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

Middle Grades Science Textbooks: A Benchmarks-Based Evaluation

Science Interactions. Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, 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 = Fair)

Purposes are presented to both teachers and students at the beginning of each unit and at the beginning of each chapter, and, taken individually, each is comprehensible. However, the purposes presented to teachers and students do not always match (e.g., course 1, Chapter 10: Plant Life announces a focus on “plants and their roles in your life” to students but tells teachers that the focus is on the characteristics of plants and comparing ways in which plants are similar to, and different from, one another [p. 310st]). For students, the focus is muddied by the presence of multiple motivators and linkages to other chapters. For example, in course 1, Chapter 11: Ecology, students’ attention is directed in two directions. The introductory text draws students’ attention to how zoos are designed to resemble the natural habitats of animals and how different kinds of living things survive in the same area (p. 344s). The subsequent Explore! activity asks students to consider how the living things in their neighborhood interact (p. 345s). The Explore! activity is interesting and motivating, but the introductory text is not. Yet, it is the text and the Chapter Overview in the Teacher Wraparound Edition, not the Explore! activity, that determines future explorations. The introductory text and the Explore! activity play out differently at the end of the unit; whereas the material returns to the purpose stated in the text, it does not return to the purpose stated in the Explore! activity.

Conveying lesson/activity purpose (Rating = Poor)

Generally, a purpose is provided for investigations but not for readings. The purposes presented are likely to be comprehensible, although the questions posed are sometimes contrived (e.g., “What’s in a seed?” “Are all roots, stems, and leaves alike?” [course 1, chapter 10, pp. 320s, 313s]). The purposes are not related to the unit purpose, nor are students asked to think about them. For example, the owl pellet investigation in course 1, chapter 11 is surrounded by text that is introducing producers, consumers, decomposers, populations, communities, niches, elements of ecosystems, energy flow in ecosystems, food webs, and matter cycles, but no attempt is made to link the owl pellet investigation to one or more of these ideas (pp. 354–355st).

Justifying lesson/activity sequence (Rating = Poor)

No rationale is given for the organization of the content and activities, and none can be inferred readily. Chapters often seem to be a collection of topics related to the chapter title. For example, course 1, chapter 10 touches on all aspects of plant life—plant structures, classification, reproduction, and processes, and course 1, chapter 11 presents a survey of ecology, addressing populations and communities, habitats and niches, producers, consumers, decomposers, energy flow in ecosystems, food webs, the water cycle, the nitrogen cycle, the carbon dioxide cycle, living and nonliving limiting factors, and plant and animal adaptation. There is no evident logic to the sequence of sections in chapters or of activities in sections. For example, why are plant structures introduced before the needs of plants and, hence, the processes that they must carry out? Had the needs and processes been established first, then the structures responsible for them would have made some sense. Instead, putting structures first forced the authors to make brief mentions of photosynthesis and respiration before students had the opportunity to develop any understanding of those processes. The plant structures will have more meaning to students after an examination of these life processes. Also, it is not clear why transpiration is emphasized so much. It is not introduced in a context such as wondering why the grass is wet in the morning even though there has been no rain.

II. Taking Account of Student Ideas

Attending to prerequisite knowledge and skills (Rating = Poor)

Science Interactions does not attend to prerequisite knowledge. Tying to Previous Knowledge components often direct teachers to review topics from previous chapters, but generally, the importance of reviewing these topics is not mentioned to the teacher and these topics are not identified as prerequisites. Furthermore, although the program distributes life science ideas over three years, no attempt is made to alert teachers to the knowledge of physical science that is needed in order to understand the life science ideas. Moreover, the prerequisite ideas are not presented in time for them to be helpful. For example, before stating that “The energy for these [photosynthesis] reactions comes from sunlight,” the text does not advise teachers about the importance of students’ appreciating that light is a form of energy or that energy can be changed from one form to another (course 1, chapter 10, p. 336st). It is not until course 2, Chapter 4: Work and Energy that students are told that energy exists in different forms (pp. 138–141s). Furthermore, even though course 1 treats ideas about producers and food-making, it is not until course 3, Chapter 10: Organic Chemistry that students learn what food is (pp. 322–325s). Then, when the prerequisites are presented finally, they are not linked to the key ideas, nor are teachers directed to the units where the ideas are taught initially.

