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CURRICULUM TOPIC STUDY (CTS) Using National Science Standards and Research on Student Learning to Transform Science Teaching and Learning Joyce Tugel Maine Mathematics & Science Alliance Establishing the Need Because you taught it doesn’t necessarily mean they learned it!

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curriculum topic study cts


Using National Science Standards and Research on Student Learning to Transform Science

Teaching and Learning

Joyce Tugel

Maine Mathematics & Science Alliance

establishing the need
Establishing the Need

Because you taught it doesn’t necessarily mean they learned it!

giant sequoia tree
Giant Sequoia Tree

Where did most of the matter that makes up the wood and leaves of this tree come from?

  • Sunlight
  • Water
  • Soil
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Oxygen
  • Minerals
  • Chlorophyll
establishing the need4
Establishing the Need

When students learn facts instead of big ideas, their ideas do not change much from one grade span to the next. However, their words get bigger!

science literacy vs scientific literacy
Science Literacy vs Scientific Literacy

Comparing 4th grade ideas to college graduate ideas

2 minute partner talk
2 Minute Partner Talk

Implications for Science Teaching and Learning

the cts project
The CTS Project
  • NSF-funded TPC Professional Development Materials Project awarded to the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance in partnership with West Ed
  • 2 resources guides: Science and Mathematics Curriculum Topic Study books
  • Facilitator’s Guide to Using Curriculum Topic Study
  • Web Site:
  • National Field Testing and Professional Development
what is cts
What is CTS?

A process that incorporates systematic study of standards and research

A set of tools and collective resources for improving curriculum, instruction, and assessment

An intellectually engaging professional development experience where teachers focus on and discuss student learning

what cts is not
What CTS Is Not


  • A remedy for weak content knowledge (CTS is used to enhance and support content learning)
  • A collection of teaching activities (CTS describes considerations one must take into account when planning or selecting teaching activities)
  • A description of “how to’s” (CTS helps you think through effective teaching based on knowledge of learning goals and how students learn)
  • A quick fix (CTS takes time and dedication to use it effectively)
  • The end-all for professional development (CTS helps you identify additional experiences that will help you grow as a teacher)
why use cts
Why Use CTS?
  • Clarify and deepen knowledge of relevant curricular topics
  • Develop a common knowledge base and language about standards and research
  • Move beyond personal opinions and assumptions to consider key ideas and practices developed through consensus by the science and mathematics education community
  • “Stand on the Shoulders of Giants”- Experts at your fingertips 24/7!
who uses cts
Who Uses CTS?
  • Pre-service Teachers
  • Beginning Teachers and Experienced Teachers
  • Teacher Leaders, Mentors, and Coaches
  • Professional Developers
  • Pre-Service and Graduate Science and Mathematics Education Faculty
  • Scientists and Mathematicians Working with K-12 Teacher Education
  • Curriculum Developers
  • Informal Science Educators
  • Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Committees
having state and national standards is not enough
Having State and National Standards Is Not Enough…

What has been missing is a systematic, scholarly, deliberate process to help educators intellectually engage with standards and research on student learning so they can make effective use of them.

CTS provides that “Missing Link.”

cts science categories 147 topics
CTS Science Categories (147 Topics)
  • Diversity of Life (7)
  • Ecology (11)
  • Biological Structure and Function (11)
  • Life’s Continuity and Change (10)
  • Matter (16)
  • Earth (18)
  • Astronomy (10)
  • Energy, Force, and Motion (23)
  • Inquiry and the Nature of Science and Technology (26)
  • Implications of Science and Technology (11)
  • Unifying Themes (4)
cts mathematics categories 92 topics
CTS Mathematics Categories (92 Topics)
  • Numbers and Operations (23)
  • Algebra (12)
  • Geometry (19)
  • Measurement (10)
  • Data Analysis (9)
  • Integrated Topics (10)
  • Problem Solving and Processes (9)
introduction to the cts study guide
Introduction to the CTS Study Guide
  • CTS Sections and Outcomes
  • Selected Readings from CTS Resources

