Center for Curriculum Materials in Science

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

CCMS Knowledge Sharing Institute

2006 Knowledge Sharing Institute

Featured Research Presentations

Poster Abstracts

CCMS Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Fellows Poster Abstracts

“Unpacking” Chemistry Benchmarks for Precise Alignment of Assessment Items

Cari Herrmann Abell, George E. DeBoer, and Jo Ellen Roseman (AAAS Project 2061)

Our goal is to create assessment tools and resources for curriculum developers and researchers. Our focus is on the learning goals recommended by AAAS’s Benchmarks for Science Literacy (1993) and the NRC’s National Science Education Standards (1996). In order to properly align the assessment items, one must be clear about what knowledge is specified in the learning goals. This poster outlines the process of “unpacking” and clarifying a chemistry benchmark from the grade 6-8 level. First, we divide the learning goal into more focused Key Ideas, which allows for more precise alignment. Then we clarify each Key Idea so that the boundaries of the knowledge covered by the learning goal are made explicit. We also construct maps of the Key Ideas to show their interconnectedness and the learning progression from earlier to later ideas. Once the ideas are mapped and clarified, we develop and analyze items aligned to each Key Idea. During item development, we incorporate research on students’ understanding into the distractor choices to increase the diagnostic power of the items. The items are also pilot tested and used in student interviews to obtain further information about comprehensibility and alignment. The assessment items, clarification statements, and summaries of research on student learning are shared with our CCMS partners.

Helping Elementary Pre-Service Teachers Learn to Apply Instructional Frameworks Using Curriculum Materials

Minjung Bae and Christina Schwarz (MSU)

This study analyzes the influence of instructional frameworks used in science methods courses on elementary pre-service teachers’ skill in designing lesson plans. Three elementary science methods sections helped pre-service teachers evaluate curriculum materials and design lesson plans for effective science teaching. Two sections used instructional frameworks and one did not. In analyzing pre-test and post-test measures from the three methods courses, we found that there was a moderate uptake in pre-service teachers’ use of instructional frameworks (conceptual change and inquiry) in designing lesson plans from the two sections which taught instructional models (30% to 50%; 11% to 55%) but little from the control section (38% to 38%). Also there was evidence that the nature of the instructional model, how it was emphasized in the section, and its interaction with PST led to more or less effective approaches. This study suggests using instructional frameworks within methods courses to help PSTs develop knowledge and skills in planning science lessons and teaching science.

Investigating Teacher Learning Supports In High School Biology Textbooks to Inform the Design of Educative Curriculum Materials

Carrie J. Beyer and Cesar Delgado (UM)

Recent research in science education has found that educative curriculum materials are one potential vehicle for supporting teachers’ learning about and adoption of reform-oriented practices. Educative curriculum materials include embedded supports that are intended to promote both student and teacher learning.However, little is known about the extent to which existing curriculum materials provide support for teachers and the ways they can be improved. In this study, we and six other individuals reviewed eight sets of high school biology curriculum materials with the goal of determining their potential for promoting teacher learning. We adapted the design heuristics for educative curriculum materials developed by Davis and Krajcik (2005) for use in our evaluation. From this analysis, several themes emerged. First, the materials tended to provide support for teachers’ subject matter knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge for students’ ideas (e.g., misconceptions) but provided few supports for teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge for scientific instructional strategies (e.g., using phenomena and representations) and scientific inquiry. Second, the materials contained by far more implementation guidance supports than rationales for instructional decisions. Finally, even though some materials contained many instances of support, these instances were sometimes pedagogically unhelpful and limited in detail. Implications for the design of educative curriculum materials are discussed.

National Research Council (NRC). (1996). National science education standards. Washington, DC: National Research Council.