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

Teachers are not alerted to the large body of published research on student misconceptions about the flow of matter and energy in ecosystems. Although many chapters include a component labeled Uncovering Preconceptions, it does not alert teachers to the findings of research studies on student misconceptions. Teachers are not apprised about student’s widely held beliefs that plants get their food from the environment (mainly from the soil), rather than manufacture it themselves, or that organisms and materials in the environment are very different types of matter and are not transformable into each other (Bell & Brook, 1984; Roth & Anderson, 1987; Anderson, Sheldon, & Dubay, 1990). And teachers are not cautioned that some students see ecosystems only as chains of events and of processes in terms of creating and destroying matter, rather than in terms of transforming matter from one substance to another (Smith & Anderson, 1986). Rather, the Uncovering Preconceptions component warns teachers about tangential problems such as “Students may think that all plants have roots, stems, leaves and vascular tissue” (course 1, chapter 10, p. 317t) or that “Some students may find it difficult to master the definitions or many terms presented” (course 1, chapter 10, p. 324t).

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

Several components in Science Interactions contain questions and activities to be used at the beginning of a chapter or section, such as Uncovering Preconceptions, Tying to Previous Knowledge, Did you ever wonder…. , Bellringer, Explore! and Find Out activities. These components could be used by teachers to find out what their students know before instruction, even though the components are not identified explicitly as serving this purpose. In the Teacher Wraparound Edition, the purpose of some of these components is explained, such as: “Find Out and Explore activities allow students to consider questions about the concepts to come, make observations, and share prior knowledge” (courses 1, 2, and 3, p. 22T). This statement makes no mention of using the questions and tasks to uncover students’ ideas, nor are teachers alerted to this purpose within the chapters where the components are provided. Furthermore, the Explore! and Find Out activities typically do not require students to explain their own ideas about the phenomena they are exploring, so teachers are not likely to learn anything about students’ commonly held ideas.

Most of the questions and tasks are not relevant to the key life science ideas. For example, at the beginning of the chapter on ecology (course 1, chapter 11), teacher’s notes comment:

Students may believe that any changes to the environment are destructive to all living things. Some human-made and natural disasters may be beneficial to some organisms. Ask students if they can think of any organisms that might benefit from the clearing of a forest. [course 1, chapter 11, p. 345t]

Very few questions focus on the key life science ideas. For the idea that plants make their own food, whereas animal obtain food by eating other organisms (Idea b), the question accompanying a cartoon in which a plant is about to eat a dog asks: “Bushes get food somehow. Is this the usual way?” (course 1, p. 312t; also see course 1, pp. 312t, 313t, 344t; course 2, pp. 594t, 596t). Although these questions are likely to be comprehensible to students who have not learned the scientific vocabulary yet, teachers are given no guidance about what to do with the students’ ideas if they are not the correct answers. Usually questions do not ask students to make predictions or give explanations of phenomena.

Addressing commonly held ideas (Rating = Poor)

None of the commonly held ideas reported in the research literature are addressed. No questions, tasks, or activities are provided to help students progress from the misconceptions reported in the literature, nor are any furnished to build on students’ useful, but incomplete, initial ideas.

