Our Values

BSCS is a curriculum study. Our vision is grounded in research about what makes a difference in education and in particular what helps define what a “high-quality” science education could and should be. As a curriculum study, we define and determine our work by considering a philosophical perspective as well as what research says about learning, teaching, and the role of curriculum.

A curriculum study endeavors to translate that research into programs and generate new knowledge to further the field. At BSCS, that means we do all of this in the context of science education.

We both use research and generate research to continually raise the standards for the development of materials and services that promote the teaching and learning of science–just what a curriculum study should be doing.

BSCS is guided by the following values:

Scientific Integrity

Scientific accuracy and integrity are the cornerstones of any research-based science curriculum as well as classroom instruction. We define “accuracy” as science content that is factually correct and consistent with currently accepted scientific theories, hypotheses, and working ideas. It is important that all representations – text, graphical, visual – be accurate. In addition, the content must be developmentally appropriate, contemporary, and relevant for the learners.

We represent the integrity of science in research-based curriculum materials by not omitting ideas and factual information just because a particular idea is not “popular” with a particular market segment. To uphold the integrity of each scientific discipline, no central dogma, such as the theory of evolution, can be eliminated or modified. Similarly, pseudo-science ideas cannot be included to placate potential adopters. It would also be inappropriate to misrepresent the relative importance of key science concepts and supporting ideas and facts by playing down the prominence of a central concept.

While we support the inclusion of all accurate science and insist on the inclusion of underlying theories, our work to protect the teaching of evolution is a hallmark of our history. Evolution has played an important role throughout the years at BSCS, and it is in no sense an overstatement to say that BSCS assumed responsibility for putting evolution back into high school biology. As former BSCS Executive Director Joseph D. McInerney (1985-99) once said, “Our books put evolution back in the curriculum in the early 1960s, and we’ve been defending it ever since.”

We continue to support the teaching of accurate information about evolution today. In addition, we are doing progressive work to support teachers in helping their students learn about climate change science.

Browse Evolution education materials in the BSCS eStore
Browse Evolution Resources
Visit Carbon Connections and Understanding Climate Change Science to learn about our current work in climate change science

Scientific Inquiry and Practice

Every discipline (history, anthropology, geology, etc.) has characteristics that define the nature of inquiry and the practices within that field. It is these characteristics that guide how new knowledge is generated for a particular discipline. Scientific inquiry and practice should be fully integrated as content, process, and teaching strategies into any research-based science curriculum and therefore all classroom experiences.

When learners experience science as inquiry and the associated practices of science they learn how explanations arise from the interpretation of data. Students learn that the interpretation of data—even the search for data—proceeds from a foundation of concepts and assumptions that changes as knowledge grows. Students also learn that because these principles and concepts change, knowledge also changes and changes for good reason: We know more than we knew before. They also learn the converse: Although current knowledge may be revised in the future, current knowledge is not false. Current knowledge in science is based on the best-tested data and concepts we possess at a given point in time.

Merely telling students how knowledge arises from data and how it changes is not enough. Students must experience science in operation by using the practices of science rather than talking about science only as a summation of what has been demonstrated. The full integration of scientific inquiry as practices, content, and supporting teaching strategies into research-based curriculum materials and professional development provides a very strong complement for scientific accuracy and integration.

Learn how BSCS incorporates scientific inquiry and practice into our Instructional Materials.

Rigorous Research led to the BSCS 5E Instructional Model

Our work in learning is based on two common theoretical bases for constructivist research including Ausubelian theory (Ausubel et al., 1978) and the work of L.S. Vygotsky (1968). Ausubelian theory states that a learner’s prior knowledge is an important factor in determining what is learned in a given situation. Vygotsky’s work emphasizes the relationship between the teacher’s prior knowledge and the students’ prior knowledge. Vygotsky’s work implies that science curriculum and instruction should take into account the differences between teacher and student conceptions and should provide time for student-student interaction so that learners can develop concepts from those whose understandings and interpretations are closer to their own.

The roots of constructivism reflected in comprehensive reviews of the literature on learning, such as How People Learn [HPL] (NRC, 2000, p.14-19) are captured in the following statements:

  • Students come to the classroom with preconceptions about how the world works. These preconceptions shape how new learning is assimilated.
  • To develop competence in an area of inquiry, students must have a deep foundation of knowledge, an understanding of how this knowledge relates to a framework, and be able to organize that knowledge so that it can be retrieved and applied.
  • Students must be taught explicitly to take control of their own learning by defining goals and monitoring their progress toward meeting them.