Project 2061. (n.d.). Project 2061 instructional criteria. Retrieved June 10, 2006, from

Steps Toward an Evaluation Tool for the Analysis of Educative Curriculum Materials

Carrie J. Beyer and Cesar Delgado (UM)

Educative curriculum materials, which include both student and teacher learning supports, are one potential vehicle for promoting teachers’ learning about and adoption of reform-oriented practices. However, no evaluation tool currently exists for judging whether or how well existing curriculum materials meet specific learning goals for science teaching. This work explores some ideas about the development of such an evaluation tool. Our ideas are drawn from our experiences in using Davis and Krajcik’s (2005) design heuristics to evaluate high school biology curricula for teacher learning supports and from our analysis of the National Research Council’s (1996) standards for science teaching, existing design principles for educative curriculum materials, and Project 2061’s instructional analysis criteria (which includes some guidelines for supporting teacher learning, in addition to student learning). From this study, several patterns emerged. Building on the design heuristics for educative curriculum materials (Davis & Krajcik, 2005), we list additional areas of support that curriculum materials may need to address in order to foster teacher learning as well as specific ways that curricula may attend to these areas of support. We conclude with a detailed example of how one area of support may be addressed.

Davis, E. A., & Krajcik, J. (2005). Designing educative curriculum materials to promote teacher learning. Educational Researcher, 34(3), 3-14.

A K-12 Learning Progression to Support Understanding of Water in the Environment

Beth Covitt and Kristin Gunckel (MSU)

We present a research-based K-12 learning progression for developing student understanding of water in environmental systems. Learning progressions describe a succession of knowledge and practices that are responsive to children’s ways of reasoning and that lead to development of powerful insights about the world. Our poster will focus on results from assessments with upper elementary to high school students (N=120). Questions were designed to elicit understanding of physical changes to water, watersheds, groundwater, water pollution, and human water use. The assessments explore how students make sense of water-related concepts as a basis for building more coherent learning progressions.

Results suggest that because parts of environmental water systems are largely invisible, students have limited experiences with them (e.g., human water systems, groundwater, and watersheds). With limited experiences, students are unsure how the systems work (e.g., How does a pollutant move in a watershed? Can a landfill contaminate a well?) Without good understanding of how the systems work, students are generally not adept at determining effective roles for themselves for protecting water quality. A locus of control question suggests that the students believe they can help protect water quality, but our overall analysis of the assessments suggests that they are not adequately informed to do so.

Based on results, we are developing a K-12 learning progression articulating knowledge and practices essential for water literacy. Our progression expands on previous education standards for water through greater emphasis on:

  • Connecting different scales from atomic-molecular, to personal experiences, through global systems
  • Using physical and chemical properties of water to explain how water moves through and between systems
  • Connecting human and natural water systems
  • Examining implications of water movement through systems for issues of human and ecosystem health
  • Development of environmental citizenship tools such as evaluating arguments among experts, determining effective scientific evidence-based citizen roles for protecting water quality, etc.

Mapping the Teacher Professional Continuum Through the Use of Science Curriculum Materials: Novice Elementary Teachers’ Curriculum-Specific Learning and Role Identity Development

Cory Forbes (UM)

Curriculum materials serve as a foundational tool through which teachers craft professional practice. The teacher-curriculum relationship is complex and interactive, characterized by a process of design, and mediated by teachers’ pedagogical design capacity. There is a need, however to better understand how teachers leverage curriculum materials to construct effective science learning environments. The research presented here, focused on novice elementary teachers’ use of science curriculum materials, represents an effort to address such questions and should be of interest to the CCMS community. The first study was undertaken to investigate preservice elementary teachers’ development of curricular role identity, or that dimension of their teaching identity concerned with the use of curriculum materials. Fifty-five preservice elementary teachers in the undergraduate elementary teacher education program were studied over one semester using qualitative and quantitative methods. The second piece of research is a longitudinal study of 3 beginning elementary teachers use of science curriculum materials, including reform-based materials designed to be educative for teachers, over the first 3 years of their professional teaching careers. Results from these studies support the design-oriented perspective on the teacher-curriculum relationship. The preservice and beginning elementary teachers engaged in situated curriculum design processes fundamentally concerned with mobilization of meaningful objectifications. Their interactions with curriculum materials were mediated by affordances and constraints across both organizational levels and timescales. Curriculum-specific learning and curriculum role identity development were characterized by increasing capacity to integrate objectifications and practices through curriculum mobilization processes. Implications are discussed, especially in regard to the stability of curriculum materials as tool over time, classroom-based participative and reificative processes, and curriculum materials-based teacher community.

Comparing the Implementation of Robotics Curricula in an After-School Center and an Elementary School: What Does the Use of Technology Tell Us about the Nature of Science Curriculum In and Out Of School?

