leaf is a well-designed factory for photosynthesis,” but no other help is provided (p. 233s). A diagram of an Antarctic food web is shown (p. 672s); however, arrows appear in different colors without any purpose, making the diagram unnecessarily confusing. In the context of the carbon dioxide–oxygen cycle, a diagram shows an elephant eating grass (p. 707s, Figure 27–14). The label next to the grass reads, “Carbon dioxide is used by producers such as green plants.” The labels next to the elephant read, “Oxygen is used by air-breathing organisms” and “Carbon dioxide is released by air-breathing organisms.” Students could infer incorrectly that plants do not use oxygen and release carbon dioxide.

Furthermore, there are diagrams of a mitochondrion and a chloroplast (pp. 78s, 80s) and word equations for respiration (p. 83s) and photosynthesis (p. 232s). Chemical equations for respiration and photosynthesis are provided also, but they are not likely to be comprehensible to students because of the lack of attention to chemistry prerequisites.

Demonstrating use of knowledge (Rating = Poor)

Exploring Life Science does not provide instances in which a specific phenomenon is explained using key life science ideas about the transfer and transformation of matter and energy.

Providing practice (Rating = Poor)

Exploring Life Science includes a small number of questions for students to practice ideas related to the transfer and transformation of matter and energy in living things. Most of the questions can be answered by repeating verbatim what is in the text (for example, “How is the way an autotroph gets food different from the way a heterotroph gets food?” [p. 122s, 4–3 Section Review, item 3]; “What is photosynthesis? What is the chemical equation for photosynthesis?” [p. 235s, 9–1 Section Review, item 3]; and “How does energy flow through an ecosystem?” [p. 673s, 26–2 Section Review, item 4]). For only one idea—that decomposers transform dead organisms into simpler substances, which other organisms can reuse (Idea f)—are novel questions provided. Students are asked: “Why can such fungi, along with certain bacteria, be called ‘the Earth’s cleanup crew’?” (p. 181s), and “In what ways would a world without fungi be a worse place?” (p. 192t).

There are no instances in which questions about the same idea increase in complexity. Instead, for the only idea for which several novel questions are provided, the same question is asked in several different places (“In what ways would a world without fungi be a worse place?” [p. 192t], and “What do you think would happen if all the decomposers in the world became extinct?” [Teaching Resources, chapter 26 booklet, p. 24]).

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

Encouraging students to explain their ideas (Rating = Poor)

Questions for the teacher to use with students are provided routinely. However, these questions typically involve restating the text, and the correct answer is provided for the teacher. Hence, the role of these questions is not to give students an opportunity to express, clarify, or justify their own ideas. In a few instances, teachers are told to accept all answers (e.g., pp. 55t, 167t), but then they are instructed to lead students to suggest the right answer. 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)

Exploring Life Science makes almost no attempt to guide students’ interpretation and reasoning about phenomena. While there are questions in the text for students to answer, they are not usually relevant to the key ideas (for example, “What other woody plants can you name?” [p. 228s],” “Can you name some plants that have simple leaves?” [p. 231s], and “How do you get rid of the carbon dioxide that is produced during respiration?” [p. 83s]). The same is true for questions accompanying activities or representations of relevant phenomena. For example, the caption of one illustration reads, “Food webs can be quite complicated…” (p. 672s), yet students are asked to identify only the herbivores and carnivores. One helpful question is provided for teachers: “When a seedling with a mass of only a few grams grows into a tall tree with a mass of several tons, where does the tree’s increase in mass come from?” (p. 231s). However, teachers are not encouraged to use this question to guide student reasoning; rather, they are asked to explain to students what photosynthesis is and to state that our understanding of it is the result of people asking this question for thousands of years.

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 Life Science provides tests and performance-based assessments for each chapter in the Teaching Resources booklets. In addition, the Chapter Review sections in the student text and Teacher’s Edition are identified as assessment. These assessment sections have been examined in the chapters that deal most extensively with the key life science ideas (chapters 2, 3, 7, 9, 26).

Most of the key life science ideas examined here are not assessed adequately in Exploring Life Science. Some ideas are not assessed at all; for others, an insufficient number of items target them.

For the idea that food provides the energy and building blocks for all organisms (Idea a), students are asked to explain the statement, “You are what you eat” (Teaching Resources, chapter 2 booklet, Chapter Test, pp. 33–36), and, after they burn different foods, to explain why there is an increase in the temperature of water (performance assessment). For the idea that plants make their own food while other organisms do not (Idea b), students are asked why fungi depend on other organisms for food (Teaching Resources, chapter 7 booklet, pp. 39–43). For the idea that organisms get their energy from breaking down sugars (Idea d3), they are asked which is better, respiration or fermentation (p. 99s, Chapter Review, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, item 6), and to predict which cells will have more mitochondria (Teaching Resources, chapter 3 booklet, pp. 67–70). However, the latter question requires the knowledge of additional ideas, such as of mitochondria. For the idea that decomposers transform dead materials into simpler, reusable substances (Idea c4), students are asked what the function of decomposers is (Teaching Resources, chapter 7 booklet, pp. 39–42) and why decomposers are essential to the continuation of life on the Earth (Teaching Resources, chapter 26 booklet, pp. 51–56). Lastly, for the idea that matter and energy are transferred repeatedly between organisms and the environment (Idea e). students describe briefly the three energy roles in an ecosystem, give an example of an organism for each, and explain why the sun is considered to be the ultimate source of energy for most ecosystems (p. 693s, Concept Mastery, item 2; Chapter Review, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, item 4). A similar question is given earlier (p. 67s, Chapter Review, Concept Mastery, item 4); however, the answer given in the Teacher’s Edition is misleading.

