Exerpted from "Development of New
Curriculum" National Standards and the
Science Curriculum: Challenges, Opportunities, and
Recommendations, Rodger Bybee, ed., Biological
Sciences Curriculum Study, Kendall Hunt Publishing
Chapter author: Arthur Eisenkraft, Fox Lane High
School, Bedford, New York
Contributors: Erma Anderson, Mike Dougherty, Irene
Eckstrand, Ellen Friedman, Charles Groat, Patricia
Morse, Patricia Smith, and Bill Von Felten.
The National Science Education Standards
(NRC, 1995) provide a powerful set of guidelines for
the improvement of science education. Standards on
content, teaching, and assessment imply major
revision of the content and structure of curriculum
materials. The science education community must
translate the Standards into adequate and
Given the complex structure of a curriculum aligned
with Standards, some commercial publishers
indicate that they are not in a position to develop
curriculum de novo. This task may fall more easily
to professional development groups, whose work is
supported by grants from various funding agencies.
Teachers, including district and state curriculum
experts, form another group who will develop new
curricula in the post-standards era, particularly in the
light that new curricula need not be limited to full year
courses. Modules of varying purpose and length are
developed by many different groups, including science
teachers. Some teachers initiate the process of
curriculum development with years of experience, and
others will be novices. In either case, considering the
myriad of other responsibilities that teachers face, they
certainly will need help to develop curriculum materials
aligned with the Standards. Working scientists and
science educators also will participate in the
development of curricula aligned with the Standards.
As individuals from these professional groups are
recruited to the process of curriculum development, they
must become familiar with the message of the Standards.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, all curriculum
developers must keep in mind the students who will use
the new material. The principles of Standards
ultimately are aimed at the experiences, thoughts,
understandings, and abilities of the students.
Advice for Curriculum Developers
First: Pay attention to the entire landscape of the Standards.
A developer should not head directly to the content area
of interest and overlook the landscape of recommendations
for good pedagogy in which the content section is
embedded. In order to produce curriculum material aligned
with the Standards, the developer must look at
aspects other than content (that is, subject matter,
history and nature of science, inquiry, technology). The
developer must devote equal attention to standards for
assessment, teaching, and professional development.
Second: Capture the spirit of the Standards.
The standards document is a descriptive set of policies
that present an orientation toward good science
instruction and curriculum. Inclusion of a particular
standard for the sole purpose of getting another check in
a rubric for standards-alignment makes no sense. Such
additions are trivial and transparent. An example of this
add-on approach to alignment is the decision to meet the
recommendations for a historical approach by including
small photographs and biographies in the margins of
textbooks, without any attempt at meaningful integration
of these additions.
Third: A set of filters does exist. The Standards
are also prescriptive and can be seen as a filtration
system in which only the best curricula will survive. The Standards
can provide operational definitions to help curriculum
developers decide on the merits of a program. For
instance, the Standards address the need for a
student to carry out a full investigation, including
hypothesis formation, experimental design for hypothesis
testing, data collection, and analysis. A developer must
be aware of this recommendation as a non-negotiable item
in the design of science curriculum.
Fourth: The Standards should not stifle
creativity in curriculum design. This
recommendation could come as a bit of a surprise,
following the third admonition. However, an essential
aspect of using the Standards is that creativity
on the part of the curriculum developer and the teacher
at work in the classroom must be supported rather than
thwarted. Flexibility exists in the way a recommendation
is carried out rather than in a choice between key
aspects of the Standards. Once again, a cohesive
view of the Standards will be helpful. The Standards
provide a sense of what is good in science instruction,
but a curriculum (and an individual teacher's style)
should not be limited by Standards. The Standards
describe a fundamental approach to sound instruction and
support excellence in design of curriculum and delivery
Fifth: Respect the teachers who will use your
standards-based curriculum. An excellent textbook
that sits on a shelf, unused, or is given to students and
misused, cannot achieve the goals of the Standards.
Teachers are the crucial ingredient in the implementation
of a new curriculum. The Standards speak to
professional development of teachers, in addition to
outlining effective pedagogy. Teachers must be included
in the process of curriculum development, regardless of
the group of players who are primary in the process.
Teachers are the best source of information about what
specifically will and will not work in a science
classroom. They bring a strong note of reality to the
process, through their familiarity with schools,
communities, and the classroom environment. Development
of an innovative curriculum, however, requires the input
of exemplary teachers who can see beyond what has been
done to what could be accomplished.
Sixth: Keep in mind that curriculum development is
all about students. In the process of designing a new
curriculum that is aligned with Standards, a
developer must not lose sight of the goal, which is good
science education for all students. As the
recommendations of Standards are applied, the
ultimate target, the students, must be in every
consideration. One way to do this is to consult students
and listen carefully to what they say. Their comments are
not always sophisticated, but the views of students are a
primary source of data to guide curriculum development.
For this reason, field testing is an important component
in the development process.
Seventh: All teachers are different. The range
of styles, experiences, and skills among different
teachers varies considerably. Some teachers can use a
simple outline of curriculum with success; others need
extensive help with implementation of even a complete
curriculum. A new curriculum aligned with the Standards
should take into account the teaching and training
standards as they relate to the wide continuum of
experience, style, and knowledge of science.
Eighth: All curriculum is not for all students.
A strong curriculum must reflect the range of interests,
prior knowledge, learning styles, and student abilities.
If the curriculum is to be used by a general class, this
range will be wide. If a curriculum is suitable for a
narrow range of students, the target audience should be
clearly specified. The Standards speak to what all
students should be able to do, but this level of
scientific literacy should not limit those students who
yearn for a deeper or more specialized treatment of