III. Engaging Students with Relevant Phenomena

Providing variety of phenomena (Rating = Poor)

While there is a content match to most of the ideas examined, Science Interactions provides phenomena to support only a few. Some phenomena that are relevant to the key idea that food serves as fuel and building material for all organisms (Idea a) are included, but only one is linked explicitly to the idea—namely, the activity in which students burn a peanut and observe that the temperature of water changes (course 2, Chapter 19: How Cells Do Their Jobs, Unit 5 Review, p. 613s). In the assessment section that follows, students repeat this experiment using a marshmallow and compare which food released more energy (p. 613t). These phenomena alone are insufficient to show that all organisms (as opposed to only humans) get their energy from their food and that food provides building material also, not only energy. The idea that organisms break down stored sugars into simpler substances (Idea c3) is supported by one phenomenon. Photographs of bread dough before and after rising are included, and the text explains that yeast cells use sugars as food and give off alcohol and carbon dioxide gas as waste chemicals. The heat makes the trapped gas expand and stretch the dough (course 2, chapter 19, p. 602s). For the idea that organisms get energy by breaking down the sugars, releasing some of the energy as heat (Idea d3), two phenomena are provided. After being introduced to the term “metabolism,” students explain why they get warm when they exercise (course 1, Chapter 9: Animal Life, pp. 298–299st). In course 2, Chapter 16: Breathing, students observe that more carbon dioxide is produced when they exercise (pp. 498–499s). No other phenomena are provided that are linked directly to the key ideas.

Worth mentioning is the fact that other phenomena that are related to the flow of matter and energy in ecosystems are included, but they are not explained in terms of the key ideas. For example, students record the temperature changes of soaked beans and dry beans, but this activity is linked only to the term “respiration,” assuming students understand what it means, and not to the idea that the beans get their energy by breaking down their stored sugars, releasing some of the energy into the environment as heat (Idea d2) (course 2, chapter 19, p. 596s).

Science Interactions also contains a few phenomena that ask students to draw conclusions based on insufficient evidence. For example, students blow into bromothymol blue solution and observe the change of color. Then, they add Elodea plants to the beaker, incubate them under bright light, and record the color change (course 1, chapter 10, p. 336t, Extension Activity). The Teacher Wraparound Edition states, “Students should infer that photosynthesis in the plants removed carbon dioxide from the solutions...” (course 1, chapter 10, p. 336t, Extension Activity); however, the experiment is not controlled properly, and, as far as students are concerned, the bright light could have caused the color change.

Providing vivid experiences (Rating = Poor)

Of the four relevant phenomena described under the previous criterion, two are first-hand and efficient—the burning of a peanut and a marshmallow and the observation that when you exercise, you produce more carbon dioxide. The other two are too brief and therefore not likely to provide students with a vicarious sense of the phenomena—the explanation of bread rising (course 2, chapter 19, p. 602s), and the reply to a question about getting get warm when you exercise. The expected answer is that: “As muscles work, they use more energy released from food. This leads to increased metabolism which results in the release of heat energy” (course 1, chapter 9, p. 298t).

IV. Developing and Using Scientific Ideas

Introducing terms meaningfully (Rating = Poor)

The text is not consistent in introducing terms in conjunction with experiences with the key ideas. For example, the first time that cellular respiration is introduced, it is defined without an adequate link to relevant experiences:
Cellular respiration is one of the chemical changes that goes on in an organism. The total of all of the chemical changes that take place in an organism is its metabolism. During the metabolism of food, heat is released. The faster food is broken down, the greater the amount of heat energy released. Why do you suppose you get warm when you exercise? Could this be related to increased metabolism from increased muscle action? [course 1, chapter 9, pp. 298–299s]

Similarly, when the term “photosynthesis” is introduced, it is not linked adequately to a relevant experience:

Plants produce food in a series of chemical reactions. The energy for these reactions comes from sunlight. Photosynthesis is the process in which plants use light to produce food. During photosynthesis, plants use sunlight to change water and carbon dioxide into sugar and oxygen. [course 1, chapter 10, p. 336s]

The only endeavor to link the term to a relevant student experience is found in the phrase: “Almost all plants, on the other hand, do not depend on other organisms for food. They produce their own” (p. 336s). However, this is not likely to give students a sense of a process that requires a special name.

