Classroom Field Test of Scott Foresman\’s Intermediate Science

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Classroom Field Test of Scott Foresman's Intermediate
             Science Earth in Space Unit
                     Spring 2004

           Cynthia A. Char and Denis Newman
                Empirical Education Inc.
                                    Acknowledgments

We wish to acknowledge the contributions of the following individuals from Scott Foresman for
their insights, assistance and support in this classroom pilot: Carl Benoit, Marcy Baughman,
Mary Jayne Delbridge, and James Lippe. Many thanks also to our research colleagues, Karen
VanderLaan, Saundra Young, Janet Lee, Matthew Smith, and Teresita Tumacder, for their
valuable expertise and assistance in our data collection and analysis efforts.

Also our appreciation to the participating teachers, administrators, and students from our pilot
schools in Charleston, West Virginia, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who met with us in our
teacher meetings and interviews, responded to our written questionnaires, and allowed us to join
them in their classrooms.


Cynthia A. Char, Ed.D.
Denis Newman, Ph.D.




Further information about this study can be obtained from:

Denis Newman
President
Empirical Education Inc.
425 Sherman Ave. Suite 220
Palo Alto, CA 94306
(650) 328-1734
dn@empiricaleducation.com




Scott Foresman Science Field Test Spring 2004                                                      2
                                      Table of Contents
Acknowledgments _____________________________________________________________2
Executive Summary ____________________________________________________________5
  Introduction________________________________________________________________5
  Evaluation Goals ____________________________________________________________5
  Sample and Classroom Pilot Implementation ____________________________________5
  Key Findings _______________________________________________________________6
  Design Recommendations ____________________________________________________7
I. Introduction ________________________________________________________________9
  Sample ____________________________________________________________________9
  Procedure _________________________________________________________________10
II. Teacher Profiles ___________________________________________________________12
  Primary goals of science teaching _____________________________________________12
      Table 1: Importance of various teaching approaches to teaching of science __________12
  Biggest challenges as science teachers__________________________________________13
  Time devoted to teaching core subjects ________________________________________13
      Table 2: Amount of time each week devoted to teaching in core subject areas _______13
  Hands-on investigations and textbooks; connection between science and literacy _____14
     Table 3: Frequency of using hands-on investigations vs. textbooks ________________14
     Tables 4a and 4b: Importance and satisfaction ratings of using science to address
     literacy skills ___________________________________________________________14
  Influence of standardized testing _____________________________________________15
       Table 5: Influence of standardized testing on science instruction __________________15
III. Initial Critique of Current and Pilot Textbooks__________________________________16
  Teacher views on current textbook ____________________________________________16
  Initial review of SF pilot materials ____________________________________________16
    Review of SF student edition:________________________________________________16
    Review of SF teacher edition ________________________________________________17
IV. Classroom Implementation of Pilot Materials___________________________________19
  Overall Impressions and Evaluation___________________________________________19
  Scientific Content and Inquiry _______________________________________________21
    Overall pacing, variety and flow of science activities _____________________________25
    Teacher reactions to individual science activities ________________________________26
    Difficult science concepts and need for student demonstrations and activities __________27
    Science assessments _______________________________________________________28
  Integration of Science with Reading and Writing ________________________________30
    Instructional methods of engaging students with textbook materials__________________30
    Readability of text _________________________________________________________30
       Table 6: Students' Views on the Pilot Materials' Readability ____________________31

Scott Foresman Science Field Test Spring 2004                                                3
     The integration of reading with science ________________________________________31
     Writing _________________________________________________________________32
     Cross-disciplinary connections _______________________________________________34
V. Summary of Findings and Recommendations____________________________________36
  Findings __________________________________________________________________36
    Appeal of materials to students and teachers ____________________________________36
    Good readability and accessibility of materials __________________________________36
    Teacher friendly materials _________________________________________________36
    Integration of reading and science valued ______________________________________36
    Interest in more opportunities for student writing ________________________________36
    Scientific inquiry progression generally well-received ____________________________36
    Well matched to standards, assessments and teacher needs _________________________37
    Desire for greater depth of materials and instructional approach_____________________37
    Need for more student activities ______________________________________________37
    Interest in deeper and more diverse range of assessment questions ___________________37
    Value of materials in addressing teachers' time constraints_________________________37
    Appreciation of inter-disciplinary connections __________________________________37
  Design Recommendations ___________________________________________________38
    Preserve the highly readable, engaging visual format _____________________________38
    Maintain the user- friendly format of the teacher guide ____________________________38
    Maintain the integration of reading and science instruction_________________________38
    Increase the depth of information in scientific materials ___________________________38
    Keep the "scaffolded inquiry" _______________________________________________38
    Add more student demonstrations, hands-on activities and investigations _____________38
    Strengthen connections between lab activities and the scientific method ______________39
    Incorporate greater opportunities for student writing ______________________________39
    Increase, deepen and broaden the types of science assessment ______________________39
    Continue to involve use of technology, and curriculum connections __________________39




Scott Foresman Science Field Test Spring 2004                                              4
                           Classroom Field Test of
                   Scott Foresman's Intermediate Science
                             Earth in Space Unit
                                Cynthia A. Char and Denis Newman
                                     Empirical Education Inc.

                                              Spring 2004


                                   Executive Summary


Introduction
This past spring, Empirical Education Inc. conducted a classroom field test of a new version of
Scott Foresman (SF) Science. The pilot materials targeted the elementary intermediate grades
(5th and 6th grade), and featured a number of new Scott Foresman elements including scaffolded
inquiry, hands-on investigations, and the integration of reading. The pilot unit was on Space and
Technology, with a focus on Earth in Space (Unit D, Chapter 16). Materials consisted of a
Student Book, a Teacher's Edition, and accompanying kit materials for the unit's lab inquiry
activities.

Teachers from two different school districts -- Charleston, West Virginia (WV) and
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (PA) -- participated in the classroom pilot test. These two districts
were selected after having been identified by Scott Foresman as districts currently using either
Harcourt Brace materials (WV), or FOSS materials (PA.)

Evaluation Goals
The primary objectives of the field test were to investigate teachers' reactions to, and classroom
implementation of, the new features of the product, within the broader context of science
instruction in their schools and districts. Findings from the field test provide a preview of
teacher reactions from future users of the new materials, and point to a set of design
recommendations to be considered for future versions of the science curriculum.

Sample and Classroom Pilot Implementation
A total of seven teachers participated in the field test -- four 5th grade teachers from Charleston,
and three 6th grade teachers from Philadelphia -- and were drawn from a total of six public
elementary schools. The Charleston teachers were identified through a Scott Foresman sales
representative based in Charleston. The Philadelphia teachers were identified through the
district's science specialist, who felt that the space unit fit more closely with the sixth grade
curriculum than the fifth grade curriculum.

All four Charleston teachers were current users of the Harcourt Science textbook. The three
Philadelphia teachers' use of science materials was much more varied, and unlike what was
anticipated, none of the teachers was a user of FOSS. Two of the Philadelphia teachers were
users of the Holt, Rinehart and Winston's "Science Plus" series. The third teacher had no current
science textbook, but was a former user of the Harcourt text.
Scott Foresman Science Field Test Spring 2004                                                          5
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