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Teaching About

Evolution and the Nature of Science

Criterion 3: An Integration of Psychological Principles Relative to Cognition, Motivation, Development, and Social Psychology. Psychological principles such as those found in the American Psychological Association publication How Students Learn: Reforming School Through Learner-Centered Education2 should be applied to the framework for content, teaching, and assessment. These psychological principles include more than learning theory. They include providing for motivation, development, and social interactions.

Criterion 4: Varied Curriculum Emphases. The idea of curriculum emphases can be expressed by thinking about the foreground and background in a painting. An artist decides what will be in the foreground, and that subject is emphasized. Science curricula can, for example, emphasize science concepts, inquiry, or the history and nature of science, while other goals may be evident but not emphasized. No one curriculum emphasis is best for all students; probably, a variety of emphases accommodates the interests, strengths, and demands of science content.

Criterion 5: An Array of Opportunities to Develop Knowledge, Understanding, and Abilities Associated with Different Dimensions of Scientific Literacy. Contemporary science curricula should provide a balance among the different dimensions of science literacy, which include an understanding of scientific concepts, the ability to engage in inquiry, and a capacity to apply scientific information in making decisions.3

Criterion 6: Teaching Methods and Assessment Strategies Consistent with the Goal of Science Literacy. Approaches to teaching and assessment ought to be consistent with the goals of teaching evolution, inquiry, and the history and nature of science. This can be accomplished by using inquiry-oriented teaching methods and by assessing students during investigative activities.

Criterion 7: Professional Development for Science Teachers Who Implement the Curriculum. Curricula need to provide opportunities that support teachers as they develop the knowledge and skills associated with implementing and institutionalizing the science program.

Criterion 8: An Inclusion of Appropriate Educational Technologies. The use of computers and various types of software enhances learning when students use the technologies in meaningful ways. The use of educational technologies should be consistent with other features of the curriculum—for instance, the dimensions of scientific literacy and an instructional model.

Criterion 9: Thorough Field Testing and Review for Scientific Accuracy and Pedagogic Quality. One important legacy of the 1960s curriculum reform is the field testing of materials in a variety of science classrooms. Field testing and reviewing a program identify problems that developers did not recognize and fine tune the materials to the varied needs of teachers, learners, and schools. Scientists should review materials for accuracy. Developers can miss the subtleties of scientific concepts, inquiry, and design. In addition, educators who review materials can provide valuable insights about teaching and assessment that help developers improve materials and enhance learning.

Criterion 10: Support from the Educational System. Research on the adoption, implementation, and change associated with curricula indicates the importance of intellectual, financial, and moral support from those within the larger educational system.4 This support includes science teachers, administrators, school boards, and communities. Although a curriculum cannot ensure support, it should address the need for support and provide indicators of support, such as provision of materials and equipment for laboratory investigations, budget allocations for professional development, and proclamations by the school board.

Clearly, no one curriculum thoroughly incorporates all ten criteria. There are always trade-offs when developing, adapting, or adopting a science curriculum. However, the criteria should provide assistance to those who have the responsibility of improving the science curriculum.

Copyright 2004 © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all materials in this PDF File provided by the National Academies Press (www.nap.edu) for research purposes are copyrighted by the National Academy of Sciences. Distribution, posting, or copying is strictly prohibited without written permission of the NAP.

Generated for [email protected] on Sat Oct 9 17:18:26 2004

Analyzing Instructional Materials

The process of selecting quality materials includes determining the degree to which they are consistent with the goals, principles, and criteria developed in the National Science Education Standards. Well-defined selection criteria help ensure a thoughtful and effective process. To be both usable and defensible, the selection criteria must be few in number and embody the critical tenets of accurate science content, effective teaching strategies, and appropriate assessment techniques.

The process described in the following pages can help teachers, curriculum designers, or other school personnel complete a thorough and accurate evaluation of instructional materials. To help make this examination both thorough and usable, references to specific pages and sections in the National Science Education Standards have been provided, as have worksheets to keep track of the information needed to analyze and select the best instructional materials.

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