The process of developing and selecting instructional materials consistent with the Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States (hereafter referred to as “the NGSS”; NGSS Lead States, 2013) is a challenge for curriculum developers and the teachers, schools, and districts that seek the best choices for their students. Several panels addressed existing tools and approaches for meeting these challenges, important elements of materials to consider, and ways that lessons learned from mathematics education might be applied to science education.
EXISTING TOOLS TO GUIDE SELECTION AND DESIGN OF NGSS INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS
A number of tools exist to help teachers, districts, and developers examine to what degree instructional materials are consistent with the NGSS. A panel moderated by Susan Gomez-Zwiep of California State University at Long Beach described these tools and their uses for developers, teachers, and districts.
Tools to Help Teachers and Districts Select Materials
Matt Krehbiel, associate director for science at Achieve, Inc., provided an overview of three tools that help teachers and districts select materials to use as they implement the NGSS in their classrooms and schools: (1) the NGSS Lesson
Screener,1 (2) Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products (EQuIP), and (3) Primary Evaluation of Essential Criteria (PEEC) for NGSS Instructional Materials Design. These tools can help with both selection and development of materials. The tools make the goals of the NGSS explicit and emphasize building capacity (i.e., helping educators understand the standards more deeply) so that teachers can implement the materials as intended in their classrooms, he said.
The NGSS Lesson Screener is used to analyze a single science lesson for alignment to the NGSS, explained Krehbiel. In this case, a lesson is a learning sequence that might extend from one or two classes to 1 or 2 weeks. NGSS Lesson Screeners are more informal that either EQuIP or PEEC, and support for understanding the evaluation criteria is built into the tool to support users.
The EQuIP Rubric for Science is a more comprehensive tool for analyzing fully developed science units, according to Krehbiel. Reviewers tend to need more expertise and knowledge of A Framework for K–12 Science Education (hereafter referred to as “the Framework”; National Research Council, 2012) and the NGSS. However, professional learning opportunities and guides are available for those who do not possess this expertise, he added. The rubric includes three categories: the NGSS three-dimensional (3D) design, supports, and monitoring student progress. The rubric guides reviewers to analyze the NGSS 3D design in a detailed way to determine whether the learning materials address key science and engineering practices, such as asking questions, as well as the elements of each of those practices. Reviewers also examine how the three dimensions of the NGSS (practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas) are reflected in the materials at a grade-appropriate level, stated Krehbiel, and the extent to which they work together to help students make sense out of phenomena or design solutions to problems.
Reviewers also analyze materials to identify the supports for teachers to help them implement lessons faithfully, to ensure that the unit addresses issues around equity for all students, and that the unit is “relevant and authentic” for students, he said.
Krehbiel also described a new multiyear initiative, the EQuIP Peer Review Panel, composed of 39 reviewers from across the United States with K–12 expertise, subject-matter expertise, and expertise with EQuIP. In partnership with the National Science Teachers Association, this peer review panel has developed
concrete examples of the EQuIP quality review process and examples of what lessons and units consistent with the NGSS look like. This panel is also available to review submitted curriculum materials at no cost over the next several years of this project.
Finally, the recently released PEEC is for evaluating full programs and how well they are designed to support teaching to meet the NGSS. PEEC incorporates the EQuIP rubric and includes three steps. The first step is a prescreening process that would ideally be conducted by a small group of identified leaders at the district level that narrows the number of materials considered. Prescreened materials then undergo a deeper analysis using the EQuIP rubric. Finally, reviewers examine whether five key innovations identified through the EQuIP analysis are present across the materials for a given program: (1) making sense of phenomena and designing solutions to problems; (2) 3D learning; (3) K–12 learning progressions; (4) connection to English Language Arts and mathematics; and (5) reaching all students with all standards. In addition to identifying and selecting science programs, PEEC and similar tools also can be used to help districts identify gaps in their science programming relative to the NGSS. In this way, the tool can help decision makers identify priorities given their existing resources and capacity. Krehbiel also indicated that districts or schools with fewer resources may be able to work together to make the most of limited resources; however, he said, overall more thought is needed about how to implement these tools and curricula in more classrooms.
