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 = Poor)

Science Interactions attempts to set a purpose for each chapter and unit through opening statements that include a scenario about an everyday experience followed mostly (but not always) by a brief description of what students will study in the chapter. The opening statements in both course 2, Chapter 14: Gases, Atoms, and Molecules and course 3, Chapter 7: Molecules in Motion do not give students a clear sense of purpose that matches most of the instruction in the chapters. For example, on the first pages of course 3, chapter 7, students see the chapter title (Molecules in Motion), pictures of ice cream melting and young people swimming, and read about their experiences at the beach. These experiences include such phenomena as cooling off in the water after lying in the hot sun, getting hot again, buying ice cream, and watching it melt. Then, the text asks: “What causes all these changes? You’ll find out in this chapter with the help of the kinetic-molecular theory… ” (p. 208s). Although the changes that occur during a day at the beach are within students’ range of experience, the questions asked probably would not be interesting and motivating to all students. The answers may appear too obvious to them: “Why does the ice cream melt? Because it’s hot.” There is also the possibility that the experience presented is so commonplace that it might not motivate students at all. Most importantly, these questions do not convey to students a clear objective that matches most of the instruction in the chapter. Although the phenomena presented are explained by using the kinetic molecular theory, these explanations comprise a small part of the chapter, which includes these other topics: the properties of solids, liquids, and gases; changes of state; pressure; gas laws; and absolute temperature.

Conveying lesson/activity purpose (Rating = Poor)

Science Interactions gives students a purpose for most of its activities (demonstrations, investigations, Explore! Activities, etc.), although, in some cases, the purpose presented does not correspond well to the real goal of the activity. For example, in course 3, chapter 7, students observe that candy dissolves faster in hot water than in cold water (p. 209s). The activity is headed by a question that probably is intended to communicate the purpose of the activity to students (“Do hot things move?”). However, the purpose implied by this question does not reflect objectives of the activity, namely, to observe how heat affects the dissolving rate of the candy and to infer that increased temperature means increased molecular motion. When a purpose for an activity is presented, it is likely to be comprehensible to middle grades students. The text does not engage students in thinking about the activities (why they should do them, what they will learn from them, or how the activities are connected to the unit purpose). Furthermore, the text rarely conveys to students the purpose of readings, and it rarely engages them in thinking about what they have learned so far and what they need to learn or do next.

Justifying lesson/activity sequence (Rating = Poor)

Science Interactions does not give a rationale for the logical or strategic sequence of the readings and activities in a chapter. One can infer a reasonable sequence, at least for a part of course 2, chapter 14. Section 14–1 deals with the properties of gases and the gas laws. Section 14–2 introduces the hypothesis that gases are made of particles, and uses it to explain the properties of the gases described in Section 14–1 but not the gas laws (without making it clear why). Section 14–3 elaborates on the atomic theory of matter and some of the evidence that has led to it.

There is no sequential organization of the readings and activities that the reviewers could determine for course 3, chapter 7. For example, it is not clear why the chapter starts with the kinetic molecular theory in the context of solids and liquids (Section 7–1: Solids and Liquids) and then introduces the kinetic theory of gases (Section 7–2: Kinetic Theory of Gases). Course 2 introduced the kinetic molecular theory in the context of gases, so one could expect the material to start where it left off. Moreover, section 7–1 contains a subsection on evaporation and condensation and their molecular explanations before the kinetic theory of gases is introduced in section 7–2.

II. Taking Account of Student Ideas

Attending to prerequisite knowledge and skills (Rating = Poor)

Science Interactions addresses some prerequisites to the key ideas before the key ideas are introduced in course 2, chapter 14 and course 3, chapter 7. For example, in course 1, students have experiences related to the prerequisite ideas that heating and cooling cause changes in the properties of materials, that many kinds of changes occur faster under hotter conditions, that just as water can exist as ice, water, or vapor, all but a few substances can also take a solid, liquid, or gaseous form, and observe the characteristics of different states of matter and the transitions between them. In course 2, chapter 14, students are given experiences with the behavior of gases at the level of observed phenomena before these phenomena are explained with the kinetic molecular theory. However, the prerequisite idea that air is matter is addressed in course 3, long after the idea that all matter (including air) is made of particles (Idea a) is introduced and the properties of air are explained with the kinetic molecular theory (in course 2).

