Evaluating Science Instructional Materials for Grades K-5

Creating a Vibrant Science Classroom with Argument-Driven Inquiry

In the quest to provide quality science education for students in grades K-5, educators rely on instructional materials as their guiding compass. These materials should not only capture the imagination of young minds but also foster a deep understanding of science and engineering concepts. In this blog post, we'll delve into the Science Instructional Materials Review Criteria, based on recommendations from "Science and Engineering in Preschool Through Elementary Grades: The Brilliance of Children and the Strengths of Educators." We'll also explore what each indicator looks like in a science classroom when using the Argument-Driven Inquiry (ADI) instructional model.

Indicator 1: Supporting Children's Learning, Engagement, and Proficiency

1A: Interesting Phenomena and Problems

In an ADI classroom, students are presented with intriguing phenomena and real-world problems as the starting point for their investigations. For example, students might explore why ice melts faster on certain surfaces, sparking their curiosity and setting the stage for inquiry.

1B: Leveraging Curiosity

ADI leverages children's innate curiosity by encouraging them to ask questions and seek answers through investigation. Teachers guide students to ask "why" and "how" questions, nurturing their natural inquisitiveness.

1C: Decision-Making Opportunities

Through ADI, students make decisions throughout the investigative process. They decide what to investigate, how to design experiments, and how to analyze data. This empowers them as active participants in their learning journey.

1D: Establishing Classroom Norms

ADI encourages the establishment of norms for a caring and collective classroom culture. Students collaboratively develop guidelines for respectful and supportive interactions, fostering a sense of community and shared responsibility.

1E: Active Thinkers and Collaborators

In an ADI classroom, children are positioned as active thinkers and doers. They engage in discussions, debates, and collaborative sense-making, which nurtures their cognitive and social development.

1F: Formative Assessment

Formative assessment is integral to ADI. Teachers use various strategies to gather evidence of student thinking throughout investigations. This ongoing assessment informs instruction, helping teachers adapt their guidance to meet individual needs.

1G: Collaboration Beyond the Classroom

ADI encourages teachers to collaborate with families and local community leaders. This collaboration extends learning beyond the classroom, providing students with real-world connections to science and engineering.

Indicator 2: Curriculum and Content Integration

2A: Sensemaking during Investigations

ADI emphasizes sensemaking during investigations. Students don't just follow procedures; they actively make sense of phenomena, connecting their prior knowledge to new discoveries.

2B: Building on Interests

ADI capitalizes on children's interests and repertoires of practice. Teachers personalize learning experiences to align with students' passions, making science more engaging and relevant.

2C: Educative Support

Instructional materials in ADI provide educative support for teachers. This support includes background information, instructional guidance, and resources to deepen teachers' content knowledge.

2D: Adaptive Teaching

ADI materials encourage teachers to make productive adaptations to meet contextual needs. This flexibility ensures that the curriculum remains responsive to the unique dynamics of each classroom.

2E: Connections to Communities and Families

ADI materials facilitate meaningful connections to communities and families. Students may engage in projects that involve their local environment, encouraging a sense of place-based learning.

2F: Integration Across Domains

ADI integrates science and engineering with other domains, such as mathematics and literacy. This interdisciplinary approach enhances children's learning experiences and optimizes instructional time.

2G: Manageable for Elementary Settings

ADI materials are designed to be manageable in elementary settings. They are age-appropriate, ensuring that teachers and students can effectively implement the curriculum.

2H: Evidence of Effectiveness

ADI materials are grounded in evidence-based practices. They have been rigorously tested and shown to be effective in promoting student learning and engagement.

The Science Instructional Materials Review Criteria provide a robust framework for evaluating instructional materials in grades K-5. When paired with the Argument-Driven Inquiry instructional model, these criteria transform classrooms into vibrant hubs of scientific exploration and discovery. By following these guidelines, educators can ensure that students not only develop a deep proficiency in science and engineering but also cultivate a lifelong passion for exploration and critical thinking.

Download the K-5 Rubric