In addition, students are asked to define photosynthesis (Teaching Resources, chapter 2 booklet, pp. 33–36; p. 253s, chapter 9, Chapter Review, Concept Mastery, item 6) and respiration (p. 67s, chapter 2, Chapter Review, Concept Mastery, item 3; Teaching Resources, chapter 3 booklet, pp. 67–70), and to compare respiration and breathing (p. 99s, chapter 3, Chapter Review, Concept Mastery, item 4). But these questions do not target the key life science ideas.

Testing for understanding (Rating = Poor)

Of the relevant assessment items that are described under the previous criterion, only two focus on understanding: the explanation of the statement, “You are what you eat,” and the explanation of why the sun is considered to be the ultimate source of energy for most ecosystems. Of these two, only one is novel.

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 Life Science. Most questions included in the student text and Teaching Resources booklets 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. There are two potentially useful questions. Students are asked what would happen if all decomposers become extinct and if there were no more green plants (Teaching Resources, chapter 26 booklet, p. 24).

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. 658t, Unit Overview), give brief elaboration of one or a few student text concepts (e.g., p. 671t, Background Information), or offer tidbits of questionable relevance (e.g., p. 79t, 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, “Answers will vary” [p. 233t, Teaching Support, answer 1]), often emphasize factual recall of information from the student text (for example, “Food chains show food and energy links between organisms in an ecosystem. A food web shows all the overlapping food chains in the ecosystem” [p. 672t, 26–2 Section Review Answers, answer 2]), and frequently focus solely on the definitions of terms (for example, “[Respiration is the] process in which food is broken down, and energy is released. In aerobic respiration, food is broken down when it combines with oxygen. Fermentation is another name for anaerobic respiration, in which energy is released without the use of oxygen” [p. 88t, 3–3 Section Review Answers, answer 3]).

The material provides minimal support in recommending resources for improving the teacher’s understanding of key ideas. While the material lists references by author, title, and publisher at the beginning of most chapters that could help teachers improve their understanding of the key ideas (e.g., “McNaughton, S., and L. L. Wolf. General Ecology, Holt” [p. 694at]), 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 “Accept all logical responses” for selected tasks (e.g., p. 660t, Using the Visuals, item 7).

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?” But 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. 802st, Analysis and Conclusions, items 2, 3; p. 792st, Analysis and Conclusions, item 1).

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. 5–17s). The material also illustrates changes over time in scientific thinking leading to current theories of how the first cells formed (pp. 38–44s) and modern methods of classification (pp. 106–122s). However, the material also 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. 234st, Activity: Discovering; pp. 801–802st, Activity Bank: The Ins and Outs of Photosynthesis; 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. 44s, 83s, 690s), 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 Science Gazette describes how biologist Colleen Cavanaugh’s research with tube worms will contribute to better understanding how animals and bacteria cooperate (pp. 254–255s). 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. 375s). The Multicultural Strategy feature consists of general directions included 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. 55t). 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. 11s). Teacher’s notes associated with the essays provide suggestions for student discussion or research projects (e.g., p. 10t). 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. 695s), cooperative group activities (e.g., p. 661t, Activity: Cooperative Learning), laboratory investigations (e.g., p. 690s), whole class discussions (e.g., p. 705t, The Water Cycle, Develop), essay questions (e.g., pp. 67s, 66t, Concept Mastery, item 4), concept mapping (e.g., p. 692st), and making models (e.g., p. 664t, Develop, Activity). In addition, multiple formats are suggested for assessment, including essay (e.g., Teaching Resources, chapter 17 booklet, pp. 55, 57, item 1), performance (e.g., Performance-Based Assessment), and portfolio (e.g., p. 693t, 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 Strategies, Enrich activities, and Going Further: Enrichment activities. ESL Strategies provide English-as-a-second-language students with practice writing tasks often emphasizing vocabulary related to a chapter topic (e.g., p. 670t), and Enrich and Going Further: Enrichment activities allow interested students to further study a specified topic from the chapter (e.g., pp. 195t, 672t). 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. 668s). In addition, some tasks—including Journal Activity (e.g., p. 413s) and Multicultural Strategy (e.g., p. 669t)—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. 661st, Journal Activity). Overall, support is brief and localized.