High-quality science curriculum materials will be essential for helping teachers and students meet the next generation of K-12 science standards. Yet, there are few middle school science materials on the market today that support the new science standards, provide comprehensive instructional support to teachers, and incorporate the latest research on student learning. SRI is conducting a study on the benefits of a new middle school science curriculum that has many features that align with the new standards and is based on contemporary research in science teaching and learning.
The curricular context for the study is the commercially available Project-Based Inquiry Science (PBIS), a middle school science curriculum that focuses on standards-based content and uses project-based inquiry units to help students learn. In PBIS classrooms, students investigate as scientists would—through observations, designing and carrying out experiments, building and using models, reading about the science they are investigating, constructing explanations, and so forth—but in ways that are appropriate and meaningful for students and with carefully structured support. With a strong focus on important science content and integrating scientific practices, the PBIS curriculum’s design matches well with the new directions in science education.
Funded by the National Science Foundation, SRI's Center for Technology in Learning is conducting the efficacy study on the benefits of PBIS for supporting science teaching and students' science learning. A unique feature of the study’s design is an analytic focus on the conditions needed to implement the curriculum in ways that improve student learning in light of the new Framework for K-12 Science Education and Next Generation Science Standards. The study is being performed in collaboration with Michigan State University and the University of Colorado, Boulder.
The study launched in August 2012 and involves approximately 100 sixth grade science teachers and more than 3,000 students from 42 middle schools. The goal is to understand the impact of the curriculum on student achievement, classroom implementation, and teacher practice. This study is the first to examine the use by teachers and students of science curriculum materials with measures that are aligned to the Framework for K-12 Science Education. Moreover, it is one of a handful of rigorously designed impact studies that also examine implementation and effects on teaching practice systematically.