Some attempt is made to use photographs to link terms to relevant experiences with ideas, though it could be done better. For example, in introducing the term “decomposer,” the text shows photographs of mushrooms and a compost pile. However, these photographs do not illustrate the process of decomposition, which would give the term more meaning (course 1, chapter 11, p. 353s).

The text does not limit the number of terms to those needed for effective communication about these key life science ideas. For example, course 1 introduces the terms “chlorophyll” (chapter 10, p. 336s), and “stomata,” “guard cells,” “xylem,” “phloem,” “palisade,” and “spongy layers” (chapter 10, pp. 314–315s), and course 2 uses terms for digestive enzymes—“amylase,” “pepsin,” “trypsin,” and “lipase” (Chapter 18: Chemical Reactions, p. 572s). All together, when presenting the key ideas, the text uses 22 terms that go beyond those used in either benchmarks 6 through 8 (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993) or science standards 5 through 8 (National Research Council, 1996).

Representing ideas effectively (Rating = Poor)

Science Interactions does not contain a sufficient number and variety of representations to make the abstract ideas of matter and energy transformations more intelligible to students. Moreover, it has several representations that are likely to be misleading or incomprehensible to students. Diagrams are included that are not explained well enough to make them understandable. For example, the processes of photosynthesis and respiration are shown in a diagram that attempts to demonstrate that these processes are linked (course 1, chapter 10, pp. 336s, 341s, Figure 10–13). In the diagram, arrows appear in different colors for no apparent reason, only oxygen and carbon dioxide are included, and sugars are omitted. This diagram is not likely to be helpful for understanding matter recycling. Another diagram, in course 2, chapter 19, shows the sun, wheat, a mouse, a snake, and a prey bird connected with arrows (p. 594s, Figure 19–7). The caption states, “Green plants convert light energy from the sun into sugars,” reinforcing students’ commonly held conception that matter and energy are interconvertible. Similarly, the analogies used for the ideas examined are not explained adequately (for example, an analogy of the human body to an automobile [course 2, Chapter 18: Chemical Reactions, p. 564s] and an analogy of cells to power plants [course 2, chapter 19, p. 594s]).

Science Interactions provides two potentially helpful representations. In the context of plant anatomy, there is a diagram showing how sugar is transported from the leaves to other parts of the plant by phloem, and how water and minerals are absorbed by roots from the soil (course 1, chapter 10, p. 314s, Figure 10–2). This might help students understand the idea that plants incorporate the sugars made in their leaves into their other structures (Idea c2). In course 2, chapter 19, the equation for cellular respiration is given and students are asked to count up the atoms on both sides of the arrow and to decide whether any atoms were created or destroyed during respiration (p. 601s). While this is a potentially good activity to connect respiration to the concept of the conservation of matter, it is the only representation at the molecular level and is probably insufficient to make the ideas intelligible to students.

Demonstrating use of knowledge (Rating = Poor)

Science Interactions does not make suggestions to the teacher about how to model skills and use knowledge. The pattern is to present facts and procedures, to pose questions to students, and to give teachers the correct answers to the questions, so that they can make sure the students get the correct answer.

Providing practice (Rating = Poor)

Science Interactions provides few practice tasks for the key life science ideas. Although three questions focus on the idea that organisms get energy to grow and function by breaking down sugars, releasing some of the energy into the environment as heat (Idea d3), at best only one question is provided for the other key ideas. Students are asked: “Why does your body get warm as you exercise?” (course 2, chapter 19, p. 611st, Understanding Ideas, item 5), “What happens to the starch in a slice of wheat bread as you begin to chew it?” (course 3, Chapter 11: Fueling the Body, p. 368st, Understanding Ideas, item 3), and “Sugar, in the form of glucose, is the essential form from which energy is released in your cells. Yet, you could survive without ever eating sugar itself. How is this possible?” (course 3, chapter 11, p. 369st, Critical Thinking, item 1).

