The study took place in 18 rural or suburban schools in public secondary schools in Washington state during general education science classes.
The researchers randomly assigned 9 schools to the intervention group and 9 schools to the comparison group. The study included 3,052 students in grade 10 and 53 teachers.
Approximately 48% of the students were female, 46% were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, 5% were English learners, and 10% had a special education designation. Fifty-two percent were White, 8% were Asian, 7% were Black, 3% were two or more races, 2% were Native American, 1% were Pacific Islander, and 27% did not report race. Twenty-seven percent were Hispanic or Latino.
BSCS Science: An Inquiry Approach is a research-based, multi-disciplinary science curriculum and associated professional development for high school teachers that was designed to improve student achievement in science. This product was designed to be used every day during each of three school years in grades 9 through 11 in whole classrooms. In this study, students were exposed to two years of the curriculum in grades 9 and 10 before outcome data were collected. The curriculum included units that covered topics in physical science, life science, earth science, and science and society. Each unit consisted of four chapters that included: (a) opportunities for students to state what they already know, (b) laboratory explorations, (c) interactive readings, (d) formative assessments, (e) opportunities for students to use evidence to develop explanations, and (f) an end-of-chapter project or lesson that served as a summative assessment. Teachers received professional development and support materials that accompanied the curriculum.
Students in the comparison group received business-as-usual grade 9 and grade 10 science instruction. In grade 9, more than half of the teachers in the comparison group used Prentice Hall's Physical Science and Earth Science textbooks. In grade 10, most schools used their business-as-usual biology curriculum and textbooks. Teachers supplemented the district-supplied textbook with other curricular materials. Comparison teachers may have participated in other business-as-usual training and professional development offered by their schools or school districts.
Support for implementation
Teachers in the intervention group participated in a 3-day summer institute and four 1-day sessions during the school year. The BSCS Science: An Inquiry Approach curriculum developers provided this professional development in each of the two years of the study. At these professional development sessions, the curriculum developers modeled the pedagogical techniques that teachers were supposed to use in their classrooms. Intervention teachers also received support materials that included a discussion of the philosophy behind the instructional approach presented in the curriculum, strategies for implementing the curriculum and helping students monitor their own learning, and additional content material, along with tips for addressing common student misconceptions. These support materials also included ideas for formative and summative assessments.