Dean Grosshandler (MSU)

Recently, there has been an increase in the acknowledgment of the importance of out-of-school activities in children’s learning in science, math, engineering, and technology. Despite this increased awareness, there are few studies comparing the use of technology as a form of science curriculum in out-of-school and in-school environments. This poster discusses initial results of a comparison of the implementation of robotics curricula in a science and design lab run by the author for a decade and in a robotics program sponsored by a College of Engineering and conducted at several elementary schools. Drawing upon field studies of both environments, as well as interviews of stakeholders, the study examines the differences in implementation of closely-related educational technologies in both environments, looking in particular at how curriculum is embodied in technology and how its use changes according to the intentions of curriculum designers, teachers, and facilitators in their particular contexts.

Curriculum in the Classroom: The Function of Curriculum Materials in Planning and Teaching in a High School Science Course

Kristin L. Gunckel (MSU) and David Vandenbelt (Eastern High School, Lansing, MI)

This poster presents the results of a case study that examined how curriculum materials functioned within the sociocultural context of one teacher’s classroom and the teacher’s reflections on his participation in the study. The first part of the study focused on understanding the context of the teachers’ classroom, school and district and how the teacher used available curriculum materials in his planning and teaching. The second part looked at how the teacher used a set of research-designed, reform curriculum materials and the influence of the sociocultural context on the teacher’s enactment of these materials. Findings reveal that the teacher used curriculum materials to address his goal of motivating his students to learn and at the same time meet the multiple and competing demands placed on his teaching by the students, school, and district. However, a culture of structure, routine, and control that pervaded the classroom, school, and district influenced how the teacher used curriculum materials, ultimately undermining his goals for his students. These results shows that the meaning teachers make of curriculum materials and the use that they are ultimately able to make of materials both reflects and shapes the contexts in which the teachers and materials are a part.

Assessing Students’ Ability to Trace Matter in Dynamic Systems

Christopher Harris (UM)

Both K-12 and college-level biology courses contain many complex processes that are often taught and learned as detailed narratives. These processes can be better understood by perceiving them as dynamic systems that are governed by common fundamental principles. Conservation of matter is such a principle, and thus tracing matter is an essential step in learning to reason about biological processes. We present here multiple-choice questions that measure students’ ability and inclination to trace matter through photosynthesis and cellular respiration. Data associated with each question come from students in a large undergraduate biology course that was undergoing a shift in instructional strategy towards making fundamental principles (such as tracing matter) a central theme. We also present findings from interviews with students in the course. Our data indicate that a) many students are not using tracing matter as a tool to reason about biological processes; b) students have particular difficulties tracing matter between systems, and have a persistent tendency to interconvert matter and energy; and c) instructional changes appear to be effective in promoting application of the tracing matter principle. Using these items as diagnostic tools allows instructors to be proactive in addressing students’ misconceptions and ineffective reasoning.

Making Connections in a Project-Based Curriculum

Heather J. Johnson (NU)

This study investigates one teacher’s enactment of a project-based science curriculum, Investigations in Environmental Science. Specifically, I explore the instructional strategies this teacher uses to sustain the project context. Through interviews, I have discovered two things: (1) that teachers can find it challenging to maintain a coherent storyline throughout a project-based unit and, (2) that teachers can find it difficult to draw connections between the disparate activities of a unit and the final project. In this work I describe how a teacher explicitly helps students draw connections between daily activities and the underlying project in order to situate student learning throughout the unit. This study presents the instructional strategies one teacher uses to overcome these challenges and how these strategies help the teacher sustain the project context during its enactment. Field notes, video, and post-observation interviews are presented as data sources. A systematic method of analysis for identifying and describing the instructional strategies is introduced. Findings from the analysis will be used in the design of professional development activities and curriculum materials to help sustain a coherent context during the enactment of project-based curricula.

Authentic Scientific Inquiry in Online Science Courses Using Student Friendly Data Analysis and Modeling Tools

Kemi Jona and Matthew Rossi (NU)

We have created a two-semester online high school Earth Science course that demonstrates how a "lab" science course can be delivered at a distance. The course, developed for the Illinois Virtual High School, contains a set of "hands on" investigations using My World GIS, a geographic information system (GIS) developed specifically to meet the needs of students. Our session will present samples of these investigations discuss techniques for fostering a coherent, effective inquiry-based learning experience for students.