The BSCS 5E Instructional Model, is an effective way to engage students in learning. Developed in the 1980s, the 5E Model consists of five phases: engagement, exploration, explanation, elaboration, and evaluation. Each phase has a specific function and contributes to the teacher’s coherent instruction and to the learners’ formulation of a better understanding of scientific concepts. Students’ construction of knowledge can be assisted by using sequences of lessons designed to challenge current conceptions and provide time and opportunities for reconstruction to occur. (Excerpted from BSCS: Measuring Our Success 50th anniversary monograph (available as a complimentary publication in the BSCS eStore).

Learn more about the BSCS 5Es

All Students Deserve a High-Quality Science Education

The notion that all students can and have the right to learn is essentially one of equity. Defining equity is a complex task from the perspective of designing research-based curriculum materials. We define the notion of “equity” as the absence of overt barriers to educational access. Lynch (2000) refers to the absence of overt barriers to educational access as “equality of inputs.” A wide variety of factors can prevent equality of inputs, such as inequitable access to curriculum materials and lab equipment across school districts, a shortage of highly qualified teachers in certain districts, and formal institutional barriers.

We develop curriculum materials to mitigate issues of equality of inputs and to create real opportunities for all students to learn. We also design professional development experiences to support teachers in creating equitable learning journeys for all students.

Learn about BSCS Services - Professional Development, External Evaluation, and Curriculum Development.

Educative Curriculum Materials Are Central to Teaching and Learning

Research-based curriculum materials integrate a coherent organization of the content with research-based pedagogy, especially the development of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). Schneider & Krajcik (2002) have called materials that do this “educative curriculum materials.” They define educative curriculum materials as those materials “designed to address teacher learning as well as student learning.” In addition, educative materials offer support for teachers in thinking about: “(a) content beyond the level suggested for students, (b) underlying pedagogy, (c) developing content and community across time, (d) students, and (e) the broader community.” Research shows that teachers who use educative materials enhance their content learning and incorporate specific strategies and representations suggested in the materials. We develop our materials and supporting professional development in alignment with these principles.

Our comprehensive development process at BSCS makes use of the most recent research in learning and teaching. We work with top scientists, science educators, and teachers around the country to ensure that our materials are accurate, pedagogically sound, and effective in the classroom. Our focused development process includes nationwide field tests that provide us with the feedback necessary to produce successful programs. These field-tests also provide us with important evidence about the effectiveness of our programs. We develop materials on the cutting edge of reform in science education.

  • Our materials place students at the center of their own learning.
  • Our materials are based on the most current research on learning.
  • We field test our materials across the country in a diversity of settings.
  • We have evidence of their effectiveness.
  • Our materials provide practical support for teachers.

Learn about BSCS Teacher/Leader Resources and Instructional Materials.

Teachers Are Instructional Leaders

We believe that teachers are essential to the learning process and as a result are the instructional leaders in the classroom. We develop curriculum materials and design professional development to support this value. As instructional leaders, teachers rely on and must continually develop their professional knowledge, especially their pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). PCK is a unique knowledge base held by teachers that provides ways to consider the structure and importance of an instructional topic, recognize the features that will make it more or less accessible to students, and justify the selection of teaching practices based on student learning needs. Teachers with strong PCK have accurate content knowledge and make connections within and between science topics and the nature of science. They make use of multiple modes of representation or examples of a topic, are able to provide a rationale linking teaching strategies to student learning, and have strategies for eliciting student prior understandings and promoting student examination of their own thinking. They understand how student variations, such as student prior conceptions, have an impact on instructional decisions. We support the development of PCK through our materials and PD.

Learn about a current PCK project at BSCS.

Transformative Professional Development

The effectiveness of new curriculum materials is greatly enhanced by quality professional development. Key components of quality professional development include increasing teacher content knowledge, cultivating a better understanding of effective teaching practices, implementing those practices, and better mentoring (Loucks-Horsley et al., 2003). Most teachers are not familiar with educative curriculum materials and are not experienced using materials in a manner that allows them to take advantage of these features (Ball & Cohen, 1996). Our contention is that professional development that supports the implementation of educative curriculum materials must challenge teachers’ current beliefs about learning and teaching science if teachers’ use of the materials is going to improve student learning. In other words, professional development to learn how to use these curricula needs to transform, or change the nature of, teachers’ beliefs and practices. The characteristics of transformative professional development can be summarized as follows (Thompson & Zeuli, 1999):

  • Transformative professional development creates a high level of cognitive dissonance to disturb the equilibrium between teachers’ existing beliefs and practices and their experience with subject matter, students’ learning, and teaching.
  • Transformative professional development requires time, contexts, and support for teachers to think and revise their thinking.
  • The professional development experiences must connect to teachers’ students and contexts.
  • Transformative professional development must provide a way for teachers to develop practices that are consistent with their new understandings.
  • Transformative professional development needs to include an ongoing cycle of issue identification, new understanding, changing practice, and recycling.

Learn about BSCS Professional Development.

For more information, contact us at info@bscs.org.