For the idea that plants make their own food, whereas animals consume energy-rich food (Idea b), students are asked to classify organisms around their homes as producers or consumers (course 1, chapter 11, p. 352t). To demonstrate the idea that plants make sugars from carbon dioxide and water (Idea c1), students are questioned about the inputs and outputs of photosynthesis (course 1, chapter 10, p. 336st). For the idea that plants get energy by breaking down sugars, releasing some of the energy as heat (Idea d2), students are to predict what will happen to the temperature if they add water to a jar of dried beans (course 2, chapter 19, p. 611st, Developing Skills, item 3). This is clearly insufficient to give students a chance to practice the key ideas and appreciate their usefulness. Very few questions allow students to practice using their knowledge in novel tasks or questions (i.e., tasks that have not been presented previously). Furthermore, question sets do not increase in complexity and there are no suggestions for teachers to provide feedback to students.

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

Encouraging students to explain their ideas (Rating = Poor)

Very few questions ask students to express their own ideas, (at the beginning of chapters and within some activities), but rarely do these questions focus on the key life science ideas. For the questions that could be used to elicit students’ ideas, the answers suggested in the Teacher Wraparound Edition reflect either more or less sophisticated ideas than the key ideas. For example, this question is posed: “On the morning of a marathon race, a runner finds out that the race will be held at 10 AM instead of 4 PM. How should she change her eating strategy?” However, the answer—eat sugars, which are digested faster than starch—requires more sophisticated knowledge (course 3, chapter 10, p. 323t). While certain questions—“Does the hawk receive energy from the sun?” and “Are grasshoppers important to hawks in this food web? Why or why not?”—could be used to have students explain their ideas about the repeated transformation and transfer of matter and energy (Idea e), the answer in the Teacher Wraparound Edition deals only with what eats what—a less sophisticated idea (course 1, chapter 11, p. 356t). Even if the questions were aligned better with the key ideas, the intent of them seems to be to have students give the correct answer, rather than to express or clarify their own ideas. Although journal writing is a common strategy in the program, the questions to be answered are not those that illustrate the key life science ideas.

Guiding student interpretation and reasoning (Rating = Poor)

Very few of the questions could be used to guide student interpretation of the text or the investigations. The few that could be used for this purpose aim at simpler ideas, based on the answers in the Teacher Wraparound Edition. For example, one question seems to focus on the idea that plants make their own food, while animals obtain food by eating other organisms (Idea b). The question asks, “What did each organism you studied do that helped it survive?” but the answer states that “Students should point out how consumers got food and shelter and how producers got sunlight and water.” This answer focuses on a simpler idea—that plants and animals differ in what they take in from their environment, rather than in their different means of obtaining food (course 1, Chapter 16: Changing Ecosystems, p. 515st, Concluding and Applying, item 5). None of the questions have any helpful characteristics such as framing important issues or helping students relate their experiences with phenomena to scientific ideas. Furthermore, the question sets provided are collections of questions rather than strategic sequences of questions that develop understanding of the key ideas.

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

Science Interactions employs a nice strategy that could be used to encourage students to think about what they have learned, but it is not utilized effectively and does not aim at the key life science ideas. At the beginning of each chapter, in a feature called Did you ever wonder…, students are asked to respond to questions about ideas that they have not yet studied. At the end of the chapter, they are asked to reread these answers and write about how their ideas have changed. Only three questions were found that were relevant to the key ideas. For example, in course 1, students are asked “What’s going on when bread gets moldy?” (chapter 11, p. 344s), and, in course 2, they are asked, “Why [is] your body...warm?” (chapter 18, p. 550s). However, when they are asked to revisit their ideas, they have the correct answers in front of them, which they can merely copy (course 1, chapter 11, p. 374s; course 2, chapter 18, p. 579s).

Another feature, Flex Your Brain, has students write what they know about a topic, research the topic further, write about what they found, and compare their new knowledge to their original statement. It is possible that students could monitor their learning by using this feature. However, the topics given are vague (e.g., flowers [course 1, chapter 10, p. 323t], ecosystems [course 1, chapter 11, p. 357t], and respiration [course 2, chapter 16, p. 492t]). It is uncertain what students will investigate, and there is no guidance or indication that the key life science ideas will be explored.

