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Middle Grades Science Textbooks: A Benchmarks-Based Evaluation

PRIME Science. Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 1998
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 = Poor)

PRIME Science organizes its chapters by themes, such as the Restless Earth chapter (about movements on the Earth) and the On the Rocks chapter (about how rocks change), but it does not organize the chapters into units. Purposes are provided for each chapter. Typically, the chapters begin with three or four photographs, an introductory paragraph, and a short list of the topics to be covered in the chapter. However, the purposes presented in these components have limited comprehensibility and often do not correspond well with one another. The purpose for the Restless Earth chapter explains that this chapter will examine processes that change the landscape and “tell you the story of what must be the biggest jigsaw puzzle of all” (level 1, p. 109s). Overall, this statement is vague, but for students not familiar with plate tectonics, it is meaningless. Neither the photographs nor the list of topics for the chapter correspond well to the stated purpose given in the introductory paragraph. One of the photographs shows mountains and a small lake with icebergs, while the caption explains that “[t]his glacier continues to shape the mountains in the background” (level 1, p. 109s). However, it is difficult to see the glacier that is referred to, or the change that it is making. The topics listed for this chapter are not likely to be interesting or motivating for students (they include the formation of three major rock types, the causes of earthquakes, patterns on the Earth that provide clues to the geography of the Earth, and difficulties in getting a new theory accepted). Likewise, the middle school chapter, On the Rocks, begins with a comparison of the Earth and Jupiter (level B, p. 83s). Although it is an interesting comparison, it has little to do with the purpose of the chapter and may be misleading to students. Furthermore, even though the introductory paragraph is comprehensible and likely to be interesting and motivating to students, the subsequent list of topics to be studied within the chapter (i.e., the composition of soil, origins or rocks, the water cycle, the rock cycle and road building [p. 83s]) is not. There are no questions that ask students to think about the purpose or what they are about to study. Most of the lessons are consistent with the chapter purposes, but the purpose is not returned to at the end of the chapter.

Conveying lesson/activity purpose (Rating = Poor)

Classroom activities only appear in the Teacher’s Guide, which does not provide purposes for lessons or activities. The only exception found explains that students are going to make a clay model of a mountain and “investigate its structure” (level 1, p. 114s). Some lesson and activity titles provide a sense of purpose, such as “Identifying minerals,” “What is soil?” “What rocks tell us: Age” (level B, pp. 86s, 94–95s; level 1, p. 343t). Other titles are too vague to provide a purpose, among them are “On the rocks,” “Under the weather,” “Vacation at the beach,” “Messages from the mountains” (level B, pp. 90–91s, 93–93s, 96–97s; level 1, pp. 114–115s). Students are not encouraged to think about the purposes of activities, nor are the purposes related to the unit purpose. Furthermore, the material never engages students in thinking about what they have learned so far and what they need to do next.

Justifying lesson/activity sequence (Rating = Poor)

PRIME Science provides an outline of the lessons within a chapter (On the Rocks, p. 171t; Restless Earth, p. 323t) and the activities within a lesson (On the Rocks, pp. 175t, 184t, 189t, 194t, 199t, and 203t; Restless Earth, pp. 327t, 337t, 348t, 351t, and 369t), but does not provide a rationale for the sequences of lessons and activities. Furthermore, no rationale can be inferred for the sequences of lessons and activities. In particular, the high school chapter, Restless Earth, seems to be a collection of topics related to the chapter title rather than a carefully sequenced set of lessons and activities. The Restless Earth chapter provides the following sequence of lessons: students discuss damage from earthquakes and volcanoes, examine rock samples for clues to the past, model the formation of mountains, present early theories about the age of the Earth and plate tectonics, and lastly discuss the layers of the Earth and how to measure earthquakes (level 1, p. 323t). This sequence does not provide students with a logical set of experiences, nor is there any attempt to connect the lessons to one another.