Using Next Generation AIM to Select Materials for the NGSS at the District Level
In introducing Next Generation Analyzing Instructional Materials (Next Gen AIM), a tool for selecting materials, Kathy DiRanna of the K–12 Alliance at WestEd pointed out that many districts currently make decisions about instructional materials under time pressure after only cursory reviews of textbooks or presentations of materials, with budgetary considerations determining the final choice. Next Gen AIM, developed collaboratively by Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS), Achieve, Inc., and the K–12 Alliance, is designed to change this paradigm. It incorporates the key elements of EQuIP and PEEC for district-level decision makers to use. The tools and processes being developed will be piloted in eight different districts and revised based on feedback. Next Gen AIM will be ready for a national field test in summer 2018.
Decisions about instructional materials are important not only for students, but also for the professional learning of the teachers who participate in the pro-
cess, according to DiRanna. The Next Gen AIM process is designed to be iterative and grounded in principles of how people learn; the process builds on teachers’ prior knowledge, encourages reflection, incorporates individual and collaborative learning, and accounts for diverse learning styles. While the process can be time-consuming and intensive, teachers who have used it note that it can help them become advocates for more carefully considered, evidence-based decisions about instructional materials at the district level. Teachers who use this toolkit will gain an in-depth knowledge of the NGSS that will help them develop as implementation leaders in their districts.
The five steps of Next Gen AIM are Prepare, Prescreen, Paper Screen, Pilot, and Plan, explained DiRanna. A tool at the Prepare stage will help districts assess their own current understanding of the NGSS and their readiness to engage in a more detailed analysis of instructional materials. With a basic understanding of the NGSS, a small group of educators will then conduct a Prescreen to select several curricula from among a larger number to examine in depth. The Paper Screen involves reading the curriculum materials in more detail to further refine the choices. The Pilot step enables reviewers to see how the materials will actually work when implemented with students. In each of these steps, the decision-making team gathers information, using a rubric to score evidence of adherence to the NGSS on certain criteria, to develop an implementation plan, as shown in Figure 3-1. Other tools and processes are designed to help reviewers compare strengths and limitations of materials and examine how important science concepts unfold and are assessed across a given unit. The Plan step addresses what professional learning, coaching, and lesson study would be needed for teachers in the district to be able to implement the curriculum, as well as identify how materials might need to be adjusted to better fit the particular context of the district, said DiRanna. In addition, these tools help teachers be thoughtful and analytical about materials, rather than simply trusting publisher claims.
Using Tools to Improve the Development of Instructional Materials for NGSS
Jo Ellen Roseman, director of Project 2061 of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), described her views on the usefulness of EQuIP for enhancing the development of instructional materials based on her experiences codeveloping an 8th-grade unit in collaboration with BSCS, Toward High School Biology (THSB). Roseman and her colleagues examined the extent to which THSB adhered to the following criteria for the NGSS-aligned instructional materials (Bybee and Chopyak, 2017): (1) engage students in explaining phenomena and
designing solutions, (2) organize activities around 3D learning, (3) organize units around K–12 progressions, (4) align with expectations of English Language Arts and mathematics, and (5) be a focus of sustained and continuous professional learning.
In addition to using the EQuIP tool, Roseman and her development team also found that they needed to use their own sets of tools, their knowledge of curriculum development and of the NGSS and the Framework, and field tests of the materials in a range of classrooms. Together, this iterative process provided evidence to support their claims of alignment with the NGSS, identified areas of weakness, and suggested areas for curriculum revision (Roseman et al., 2015). Roseman stated that her team’s knowledge of the NGSS and additional tools was essential, in part because they needed more specific tools for analyzing student and teacher observations than EQuIP affords.
Overall, Roseman described the extensive documentation that she and her colleagues provided for each lesson about the ways in which it met each EQuIP criterion. “What we learned from an EQuIP analysis as a developer is that it encourages developers to take a more analytical and evidence-based approach to materials design if they take it seriously,” she said. Done well, she added, cur-
riculum designers could provide district teams with this evidence to save time for them. The very fine-grained analysis EQuIP provides is laborious but worthwhile, so developers know that they can back up the claims they make about their curriculum, Roseman explained. Requiring developers to get the same EQuIP training that districts receive would provide added credibility to these claims, suggested one participant who commented on Roseman’s presentation. He also noted that otherwise, those trained at the district level would likely conduct their own reviews. One potential solution, Roseman indicated, is for developers to spell out their claims so that they could be spot-checked at the district level.