VI. Assessing Progress

Aligning assessment to goals (Rating = Poor)

For the end-of-instruction assessment, Science Interactions provides a review and a test for each chapter. These components of the chapters that most extensively treat the key life science ideas—chapters 9–11 in course 1, chapters 16 and 19 in course 2, and chapter 11 in Course 3—have been examined for the first two assessment criteria. A test bank is provided as well, but it has not been examined in this analysis.

Science Interactions does not provide a sufficient number of assessment items across the set of key ideas that both require the key ideas and can be answered without additional knowledge. For some key ideas, no assessment items are provided. Although several questions appear to relate to the topic of matter and energy transformations, on close inspection most of them do not focus on the key life science ideas about matter and energy transformations. On the one hand, some questions can be answered without knowledge of any key ideas. For example, the question, “Cells are ‘on-duty’ constantly, taking in ______ and giving off ______ (course 2, Review and Assessment, Chapter 19 Test, p. 115, item 11; the answers are “nutrients” and “waste products”), does not require knowledge of the key idea that organisms break down stored sugars into simpler substances and reassemble them into their own body structures (Idea c3). To respond to this question, students merely need to know that nutrients are taken in and waste products are given off, a simpler idea that does not specify what is transformed into what else or even that a transformation of matter is involved. On the other hand, some questions require knowledge outside the scope of the key ideas. For example, the question, “What can you infer about a cell’s function from its number of mitochondria?” (course 2, Review and Assessment, Chapter 19 Test, p. 118, item 28), requires that students know the meaning of the specialized term “mitochondria.”

Only a few questions focus on the key life science ideas. For example, to assess the idea that plants use the energy from light to make energy-rich sugars (Idea c1), only one item is provided. Students are to respond to the true/false question: “Energy from the sun is stored in the form of sugar” (course 1, Review and Assessment, Chapter 11 Review, p. 65, item 9). For the idea that other organisms break down the stored sugars or the body structures of the plants they eat (or in the animals they eat) into simpler substances and reassemble them into their own body structures (including some energy stores) (idea c3), only two items are provided: “Why does exercise cause you to exhale more carbon dioxide?” (course 2, Review and Assessment, Chapter 16 Review, p. 96, item 18), and ”What causes the amount of carbon dioxide exhaled to eventually decrease?” (course 2, Review and Assessment, Chapter 16 Review, p. 96, item 19). Furthermore, several of the key ideas are not assessed, such as the idea that food serves as fuel and building material for all organisms (Idea a), or that decomposers break down dead organisms into simpler reusable substances (Idea c4).

Testing for understanding (Rating = Poor)

Science Interactions does not adequately assess understanding of the set of key ideas. In some cases, assessment items focus solely the on the names of technical terms like mitochondria (see example in previous criterion) or photosynthesis. For the idea that plants make sugars from carbon dioxide and water (Idea c1), the following fill-in-the blank question is provided: “In _______ plants change water and carbon dioxide into sugar and oxygen” (course 1, Review and Assessment, Chapter 10, Review, p. 59, item 7; the answer is “photosynthesis”). A few items both test for understanding and are novel (for example, “Why does exercise cause you to exhale more carbon dioxide?” [course 2, Review and Assessment, Chapter 16 Review, p. 96, item 18]), but there are few other items like them.

