Schneider & Krajcik (2002)

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Supporting Science Teacher Learning: The Role of Educative Curriculum Materials


This article does not have an abstract.

Outline of Headings

  • Introduction
  • Theoretical Framework
    • Designing Educative Materials
    • Our Questions
  • Methods
    • Background
    • Educative Features of the Materials
    • Teacher Work Sessions
    • Data Collection
    • Data Reduction
    • Data Analysis
  • Findings
    • Individual Teachers
    • Teachers' Use of Educative Materials
    • Teachers' Content Knowledge
    • Teachers' Pedagogical Knowledge
    • Teachers' Pedagogical Content Knowledge
  • Discussion


Schneider and Krajcik argue that if teachers need support to successfully carry out educational reforms. One needed support is educative curriculum materials — curriculum designed around both teacher and student learning (Ball & Cohen, 1996). Taking a social constructivist (Blumenfeld, Marx, Patrick, & Krajcik, 1996; Krajcik, Blumenfeld, Marx, Soloway, 1999) view of project-based science, the researchers developed curriculum materials for the study to represent the ideals of project-based science. They were also designed to be educative for teachers (Ball & Cohen, 1996) by persistently supporting teachers throughout the duration of their use in both planning and enactment, with a goal of situating teacher learning in classroom contexts (Borko & Putnam, 1996; Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989). Educative curriculum materials need to do more than give teachers directions (Franke, Carpenter, Levi, & Fennema, 1998; White & Frederiksen, 1998) and need to support teacher learning and decision making aligned with student abilities and needs, the needs of the community, and implications for future learning (Ball & Cohen, 1996).

Citing studies concerning the transtion from novice to expert science teaching (Tschannen-Moran, Hoy, & Hoy, 1998; Carter, 1990; Borko, Bellamy, & Sanders, 1992; Borko & Livingston, 1989; Clermont, Borko, & Krajcik, 1994), Schneider & Krajcik consider Shulman's (1986, 1987) framework of content, pedagogical, and pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), all three of which are required of teachers in planning lessons. Teachers might gain knowledge in these areas through rich narratives of practice, either presented as cases or from their own experiences (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Guskey, 1986; Pajeres, 1992). Although the narratives are not always real, teachers strongly believe they learn through doing (Borko & Mayfield, 1995; Fenstermacher, 1994; Richardson, 1990). With this in mind, Schneider and Krajcik used five design principles for their educative curriculum (p. 224):

  • Address each area of knowledge necessary for exemplary practices — content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and PCK
  • Situate teacher learning by meshing the content of the support to lessons for students
  • Link different knowledge areas within lessons
  • Make knowledge accessible to teachers through short scenarios or models of actual practice
  • Address immediate needs for understanding as teachers plan for lessons soon to be enacted

These principles resulted in content explanations, unit overviews, enactment scenarios, assessment supports, and teacher strategy notes. At the time these materials created, only the elementary mathematics materials Investigations in Numbers, Data, and Space from TERC (1995) claimed to have developed similarly educative materials, the research of which yielded mixed results (Collopy, 1999).

Research Questions and Design

Schneider & Krajcik asked the question "What is the role of educative curriculum material in supporting reform-based practices in science education?" (p. 225) and supported it with three subquestions:

  • How do teachers use educative curriculum materials?
  • What do teachers understand when they use educative curriculum materials?
  • What are teachers' classroom practices like when they use educative curriculum materials?

These questions were answered in the context of a larger effort to reform science and mathematics in urban schools (Blumenfeld, Fishman, Krajcik, Marx, & Soloway, 2000; Singer, Marx, Krajcik, Clay-Chambers, 2000). The three middle schools in this study were located in low SES neighborhoods and had a student population that was more than 95% African-American. Standardized science test scores in the schools were below grade level. Materials used in the study supported an 8th grade, 10-week inquiry project asking, "Why do I need to wear a bike helmet?" (Schneider & Canter for Highly interactive Computing in Education, 1999). The three teachers in the study were all female, African-American, and had B.A. degrees in either elementary or secondary science. One was a first-year teacher, another had 4 years of experience, and the other had 16 years experience, but none had much experience with project-based science. The educative materials they were provided included:

  • For content knowledge
    • Science explanations for the teacher
  • For pedagogical knowledge
    • Overviews that showed how concepts were developed and linked across lessons and units
    • Overviews of the unit, learning sets, and lessons
    • Short scenarios in the voice of the teacher or student related to connecting ideas
    • Assessment advice for beginning and end of lessons
  • For pedagogical content knowledge (PCK)
    • Science-specific teaching strategies and connections to science learning
    • Representations of science concepts, how to use them, and how students understand them
    • Initial undestandings students might have
    • Probable responses from students that demonstrate understanding