II. Taking Account of Student Ideas

Attending to prerequisite knowledge and skills (Rating = Poor)

PRIME Science does not alert teachers to the prerequisite ideas that are important for learning the key Earth science ideas. Even though teachers are not alerted to prerequisite information, some prerequisites are presented, albeit briefly. They include a few photographs of landforms (namely, a dune, a sea arch, cliffs) [level B, p. 90]) and the fact that water expands as it freezes (level B, p. 93s). These prerequisites are not related to the key ideas; for instance, the landforms are not referred to later when processes that shape the Earth are presented. Furthermore, many important prerequisites are not presented. The difficulties that students may have with proportionality and scale—such as slow processes and the long time frames of the Earth—are not addressed. Although students make models throughout these two chapters, there is no discussion of the role of models in science to facilitate thinking about processes that happen too slowly or too quickly.

At the beginning of each lesson in the Teacher’s Guide is a section called Background, but it does not contain topics or explanations of what students should know before beginning each lesson. Instead, it alerts teachers to what the students have done so far and points to chapters where related or prerequisite material is found. However, the Background section does not specify what topics in those earlier chapters are needed.

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

PRIME Science does not describe for the teacher’s benefit any of the students’ commonly held ideas related to the changing nature of the Earth that have been documented in research studies. Admittedly, the 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 the surface of the Earth is unchanging (Freyberg, 1985).

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

Although PRIME Science does not claim to provide questions and tasks that are aimed at finding out students’ ideas before the key ideas are introduced, a few questions could be used for this purpose. For example, in the On the Rocks chapter, one activity has students look at pictures of landforms and explain how they think each one was formed (level B, pp. 90–91s). Although the Teacher’s Guide notes that the purpose of this activity is to “introduce ideas about the weathering of rocks” (level B, p. 190t), it could be a useful task to elicit students’ ideas, given that the teacher knows to listen and not provide the correct answer. Other questions could also be used to elicit students’ ideas. The Restless Earth chapter shows a picture of a house dangerously close to a cliff, and a question is posed: “What do you think happens when a cliff is eroded? How do you think erosion occurs?” (level 1, p. 110s). And questions also appear on the next page, such as, “Why do you think volcanoes exist, and why do you think they erupt?” (p. 111s). The Teacher’s Guide indicates that these questions can be used “to stimulate interest and assess their working knowledge on the chapter’s topics” (p. 328t). The questions are comprehensible to students (no technical language) and ask students to give explanations. However, there are no suggestions for teachers as to how to interpret student answers or probe beneath the students’ initial response.

Addressing commonly held ideas (Rating = Poor)

PRIME Science makes no attempt to challenge commonly held student ideas, and does not include any questions or activities that would help students with their difficulties.

III. Engaging Students with Relevant Phenomena

Providing variety of phenomena (Rating = Poor)

PRIME Science does not provide a sufficient number and variety of phenomena to support the key Earth science ideas. No phenomena are provided for some ideas, such as that the surface of the Earth is continually changing (Idea a), that the processes that shape the Earth today are similar to the processes that shaped the Earth in the past (Idea c), that some Earth-shaping processes are abrupt and some are slow (Idea d), and that slow but continuous processes can, over very long times, cause significant changes on the Earth’s surface (Idea e). For other ideas, only a few phenomena are provided, but none are developed or explained well. For the idea that several processes contribute to the changing shape of the Earth (Idea b), students read about and see photographs of the 1980 eruption of Mount Saint Helens (level 1, pp. 110–111s). (Unfortunately, this abrupt volcanic eruption it is not explained in terms of the time frame of the event and thus is not likely to help make Idea d [about quick and slow changes] plausible to students.) Students also read about a town, which in 1600 was a seaport but now, due to the deposition of gravel, is 3 miles inland (level 1, p. 116s). These examples do not provide a wide variety of ways in which the Earth changes. For the idea that matching coastline, rocks, and fossils suggest that the continents have moved (Idea f), students role-play as scientists in the 1920s as they debate the idea of continental drift. Student groups present real data and ideas of different research groups from earlier in the century. However, they are not helped to understand why some data are more convincing than other data. For ideas about plate tectonics (Ideas g, h), very few phenomena are mentioned. For instance, the student text mentions the Andes Mountains, the San Andreas Fault, and the Himalayan Mountains as examples of the types of plate interactions, but provides no descriptions (level 1, p. 119s). The phenomena mentioned in passing (as examples) are not described well enough to be useful for students.