Science Interactions does not alert teachers to specific prerequisite ideas, nor does it point explicitly to the earlier chapters in which prerequisites are addressed. The feature called Tying to Previous Knowledge often directs teachers to review topics from previous chapters, but, generally, the importance of reviewing these topics is not mentioned to them. Which specific ideas from these general topics need to be reviewed is not mentioned, the topics to be reviewed are not identified clearly as prerequisites, they are not linked specifically to chapter topics, and the question of why such review is important is not answered. For example, in course 2, chapter 14, Section 14-1: How Do Gases Behave? the Tying to Previous Knowledge portion suggests to teachers, “Review the three physical phases of matter—solid, liquid, and gas” (p. 427t). It does not state explicitly what about solids, liquids, and gases they should review. In course 3, chapter 7, at the beginning of a section on the kinetic molecular theory, Tying to Previous Knowledge instructs teachers to review the concepts of kinetic and potential energy (p. 211t). Not only is it not explained why students need to review these concepts, but also the issue is confused by including potential energy (which is not relevant for the section that follows).

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

Science Interactions does not describe for the teacher’s benefit any of the important, commonly held ideas or major student difficulties related to the kinetic molecular theory that have been documented in research studies. For example, research on student understanding of the structure of matter reveals that many students think that particles (atoms or molecules) are in substances and/or that there is something, (e.g., air) between the particles, rather than that substances consist of nothing except molecules with empty spaces between them (Brook, Briggs, & Driver, 1984; Nussbaum, 1985). Research also indicates that students often are confused about the observable properties of substances versus the properties of molecules themselves. For example, students may think that molecules themselves become hot or cold, or that molecules themselves expand, causing substances to expand (Johnston & Driver, 1989; Lee, Eichinger, Anderson, Berkheimer, & Blakeslee, 1993). Teachers are not alerted to these misconceptions, which many students have. Science Interactions only cautions that they may not think of air as a substance (course 3, chapter 7, p. 223t, Uncovering Preconceptions) and that they may not see solid, liquid, and gaseous forms of water as being the same substance (course 1, chapter 4, p. 117t, Uncovering Preconceptions). These difficulties relate to prerequisites for the key ideas, rather than to the key ideas themselves.

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 1–3,p. 22T). This statement makes no mentions 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.

Taken together, the questions in these features focus mostly on finding out the status of students’ knowledge with respect to some prerequisites to the key physical science ideas. For example, in course 2, chapter 14, the teacher is told to “Have students list all properties of gases that they can think of” (Tying to Previous Knowledge, p. 424t); in course 3, chapter 7, the teacher is told to write on the board the headings “gases,” “liquids,” and “solids” and have the class list under each heading anything they associate with it (Tying to Previous Knowledge, p. 208t). The rest of the questions are related only peripherally to the key ideas, and most could be answered at the macroscopic level: “Why [does] a hairspray can [feel] cold when you use it?” (course 2, chapter 14, p. 424s); “Why [do] you feel cooler if you splash yourself with water?”; “Why [does] the tar [squeeze] out of street cracks in warm weather?” (course 3, chapter 7, p. 208s). Teachers are not asked to probe students’ responses to determine any microscopic ideas they may have; however, their doing so would be particularly relevant for the last two questions from course 3 because molecular ideas have already been introduced in course 2. In summary, although a few questions are included that could help to identify students’ ideas (if teachers were to use them for this purpose), they are insufficient to elicit the numerous misconceptions and to identify the various areas of difficulty that we know from research studies students have with the topic of the kinetic molecular theory.

Addressing commonly held ideas (Rating = Poor)

None of the commonly held ideas that relate to the kinetic molecular theory are addressed explicitly, nor are there any activities that would help students with their difficulties. One commonly held idea is addressed that is a prerequisite to students understanding the key idea that all matter (including gases) is made of particles called atoms and molecules (Idea a). Course 3, chapter 7 states:
Students may have difficulty appreciating that intangible, invisible air has mass and substance just as liquids and solids do. Have students weigh an uninflated balloon on a sensitive balance scale. Then have them blow up the balloon, tie it off, and weigh it again. They should note that the added mass shown on the scale is that of the air trapped within the balloon. [p. 223t, Uncovering Preconceptions]

However, it should be noted that the prerequisite idea that air is matter is addressed long after the idea that all matter (including air) is made of particles has been introduced and the properties of air have been explained by using with the kinetic molecular theory (in course 2).

