Middle Level Science Program Quality Contrast Statements

The comparison statements below are based on a similar list from the Council of State Science Supervisors.



In life science, the emphasis is human ecology: the curriculum helps students understand themselves, it is focused on their questions. It helps them see how they fit into the larger biological world.

Life sciences are taught as a taxonomic tour of the living world, without drawing on the relationships to humans and with the global environment.

In earth science, the emphasis is on wisely managing our natural resources and understanding the forces that shape the earth. Newsworthy items, such as storms, earthquakes, floods, and NASA activities, are allowed to dictate the direction that curriculum takes.

The earth sciences are taught as a litany of terms to be memorized. Little attempt is made to link the topics of earth science to issues of relevance to students.

In physical science, the emphasis is on energy, sources and transformations; this curriculum demonstrates the relationships among various energy systems, how they differ, and how they are similar.

Physical sciences are taught with an emphasis on abstract, symbolic representations of energy systems.

The mid-level science classroom has abundant and obvious evidence of the interdisciplinary connections among language arts, mathematics, social studies, the arts, and science.

Students rarely have the opportunity to make connections between scientific knowledge and processes and other curricular areas.


The total science program is student centered and action oriented. Students are working hard to construct their own knowledge of science concepts and the relationship between these concepts and their lives.

Students experience as a "rhetoric of facts and conclusions," rather than a search to understand natural phenomena.

Lessons are begun with an exploration of student knowledge about the topic.

Instruction begins from a starting point that does not take account of previous education or misconceptions about a topic.

"Learning by doing" is the hallmark of middle school science. "Doing" science can take many forms, but the common denominator is active learning.

Students spend most of their time in science class: listening to lectures; watching teacher demonstration, films, tapes, and filmstrips; and performing "cookbook" laboratory exercises whose outcome is already known.

Instructional activities that excite the child and stimulate the adult are a regular part of mid-level science instruction.

Instruction is aimed at passive, low-level recall tasks, that fail to take account of students developing maturity.

Science instruction begins to treat ethical issues, where the values and positions of others are respected and dealt with seriously.

Science instruction rarely provides students with opportunities to see real-world applications of science and technology and their implications for society.

Science instruction employs a "project" mode, where students with diverse backgrounds and interests in science work collaboratively to solve mutually meaningful problems.

Students work as individuals is a competitive environment. Science instruction is not differentiated; some students are challenged, while most are either bored or frustrated.

Activities that are assessed are ones that allow students to demonstrate their ability to do high quality work. (Few high-quality assignments are infinitely preferable to many low quality, trivial assignments.)

Students are kept busy doing trivial assignments in which quality of work is not even sought.


Students' progress toward the goal of scientific literacy is assessed in many different ways, both formal and informal.

Students' progress is measured only by their scores on written tests and quizzes.

Test and quiz items are written to assess a student's ability to think.

Test and quiz questions only measure the student's ability to recall facts and apply algorithms.

Students are frequently assessed on the performance of science skills.

Science skills are taught and practiced but never assessed.