What Are the “Look Fors” to Assess the Quality of Instructional Materials in Light of the NGSS?

Jody Bintz
Meeting Materials

Following the release of the Framework for K-12 Science Education (Framework), the National Research Council (NRC) published recommendations for how to track national progress toward improved STEM education in a report entitled Monitoring Progress Toward Successful K12 STEM Education (Monitoring Progress; NRC, 2013). One of the recommendations of Monitoring Progress was to identify a set of criteria that could be used to determine the degree to which widely used instructional materials promote the vision of science education described in the Framework and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). In 2014, the NSF funded BSCS to develop a set of guidelines for evaluating instructional materials that could be used for this purpose.

In this project BSCS proposed to:

  • solicit advice from leading science educators on the essential criteria and important characteristics of measures for evaluating science instructional materials;
  • engage science education leaders in building consensus regarding these criteria; and
  • produce a set of guidelines, based on this consensus, for the development of a measure to evaluate science instructional materials.

The product of this project will be a document entitled Guidelines for the Evaluation of Instructional Materials in Science (Guidelines), which is currently under review. The Guidelines represent the consensus of science education leaders regarding criteria to assess whether instructional materials are both of high-quality and exemplify the NGSS. The primary purpose for the Guidelines is to support the implementation of the NRC’s recommendation to monitor the alignment of widely-used instructional materials with theFramework and the Standards. However, the Guidelines will also be useful for evaluating the quality and alignment with standards of materials for other purposes.

Project Results
BSCS staff and participants developed the Guidelines through a three-phase process, which included (1) literature synthesis, (2) convening of a science education leader summit, and (3) synthesizing and refining the outcomes of the summit into a draft of the Guidelines, which is currently under review by all of the Summit participants. Following a revision based on these comments, a draft will be circulated for public review. The final version of the Guidelines will be published online in the summer of 2016.

The Guidelines document includes a narrative description of each of the Evaluative Criteria (Table 1) with key indicators and recommendations for how to develop processes and tools to use the Criteria in evaluating instructional materials.

Potential Applications
The Guidelines will be useful for developing measures to evaluate instructional materials for a wide variety of purposes—such as textbook adoption decisions, teacher professional development, and revisions to materials to enhance their quality and alignment with the NGSS.

Table 1. Evaluative Criteria from the draft Guidelines.

Table 1

For More Information
Contact Jody Bintz, jbintz@bscs.org or Danny Edelson, dedelson@bscs.org. The full draft of the Guidelines will be available for public comment in March 2016 and the final version will be available at bscs.org.