Executive Summary

March 2001. The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) has undertaken a review of ten textbooks that are currently used in year-long courses in the biological sciences in secondary schools. The goal is to provide information — a snapshot of the year 2000 — to those in school districts who choose instructional materials to make informed decisions that help teachers provide ALL students with standards-based learning environments for biological literacy.

A nine-person review team, of scientists, teachers, and science educators reviewed ten programs of biology instructional materials with publication dates from 1997-2000. The team developed a review instrument for the evaluation based on the National Science Education Standards. Three of the life science content standards for grades 9 to 12 — Evolution, Interdependence Of Organisms, and Molecular Genetics — along with the Other Content Standards, and the Pedagogical and Other Considerations were used as criteria and the results are presented. Instructional Materials are grouped into three categories:

  1. "Traditional" instructional materials that do not particularly respond to the standards but simply focus on new content and new options at each printing.
  2. "Innovative" instructional materials that are specifically designed to meet all of the National Science Education Standards.
  3. "Mixed" instructional materials that come from the traditional background, including updating and adding of content, but have responded to some or all of the pedagogy and other standards in presentation.

Results indicate:

  • For the most part, the content is accurate and up-to-date, but the way the materials are presented for teaching leaves room for vast improvement.
  • Most books are too large, too encyclopedic, and leave too much responsibility on the teachers to determine how to use them to meet the standards.

The AIBS study was conducted at the University of Washington in Seattle, with funding from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

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