15 November 2005

Round One

Today was the first day of science materials' adoption meetings. We looked at curricula for grades 7 - 9. It was a long day.

The morning started off all right. We talked about some general issues and then started looking at the standards. One group was way off task right away---already pulling texts out of boxes. I tried explaining (again) that we were going to establish criteria first so that we knew what we were looking for...but I had to go back once more after that and take books out of their hands.

It not that I don't understand their excitement. It's cool to have new stuff. But we have certain responsibilities in this process and I didn't want the teachers making decisions based solely on the layout of the text or a review they'd read.

Anyway, everyone managed to finish looking at the standards and we moved on to other criteria. These included things like the types of assessments provided, the kinds of work students would do, etc. It is hard for people to take a global view. I include myself in that observation. Teachers today were really more focused on how they as individuals would use the materials, when really they're just representatives for a wide range of current and future staff.

The late morning and most of the afternoon were devoted to doing a quick paper screen of the available materials. There was a lot to look at---maybe eight programs per grade level. Teachers had a terrible time staying on the primary task, which was to identify standards-based resources.

There wasn't as much diversity of materials as you might guess. Most were traditional text-based programs. This doesn't mean that they're bad, but it's what we have now and it's not developing things as we would like. What interested me is that publishers have put a lot of effort into the resources teachers have (e.g. PowerPoint presentations at the ready), but very little into changing how the student interacts with the material. There were a couple of programs that were at the other end of the spectrum---completely inquiry based. As nice as that idea sounds, there isn't enough "meat" there to dig into. I don't know if we'll be able to find a happy medium or not.

At the end of the day, each grade level team had whittled things down to three choices. We will look at these more in depth next time. I am not sure how it all will pan out. My guess is that we will end up with something more traditional---a text based program. But if it supports student investigation into inquiry, along with helping teachers craft this, then I think that's okay.

We'll meet again in another month. In the meantime, I have a lot of thoughts to organize about (re)directing things.

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