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Selecting Instructional Materials: A Guide for K-12 Science
development for teaching the curriculum may be provided, but it is often brief and superficial — especially with respect to the content standards (Massell, Kirst, and Hoppe, 1997). Instructional materials are often accompanied by teacher manuals, which are important resources for teachers. If the goal is to teach according to standards, the quality of the instructional materials is as important to teachers as it is to students.
Because instructional materials influence curricula, they also affect the content of professional development workshops covering the adopted curriculum; in particular, inexperienced teachers who are preoccupied with the practicalities of teaching are interested in workshops directly related to their lesson plans (Loucks-Horsley, Stiles, and Hewson, 1996). Thus, the quality of the instructional materials will directly affect the quality of the teaching.
The review of instructional materials during a selection process, if well structured, can serve as an important professional development experience for participants. Review processes that require understanding of the standards and foster rigorous analysis of the materials can be powerful learning experiences (Brearton and Shuttleworth, 1999). Teachers engaged in such reviews can develop a better understanding of the science content, the requirements for inquiry-based teaching, and the resources needed for standards-based science instruction.
THE CRITICAL IMPORTANCE OF INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS
In the United States instructional materials direct class curriculum and instruction, define the accuracy of the science knowledge imparted, influence professional development of teachers, and affect the educational roles of parents. From the perspective of promoting standards-based science education, instructional materials are critical tools. Adoption of materials that promote the learning of important ideas and skills is then essential if standards-based education is to become a reality in the nation's classrooms. Such materials would improve curricula and significantly impact daily teaching practices (Tyson, 1997; Tyson-Bernstein, 1988).
Current selection procedures, particularly those at the local level, often lack the capacity to sift systematically through instructional materials and identify those that align with the adopted standards. Evaluation procedures are needed to encourage evaluators to become knowledgeable about the standards and use them when judging instructional materials. Such evaluation procedures would, ideally, also be educational experiences for the