III. Engaging Students with Relevant Phenomena

Providing variety of phenomena (Rating = Satisfactory)

Overall, there are a satisfactory number and variety of phenomena that support the kinetic molecular theory. Many varied phenomena illustrate the idea that particles are in motion (Idea c), such as diffusion in liquids (e.g., the diffusion of ink in water [course 2, chapter 19, p. 588s]), diffusion in gases (e.g., the diffusion of perfume [course 2, chapter 14, pp. 426st, 438s]), and gas pressure (e.g., pressure in a balloon [course 2, chapter 14, p. 430–431st). Several relevant phenomena support the idea that increased temperature means increased molecular motion (Idea d), but most of them apply to thermal expansion, (e.g., course 3, chapter 7, pp. 212–213st, 214s). These phenomena related to increased diffusion rates or increased dissolution with increased temperature are not explained clearly in terms of this key idea. There is some effort to support the idea that matter is made of particles (Idea a), with observations about the law of definite composition (course 2, chapter 14, pp. 444–445s), which was a key piece of the thinking that led historically to strong belief in atoms. A few phenomena demonstrate the different arrangement, motion, and interaction of particles in the three states of matter (Idea e) (e.g., the motion of gas particles, course 2, chapter 14, pp. 437st, 438s) but no phenomena support the small size of particles (Idea b).

Providing vivid experiences (Rating = Satisfactory)

Several of the phenomena that support the key ideas are presented to students as hands-on activities. For example, for the idea that particles of a gas are moving in all directions (part of Idea e), students observe dust particles moving in the air by looking at a beam of light in a darkened room (course 2, chapter 14, p. 437st). The following text explains that “The dust specks you saw were never still. Although dust is not a gas, it seems reasonable to assume that gas particles in the air around in the dust are also moving” (course 2, chapter 14, p. 438s). However, for the phenomena that are presented only in text descriptions, usually the descriptions are not vivid enough to provide students with vicarious experiences. For example, a picture of a liquid thermometer is not likely to give middle grades students a vicarious sense of thermal expansion in liquids, especially if they have experienced digital thermometers only (course 3, chapter 7, p. 215s). Moreover, although references to the properties of solids, liquids, and gases are used to support the different arrangement and interaction of particles in the three states of matter (Idea e), students are not referred to specific examples that would give them a vicarious sense of these phenomena. For instance, in course 3, chapter 7, after providing some examples of solids, the text states that “Because solids are rigid, there must be forces of attraction that hold their particles in a definite shape” (p. 211s). However, no specific cases that illustrate the rigidity or definite shape of solids are described.

IV. Developing and Using Scientific Ideas

Introducing terms meaningfully (Rating = Satisfactory)

Science Interactions typically presents terms in connection with a relevant experience. For example, after students heat a plastic drinking straw with hot water and notice a change in the length of the straw, and see a picture of a bent railroad track, they are given the definition of thermal expansion (course 3, Chapter 7: Molecules in Motion, pp. 212–213st, 214s). However, a few terms are not introduced in the context of a relevant experience—as for example, the term “particle” in course 2, chapter 14 (p. 436s). Furthermore, the vocabulary is not restricted always to the words needed to discuss the key physical science ideas. Some unnecessary terms are used, such as kinetic molecular theory, cohesion, sublimation, absolute zero, viscosity, mixture, and pure substance, as well as the names of the gas laws.

Representing ideas effectively (Rating = Poor)

Although Science Interactions includes several representations relevant to the key physical science ideas, most of them are likely to be misleading or confusing to students. For example, in course 3, chapter 7, water molecules appear inside blue drop shapes (p. 216s, Figure 7–5; p. 220s, Figure 7–9), which might support the common student misconception that molecules are in things, rather than that they make up things. Another potentially misleading mistake is that some diagrams show the molecules of the same substance appearing in different sizes (probably to suggest perspective and movement). For instance, in course 3, chapter 7, Figure 7–8 shows water molecules becoming larger and larger as they leave the skin (p. 219s). This could reinforce the common student misconception that molecules themselves change size, becoming larger when heated.

