Center for Curriculum Materials in Science

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

CCMS Core Principles

Supporting teacher learning

The Center for Curriculum Materials in Science (CCMS) recognizes the central role that teachers play in determining how curriculum materials are used in classrooms. Although curriculum developers design instructional activities, teachers interpret and implement them. Teachers shape the curriculum both as they plan instruction and as they respond to students as lessons unfold. If curriculum materials are to be effective as instruments of change, they must be designed with the role of the teacher in mind. Consequently, issues related to teachers’ use of and learning from curriculum materials are of central importance in the work of the Center.

Curriculum materials are complex objects that are based on the developer’s underlying assumptions about learning and teaching and the particular content being taught. The developer selects ideas and skills to be taught, makes connections between related ideas, provides contexts for the presentation of ideas, and sequences activities. Teachers interpret these materials in terms of their present knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes, and this interpretation then influences their decisions about how to put them into practice.

Implementing the high-quality curriculum materials that the Center is committed to requires that teachers have a fundamental understanding of the science ideas being taught and knowledge of how students make sense of those ideas. Effective use of these materials also requires that teachers be able to interpret the underlying intent of the materials so that their teaching remains consistent with that intent as they modify and adapt the materials for use in specific situations.

The Center is committed to providing teachers with the support they need to implement high-quality materials as intended and to make adaptations to materials that are consistent with their underlying instructional principles. CCMS focuses on two mechanisms for supporting teacher learning from curriculum materials: designing materials that include explicit pedagogical support within the materials themselves and professional development that is anchored in particular sets of curriculum materials.

Research. CCMS research efforts investigate the best ways to provide teachers with the support they need to implement high quality curriculum materials. This research examines questions about the importance of local context in teachers’ understanding of pedagogical strategies; the best ways for curriculum materials to effectively communicate pedagogical ideas and strategies; how teachers’ knowledge and beliefs influence their interpretation and subsequent use of curriculum materials; how curriculum materials and professional development can support teachers’ learning of new ideas as it builds on their current knowledge; how “practice-based professional development,” involving groups of teachers using the same curriculum materials, can support teachers learning from their own enactments of the curriculum; and how curriculum materials can take into account the diverse needs of teachers who will be enacting the same materials.

Leadership development. CCMS graduate students and postdoctoral fellows design and participate in a range of projects related to the development and evaluation of curriculum materials that aim to build teachers’ understanding of the science learning goals and the instructional strategies that can help students achieve those goals. They also have opportunities to design and conduct professional development interventions to build teachers’ knowledge and help teachers to carry out the intent of the materials in the classroom. Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows work closely with teachers to study their implementation of materials and the effectiveness of the materials in fostering learning for teachers and students.

Teacher development. A central focus of CCMS professional development involves strategies that situate teachers' learning in the context of their enactment of the curriculum materials they are using in their classrooms. CCMS researchers are designing and testing professional development experiences in which teachers plan for and study videotapes of their own enactment of materials, thereby gaining content knowledge and improving their instructional skills through a close focus on the learning goals their students are expected to achieve.

[Core Principles References]

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