Curriculum units that exemplify three dimensional learning and assessment

Project: Research project

Project Details


In this project, we plan to develop four exemplar units for middle and high school biology that are aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards and that embody the vision of the Framework for K-12 Science Education. The units will include embedded formative and culminating assessments, as well as video annotations from curriculum developers describing how they decided upon elements of the the unit and assessment design, and a video case demonstrating the curriculum tasks and assessments in action in classrooms. The units will not only provide models for others to follow in terms of form and substance in developing their own units; they will also provide tools, routines, and perspectives that support design teams in helping participants learn about NGSS and the Framework by studying, enacting, or adapting these units. Vision. The vision of the Framework will guide the development of these units. We plan to draw special attention to shifts in classroom teaching, learning and assessment that exemplify the vision of the Framework -- focusing learning on core disciplinary explanatory science ideas; engaging in science and engineering practices to develop, refine, and apply these ideas; and attention to coherence in which learners build ideas systematically over time, connecting prior understandings both within and between science strands (Reiser, 2013). We explore the implications of these shifts for the design of curriculum materials and assessments that align with the vision of three dimensional science learning. Content Focus. These exemplar units will focus on two disciplinary core ideas (DCIs) related to ecosystems (NRC 2012 “LS2”) and biological evolution (NRC 2012 “LS4”). We will develop units for both middle and high school. Focusing on two areas and two grade bands will illustrate how coherence can be achieved across years and across different disciplinary core ideas. Further, developing four units is needed to illustrate how crosscutting concepts, a key dimension of science learning, can be meaningfully integrated into curriculum materials. Key Components of Units. Each of the units will be organized around engagement with a scientific phenomenon and driving question that emerges from students’ sensemaking about the phenomenon. The units will each address a coherent bundle of performance expectations, shaped in part by the phenomena chosen to anchor each unit. Each unit will reflect the coherence goal of NGSS in which the teacher and tasks help students in using science and engineering practices to build and use the disciplinary core ideas, piece by piece, to address questions or solve problems they have identified. To accomplish this, curriculum development of a unit involves developing a coherent storyline, in which each step of the investigation is motivated by a question uncovered about the motivating phenomenon, or by students identifying a gap in the explanation or solution students have constructed so far. Each of the units will include: ● An overview for teacher of the structure and principles behind the design of the unit (see elaborations below regarding tools/routines/perspectives) ● Background on the relevant science content for the teacher ● Lesson plans and associated slide decks, handouts, and list of materials needed to implement the unit, and ● A set of embedded interim and culminating assessment tasks, including resources for orchestrating productive discussions to elicit and develop student ideas taught in the unit. ● A video case showing the curriculum unit in action, to enable teachers
Effective start/end date8/28/158/27/18


  • Gordon E. and Betty I. Moore Foundation (Grant #3864)


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