Providing vivid experiences (Rating = Poor)

Of the relevant phenomena described in the previous criterion, none are first-hand experiences. As for the phenomena briefly described in the student text, none provide sufficient description and detail to be a vicarious experience for students.

IV. Developing and Using Scientific Ideas

Introducing terms meaningfully (Rating = Fair)

This material attempts to limit the number of new and technical terms presented. However, not all new terms are introduced in relation to relevant experiences. Some terms are incorrectly defined. For example, the term “subduction” is defined as when oceanic crust goes under continental crust (level 1, p. 119s). This is only partially accurate, in that oceanic crust can also go under other oceanic crust. Several terms are used without sufficient explanation. For example, the terms “syncline,” “anticline,” and “recumbent fold” are defined in cartoonlike representations, but are not explained further in the text (level 1, p. 115s). The term “fault” is used in several places in the Restless Earth chapter, but is not explained, nor is it explained in earlier chapters. One of the most important examples of misused terms is “theory.” This term is never defined although it is frequently used (see, for example, level 1, pp. 116–118s), and it is consistently misused in the role-playing activity (level 1, pp. 360–368t). For example, continental drift is referred to as a theory (level 1, p. 118s). This is an error; continental drift was initially a hypothesis, which was outdated and superseded by the theory of plate tectonics. Later in the reading, plate tectonics is introduced as a theory (level 1, p. 118s). Students will not understand why theories are much stronger explanations than hypotheses if neither term is defined and if they are used incorrectly, as is done here.

Representing ideas effectively (Rating = Poor)

PRIME Science does not include a sufficient number and variety of representations to support this set of key Earth science ideas. There are no representations in the middle school On the Rocks chapter for these key ideas. The few representations in the high school Restless Earth chapter are inaccurate and incomprehensible. One crucial representation attempts to show the relationship between earthquakes and volcanoes on a map. However, it is an imprecise rendition of the real data that will deter students from being able to discern this important relationship. The errors include the locations of volcanoes in the Aleutians, east Indian ocean, eastern China, and the western United States, and in general the large number of volcanoes depicted. Also, there is a lack of a match between earthquake and volcano locations in Indonesia, Japan, and the Aleutians; and the earthquakes in India and areas to the east are presented incorrectly (level 1, p. 118s). Students are also told that this map shows mountain ranges (as claimed in text below), which it does not (level 1, p. 118s). Another example of a grave inaccuracy is the diagram of the tectonic plates (level 1, p. 119s). Plates are erroneously depicted as a layer under the crust. The diagram shows huge and nonexistent gaping holes in the bottom of the ocean at the midocean ridge, and the convection current, as depicted by arrows, flowing in a direction opposite to what is believed to be the real motion (level 1, p. 119s). Likewise, the oversimplified diagrams of fold, syncline, anticline, and recumbent fold are not likely to be comprehensible to students (level 1, p. 115s). Overall the representations are too simplistic to aid comprehension, and none of the diagrams are linked to real objects.

Demonstrating use of knowledge (Rating = Poor)

PRIME Science does not provide examples of explanations, or encourage the teacher to model explanations using the key Earth science ideas.