Fostering Scientific Argumentation by Creating a Need for Students to Attend to One Another's Claims and Evidence

Leema Kuhn and Brian Reiser (NU)

Scientific argumentation can provide students and teachers with opportunities to use evidence to make sense of the phenomena being studied and to engage in central practices of the scientific community. We posit that fostering the practice of argumentation requires transforming classroom interactions in order to create a need for students to attend to each other’s claims and evidence. This paper examines the enactment of a 7th grade ecology unit created to generate this need and support these discussions. Our analyses of the student discussions show students moving beyond typical classroom interactions in order to understand the ways in which their claims differ and to evaluate one another’s claims, in light of the evidence. Thus, we conclude that this approach of creating a need and supporting students as they attend to and critically evaluate one another’s claims and evidence appears to be a promising strategy for fostering scientific argumentation.

Curriculum Materials as Tools for Constructing and Reconstructing a Teacher’s PCK

Eunmi Lee (NU)

Pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) is considered to be an integration of the knowledge of pedagogy, content, learning, and students. It is generally accepted that PCK plays a major role in the way any curriculum is enacted. However, it is not clear to which degree a teacher’s interaction with new curriculum materials—especially those that are intended to foster effective inquiry-based science teaching and learning—contributes to the construction and reconstruction of that teacher’s PCK. With regard to this stated problem, the goal of this study is to describe a middle school science teacher’s implementation of new curriculum materials. This study, which focuses on unpacking the curriculum implementation process in which instructional strategies are adopted, adapted, enacted, and evaluated, can illuminate the role of curriculum materials as tools to support for constructing and reconstructing a teacher’s PCK. Data for the study come from semi-structured interviews, class observations, and other associated documents. This poster reports a detailed description of the teacher’s instructional decision making process in the context of pedagogy, content, learning and students and discusses the implications of this study for research on the design of curriculum materials as tools for supporting a teacher’s PCK.

Moving Beyond Epistemic Fidelity for Evaluating Curricular Representations

Victor R. Lee (NU)

This poster will present an examination of the predisposition to evaluate curricular representations of science content on the basis of its epistemic fidelity alone. Instead, I will suggest some alternatives that take a more cognitive approach or consider individual representations within the context of a designed curriculum and in relation to other representations that are incorporated throughout the materials. I present a few examples from published curriculum materials intended for use with middle school students around light and optics. Using these examples, I will introduce and present the beginnings of a construct that I call the semiotic character of a curriculum. I will also consider what the semiotic character of a curriculum may suggest in the way of activity configurations and what learners will experience as curricular content.

Beliefs, Decisions and Adaptations: A Test Case Study of a Teacher’s Participation with Investigations

Kirsten Mawyer (NU)

The primary purpose of this study is to explore the educational beliefs that teachers draw on as they use and make adaptations to Investigations in Environmental Science. The study takes the decisions that teachers make as they adapt curriculum as sites where educational beliefs become apparent. This focus allows me to explore the questions: what educational beliefs does a teacher hold and how do teachers draw on their educational beliefs to make decisions about how to adapt curriculum materials? After identifying the educational beliefs that a teacher calls upon at as she is adapting, I compare across the decisions that a teacher has made to look for patterns and themes in the interactions with the curriculum. This study has the secondary purpose of testing a think aloud interview protocol for eliciting a teacher’s educational beliefs. In particular, I explore this tool’s utility for providing the information required to make inferences about a teacher’s educational beliefs as she makes decisions about how to adapt the curriculum.

Addressing Issues of Diversity in Curriculum Materials and Teacher Education

David McLaughlin and Jim Gallagher (MSU), Mary Heitzman and Shawn Stevens (UM), and Su Swarat (NU)

The 2005 KSI Diversity Strand brought into focus the need for engagement of a broader spectrum of our nation’s youth in learning science. In a phrase, there was concern about emphasizing the “all” in Science for All Americans. This poster presents the results of interviews that were conducted with the leaders of Centers for Learning and Teaching and related projects having diversity as a central part of their work. Upon reviewing the interview transcripts a number of recurring themes became apparent. Quotations from the interviews are presented along with relevant citations from the literature that may be appropriate to curriculum developers and teacher educators.

