required to conduct scientific inquiry. Inquiry-based teaching is a means, not an end.

  1. Inquiry-Based Learning. In the Standards, inquiry also refers to learning processes. It is an active learning process — “something that students do, not something that is done to them” (p. 2). The Standards tie inquiry-based learning both to scientific inquiry and to studies of human learning.

Clearly there are connections among these uses of inquiry in the Standards. The task of selecting instructional materials requires consideration of all these ways of thinking about inquiry.

The selection of instructional materials can be helped by standards-based thinking. Instead of asking, “what standards will a particular set of materials meet?” it is better to ask, “if I want to accomplish a certain outcome, what materials do I need?”


The process of analyzing and selecting quality instructional 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 personnel complete a thorough and accurate evaluation of instructional materials. To help make this examination both thorough and usable, references to specific sections of the National Science Education Standards are provided, as are worksheets to keep track of the information needed to analyze and select the best instructional materials.

Selection of instructional materials parallels a guided inquiry in many respects. First, questions need to be identified that will guide the analysis and eventually the selection. Such questions include:

  • Is “science as inquiry” evident as content in the materials?

  • Is the presentation of inquiry as content accurate?

  • Is inquiry-based teaching evident in the materials?

  • Is there adequate time and opportunity for students to develop the abilities and understandings of scientific inquiry and an understanding of science subject matter concepts?

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