Roseman also described four additional tools that she and her colleagues found necessary to use to supplement EQuIP to provide the level of detail they needed as developers to more completely refine THBS. These tools included (1) a content storyline map, similar to those in the AAAS Atlas of Science Literacy (2007), to represent and monitor the progression of science ideas (both core ideas and crosscutting concepts); (2) tables to represent and monitor the selection and sequencing of phenomena across the unit; (3) tables to represent and monitor the design and sequencing of activities within each lesson; and (4) tables to represent and monitor the progression of practices and the integration of science ideas and practices. Roseman pointed out that these extensive steps would likely be more intensive than what a district could or should undertake.
The content storyline map is a tool for describing the science ideas addressed in a unit and how they develop in a logical progression. For each “big idea,” (e.g., during chemical reactions, the production of new substances can be explained by the rearrangement of atoms that comprise the original molecules), phenomena are identified, and the intended practices and core ideas that go with them are outlined. Additional notes detail common misconceptions or other important information. Developing the content storyline map helped Roseman and her colleagues evaluate whether planned activities belonged in the curriculum, the best order for presenting them, and how to adjust explanations and learning supports for the planned progression.
BEYOND CONTENT ALIGNMENT: OTHER CRITERIA TO CONSIDER
Instructional materials that support implementation of the NGSS go beyond alignment of the science content, stated Daniel Edelson of BSCS and moderator of a panel discussion. Panelists considered critical features of instructional materials that are important for achieving the desired learning outcomes in science: (1) support for the development of coherent science explanations, (2) the importance of
language in instructional materials, (3) ways to assess student progress and understanding, and (4) support for teacher learning.
Coherence from the Student Perspective
“What do the students in our classrooms think they are working on and why?” asked Brian Reiser of Northwestern University, the first panelist. Instructional materials should enable students to answer these questions and to build a coherent storyline of scientific explanation of phenomena, he said. The practice of science is more than a process; it is a system with certain norms that a group of people engage in to accomplish a mission. In a science classroom, the teachers and students work together to build knowledge, explain phenomena, or solve an engineering problem. This means that students do more than follow directions. They are partners in developing and managing the building of knowledge, explained Reiser.
To illustrate, Reiser described a 2nd-grade investigation of plants that included the three dimensions of science learning—science practices, crosscutting practices, and disciplinary core ideas. Groups of students could learn about what plants need to grow, investigate different growing conditions, and learn about cause and effect, or structure and function in the process. However, unless the three dimensions are integrated in the service of making sense of a phenomenon or solving a problem that has been identified by the classroom community of both students and teachers, the lesson will fall short of what the NGSS call for, he said.
Coherence means that the three dimensions should connect to learning goals in ways that make sense from the student perspective, Reiser emphasized. Students are partners with teachers in managing the trajectory of their knowledge-building. They help to articulate a phenomenon and the process for answering the questions they have about it. Investigations flow from student questions about phenomena, and each step of the process helps to fill gaps in existing explanations. Science practices help students make progress in building coherent explanations and models.
Considering his own science curriculum, Reiser explained that although students make decisions about how to investigate, he and others on the development team organized the sequence of phenomena that would likely lead to key questions from students. In addition, the curriculum provides teachers with the milestones, rationale, and key moments that need to occur. It also identifies other points that are important, but that could be overlooked if they did not arise on their own during the course of the investigation, noted Reiser. His team is cur-
rently working on ways to represent this type of instruction in a lesson plan. This involves finding ways to represent the “logic of the story” and to make the deep structure of how inquiries and conversations should unfold over time in the classroom visible. Although EQuIP assesses coherence, Reiser and his colleagues are also developing tools, called the Next Gen Science Exemplar System, that examine student-teacher interactions more closely to help teachers know what to look for and how to help students assess their progress toward answering their questions. He added that images of practice can be especially helpful for teachers.
The Importance of Language in Instructional Materials
Okhee Lee of New York University, the second panelist, discussed the role of language in science materials for English learners (ELs), drawing upon her work with the Understanding Language Initiative and the Science and Integrated Language Program. She noted three perspectives that inform this work. First, ELs participate in a classroom community of practice that offers continuous opportunities to “do” science. Second, ELs use language for purposeful communication as they do science. Third, ELs participate meaningfully in rigorous science learning, regardless of their English proficiency levels.