Focus on Modeling: A Curriculum Approach to Learning the Particle Nature of Matter

Joi Merritt (UM)

This pilot study focused on determining if the development of a curriculum unit focused on modeling supports urban sixth grade students’ learning about the particle nature of matter. The study was conducted in a middle school classroom in a large urban Midwestern school district. This study provided the opportunity to explore the influence of phenomena and the practice of constructing models on students’ views of matter. The pilot indicated that student-generated models are unstable and based on the phenomena students’ experience. Our results provide some evidence that students move towards a particle model of matter. Results also suggest that focusing on models and modeling is an appropriate strategy for the development of this curriculum unit. Implications for the future development of the unit are discussed.

Investigating the Impact of Curriculum on Students’ Energy Concept Development

Jeff Nordine (UM)

This poster describes the design of a cross-sectional study intended to determine the effect of a novel 8th grade energy curriculum on students’ energy concept. Participants in the study include 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th graders at one independent middle/high school where the energy curriculum has been taught for the past two years. Data collection and analysis are ongoing for this study, so the poster focuses on data sources (including student interviews and written assessments), analytical frameworks, and the construction of a quasi-experimental design intended to isolate the effects of participating in the 8th grade energy curriculum.

Representations of Force and Motion Concepts at the Middle Level

Thomas Regan, Brian Sweeney, Ted Willard, and George DeBoer (AAAS Project 2061)

Project 2061 is creating assessment items targeting the learning goals recommended by AAAS’s Benchmarks for Science Literacy (1993) and the NRC’s National Science Education Standards (1996). One of our topics is force and motion at the middle grades level. To reduce the dependence of student performance on verbal ability, we employ graphical representations of concepts and situations. We will describe representations of (1) position versus time (Oil Drop), (2) force, speed, and change of speed (block and line arrows), (3) clock readings and time intervals (stopwatch), and (4) speed versus time (speed table). For each representation we will present a sample assessment item and preliminary results (from pilot testing and student interviews) on comprehensibility, grade-level suitability, and effectiveness relative to purely verbal representations.

NIELS: An Agent Based Modeling Environment for Learning Electromagnetism

Pratim Sengupta and Uri Wilensky

NIELS (NetLogo Investigations in Electromagnetism, Sengupta & Wilensky, 2005, 2006;) is an innovative suite of interactive agent-based models embedded in the NetLogo modeling-and-simulation environment (Wilensky, 1999a) intended for middle school, high school and undergraduate students. In NIELS, students can interact with and build representations of phenomena in Electromagnetism (e.g., current, potential difference) construed as complex systems. In this perspective, aggregate level phenomena such as current and potential difference can be thought of as emergent (Wilensky & Resnick, 1999) from simple rule-based interactions between individual-level agents (electrons, atoms, etc). In this poster, we will present the theoretical background of our design, discuss affordances of some of the models we have designed so far, and argue for adopting a complex-systems perspective in Electromagnetism instruction.

Our analysis shows that students’ difficulties and “misconceptions” in the putative domain (Belcher & Olbert, 2003; Joshua & Dupin, 1987; Steinberg, 1987; Reiner, Slotta, Chi & Resnick, 2000; Fredette & Lockhead, 1985) can be understood as slippage between levels (Wilensky & Resnick, 1999) – i.e., students tend to copy attributes (e.g., object-like attributes such as mass, flow) of individual agents (e.g., electrons) to the emergent phenomenon (e.g., current). NIELS is being designed to act as a bridge between these levels of description. Using NIELS, students can potentially develop a deep understanding of concepts through building and interacting with models that simulate the underlying microscopic processes within the wire and the battery from which emerge macro-level phenomena such as current, voltage and resistance.

New Teachers’ Knowledge and Beliefs about Instructional Representations

Shawn Stevens and Elizabeth Davis (UM)

The first few years of teaching are a critical time in the pedagogical development of teachers. In order to be successful at science teaching, teachers must possess PCK for representations in order to effectively communicate content and promote inquiry-oriented practice in accordance with recent reform-oriented efforts. This study examines the development of new elementary teachers’ knowledge and beliefs about instructional representations over time. This longitudinal study uses qualitative methods to analyze interviews and journal entries to follow elementary science teachers during their first years of teaching. We examine what types of representations new teachers believe to be valuable tools for teaching and student learning and what criteria they use to evaluate them. We find that with experience, the criteria for evaluating instructional representations shift.

