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Selecting Instructional Materials: A Guide for K-12 Science
many focused on improving science and mathematics education. For example, Project 2061 offers extensive training in the review of instructional materials, which makes for excellent facilitator preparation even when not possible for all reviewers. National or state organizations may offer professional development on the Standards, Benchmarks, and state standards. Universities may offer seminars on how children learn and the efficacy of various assessment strategies. Partnership programs with local science and technology organizations can provide important information on current scientific knowledge and practices.
Pilot-test materials. If there is sufficient lead time (at least six months), plan to have reviewers and others actually use materials in their classrooms. This is particularly valuable when innovative instructional strategies are represented in the materials or when the materials use new technology. Provide training and support for the use of the materials to help ensure that the pilot is a fair test of the quality of the instructional materials. Initially, pilot teachers will be strongly biased by their experiences — good or bad — with the new instructional materials. Sufficient time and frequent opportunities to discuss their experiences with others can moderate the effects of this bias on the review and selection processes.
Constraints and Cautions
If you are short on time, use the policy information and science program effectiveness data that you have on hand. Depend on existing and experienced advisory bodies and educators who are interested in science. Because short timelines are unlikely to produce much of a change from the status quo, consider seeking approval for a postponement of the deadline, if necessary.
If you are short on money, give existing advisory boards preparation tasks or at least seek their help in finding resources. If policy will allow, consider confining the scope of the instructional material review to those areas identified as most in need of improvement.
If you cannot recruit reviewers according to the criteria suggested here, plan to spend more time in training the reviewers. Sometimes members of the review and selection team are political appointees, a situation helpful in gaining eventual approval of the instructional materials recommended. Adequate training will be even more important in developing a common understanding of the task and a common background knowledge about science program goals, if the members of your team have an uneven knowledge about science education standards, effective instruction, and local policies.
If the community lacks knowledge about your science program, consider