Combining these principles with the shifts in instruction identified in the NGSS—enacting 3D learning, focusing on explaining phenomena or solving problems, and attending to learning progressions—requires learning experiences that help students connect science to their own lives and shows them why science matters to them and their communities, explained Lee. Selecting compelling phenomena to study is a critical step. These phenomena generate student questions, and the teacher supports the inquiry process to make sure all the ideas are covered. Providing key illustrative examples makes it easier for teachers to know how to provide this support. As the curriculum is implemented, using language is inherent through each step. “The sophistication of the science goes with the sophistication of the language,” she said.
Language is not a product nor are the discrete elements of vocabulary and grammar, said Lee. Rather, language is a means to accomplish tasks in the classroom through various modalities—talk, text, and diagrams. As students become more proficient in the language of science, they can move from the colloquial to specialized language that allows them to express science ideas explicitly and with precision. Moreover, the practices of science should help students understand the need for this specialized language. Students also learn to shift their modalities and
registers based on the types of interactions they have in the classroom, whether one-to-one with a peer or giving a presentation to many, for example.
With these principles in mind, Lee described three shifts in science instruction for EL students. First, choosing a phenomenon or problem in a local context of ELs’ home and community capitalizes on everyday language and experience. For example, 5th-grade students might investigate what happens to garbage in the cafeteria, in their homes, or in their neighborhoods.
Second, students engage in the language-intensive NGSS science and engineering practices to investigate the phenomenon. They ask driving questions for the investigation and discuss concepts, such as the properties of matter over time and chemical reactions. Third, students must use increasingly sophisticated language. This means that their use of different modalities becomes more strategic, their registers become more specific to the scientific discipline, and their interactions reflect a movement from the colloquial and informal to the more formal language of explanation (e.g., “it stinks” to “smell is a gas made of particles”).
Lee explained that implementing the NGSS with EL students is challenging, and it requires an understanding of both science and language. She encouraged developers to attend to the needs of EL students and for science teachers to collaborate with EL educators to meet the challenges. Finally, she noted that the educational system often poses problems in equity for EL students in the form of limited time for science instruction, few science supplies, and limited teacher knowledge in science.
Lee evaluates the extent to which curricula attend to science and language integration or the needs of diverse students by first examining whether the important aspects of language are attended to in a curriculum in an intentional, coherent way in the service of practicing science. “If you think of language as a product, as an objective that you have to know English to be able to do science, it excludes students. But if you think of using language as a means to the science, it is an entry point. . . . It’s a new way of thinking about language in relation to science,” she said. This new way of thinking should be reflected in both materials and in instruction, stated Lee, and developers of instructional materials should make their principles regarding language explicit.
Formative assessment is a process that the teacher uses to elicit student thinking and provide feedback on the way to achieving learning goals in the classroom, explained Erin Furtak of the University of Colorado Boulder. Particularly when it
is embedded in the curriculum as a part of daily instruction, formative assessment can affect student learning, potentially narrowing achievement gaps between high- and low-performing students, she said.
Formative assessment that is integrated into the sense-making process differs from a quiz or set of questions that teachers might typically ask at the end of an investigation. Instead, Furtak stated, “formative assessment is much more about looking at a range of student understanding, a range of different types of student engagement, and then using that information to . . . tailor and improve the quality of subsequent instruction.” For example, high school biology students investigating carbon cycling might draw models and write explanations of phenomena depicted, share their explanations with other students, and then address clarifying questions in class discussion. Teachers would attend to how students are using crosscutting concepts, talking about disciplinary core ideas, and using explanation and argumentation in the discussion, and they would use this information to shape subsequent instruction.
These types of formative assessments allow students to share their understanding in multiple modalities—drawing, writing, talking—and are embedded in the content that students are learning, said Furtak. Further, students and teachers can work together in various groupings to clarify thinking, listen, and ask questions. This process can help the teacher improve the quality of what students are doing in class, she added.
Although worthwhile, this type of formative assessment can be challenging, she noted. A high-quality activity is not always used in a formative way in class, she said. Moreover, instructional materials may need to provide guidance for teachers about the best ways to structure and elicit student thinking and how to act on specific student responses. Online resources, such as STEM Teaching Tools,2 can also provide teachers with types of questions that could be included in their formative assessments, Furtak suggested. She also indicated that instructional materials should encourage teachers to share the information they are gathering and next steps for learning with each other. During discussions following Furtak’s presentation, multiple participants noted that professional learning communities may be an important mechanism for sharing and sustaining implementation.
