Analyzing Instructional Materials

The process of selecting quality materials includes determining the degree to which they are consistent with the goals, principles, and criteria developed in the National Science Education Standards. Well-defined selection criteria help ensure a thoughtful and effective process. To be both usable and defensible, the selection criteria must be few in number and embody the critical tenets of accurate science content, effective teaching strategies, and appropriate assessment techniques.

The process described in the following pages can help teachers, curriculum designers, or other school personnel complete a thorough and accurate evaluation of instructional materials. To help make this examination both thorough and usable, references to specific pages and sections in the National Science Education Standards have been provided, as have worksheets to keep track of the information needed to analyze and select the best instructional materials.

Analysis Procedures

The procedures outlined in this section include:

  • Overview of instructional materials

  • Analysis of science subject matter

  • Analysis of pedagogy

  • Analysis of assessment process

  • Evaluating the teacher's guide

  • Analysis of use and management  

The extent to which instructional materials meet the criteria outlined in this chapter determines their usefulness for classroom teachers and the degree of alignment with the Standards. A thorough analysis of instructional materials requires considerable time and collaboration with others and attention to detail. Good working notes are helpful in this process. We recommend using the analysis worksheets provided at the end of this chapter.

Overview of Instructional Materials

The following overview of instructional materials introduces the review process and provides a general context for analysis and subsequent selection of specific materials.

  1. The first consideration is whether the key concepts of evolution and the nature of science are being emphasized. To help make this determination, locate the table of contents, index, and glossary in the material you are evaluating. The box below contains terms related to fundamental concepts in evolution and the nature of science taken from the Standards. Record page numbers where each is found for future reference. (See Worksheet 1 on page 112 in the back of this chapter.) These terms will give you a preliminary indication of coverage on these fundamental topics.  


evolution, diversity, adaptation, interpreting fossil evidence, techniques for age determination, natural selection, descent from common ancestors  

Nature of Science  

explanation, experiment, evidence, inquiry, model, theory, skepticism

  1. Look through both student and teacher materials. Are student outcomes listed? Note page numbers for several outcomes related to evolution and the nature of science.

  2. Look for student investigations or activities. Where are they located? Note that in some materials, student investigations are integrated within the reading material. In others they are located in a separate section—sometimes at the back of a chapter or book or in a separate laboratory manual.

  3. Read several relevant paragraphs of student text material. What is your judgment about the concepts? Are the concepts in the students' text

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