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In June 2011, a team of Science Matters Teacher Leaders from Carpinteria and Santa Barbara, working in conjunction with expert science curriculum consultants from the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, completed Unit I of a series of standards-based instructional units for Grades 4, 5, and 6 in Earth, Life and Physical Science. Unit II was completed in May of 2012, and Unit III will be completed in April of 2013. These units are aligned with content learned in the Science Matters Institutes, and are designed to increase the effectiveness of science instruction – using any adopted curricula and other resources available to teachers.
The process for unit development was based on the key findings from How People Learn – Bridging Research and Practice (Donovan, Bransford and Pellegrino, Eds., 1999) and included the construction of a Conceptual Flow of science concepts, indicating how science ideas are nested and linked to each other. The Conceptual Flow also acts as a sequence for instruction, so that lessons are linked to student understanding from the previous lesson. University faculty reviewed the flows for scientific accuracy.
To develop these units, the team of teacher leaders used the flows to organize lessons and ideas gleaned from Science Matters institutes – a series of professional development workshops funded by a three-year CaMSP grant and local private foundations during the 2007-2010 academic years. Teachers used the 5-E Lesson Design (The BSCS 5E Instructional Model: Origins, Effectiveness, and Applications, Bybee, et al, 2006) to create student-centered inquiry-based lessons. All lessons were field-tested by the writing team, as well as by other teachers at their sites. Revisions to the pedagogy of each lesson were based on comments from the field tests. The consultants conducted a final review of the lesson units to ensure coherence and accuracy.
In addition to the lessons, the teams developed an assessment system for each unit. There is a pre- and post-assessment as well as formative assessments at critical junctures, to measure student understanding throughout each unit of instruction. These assessments were also field tested and revised based on the field comments, and were reviewed by the consultants.