Providing practice (Rating = Poor)

There are very few instances in which students are given the opportunity to practice using the key Earth science ideas. Furthermore, most of the questions provided focus on only a very few of the key ideas, so that too few of the ideas are practiced. The middle school On the Rocks chapter has four somewhat related tasks that focus on the idea that several processes contribute to changing the surface of the Earth (Idea b). All four of the questions focus on the process of erosion: students list ways in which rocks can be weathered, write a story explaining how a deep canyon might have been formed, explain the difference between weathering and erosion, and choose words to complete a paragraph explaining how a cliff was worn away (level B, pp. 102–103s). The high school Restless Earth chapter contains two practice tasks related to these key ideas. Students are asked to write a newspaper article about Wegener’s theory (again, incorrectly using the term “theory”) and how Mount Everest could be made of limestone (level 1, p. 127s). Another question in the Restless Earth chapter asks students to find six volcanoes on a map and to find which volcanoes occur at plate boundaries, by referring to the map on page 118s (p. 126s). Since the map on 118s is laden with errors, this question cannot be answered accurately by students.

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

Encouraging students to explain their ideas (Rating = Poor)

There are very few opportunities for students to express their own ideas. One nice activity in the On the Rocks chapter, has students study pictures of landforms and, in small groups, discuss how each one could have been formed (level B, pp. 90–91s). In small group discussions like this, each student will have an opportunity to express his or her own ideas. Other questions and activities are suggested for large group discussions, in which only a few students are likely to express their own ideas. For example, the beginning of the Restless Earth chapter poses the following questions: “How do you think erosion occurs?” and “why do you think [volcanoes] erupt?” (level 1, pp. 110–111s). However, questions that focus on students’ ideas, as these two questions do, are not typical. Two other activities provide a question that focuses on the students’ ideas. In one, students are to examine a diagram of tombstones and discuss what causes rocks to weather (level B, p. 92s). Later, in the Restless Earth chapter, they role-play and present the research of historic geologists. At the end of the debate, students compare their class’s debate with the results of the actual conference (level 1, p. 368t). However, neither of these two activities includes instructions or indications to the teacher that would guarantee that each student would have an opportunity to express his or her ideas, and there appear to be no questions that invite students to clarify, justify, or represent their ideas. Furthermore, overall, there are no suggestions to help the teacher provide feedback or to diagnose student errors.

Guiding student interpretation and reasoning (Rating = Poor)

PRIME Science does not provide questions that are designed to guide the students’ interpretation and reasoning of representations, experiences, or phenomena. For example, after students make clay models to show how mountains can be formed, they are asked about the clay model, as in: “[W]hat do you think is represented by the clay strips?” and “What happened to the clay as it was gently squashed?” (level 1, p. 114s). But no questions focus on helping students to make connections between their own ideas and the representation, or make connections to the key ideas. Likewise, after students are presented with a map that attempts to show the relationship between the locations of earthquakes and volcanoes and the plate boundaries (level 1, pp. 118–119s), no questions focus on helping them make sense of the map or make connections between the map and the key ideas. Overall, the questions provided are not sequenced in a logical or meaningful way to help lead students to a better understanding of these key ideas.

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

PRIME Science does not provide opportunities to have students check their own progress or revise their initial ideas.

VI. Assessing Progress

Aligning assessment to goals (Rating = Poor)

For the end-of-instruction assessment, PRIME Science provides Sample Assessment Items for each chapter and, in addition, identifies the Things To Do questions as assessment (all levels, p. 6t). These components of the On the Rocks chapter in level B and the Restless Earth chapter in level 1 have been examined in terms of the first two assessment criteria.

Many of the key Earth science ideas are not assessed in PRIME Science. For example, no items were found that target the ideas that the Earth’s surface is constantly changing (Idea a), that the processes that shape the Earth are similar to processes that shaped the Earth in the past (Idea c), that Earth-changing processes range from very abrupt to very slow (Idea d), or that slow but continuous processes can make significant changes over long periods of time (Idea e). For the other key ideas (Ideas b, f, g, h), very few assessment items are provided.