Very few of the representations are likely to be helpful in making the ideas of the kinetic molecular theory intelligible to students. For example, in course 3, chapter 7, Figure 7–2 illustrates the arrangement and motion of molecules in a solid (p. 211s). This diagram shows eight balls held in position by springs. Captions state that the balls represent the particles of which the solid is made, while the springs represent forces between these particles. While springs hold the balls in position, the balls can vibrate around their rest positions. Still, the text does not discuss explicitly how the representation is unlike what it is supposed to demonstrate. Furthermore, since students often think that something is between particles—rather than a void (Brook, Briggs, & Driver, 1984; Nussbaum, 1985), this representation could reinforce that erroneous idea.

Demonstrating use of knowledge (Rating = Poor)

Some explanations of phenomena using the kinetic molecular theory are given in the student text, but most of them are not step-by-step. For example, there is the following explanation for the solidification of candle wax: “This candle has just been blown out. The liquid wax at the top of the candle is cooling. As its temperature drops, its molecules move more slowly. Eventually, they clump together and the liquid changes to a solid” (course 3, chapter 7, p. 217s). There is no explicit description of the arrangement, motion, and interaction of the particles of liquid wax, nor of how they change as the temperature of the candle wax drops. Explanations that demonstrate use of knowledge are not identified, nor are there comments about the features of good explanations.

Providing practice (Rating = Fair)

Science Interactions is uneven in the number and variety of opportunities provided for students to practice using the different key ideas. For example, there are barely any tasks that enable students to practice the ideas of the particulate constitution of matter (Idea a), the small size of particles (Idea b), and the different arrangement, motion, and interaction of particles in the three states of matter (Idea e). On the other hand, there are many tasks for students to practice the idea that increased temperature means increased molecular motion (Idea d), especially in the context of thermal expansion. For instance, in course 3, chapter 7, students are asked to explain why a metal storm door that opens easily in cold weather might stick in hot weather (p. 213s, Concluding and Applying, item 5); explain what happens to an inflated balloon when it is taken outside on a cold day (p. 236s, Critical Thinking, item 4); and respond as to whether they “expect the tires on an automobile to have greater pressure after sitting overnight or after a long road trip” and explain why (p. 225s, Going Further). It is often not clear from how questions are phrased whether students are expected to respond at a macroscopic or a microscopic level. In some instances, students are asked to use the kinetic molecular theory to explain a phenomenon, but the answer given in the Teacher Wraparound Edition, from which a teacher might give feedback, is not given in terms of the kinetic molecular theory. For example, students are asked to use “the kinetic theory to explain the cracks that appear in rocks during the process of weathering.” The answer in the teacher notes states: “As the rock warms and cools every day, it expands and contracts, which weaken it. Water gets into cracks, freezes, and expands, enlarging the cracks” (course 3, chapter 7, p. 236st, Connecting Ideas, item 2).

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

Encouraging students to explain their ideas (Rating = Fair)

Students are asked frequently to express their ideas in journals, especially in the context of activities. This affords students an opportunity to express their own ideas because all students are asked to write in a journal—as opposed to a class discussion in which only a few students may participate. However, rarely (if ever) are students asked to give their impressions about readings from the text. Furthermore, even though they are asked to write about their own ideas, most often they are not asked to clarify, justify, or represent their ideas.

For the most part, students are not instructed to discuss topics in small groups, nor are teachers directed to use a style of discussion that involves everyone in the class. Furthermore, the teacher is not instructed explicitly to provide feedback to students, nor are suggestions made about how feedback could be given to help students diagnose their errors or develop their ideas more fully.

Guiding student interpretation and reasoning (Rating = Poor)

Typically, hands-on activities are followed by questions. In some instances, questions may be helpful in getting students to think about an activity (e.g., in two cases, students are asked to use the kinetic molecular theory to explain what they observed [course 3, chapter 7, pp. 213s, 225s]). In other instances, the questions asked are not likely to help students reflect on the activities (e.g., course 2, chapter 14, pp. 436s, 437s; course 3, chapter 7, pp. 209s, 219s). The questions never help students to make connections between their own ideas and what they observe, and they rarely progress in complexity in a meaningful sequence. There are no specific questions that can help students make sense of the text they read. This is an important shortcoming, given that several phenomena that support the kinetic molecular theory are described in the text. Students are never asked to think about these phenomena.

