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Discussion: Science Instructional Materials for Middle School: Informing Future Initiatives

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posted by: rjanigi @ on September 9, 1999 at 5:34PM
subject: LATE RESPONSE: POSTED 9/9/1999
Re: LSC-Net Call for Participation 9/3/99

Joni---here is a copy of the responses for the INQUIRES grant that I sent
to Sandy reqardeing items 1-4 of the instructional materials for the LSC
and middle schools in general. Len sent you information about the summer
workshop under separate email. Russ

PS workshop agenda will be sent as an attachment at a later date.

Sandy, Here is my best shot as to the instructional materials questions.

Our current instructional materials are from the Macmillan /McGraw-Hill
series It is probably safe to say that the majority of teachers feel that
there is not a lot of content and the student activities are not very
investigative in nature.

The materials chosen for the INQUIRES replacement units are as follows:
New Directions Teaching Units - Food Energy and Growth for the 6th grade,
and Chemistry That Applies for the 8th grade. Each of these involves a 6-8
week series of investigations all of which are inter related and together
help the students arrive at a clear understanding of some major scientific
concept. Both of these are outstanding examples of instructional materials
that are investigative in nature. Teachers who participated in the summer
institute agreed with this assessment.

Prime Science Level C, The Green Machine is our choice for the 7th grade
replacement unit. Though the textual materials are presented in
interesting ways, we found that the laboratory investigations were so
problematic that only teachers with a high degree of expertise in that
content area would be able have this be an effective learning experience
for students. Also the labs do not guide students through the the process
of interpretation and analysis. We are not

happy with this one.

Question #2
In order to be of "high quality" an instructional program needs to model
for students and teachers the process of investigating a question in ways
that are scientifically sound. The data that is generated should relate
to the presenting question and students should be "guided" in a Socratic
way to develop their abilities to become increasingly more effective data
interpreters. The units of study (lessons) should be thematically
connected and conceptually related so that students can see thaty the are
developing an increasingly more comprehensive understanding of the concept
being investigated.

The middle school materials should be modular in nature. The themes should
be integrated when ever possible, but if there is not a natural integration
that can be developed, then this should not be of a high priority. Of
greatest importance is that each module have a sereies investigations,
thematically conected and conceptually related in such a way that a major
scientific concept has been developed at the end of the module. For middle
school, there should not be a separate lab manual, instead the laboratory
bases investigations should be viewed as being central to the concept
development. There should be no societal or historical context. Straight

Question#4 All of the barrieres listerd are potentially in existence.
Also, a major barrier would be some existing "mind sets" such as: " all
that is to be learned must be relevant to the students", or "we should
only have kids do the kinds of things they like doing," or that " the
primary role of a teacher is to be the imparter of knowledge". Many more of
these could very easily be listed. But I do think that once teachers see
the genuine excitement that middle school can have when becoming engaged in
a scientifically relevant and intellectually challenging series of
investigations that these mind sets will dissapear and no longer be

This is about all I can think of at this time. Also I hope that I have
responded to the right thing.


Russ Janigian
Teacher on Special Assignment in Secondary Science
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