Examine “Anatomy of a Study Guide”

the cts guide
The CTS Guide
  • Each guide has 6 CTS sections (Left Column)
    • Purposes of the sections
      • I : Identify Adult Content Knowledge
      • II : Consider Instructional Implications
      • III : Identify Concepts and Specific Ideas
      • IV : Examine Research on Student Learning
      • V : Examine Coherency and Articulation
      • VI : Clarify State Standards and District Curriculum
  • Each section links to CTS sources and pre-vetted Readings (Right Column)
  • Supplementary Resources
cts collective resources experts at your fingertips 24 7
CTS Collective Resources- Experts at Your Fingertips 24/7

Indicates the resource is online

cts collective resources experts at your fingertips 24 7 mathematics
CTS Collective Resources- Experts at Your Fingertips 24/7- Mathematics

Indicates the resource is online

parallel resources in mathematics cts

Getting to Know the Resources

Parallel Resources in Mathematics CTS


Pages 24-26

Science for All Americans

Science Matters

Benchmarks for Science Literacy

The National Science Standards

Making Sense of Secondary Science

Atlas of Science Literacy


Pages 27-30

Science for All Americans

Beyond Numeracy

Benchmarks for Science Literacy

Principles and Standards for School Mathematics

Research Companion

Atlas of Science Literacy

cts the swiss army knife of curriculum instruction and assessment
CTS: The Swiss Army Knife of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

Improve adult science literacy(I)

Improve knowledge of content teachers teach(I)

Examine instructional considerations(II)

Identify alternative conceptions(IV)

Consider developmental implications(II, IV)

Examine scope and sequence(III)

See connections within and across topics(V)

Clarify state standards and district curriculum (VI)

Identify “Big Ideas”, Concepts, Specific Ideas, and Skills(III)

companion resources developed using cts and used in cts pd
Companion Resources Developed Using CTS and Used in CTS PD
  • Uncovering Students’ Ideas in Science- 25 Formative Assessment Probes (Vol 1 &2)
  • Uncovering Student Thinking in Mathematics- 25 Formative Assessment Probes
cts content knowledge applications
CTS Content Knowledge Applications
  • Using CTS to improve adult content knowledge for science or mathematics literacy
  • Improving understanding of K-12 content needed to teach a topic
  • Examining the hierarchal structure of knowledge in a topic
cts and curriculum
CTS and Curriculum
  • Curriculum Coherence and Articulation
  • Curriculum Selection
  • Supporting Curriculum Implementation
  • Developing Conceptual Storylines and Learning Paths
cts and instruction
CTS and Instruction
  • Reviewing and Modifying Lessons
  • Developing a Standards and Research-based Lesson
  • Connecting Science or Mathematical Content to Inquiry
  • Inquiry Scaffolds (Science)
cts and assessment
CTS and Assessment
  • Improving Alignment of Assessments
  • Developing Assessment Probes
  • Developing Culminating Performance Tasks
cts and professional development
CTS and Professional Development
  • Lesson Study
  • Collaborative Inquiry into Examining Student Thinking
  • Looking at Student Work
  • Immersion and Course Content
  • Study Groups
  • Action Research
  • Mentoring and Coaching
  • Case Discussions
  • Curriculum Implementation
  • Demonstration Lessons
  • Various Workshop Models
benefits to science and mathematics initiatives
Benefits to Science and Mathematics Initiatives
  • Bridge between content and practice
  • Professional Toolkit
  • Embedded into any PD Design
  • Increased focus on relevant content
  • Rich, intellectual engagement
  • Increase coherency in using standards
  • Consistency and coherency across projects
for additional information
For Additional Information
  • Visit the CTS web site at
  • Contact:

Joyce Tugel, CTS Facilitator and Field Test Coordinator