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

Science Interactions contains a strategy that could be used to encourage students to think about what they have learned, but it is not employed effectively and does not aim at the key physical science ideas. At the beginning of each chapter, several questions about ideas and phenomena that students have not yet studied are presented in a component called Did you ever wonder…. At the end of the chapter, they are told to compare their journal entry with what they have learned. However, only two questions were found that are somewhat relevant to the key ideas. In course 2, chapter 14, students are asked: “What’s in a balloon?” (p. 424s). The response in the teacher notes is: “Molecules or atoms of the gas that fills the balloon” [p. 451st]). In course 3, chapter 7, students are asked “[w]hy water pours faster than catsup or syrup” (p. 208s). The response in the teacher notes explains that “The attractive forces between molecules of catsup or syrup are stronger than those that hold water molecules together” (p. 234st).

At the end of each chapter, before students are asked to review their responses to the Did you ever wonder… questions, they are asked to review statements about the major ideas presented in the chapter and to answer accompanying questions. Then, they are asked to write a paragraph about how their understanding of the major ideas has changed. Although the ideas and the questions posed relate well to the key physical science ideas (e.g., “Kinetic-molecular theory states that the particles that compose all forms of matter are in constant motion”; “Temperature of a gas is a measure of the particles’ average kinetic energy. The greater the temperature, the faster the particles move and the harder they collide” [course 3, chapter 7, p. 234s]), it is not clear whether students will be able to respond effectively to the question about how their understanding of the major ideas has changed without having been asked to consider questions related to these big ideas before. As noted above, the Did you ever wonder… questions do not address the main ideas; hence, reviewing the responses to these questions will not help.

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 will monitor their learning by using this feature. However, only one Flex Your Brain activity is included in the relevant physical science chapters. Furthermore, the topic given is vague, namely, solids and liquids (course 3, chapter 7, p. 217t). It is uncertain what students will investigate, and there is no guidance or indication that the key physical science ideas will be explored.

VI. Assessing Progress

Aligning assessment to goals (Rating = Fair)

For the end-of-instruction assessment, Science Interactions provides a review and a test for each chapter. These components of the chapters that treat the key physical science ideas most extensively—chapters 14 in course 2 and chapter 7 in course 3—have been examined in terms of the first two assessment criteria. Science Interactions provides a test bank as well, but it has not been examined in this analysis.

Science Interactions includes several assessment items that focus on the key physical science ideas. However the number of questions provided is inconsistent across the set of key physical science ideas, and most of the key physical science ideas are not adequately assessed. Several assessment items focus on parts of the key idea that delineates the different arrangement and motion of particles in solids, liquids, and gases (Idea e). For example, students respond to this true/false question: “Molecules in liquids have stronger attractive forces than do molecules in solids” (Review and Assessment, course 3, Chapter 7 Review, p. 41, item 10) and complete the sentence: “When molecules are in a fixed arrangement, the state of matter must be _______” (Review and Assessment, course 3, Chapter 7 Test, p. 43, item 10). For most of the other key physical science ideas (Ideas a, c, d, f), one or two assessment items are provided. For example, two questions focus on the molecular explanations of changes of states (Idea f). In one, students explain what happens to a material’s molecules when a solid becomes a liquid (Review and Assessment, course 3, Chapter 7 Test, p. 44, item 20). The other asks why drops of liquid appear on the outside of a cold glass on a hot summer day (Review and Assessment, course 3, Chapter 7 Test, p. 45, item 25). For the idea that all matter is made up of particles (Idea a), one item is provided. Students complete this sentence: “The idea that matter is composed of small (particles) called atoms is explained by the atomic theory of matter” (Review and Assessment, course 2, Chapter 14 Review, p. 83, item 9). (While two questions focus on evidence for the particulate nature of matter from the law of definite proportions, Benchmarks for Science Literacy [American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993] and National Science Education Standards [National Research Council, 1996] consider the law of definite proportions to be too sophisticated for middle grades students). The idea that particles of matter are extremely small (Idea b) is not assessed.