Understanding Middle School Student Interest in Science

Su Swarat (NU)

Interest has long been recognized as an important motivator of learning. Recent research, however, has reported a trend of declining interest in science among young students. In order to reverse this disturbing trend, that is, to foster student interest in science, we need to understand what it is about science that makes it interesting (or uninteresting) to students. In this poster, I will report a pilot study aimed at exploring the underlying topic attributes that influence middle school students’ perceived interestingness of school-related topics. Building upon this study, I will propose a more comprehensive approach for understanding student science interest, namely an investigation of how learning environment elements (including but not limited to content topics), individual student characteristics, and the interactions between the two influence student interest.

Decision Making in High-School Environmental Science: Introducing a Method of Assessment

Anna Switzer (UM)

There are at least two good reasons for teaching decision-making skills in school. Teachers, educational researchers, and others have taken an interest in using real-life issues which require decision-making as a way to make school more relevant to students’ lives outside of school, as well as for developing skills for citizenship and community participation. However, such authentic issues are open-ended by definition and involve values (in addition to factual information). These two features of decision making make it a more difficult mental construct to assess than traditional content taught in schools. Developing valid and reliable methods of assessing students’ decision-making skills on complex and authentic issues may encourage teaching these skills as well as increase the effectiveness of teaching them. Here, I introduce a specific method for assessing student decision-making about environmental issues, and I present results from using it with a small pilot group of students.

Problem Solving at Home: Children’s Intuitive Development of Theories of Nature

Jessica Umphress (NU)

This study broadly explored two things: how children develop ideas about nature without direct instruction, and what is the role of parents in contributing to kids’ extracurricular scientific endeavors. A primary goal was to develop a methodology to uncover how children’s scientific thinking develops during engagement with an idea embedded in their homes, including documenting the support of their family. A second goal is to contribute to our understanding of the development of children’s knowledge of natural phenomenon. Children aged 8-11 with an interest in nature constructed closed terrarium in their homes, very similar to many elementary school classroom activities. For four weeks they then pondered the question: what’s going on in the terrarium and why? This poster will present some preliminary data analysis and comments on the methodology used.

Assessing Students’ Ability to Trace Matter in Dynamic Systems

Christopher Wilson (MSU)

Both K-12 and college-level biology courses contain many complex processes that are often taught and learned as detailed narratives. These processes can be better understood by perceiving them as dynamic systems that are governed by common fundamental principles. Conservation of matter is such a principle, and thus tracing matter is an essential step in learning to reason about biological processes. We present here multiple-choice questions that measure students’ ability and inclination to trace matter through photosynthesis and cellular respiration. Data associated with each question come from students in a large undergraduate biology course that was undergoing a shift in instructional strategy towards making fundamental principles (such as tracing matter) a central theme. We also present findings from interviews with students in the course. Our data indicate that a) many students are not using tracing matter as a tool to reason about biological processes; b) students have particular difficulties tracing matter between systems, and have a persistent tendency to interconvert matter and energy; and c) instructional changes appear to be effective in promoting application of the tracing matter principle. Using these items as diagnostic tools allows instructors to be proactive in addressing students’ misconceptions and ineffective reasoning.

Modernizing Ecology Content in the Required K-12 Science Curriculum: The Development of a Learning Progression for Environmental Science Literacy

Chris Wilson, Blakely Tsurusaki, Kristin Gunckel, and Beth Covitt (MSU)

Both our world and our scientific understanding of the world are changing in fundamental ways. Our world is changing because human populations and the technological systems that support us have grown to the point where we are fundamentally altering the natural environmental systems that sustain all life on earth. Scientists are shifting the focus of their studies from natural systems to coupled human and natural systems for which the interplay between the systems that provide humans with food, energy, transportation, water, and housing and the earth's natural ecosystems has become a primary focus of study.

