and were able to use the NSRC evaluation criteria effectively to identify differences and to recognize strengths and weaknesses in curriculum materials.
The scientists on the panel had expertise in one of four areas—life science, earth science, physical science, and applied science or technology. Every effort was made to match each scientist reviewer with curriculum materials relevant to his or her area of expertise. The scientists on the panel included teaching professors, working scientists, and others with an understanding of precollege science education.
Consistent with the NSRC's philosophy of science teaching and with the National Science Education Standards, the materials included in this guide are hands-on and inquiry-centered. Briefly described, such materials provide opportunities for students to learn through direct observation and experimentation; they engage students in experiences not to confirm the "right" answer but to investigate the nature of things and to arrive at explanations that are scientifically correct and satisfying to young adolescents. These experiences offer students opportunities to experiment productively, to ask questions and find their own answers, and to develop patience, persistence, and confidence in their ability to tackle and solve real problems.
The evaluation criteria developed by the NSRC are based on the goals and principles defined in the National Science Education Standards. The NSRC evaluation criteria are also informed by the experience gained by the NSRC in its ongoing review of science curriculum materials under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences and the Smithsonian Institution; and in its outreach work with teachers, superintendents, principals, and science curriculum coordinators across the United States.
The evaluation criteria that the NSRC developed are organized in the following sections:
Pedagogical appropriateness. These criteria elaborate on the following key questions: Do the materials promote effective middle school science teaching and learning? Are inquiry and activity the basis of the learning experiences? Are the topics addressed in the unit and the modes of instruction developmentally appropriate?
Science content and presentation. These criteria address whether the science content is accurate, up to date, and effectively presented. Specific issues addressed include the following: Do the suggested investigations lead to an understanding of basic science concepts and principles? Is the writing style