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Evaluating Instructional Materials in Science

Start with a Clear Vision

Before beginning an instructional materials evaluation process, it's essential that the group doing the review fully understands and is invested in the district or school vision for science education. Further, they need to have been through significant learning around that vision, including how the new Wisconsin Standards for Science (i.e., the NGSS, or other district standards) truly work in practice to move students toward that vision. Few materials currently available perfectly align to the WSS or NGSS, and none will connect well to local contexts, which is critical to support student identities and be culturally-sustaining

Here is a Wisconsin Learning Module (and as a pdf) that guides you through some key characteristics to look for in high-quality instructional materials, based on the Wisconsin Science Standards and NGSS. Key criteria it details include: student sensemaking, using the three dimensions of the standards, coherent storylines, phenomena, equity, and assessment. It references several examples from freely available instructional materials. 

Wondering what materials other districts are using? Check out the Nov 2021 state science survey results by district and CESA to see info on instructional materials and other science program work. 

Further Resources:

Wisconsin Created Instructional Materials Review Tool

In conjunction with the Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers, a group of Wisconsin educators came together and developed a tool for reviewing instructional materials. Most likely, a district should not use this entire tool as is, but consider local priorities and how evidence from the materials explicitly meets those priorities. 

National Tools on Evaluating Materials

  • NextGen TIME - suite of tools to prepare, screen, pilot and plan through an instructional materials review process, includes leadership PD guides. Requires a free registration. 
  • EdReports Science Reviews - They have released many reports on middle and elementary science programs. High School is now in progress. You can also explore their K-5 and 6-8 review tools for science. 
  • Reviewing Publishers' Claims - tool from Achieve that notes claims publishers often make in relation to NGSS alignment and provides resources for evaluating those claims.
  • EQuIP Rubric - the most common tool used is Achieve's EQuIP rubric, though it focuses more on the level of lesson or unit. This site includes resources on how to use this tool. 
  • PEEC Tool - this tool from Achieve is intended for reviewing full-year instructional materials. 
  • BSCS Report - this report by national experts details guidelines for reviewing NGSS instructional materials
  • Iowa's Collection of Resource Review Tools - a useful listing of lesson and larger-scale material review tools from across the country

Open Ed Resources in Science - aka Free, Quality Units

There are more and more high-quality instructional materials available at no cost. 

For questions about this information, contact Kevin Anderson (608) 266-3319