The changing world changes the nature of responsible citizenship. We must try to develop education systems that will prepare all of our citizens to play their roles knowledgeably and responsibly. The required K-12 science curriculum needs to emulate recent developments in science by emphasizing inter-disciplinary accounts that reveal the linkages among environmental systems. We report assessments of K-12 students' reasoning about environmental systems. Trends from elementary through high school show increasing understanding of both fundamental principles and processes in environmental systems, but that even at the high school level, most students' understanding of coupled human and natural systems is disturbingly incomplete.

An Evaluation of the Nanosense Curriculum Materials: Clear Sunscreen: The Interaction of Light With Matter

Molly Yunker (UM)

Based on the evaluation criteria provided by Project 2061 (American Association for the Advancement of Science), we performed a detailed analysis and evaluation of the Clear Sunscreen unit, developed by the NanoSense research team, located at SRI International. The NanoSense group is attempting to bring nanoscience concepts into the high school classroom. The Clear Sunscreen unit is one of two units that have been developed thus far (the other is called Size Matters, and deals with size and scale). Project 2061 has a set of six categories that describe the various features and outcomes of curriculum materials. Each category consists of several criteria, each of which has several indicators that help others decide how well the criteria are met, and eventually, how successful the materials are at meeting the major categories. In addition, I evaluated this curriculum unit based on four of the nine design heuristics outlined in Davis and Krajcik (2005). These heuristics were used as a way to evaluate the educative features in place for teachers that help them develop strong pedagogical content knowledge for science topics and scientific inquiry, as well as to develop subject matter knowledge.The results of this evaluation indicate that while there are some educative features built into these curriculum materials, there are areas that could be improved. It is possible for an outsider to evaluate a set of materials for these features in a systematic way, so as to be able to choose materials in an informed manner.These results have been shared with the NanoSense developers, so as to encourage the improvement of the materials to be educative for teachers as well as students.

CCMS Early Career Research Associates (ECRA) Poster Abstracts

How Do Students Use and Understand Different Types of Data?:Examining the Design of Investigations and Data Use as a Scientific Practice

Barbara Hug, Ph.D., Early Career Research Affiliate, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The National Research Council in the National Science Education Standards described inquiry as being combined of different investigations or “activities that provide a basis for observation, data collection, reflection and analysis of firsthand events and phenomena. Other activities encourage the critical analysis of secondary sources—including media, books and journals in a library” (p. 33, 1996) as well as authentic scientific data gathered by practicing scientists. Different types of activities will lead to different types of data being collected and used. These different types of data are critical in science and need to be understood by students. But how to engage students in collecting, using and understanding these two types of data is not clearly understood. I am proposing a project to examine students’ use of a range of different data sets—data that they collect through their own investigations, as well as a range in complexity of different data sets that they use via an on-line learning environment and accompanying technology tools. In this poster, I outline a series of proposed studies that will begin to address these data types.

Preservice Teachers’ Misconceptions about Earth Systems

Julie Lambert, Ph.D., Early Career Research Affiliate, Florida Atlantic University

A thematic unit on earth systems was developed and used as a way to address misconceptions and model inquiry-based instruction for students in an elementary science methods course. The study examined changes in the preservice teachers’ knowledge of concepts related to earth systems. Students were administered a pre and post assessment. The pre-assessment results were used to address students’ misconceptions or naïve conceptions throughout the course. Changes in students’ performance on the earth systems assessment were analyzed. Students showed significant improvement on the assessment. Students’ understandings of a few specific ideas (e.g. seasons, the theory of plate tectonics, and global warming) were analyzed using more in-depth questionnaires and methods. Patterns of student understandings are discussed, as are implications of the findings and recommendations for improving curriculum materials and conducting future research.

What Does Sustainability Mean? Investigating What Happens to Curriculum and Practice after a School/University Collaboration Ends

Cynthia Passmore, Ph.D., Early Career Research Affiliate, University of California, Davis

From the mid-1990s through 2002, a team of researchers and teachers from a single Midwestern school worked intensively to develop, investigate, and refine a set of curricular units designed to engage high school students in model-based reasoning. The work of this design collaborative focused on curriculum development, but resulted in profound professional development for all involved. The formal collaboration drew to an end in the 2001-02 academic year. The research reported here documents the state of the curriculum and teaching practice in the school four years after the end of the collaboration.

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