Support for Professional Learning
Betsy Davis from the University of Michigan discussed how instructional materials can provide support for professional learning and help to build capacity in the field of K–12 science education. “Educative” curriculum materials are designed to educate both students and teachers, she said. They can support and, importantly, provide images of multiple domains of knowledge and areas of practice.
Davis’ research shows that teachers who have access to examples of student work were more likely to increase their expectations for their own students. Such examples can also include sample comments that teachers could make in response to the student work, she added. In addition, narrative descriptions of how to enact or adapt a lesson can also be helpful. Davis and her colleagues have developed these descriptions based on their own observations of what they have seen teachers struggle with and ways that teachers have been productive and successful.
Providing teachers with the rationale for instructional materials and recommendations for practice is particularly important (Davis and Krajcik, 2005), explained Davis. Ideally, this would help teachers apply the reasoning to multiple instructional contexts. Research by Davis and her colleagues (Davis et al., 2014) has yielded other design principles for educative curriculum materials. These principles include suggestions for adaptations of lessons that would take different amounts of time and meet a range of students’ needs, as well as materials that are situated and grounded in teachers’ practice, take multiple forms and work together to meet a range of teacher needs, provide additional support for sophisticated sense-making practices, and support “entry-level” practices to help move toward the vision.
Educative features built into instructional materials could include a narrative or video that shows an example of a teacher enacting a particular lesson, she suggested. These could be tailored to make the teacher’s thinking and decision making visible and the supports that are being put in place. For example, the narrative or video could explain how the teacher is building on students’ previous experiences and the goals of the instruction. In addition, the educative materials could also explain the teacher’s understanding of the NGSS and how they play out in the lesson. Rubrics, sample student models, and potential adaptations are other potential educative features that could be included with materials.
These types of educative features present challenges and opportunities, she said. For example, by acknowledging and supporting the adaptations that teachers are likely to make, there is a risk of “lethal mutation,” explained Davis. Further, teachers and students are diverse. Materials should be supportive, but not too
lengthy. This means they cannot specifically address all of the potential needs of all teachers and students. Technology can help with adaptation and customizing materials, provide multimedia professional learning, and help keep curriculum length manageable. Open-source delivery mechanisms may also be helpful to teachers. Finally, Davis noted that in addition to using tools such as EQuIP and PEEC to identify whether educative features are present, developers should gather information about which educative features of a curriculum teachers are putting into practice and which are not being implemented.
LEARNING FROM MATHEMATICS
As early as the 1990s and 2000s, the mathematics community developed instructional materials to help enact the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in mathematics. A panel of mathematics education specialists, moderated by Diane Briars of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, shared the lessons they learned with respect to developing, selecting, and implementing instructional materials that might be applicable to the science education community.
Kathryn Chval of the University of Missouri presented several important considerations for science education based on her experiences in mathematics. First, she explained, honor the past by building on existing research and practice to recognize that advancing the field does not mean starting over. Second, she suggested the application of lessons learned from the past. In the past, mathematics has used the release of new standards to leverage change at the district level, just as science education has done with the NGSS. However, the resulting calls for changes in teacher practice can be difficult, and often do not result in the hoped for transformations in instruction. Chval suggested that determining how to scale improvements in science education to more schools and classrooms is a difficult but important challenge.
Third, images are critical to implementation, said Chval, because they help to provide a shared understanding of how to interpret the standards and curricula. Images of materials, teaching, student work, and thinking are all important to knowing what success looks like.
Fourth, she said, it is important to understand why teachers resist change. In addition to the human tendency to continue what one has always been doing, Chval noted that teachers receive a variety of implicit, explicit, and contradictory messages about standards and their implementation. Interviews with mathematics teachers show that teachers omit, supplement, or alter curricula for a variety of reasons including lack of time, state testing, a focus on other content, lack of equipment and
materials, or a perception that the materials are confusing to students—factors, she observed, that may affect implementation of science education curricula as well. The local context and relevance to students, as well as resistance from the general public, can also be challenges to implementation, said Chval.