Teachers spent about 30 summer hours with the materials in a workshop and approximately another 30 hours in professional development around problem-based science. That was followed by three Saturday sessions across three months that divided time between problem-based science in general and to supporting the curricula the teachers were currently enacting. Throughout the enactment of the bike helmet unit each teacher was visited weekly during their planning time where they got individualized help. Throughout enactment, two of the teachers had one class videotaped daily, with the third teacher videotaped periodically. Teachers were also interviewed before and after selected lessons. The data was reduced into teaching episodes defined by changes in class activity and episodes were coded for content, use of context, linking to ideas, giving directions, emphasizing important ideas, use of specific strategies, use of specific representations, and teacher interaction with students. Interviews were coded for content accuracy, accuracy of pedagogical ideas, thinking about students, and planning for enactment. The data were analyzed with attention to use of educative materials, teacher knowledge, and links between the two.


Findings for each of the three teachers individually included:

  • Ms. Franklin (16 years experience) made extensive use of the materials, focusing on student ideas and asking clarifying questions about the curriculum and supports.
  • Ms. Cole (1 year experience) read the materials and attended to student information but tended to focus on how students were predicted to react to the class activities and questions. She also felt that students could learn from the activities more independently, saying "I want them to just do it for themselves. I want them to be more responsible for their learning, that's their job" (p. 236).
  • Ms. Turner (4 years experience) used the materials early in the unit but relied mostly on the student materials and not the educative features for the teacher. She explained that this made it faster for her to understand what students needed to do to complete the work, saying "With this book you have to read a couple pages before to figure out what is going to happen that day" (p. 236). On occasions when she did refer to the materials, she reported that she valued the content support.

Both teacher reporting and classroom observation showed that teachers used the educative features of their materials, and teachers reported finding them useful immediately before enactment. Each teacher showed different levels of content understanding and all struggled with complex ideas, like differences between velocity and speed. One teacher reported that she corrected her own misunderstanding about a physics concept from reading the material's description of common student misunderstandings. The teachers also showed different levels of pedagogical understanding and reported generally not studying the pedagogical support features in their materials. Observations of practice showed teachers struggled to connect ideas across the unit and most often skipped concept mapping activities. Ms. Franklin made the most use of the pedagogical supports and was the only one to use the concept maps, saying, "I want to see lots of relationships" (p. 238). Teachers also did not use the assessment supports as intended, and Ms. Turner used her own traditional quizzes to assess and for behavior management. For pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), teachers were generally successful using real-life contexts and explaining observations, with Ms. Franklin pressing students furthest to reflect on prior learning before making predictions. Ms. Turner, who stopped using the materials, let students make predictions to entire sets of observations before doing the activities or offering any explanations. All teachers had success using motion sensors, but Ms. Franklin pressed students to explain as they progressed through the activity, Ms. Cole asked students to report what they saw before moving on, and Ms. Turner emphasized completion of the activity and left explanations for a later time.

In their discussion, Schneider and Krajcik stress that reform-based curricula depend heavily on enactment, and that the teachers who used the educative features of their curriculum enacted the curriculum more successfully. In particular, lesson-specific ideas in the form of pedagogical content knowledge appeared more useful than content or pedagogy supports, suggesting it might be a promising feature in future materials and for teachers transitioning from novice to expert. PCK tends to apply to specific lessons, where content and pedagogy supports help structure learning across lessons and units. With their typical use of the educative features just prior to enactment, teachers may also find PCK supports more immediately useful. Understanding the broader scope of curriculum may be better addressed in professional development, agreeing with findings by Borko & Mayfield (1995) and Grossman & Richert (1988). Schneider and Krajcik recognize the limitations of their three-teacher study and that teachers usually only expect learning opportunities to add to current practices (Wilson & Berne, 1999) instead of significantly changing their view of teaching. Teacher experience might have also explained some of the results, but the weakest use of the materials came from Ms. Turner, with four years of experience, and not the first-year teacher.

Schneider and Krajcik conclude that educative materials appear promising but much research needs to be done. Little empirical evidence exists to guide the development of educative materials, what teachers need to use them effectively, or their benefits to students.


Schneider, R. M., & Krajcik, J. (2002). Supporting science teacher learning: The role of educative curriculum materials. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 13(3), 221–245. doi:10.1023/A:1016569117024
author = {Schneider, Rebecca M. and Krajcik, Joseph},
doi = {10.1023/A:1016569117024},
journal = {Journal of Science Teacher Education},
number = {3},
pages = {221--245},
title = {{Supporting science teacher learning: The role of educative curriculum materials}},
url = {\%2FA\%3A1016569117024},
volume = {13},
year = {2002}