Testing for understanding (Rating = Fair)

Science Interactions provides some assessment items that require the application of the key ideas to new situations (as opposed those that require only the rote memorization of terms) for a few of the key physical science ideas. For example, for the idea that increased temperature means greater molecular motion (Idea d), students are asked: “Suppose a pressurized can of hair spray is thrown into a fire. What dangerous consequence might occur? Explain” (Review and Assessment, course 3, Chapter 7 Test, p. 46, item 26). Likewise, another question, “Which will evaporate faster from your skin: cold water or warm water? Explain your answer” (Review and Assessment, course 3, Chapter 7 Test, p. 46, item 27), assesses students’ molecular understanding of the changes of states (Idea f). These two questions involve students in explaining phenomena and making a prediction. However, few of the key ideas are assessed with questions like these.

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, only a few of the questions in these components focus on the key physical science ideas, and therefore could be used to assess students’ progress in these key ideas. For example, students compare the way particles in a solid and liquid are arranged, explain melting and evaporation in terms of the kinetic molecular theory, explain how a gasoline can filled to the brim on a cool morning leaks in the afternoon (course 3, chapter 7, p. 221, items 1–3), explain why a hot air balloon is expanding, and what happens as the kinetic energy of a solid is increased (course 3, chapter 7, p. 234, items 2, 4). While these questions might help teachers to find out where students are, Science Interactions does not include guidance for teachers about how to interpret students’ responses or how to modify instruction according to the students’ responses.

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. 131t, Content Background) or present additional terms (e.g., course 3, p. 220t, 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., “The temperature of a gas corresponds to the average kinetic energy of its molecules” [course 3, p. 230t, Check Your Understanding, item 2]); some emphasize a “right-answer” approach (e.g., “A straight line graph should result” [course 2, p. 434t, Conclude and Apply, item 1]).

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., “Laidler, Keith J. The World of Physical Chemistry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993” [course 1, p. 47T]), National Geographic resources at the beginning of each chapter (e.g., course 2, p. 424Bt, National Geographic Teacher’s Corner), and websites throughout the book (e.g, course 2, p. 413t, 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 that students can explore (e.g., “solids and liquids” [course 3, p. 217t]) 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 2, p. 478st). In addition, Design Your Own Investigation and Investigate! activities (e.g., course 2, pp. 430–431st, 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 2, pp. 442–443t, 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 2, p. 426t, Assessment; course 2, p. 439st, Check Your Understanding, 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 (course 1, 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 2, pp. 430–431st, Investigate!; course 3, pp. 222st, Find Out!; 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 3, pp. 170s, 209s, 222s).

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 being to promote “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 3, p. 233st, Technology Connection). In addition, Multicultural Perspectives teacher’s notes highlight specific cultural contributions related to chapter topics (e.g., course 2, p. 438t). 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 Walter E. Massey, an African American theoretical physicist who worked to improve the science teaching of minority students (e.g., Multicultural Connections, p. 11). 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. 434st, Find Out!), journal writing (e.g., course 2, p. 424s, Science Journal), cooperative group activities (e.g., course 2, p. 427t, Activity), laboratory investigations (e.g., course 3, pp. 212–213st, Investigate!), whole class discussions (e.g., course 2, p. 437t, Discussion), essay questions (e.g., course 2, p. 453st, Critical Thinking, item 4), concept mapping (e.g., course 3, p. 235st, Developing Skills, item 1), and visual projects (e.g., course 3, p. 233t, Teaching Strategy). In addition, multiple formats are suggested for assessment, including oral discussion (e.g., course 3, p. 230t, Discussion), essay (e.g., Computer Test Bank Manual, course 3, pp. 7–8, item 12), performance (e.g., course 2, p. 437t, Assessment), and portfolio (e.g., course 2, p. 446t, Activity). 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 3, p. 208t, 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. 430t, 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 2, p. 433s). In addition, some tasks—particularly Science at Home (e.g., course 1, p. 181t), 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 for them to have. For example, teacher’s notes ask students to make lists of items in their homes that are solids, liquids, and gases (course 1, p. 139t, Assessment). 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 3, p. 234t, Science at Home). Overall, support is brief and localized.