The diverse group of stakeholders convened at the workshop—researchers, developers, teachers, education leaders, publishers, funders, and others—contributed to discussions about possible next steps to develop instructional materials for science education consistent with the Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States (hereafter referred to as “the NGSS”; NGSS Lead States, 2013). Small groups convened to discuss how to build smarter supply, demand, and implementation of instructional materials for the NGSS. The workshop concluded with participants’ final reflections on the day.
IDEAS FOR BUILDING SMARTER SUPPLY, DEMAND, AND IMPLEMENTATION OF INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS FOR THE NGSS
Workshop participants participated in 1 of 10 small-group discussions to consider approaches for improving the supply, demand, and implementation of instructional materials. Afterward, one individual from each group shared suggestions for action steps developed by the small group. A list of all suggested action items is presented in Appendix C.
Some suggestions focused on improving the review process to identify high-quality instructional materials consistent with the NGSS. Group 1 reporter Leon Walls stated, “An independent review organization such as EdReports, using expert and well-trained educators from states, should review publisher and OER materials and share results.” Several other participants agreed but added their views that a broad coalition of stakeholders should comprise the group who con-
ducts the reviews. Walls explained that reviewers could include both experts and well-trained teachers. Fred Niepold of the Climate Office at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expressed his view that ensuring scientists who understand the content help to conduct reviews of instructional materials is vital.
Other participants discussed what the panels should be reviewing and the type of evidence they should consider in evaluating them. Walls also suggested, “States should come together and collaborate with publishers to develop comprehensive OER NGSS-aligned educative curriculum and associated systems for professional learning (e.g., professional development, coaching tools, ‘look fors’).” He noted that reviewers should look for evidence of student learning and change in teacher practices. Several other participants agreed. As one stated, “It’s not enough that we have a sophisticated system for pulling and identifying resources. We need to have as sophisticated a system for identifying if our hunches were correct and that will come from student evidence.” Districts or states could report results on a shared site to report effectiveness data for the curricula they adopt. Another participant added that evidence of effectiveness should be paired with information about teachers’ ability to use the materials or their fidelity of implementation to better understand what approaches could be used on a wider scale. Group 2 reporter Brian Reiser indicated that feedback from a review panel should help users to understand why and how materials are graded as they are. “A coalition of stakeholders should assign levels of certification for NGSS alignment after having evaluated these materials independently using PEEC, AIM, EQuIP [or another tool] and help build awareness among consumers about the importance of this,” he suggested. Cindy Passmore reported that Group 3 had a similar suggestion.
Other ideas focused on increasing the interconnection between supply, demand, and implementation. For example, Group 4 reporter Tiffany Neill and Group 9 reporter Matt Krehbiel stressed the importance of partnerships among researchers, teachers, and districts and/or state education networks. Neill stated, “To build smarter supply research practice partnerships should prototype and iterate OERs aligned to NGSS curriculum.” Krehbiel noted that greater levels of support are needed for the development of these partnerships. He stated, “Contingent on increasing smarter demand, funders should support the development of partnerships with researchers and districts to develop and share curriculum, leading to an increase in smarter supply, and state/district leaders should build from partnerships to provide professional learning to diverse groups of stakeholders (e.g. instructional leaders, teachers, superintendents, parents), leading to an increase in smarter implementation.” He also expressed support for “getting away
from this linear model that we have used historically of developing [materials] and then teaching folks how to use it.” Group 7 reporter Betsy Davis stated, “To build better supply and implementation, teachers in the classroom who themselves represent the diversity of students in our country need to be involved in curricular design (writ large) and need to be engaged in working to build capacity in the system (e.g., to demand and receive high-quality materials and to adapt the materials with integrity to the vision of A Framework for K–12 Science Education (hereafter referred to as “the Framework”; National Research Council, 2012) as a whole inside and outside the existing ‘educational community.’” Group 10 reporter Carol O’Donnell also emphasized the interconnection between supply, demand, and implementation and focusing on coherence across K–12. She stated, “To build smarter demand and implementation, professional development providers should support teachers in productively adapting curriculum to maintain coherence as envisioned by the Framework.” Joseph Levine and Diane Briars agreed that high-stakes testing plays an important role in what teachers focus on in the classroom. According to Briars, materials should be accompanied by high-quality assessments, and then more could be done to encourage the inclusion of science in the evaluation of all standards.
Many participants stressed the need for involving teachers in curriculum development. Krehbiel noted that including teachers streamlines the links between development and implementation and improves the quality of both. As noted above, Davis said that curriculum design should involve teachers who represent the diversity of students in the country. A teacher participant strongly agreed that including teachers in development and/or review will help ensure that factors that determine whether a teacher will use the materials are considered.
