Center for Curriculum Materials in Science

AAAS Project 2061, Michigan State University, Northwestern University, University of Michigan

CCMS Core Principles

Focusing materials on science learning goals

All parts of the K-12 instructional system—including curriculum, instruction, assessment, and pre- and in-service teacher development—will have their greatest impact when built around a set of agreed upon goals that specify what students are expected to learn. This allows all parts of the system to be rationally connected and provides a basis for curriculum coherence within and across grades. Aligning all parts of the system to learning goals fosters the development of instructional tools and resources, educational experiences for teachers, research studies, and policies that are focused on the same important ends. Without this focus, it will be difficult for all segments of the education community to work toward common purposes while at the same time ensuring variation needed to help all students succeed.

As a national Center for Learning and Teaching, the work of the Center for Curriculum Materials in Science (CCMS) focuses on the learning goals recommended in documents produced by two national groups: the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Benchmarks for Science Literacy (1993) and the National Research Council’s National Science Education Standards (1996). We recognize that states have their own curriculum framework documents that propose learning goals for their students and that current federal legislation holds states accountable for testing students to assess their achievement of the relevant state standards rather than national standards. To ensure that our work is useful to the states and as widely applicable as possible, our focus is on those learning goals that are most prominent in both national and state standards documents. Our work will provide models for developing goals-based curriculum and assessment materials that can be used or adapted by any state or district.

Although standards documents provide an important starting point for specifying educational expectations, they are not sufficient by themselves to guide the development of curriculum materials or assessments. For example, although standards documents express learning goal as statements of what students should know with regard to science topics such as chemical reactions, plate tectonics, or the nature of science, they do not specify the instances or experiences through which students are to form the ideas specified in the statement of a particular goal. Nor do they specify how students will use this knowledge or skill. Therefore, the Center’s work recognizes the need to clarify and augment learning goals for specific purposes, such as for the development of instructional activities or assessments.

Research. The centrality of learning goals is evident in the CCMS research agenda, which articulates what the field needs to know in order to improve the design, selection, and use of science curriculum materials. All of the research questions focus on issues related to learning goals either directly or indirectly. Addressing some of the research questions will require goals-based measures of student learning, such as studies that probe the effectiveness of materials or of teacher professional development. Other research questions call for investigating aspects of the learning goals themselves, such as questions about developmental trajectories for major strands of student learning goals or about appropriate ways (i.e., those that are pragmatically useful, theoretically grounded, and empirically validated) to express and elaborate learning objectives to guide curriculum development.

Leadership development. Learning goals are also a focus of the Center’s graduate and postdoctoral programs, which are themselves organized around a set of learning goals that are consistent with the mission and objectives of the Center. Through coursework, participation in projects and research apprenticeships, doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows focus on goals-based materials design, evaluation, and implementation. Dissertation topics, whether dealing with materials design, selection, or use, have science learning goals as a central focus and use goals-based assessments to measure student learning.

Teacher development. To use curriculum materials effectively, teachers need a clear sense of the goals that are being targeted and of the instructional strategies that are being used in the materials to help them support their students in achieving those goals. Hence, science learning goals are also the basis for the Center's work on teacher certification and professional development. The Center is producing course modules to help prepare teachers to select, adapt, and implement curriculum materials in light of specific learning goals.

[Core Principles References]

Text: AAAS Project 2061, Michigan State University, Northwestern University, University of Michigan
Text: Center for Curriculum Materials in Science