Fifth, she said, infrastructure and leadership can be helpful in bringing together various stakeholders not only to work together on issues around development and implementation of standards and curricula, but also to discuss other issues of concern to the field, such as preparing teacher leaders and the next generation of graduate students. Various annual conferences conducted by Chval and others have been helpful in developing partnerships and a plan for leadership and transition, she said. For example, during one conference, she and 11 others were able to work together to develop documents to help articulate a conceptual framework to map the system of forces that affect the teaching and outcomes of mathematics learning.
Sixth, advocacy, particularly through the professional associations, and conversations with parents, legislators, and the general public have proven important in policy-related mathematics education, in Chval’s view. Finally, Chval pointed out the importance of considering the needs of special populations, such as children in poverty, gifted children, or English learners.
Valerie Mills, a mathematics education consultant for Oakland Schools, focused on the lessons learned about the design, selection, and implementation of mathematics curricula. She emphasized that well-designed instructional materials are “extraordinarily important” to enacting new standards. In mathematics, several challenges have impeded the implementation of high-quality instructional materials: (1) a lag between when districts want to be able to purchase materials in response to new standards and the time it takes to develop high-quality materials, (2) the “curriculum by Pinterest” approach that cash-strapped principals and teachers use to find and collect instructional materials online, and (3) the significant challenges that teachers have in selecting well-designed textbooks.
As part of a broad-based team, Mills and her colleagues developed a curriculum analysis toolkit to help address some of these challenges. The tools provide teachers with rubrics to help them analyze curricula for their alignment to mathematics standards. These rubrics addressed curriculum content and sequencing within and across grades, standards for practice in mathematics, and “overarching considerations,” which included areas such as equity, assessment, and technology.
The content analysis tool was designed to help users determine the extent to which the mathematics standards are addressed in the materials, are sequenced
appropriately, and provide a balanced treatment of the standards in terms of conceptual development and procedural fluency. This tool helped identify gaps in coverage, she explained. Over time, Mills found that having a shared understanding of words like “gap,” “understanding,” “balance,” and “connections” was necessary for using the rubric effectively. She continued, “The challenge has been that the language that we were so proud of and thought we had done such a lovely job with was extraordinarily confusing and has been very, very difficult.”
Mills has also helped to develop an additional resource, Principles to Action: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All (Leinwand, 2014), for districts to use as they select mathematics curricula. This resource describes productive and unproductive beliefs about mathematics, which can help or hinder implementation of effective instructional practice or limit students’ access to important content or practices. She has also helped to develop a survey that teachers can use to examine their own beliefs about mathematics. Her research indicates that teachers, principals, and district leaders almost always hold both strong productive beliefs and strong unproductive beliefs at the same time, presenting a difficult challenge for changing practice.
These challenges have meant that teachers need particular supports to make sense of the curriculum analysis rubrics. For example, they have added “look for” statements to help make more transparent what is meant by the word “gap.” Mills and others have also worked to help teachers look beyond content and to closely examine the specific tasks and activities included. Finally, teachers need additional support to identify well-aligned textbooks.
William McCallum of the University of Arizona described three aspects of standards and curriculum alignment that have helped advance mathematics education: (1) the resilience of agreement, (2) taking standards seriously, and (3) using an asset-based approach to alignment. Once the CCSS were adopted by 45 states, the agreement itself was powerful. “They had all come together, and it’s like 50 different asteroids forming a planet. It’s actually very hard to pull them apart again into 50 different asteroids. And people have tried to pull them apart,” he said.
The speed of adoption of new practices has few comparisons, stated McCallum, and it may be that speed is less important than progress in the right direction. He advised avoiding the expectation of immediate change and giving teachers the message that they must completely change what they are doing. However, he stated that taking seriously the work to enact both content and practice standards, the field should avoid saying that they are “going beyond” content,
since they have not yet reached the content standards in most cases. Whereas the content is more visible in curriculum materials, the practices are less visible there and exist more in the classroom. According to McCallum, EdReports3 is a Web-based tool, described as a Consumer Reports for instructional materials, which has been useful for making publishers and adopters more aware of how curricula align with mathematics standards. Lastly, he encouraged participants to take an asset-based approach to implementation, focusing on the strengths that teachers already possess.