Another participant said that involving a broad coalition of stakeholders in design, including science education experts, scientists, teachers, and individuals from the community, can improve demand for high-quality materials consistent with the NGSS. This involvement fosters a deeper understanding of the vision, purposes, and approach to science education. Building understanding and demand is of equal importance to building supply, stated Reiser. Group 5 reporter Susan Gomez-Zweip stated, “To build smarter demand and implementation, a collaborative foundation will provide funding for a national network of regional centers that provide researched-based professional development and bring together, promote, and sustain interdisciplinary, multigrade, and three-dimensional instruction aligned with the Framework and the NGSS.” Tiffany Neill stated, “To build better demand, state networks should be engaged in large-scale instructional materials
development to ensure stakeholders in the system are included in the prototype and iteration processes.”
Other participants emphasized helping to improve the understanding of the Framework and the NGSS among those involved with selecting curricula. For example, Group 6 reporter Daniel Edelson explained that selection teams may need their own professional learning experiences about the Framework and instructional materials before they engage in reviews. “To build smarter demand via smarter decision makers, NSTA [National Science Teachers Association] and/or similar organizations should offer professional learning programs for members of review committees and states/districts should take responsibility for providing it for them,” he suggested. Group 8 reporter Diane Briars focused more on the need to provide support to reviewers on the best approaches for selecting high-quality materials. She suggested that “to build smarter demand, [a well-respected organization] should create and broadly disseminate to decision makers a set of policy guidelines around effective selection of science instructional materials,” including guidance about committee composition, needed preparation, and process. Briars also offered a caution about providing a forum for crowdsourcing reviews of materials from teachers or others. It can be difficult to discern the qualifications of those making reviews and to reconcile the accumulated reviews in ways that help potential adopters make informed choices, she said.
During the final open discussion of the day, several participants highlighted the needs of teachers. One participant indicated that teachers need more guidance about how to address equity in their classrooms, including building networks among teachers for sharing ideas. Cynthia Passmore expressed the need for a repository to share important design features in a concrete and digestible manner. Teachers could also benefit from having strong and weak examples of science instruction to accompany instructional materials, an approach used successfully in mathematics education, suggested Briars. One teacher of geosciences expressed that this field is in particular need for instructional materials.
Participants also identified important considerations for developers of instructional materials. Levine noted that instructional materials should focus on conveying relevance and inspiring excitement about science. He said he has found that deep content expertise has been important for materials as well, and urged developers to attend to the content as well as the pedagogy. Reiser emphasized the importance of ensuring that materials, professional development, and supportive networks for sci-
ence instruction are working together. In his view, partnerships achieve this coordination because of the varying expertise different partners bring is needed.
Two participants expressed the need to gather more data to inform how teachers use instructional materials. One participant observed that workshop presentations had illustrated how much more needs to be known about how teachers are really using materials in the classroom. In addition, more needs to be known about how to build the capacity to collaborate for collective problem solving and innovation in teaching science, she said. Charles Anderson suggested that developers and researchers who make claims of being “evidence based” should be based on observations of teachers and students using the materials in the classroom. “It is hard to get that evidence, but I think progress depends on our being able to collect that evidence and act on it and use it to revise our rubrics and our curriculum materials and our PD and our networks,” he said.
Judy Wurtzel explained that the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, a sponsor of the workshop, focuses on changing the life chances of young children, especially students who come from low-income or diverse backgrounds. Ensuring that students have high-quality instructional materials and teachers have strong professional learning is important to this broader goal. She lauded the strong research base that exists about science learning and instructional materials and the commitment to continual improvement.
Wurtzel reflected that lessons from ELA and mathematics can provide important lessons learned for science education. First, providing transparent information to stakeholders involved with curriculum adoption can help to shape the demand for high-quality materials. Second, providing feedback to developers about how to strengthen their materials over time can also be very useful.
Wurtzel noted the opportunities that OERs offer. OERs can be improved rapidly and by multiple people, she noted. “It allows a larger community to be working on important problems,” such as meeting the needs of students performing below grade level, she said. However, OERs lack a good business model, she said, and can have trouble navigating the state adoption process.
States have a renewed interest in identifying their leverage points for improving education for their students and have benefited from Louisiana’s example. Wurtzel said she would like to see more of a priority placed on science education. She also emphasized the need for participants to focus on continuous improvement rather than waiting for perfection. She noted, “If we try to make it perfect, we will not reach our goal of getting great materials into the hands of more teachers and in front of more students, particularly those who need them the most.”
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