TERC Developing 'Content Enhancements' for FOSS Curriculum Units

March 30, 2009



CAMBRIDGE, MA– With a new grant from the National Science Foundation, TERC researchers are developing and researching content enhancements to accompany two FOSS curriculum units—Diversity of Life and Populations and Ecosystems. Researchers on the three-year Accessing Science Ideas (ASI) project emphasize that these enhancements do not change the content of the units; rather, they enhance accessibility by integrating instructional supports.

Project researchers expect that students with executive function challenges will benefit most from content enhancements. These students often find it difficult to remember and process information, shift between concrete phenomena and abstract concepts, and see relationships among ideas. They anticipate that these supports might have a positive impact on all middle school students in inclusive science classrooms as well. Although content enhancements have been used to support students with learning disabilities in mathematics and language arts classrooms, little research has been done on the effects of targeted enhancements in science.

Researchers will study approximately 150 science classrooms, half of which will incorporate content enhancements during unit instruction. They will examine impact on all students and on a subset of students with learning disabilities, identifying ways in which the enhancements influenced accessibility to the curriculum and improved student learning.

Content enhancements are currently being used by teachers Diane Mason, Patricia Boyle, and Sarah Davis at the JFK Middle School in Hudson, MA; Jennifer Pierce, Lisa Tibbetts, and Amy Sweeney at the Galvin Middle School in Wakefield, MA; Lisa Cody at the Kennedy-Longfellow School in Cambridge, MA; and Jay Mahoney and Edward Rice at the Peabody School in Cambridge, MA.