Using assessment to inform instruction (Rating = Poor)

Science Interactions claims to contain “numerous strategies and formative checkpoints for evaluating student progress toward mastery of science concepts” and specifies that the Check Your Understanding and Chapter Review components could be used in this manner (courses 1–3, p. 31T). However, the material does not use embedded assessment as a routine strategy for the topic matter and energy transformations, since very few of the items in these components focus on the key life science ideas. For example, a question, “Why is the amount of water vapor higher in air you exhale than in air you inhale?” seems to be related to the idea that organisms break down stored sugars into simper substances, one of which is water (Idea c3). However, the answer provided in the Teacher’s Guide focuses on one output of respiration rather than on the transformation of any matter: “Exhaling it as water vapor is a way to get rid of it” (course 2, chapter 16, p. 500st, Check Your Understanding, item 3). Similarly, an item that could be used to inform teachers about students’ understanding of the energy transformations involved in cellular respiration is unlikely to do so because the suggested response to the item does not. Students are asked to predict what will happen to the temperature if they add water to a jar of dried beans (course 2, chapter 19, p. 611s, Developing Skills, item 3). The suggested response in the Teacher’s Guide states only, “The temperature in the jar of dry beans should rise after water is added, showing that respiration is taking place” (p. 611t).

Furthermore, the material does not assist teachers in interpreting student responses or provide specific suggestions about how to use the information to modify instruction accordingly.

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 Wraparound Edition usually provide brief elaborations of one or a few student text concepts (e.g., course 1, p. 358t, Content Background), briefly state main ideas (e.g., course 2, p. 596t, Content Background), or present additional terms (e.g., course 1, p. 258t, Content Background). 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 (e.g., “Oxygen is needed to combine with food to produce carbon dioxide, water, and energy” [course 2, p. 580t, Understanding Ideas, item 2]).

The material provides minimal support in recommending resources for improving the teacher’s understanding of key ideas. While the material lists references in the introductory notes of the Teacher Wraparound Edition (e.g., “Hancock, Judith M. Variety of Life: A Biology Teacher’s Sourcebook. Portland, OR: J. Weston Walch, 1987” [course 1, p. 47T]), National Geographic resources at the beginning of each chapter (e.g., course 2, p. 582Bt, National Geographic Teacher’s Corner), and websites throughout the book (e.g., course 1, p. 338t, interNET CONNECTION) that could help teachers improve their understanding of key ideas, 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 a few suggestions for how to encourage students’ questions and guide their search for answers. A generic Flex Your Brain work sheet encourages students to pose a question about a topic studied and gives them three broad guiding questions to use in their search for answers: “What do I already know?” “How can I find out?” and “What do I know now [after exploration]?” (courses 1–3, p. 17T). Teacher’s notes suggest topics students can explore (e.g., “food and energy” [course 2, p. 596t]) but provide no other guidance.

The material provides a few suggestions for how to respect and value students’ ideas. Introductory teacher’s notes about cooperative learning state that students will “recognize…the strengths of others’ [perspectives],” be presented with “the idea that there is no one, ‘ready-made’ answer” (courses 1–3, p. 22T), and “respect other people and their ideas” (courses 1–3, p. 33T). Introductory teacher’s notes also state that student responses may vary in concept mapping tasks. Teachers are thus instructed to “[l]ook for the conceptual strength of student responses, not absolute accuracy” (courses 1–3, p. 26T). A special feature, Teens in Science, describes specific students conducting experiments and activities related to the chapter content (e.g., course 1, p. 371st). In addition, Design Your Own Investigation and some Investigate! activities (e.g., course 1, pp. 514–515st, Investigate!) are structured to be open-ended, allowing students to pursue a laboratory task in various ways. However, teacher’s notes often give specific expected outcomes for these activities that may limit their intended open-ended nature (e.g., course 1, pp. 266–267t, Design Your Own Investigation).

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., course 1, p. 355st, Investigate! item 3; course 2, p. 599st, Investigate! item 3).

The material provides a few suggestions for how to avoid dogmatism. Introductory teacher’s notes state, “Science is not just a collection of facts for students to memorize” but instead “a process of applying those observations and intuitions to situations and problems, formulating hypotheses, and drawing conclusions” (courses 1–3, p. 23T). The first chapter portrays the nature of science as a human enterprise that proceeds by trial and error and uses many skills familiar to students (pp. 2–17st). However, most of the text is generally presented in a static, authoritative manner with little reference to the work of particular practicing scientists, and 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., course 1, pp. 354–355st, Investigate!; course 3, pp. 354–355st, Investigate!; Cooperative Learning in the Science Classroom resource book).