Most assessment items focus on the idea that several processes contribute to changing the Earth’s surface (Idea b). However, the items typically require students to consider individual processes. In level B, the focus is on weathering and erosion, with students being called upon to list “different ways in which rock can be weathered,” write a story “explaining how a deep canyon might have been formed,” explain “the difference between weathering and erosion,” and choose words to complete a paragraph explaining how a cliff was worn away (pp. 102–103s, Things To Do, items 1, 2, 3, 12). In the suggested sample assessment in the On the Rocks chapter, students are shown diagrams of four landforms and are asked to explain the natural processes that might have formed them (p. 208t, item 3). In the Restless Earth chapter, two items are provided that focus on mountain building resulting from plate movement (level 1, p. 127s, Things To Do, item 8, and p. 385t, Sample Assessment Items, items 13b, 13c).

A few items that target the evidence for continental drift (Idea f) and the concept of plate tectonics (Ideas g, h) are provided in level 1. Students state two pieces of evidence that suggest that the continents were once joined, explain the evidence using an analogy of torn newspaper, and outline “an important difference between Wegener’s theory of Continental Drift and the later theory of Plate Tectonics” (p. 383t, Sample Assessment Items, item 11). They also write a newspaper article reporting on Wegener’s theory (p. 127s, Things To Do, item 6). However, they are not explicitly asked to report on the evidence supporting the theory, and might legitimately write about other aspects.

No other tasks are provided to assess students on the key Earth science ideas.

Testing for understanding (Rating = Poor)

Some of the relevant assessments described under the previous criterion require application of the key Earth science ideas. For example, the items that have students write a story explaining how a deep canyon might have been formed or have them explain the processes that might have formed four landforms require application of the idea that processes (in this case, weathering and erosion) contribute to the changing of the Earth’s surface. However, the few application items provided are clearly insufficient to assess student understanding. Furthermore, many key ideas are not assessed.

Using assessment to inform instruction (Rating = Poor)

Assessment aimed at determining the progress of student learning and then modifying instruction accordingly is not a feature of PRIME Science. To keep track of students’ progress, the Teacher’s Guide suggests that discussions, students’ work sheets, and all other questions in the chapters could be used (all levels, p. 6t). However, the material does not provide sufficient questions or tasks that can be used, even by a well-informed teacher, to diagnose students’ remaining difficulties with respect to the ideas examined (See the segments above entitled “Providing Practice” and “Encouraging students to explain their ideas”). Furthermore, for the relevant questions that are included, PRIME Science does not include suggestions for teachers about how to probe beyond students’ initial responses, nor does it include specific suggestions about how to use students’ responses to make decisions about instruction.

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 in the Teacher’s Guide usually summarize student activities for each chapter and lesson (e.g., level 1, p. 352–354t, Background), state main ideas for each lesson (e.g., level B, p. 199t, Outline of Activities, Key Points), and offer brief elaborations of student text concepts (e.g., level B, p. 200t, For your information). Overall, the teacher content support is broad but not sufficiently detailed.

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, “The top layer of the rock has experience weathering” [level B, p. 206t, Answers to Things To Do, item 11]). Some questions go unanswered (e.g., level 1, pp. 380–381t, Answers To Things To Do, items 1, 4, and 6).

The material provides minimal support in recommending resources for improving the teacher’s understanding of key ideas. The introductory notes of the Teacher’s Guide includes a list of “Optional Resources” (printed matter, video, computers, and resource centers [e.g., level B, pp. 29–34t]), and additional “Optional Resources” are listed at the beginning of each chapter (e.g., “Earthquakes. Bruce A. Bolt, W. H. Freeman and Company, New York, 1993” [level 1, Printed Materials, p. 325t]). Limited descriptions for some of the references identify topics addressed, but few of the references are explicitly linked to specific text sections or key ideas.

Encouraging curiosity and questioning (Some support is provided.)

The material provides a general suggestion for how to encourage students’ questions but not guide their search for answers. Introductory notes in the student text state, “Ask questions of yourself and of those around you” (level B, p. xiiis).

