What's New

Posted on December 11, 2020

Middle School-High School What's New


Even in the midst of a pandemic that makes everything, especially teaching, very challenging, educators and researchers are developing new Open Education Resources (OER) — text sets, teaching routines and inquiry sequences — that deepen learning experiences for middle and high school students. While OER is plentiful, many issues deter substantive use of free texts – such as the time it takes to assess their quality and relevance, not to mention crafting a meaningful sequence of inquiry for students that reflects the practices of the related field.

Since 2019, a federal SEED grant and funding from the Hewlett Foundation has been supporting leaders of our Reading Apprenticeship team, researchers, and science and engineering teachers to develop text-based inquiries –units that last from three weeks to an entire semester and align with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

This work is intended to support teachers’ use of vetted, usable, no-cost curriculum that enriches students’ opportunities to engage with authentic and challenging tasks and texts. At the same time, researchers are studying and documenting the process of developing these units so we can make them more accessible while also learning about current OER and teaching challenges.

You can see and hear what this research and development work looks like in a brief recorded presentation our staff and Sheila Hinchman made at the Literacy Research Association’s online conference in November 2020. Here are two quick glimpses of the dialogue in their presentation titled “Science Teachers Considerations When Designing Text Rich Investigations to Address NGSS” that illustrate this work:

Will Brown: A key process that was helpful for teachers was enactment of NGSS units that were text-rich – where they could explore how literacy could deepen the inquiry and also how the text could support students along an investigative and literacy trajectory – what classroom routines would be supportive without giving away the inquiry or design solutions…. Teachers discovered the nuggets of science students gleaned from some of these texts elevated their redesign argumentation so that it wasn’t just logical trial and error but based on science principles.

Cynthia Greenleaf: Participating science teachers built a remarkable array of complex texts into units, and these texts had to meet the criteria that they would contribute to the science understandings that teachers were trying to build… as well as being engaging and accessible to students.

There are many text-based inquiry units in development, so keep visiting our website and/or sign up for our quarterly e-bulletin. In the meantime, you can find similar units and text sets for science and history developed by teachers here.

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