Supporting all students (Some support is provided.)

The material generally avoids stereotypes or language that might be offensive to a particular group. For example, several photographs include a diverse cultural mix of students and adults (e.g., course 1, pp. 269s, 311s, 346s).

The material provides some illustrations of the contributions of women and minorities to science and as role models. While the introductory teacher’s notes state the goal of multicultural education as promoting “the understanding of how people from different cultures approach and solve the basic problems all humans have in living and learning” (courses 1–3, p. 25T), most of the contributions of women and minorities appear in special features. Science Connections emphasize associations among the various science disciplines and society. Some of these essays describe scientific contributions of women and minorities (e.g., course 1, p. 340st, History Connection). In addition, Multicultural Perspectives teacher’s notes highlight specific cultural contributions related to chapter topics (e.g., course 3, p. 355t). A separate Multicultural Connections resource book contains short readings and questions about individual scientists or groups addressing text-related issues in many parts of the world. For example, the book includes a reading activity about Native Americans’ use of plants in their medicinal treatments (e.g., Multicultural Connections, p. 23). 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, supplemental materials, and teacher’s notes.

The material suggests multiple formats for students to express their ideas during instruction, including individual investigations (e.g., course 2, p. 596st, Find Out!), journal writing (e.g., course 1, p. 344s, Science Journal), cooperative group activities (e.g., course 2, p. 601t, Going Further), laboratory investigations (e.g., course 3, pp. 354–355st, Investigate!), whole class discussions (e.g., course 2, p. 594t, Discussion), essay questions (e.g., course 1, p. 342st, Understanding Ideas, item 5), concept mapping (e.g., course 2, p. 611st, Developing Skills, item 1), and visual projects (e.g., course 1, p. 327t, Visual Learning). In addition, multiple formats are suggested for assessment, including oral discussion (e.g., course 1, p. 336t, Discussion), essay (e.g., Computer Test Bank Manual, course 2, pp. 19–20, item 24), performance (e.g., course 2, p. 613t, Assessment), and portfolio (e.g., course 1, p. 356t, Across the Curriculum). However, the material does not usually provide a variety of alternatives for the same task (except in rare instances for special needs students).

The material does not routinely include specific suggestions about how teachers can modify activities for students with special needs. However, the Teacher Wraparound Edition and supplemental Program Resources provide additional activities and resources for students of specific ability levels. At the beginning of each chapter, teacher’s notes link the various chapter activities to different learning styles (e.g., course 1, p. 344t, Learning Styles), and each activity is coded according to ability level (courses 1–3, p. 33T). Each chapter also includes a Meeting Individual Needs feature, which provides activities specifically designated for students with special needs (e.g., course 2, p. 595t, Meeting Individual Needs). For Spanish speakers, there are English/Spanish audiocassettes, which summarize the student text in both languages, and a Spanish Resources book, which translates chapter vocabulary terms and definitions. However, the placement of supplemental resources in individual booklets separate from the main text may discourage their use, and the special needs codes within chapters may discourage teachers from using those activities with all students when appropriate.

The material provides some strategies to validate students’ relevant personal and social experiences with scientific ideas. Many text sections begin with a brief reference to a specific, personal experience students may have had that relates to the presented scientific concepts (e.g., course 1, p. 374t), Across the Curriculum, Daily Life and How It Works resource book work sheets—ask students about particular, personal experiences they may have had or suggest specific experiences to have. For example, teacher’s notes ask students to make a list of the changes in their bodies before, during, and after exercise and to describe how these changes provide evidence of respiration (course 2, p. 595t, Across the Curriculum, Daily Life). 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., course 1, p. 273t, Science at Home). Overall, support is brief and localized.