Ideal Implementation versus Practical Constraints
Many panelists addressed the challenge of aiming for the ideals of the curriculum or the tools used to select it while contending with the practical constraints in classrooms, schools, and districts. Investing time and effort in selecting good instructional materials is important for students and professional development; and understanding this need may require a change in culture at the district level, a slow and challenging process, explained DiRanna.
Several participants discussed making incremental changes. Both Davis and Furtak explained that “baby steps,” leveraging experiences close to their current teaching practices can be a productive way to build on small successes. Reiser suggested thinking about “instructional materials as a catalyst, not as a treatment.” He recommended starting with entry-level or “high-leverage” practices and finding productive “new twists” to push toward 3D science instruction. Lee explained that teachers experience a learning progression over several years of implementation, but added that the first-year experience has to be palatable enough for teachers to stay on. Helping teachers sustain these efforts takes supplies and time, even as accountability pressures and teacher knowledge pose challenges, she stated. With the changes in science instruction called for in the NGSS, instructional materials are more likely to be 80 percent teacher materials and 20 percent student materials, said Lee. Educative instructional materials can be useful, explained Davis, but they will not meet all of the professional learning needs that teachers may have.
However, incremental change toward full implementation of a curriculum may differ from “shallow alignment.” The NGSS is “a fundamental shift in what we are targeting as what it means to learn science,” stated Reiser, “and so, in a
way, I feel like shallow alignment is worse than doing nothing at all,” especially if teachers are not engaging students in science and engineering practices.
Lee also explained that developers need to demonstrate that it is possible to do the curriculum in a given year in a rigorous and practical way. Even though it might be useful to be able to identify the absolutely critical components of a curriculum, curriculum developers do not yet know enough to do that, explained Reiser. Further, doing so might be an oversimplification since there is often more than one purpose for a set of instructional materials, he added.
Davis described another practical challenge—teachers will make changes to the materials during implementation. She suggested that developers acknowledge and support this, allowing for customization without undermining the intent of the materials. Materials are important, but insufficient for supporting all of the professional learning needs of teachers, she said.
During a moderated question-and-answer period, participants offered their perspectives on curriculum analysis within mathematics. Considering whether each district should do its own analysis versus having a centralized organization conduct them, Briars asked the panelists to consider the efforts of organizations, such as AAAS, the U.S. Department of Education, and EdReports. Mills noted that curriculum analysis is challenging and centralized organizations could provide teachers and administrators with useful information. Despite this potential, many people who conduct reviews in centralized organizations are not closely tied to practice or to mathematics education. She recalled that many of the reviews completed for EdReports had to be redone after their initial release. However, McCallum suggested that EdReports has had a positive influence on the market overall and has been a step in the right direction despite being imperfect.
Panelists also provided their suggestions for curriculum selection and implementation plans. Chval indicated that treating teachers as professionals and providing them with opportunities to practice the curriculum with children in real classrooms during their professional development have proven important. In addition, as a developer, she found it helpful to teach the lessons in classrooms herself to better understand teacher experiences. She added that wearable technology (i.e., a camera attached to the bill of a hat) enabled her to see classrooms from the child perspective. When she “watched children using materials, interacting with them and their peers, through these cameras, I saw things that I had not seen in the decades before in my earlier work,” explained Chval. She also urged partici-
pants to have difficult conversations, such as about the impact of state tests, and to carefully consider how to equip parents for curriculum changes, a lesson that mathematics education learned “the hard way,” she added.
Several of the panelists urged participants to be patient. Mills noted that transformation of the sort that science education is seeking might be a generational change. Roseman added that starting where teachers are and gaining momentum in the right direction is an important motivator for teachers as they see their students benefit. Mills noted that professional learning communities may be useful for sustaining implementation. She and Briars emphasized that devoting substantial time to making textbook and curriculum choices was worthwhile. Textbooks are often an important source of professional development, noted Briars.
Panelists also considered specific supports needed for low-income schools and students. Developing materials that can be implemented in high- and low-resourced areas and considering open education resources can help, suggested Chval. Mills urged developers to try their materials in classrooms with few resources to help ensure that they can be implemented appropriately in a range of settings. The nature of tasks and support for the teachers have a huge impact on what students gain from experiences, she added. She also suggested that preservice preparation could do more to prepare teachers to work in low-resourced schools. Last, Briars stated that the developers could provide images and other implicit information in curriculum materials that support diverse students’ identities as doers of mathematics and science.
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