The material provides many suggestions for how to respect and value students’ ideas. Introductory notes in the student text generally elicit and value students’ ideas by stating, “Write your thoughts down to see how they sound, and take a moment from time to time to see if you have changed your ideas or have more evidence that your thoughts were right in the first place” (level 1, p. xvis). Also, teacher’s notes state that multiple student answers should be acceptable for some questions (e.g., level 1, p. 330t, Answers to Student Book, page 111, items 1, 2) and ask students to record their own ideas in many tasks (e.g., level B, p. 91s). In addition, students and their ideas are highlighted throughout the text. For example, drawings of students with dialogue balloons illustrate students discussing scientific ideas to be studied (e.g., level B, p. 94s), and students are specifically referenced in some tasks (e.g., level B, p. 97s).

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?” It also encourages students to pose such questions themselves. Introductory notes in the student text ask students to review their ideas periodically and determine if they have more evidence that their “thoughts were right in the first place” (level B, p. xiiis). In addition, the material includes a few tasks that ask students to provide evidence or reasons in their responses (e.g., level 1, p. 115s, How do mountain ranges form?, item 1; level 1, p. 383t, Sample Assessment Items with answers, item 11a).

The material provides some suggestions for how to avoid dogmatism. Introductory teacher’s notes emphasize the human focus of the material, stating that ideas are “introduced through personal and social contexts” (e.g., level B, p. 1t), and introductory student notes emphasize the use of multiple resources to increase understanding (e.g., level 1, p. xvis). The student text portrays the nature of science as a human enterprise in which students may participate (e.g., level B, pp. 92–93s, Under the weather). Student dialogues throughout the material often present multiple perspectives on a scientific issue (e.g., level 1, p. 127s). However, the material also contributes to dogmatism by providing little attention to the work of particular practicing scientists and changes over time in scientific thinking. In addition, single specific responses are expected 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 laboratories and cooperative group activities (e.g., level B, p. 200t, Group discussion 1; level 1, pp. 338–340t, Lab work).

Supporting all students (Some support is provided.)

The material generally avoids stereotypes or language that might be offensive to a particular group. Most of the drawings in the student text are of 15 recurring students, girls and boys, of various cultural backgrounds (e.g., level A, pp. 5–7s). Photographs also include a diverse cultural mix of students and adults (e.g., level B, pp. 84–86s, 94s). In addition, the material’s use of narrative dialogues (e.g., level B, p. 92s, Under the weather), along with traditional expository text, may support the language use of particular student groups.

The material does not provide illustrations of the contributions of women and minorities to science and as role models. Few contributions of any scientists are included, in that the material instead emphasizes the role of science in students’ everyday lives.

The material suggests multiple formats for students to express their ideas during instruction, including individual investigations (e.g., level 1, p. 126s, Things To Do, item 1), cooperative group activities (e.g., level 1, pp. 354–355t, Role-play), laboratory investigations (e.g., level B, p. 89s, How do they form?), whole class discussions (e.g., level B, p. 190t, Discussion), essay questions (e.g., level 1, p. 110s, The Earth is restless), creative writing (e.g., level B, p. 102s, Things To Do, item 2), and visual projects (e.g., level 1, p. 349t, Modeling). In addition, multiple formats are suggested for assessment, including oral discussion (e.g., level 1, p. 374t, Discussion 3), essay (e.g., level 1, p. 127s, Things To Do, item 8), and performance (e.g., level B, p. 102s, Things To Do, item 8). However, the material does not usually provide a variety of alternatives for the same task.

The material does not routinely include specific suggestions about how teachers can modify activities for students with special needs.

The material provides many strategies to validate students’ relevant personal and social experiences with scientific ideas. Introductory teacher’s notes emphasize the material’s focus on “personal and social contexts” and the “applications of science” (level 1, p. 1t). Many text sections relate specific personal experiences students may have had to the presented scientific concepts (e.g., level 1, p. 109s). In addition, some tasks ask students about particular personal experiences they may have had or suggest specific experiences to have. For example, in a field work assignment, students are asked to find local sites or objects where weathering has occurred. Teacher’s notes ask students to record the age of the object, as well as “how much weathering has occurred and what they believe caused the weathering” (level B, p. 190t, Field work). 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., level B, p. 85s, In the classroom, bullet 1).