About CTS

Project Summary

Curriculum Topic Study (CTS) was funded by the National Science Foundation's DRK-12 program from  2004-2010. The CTS project developed four books that include a set of tools, resources, and professional development processes to engage science and mathematics educators in a methodical process of using national standards and research on student learning to study, analyze, and apply content, curricular, instructional, and assessment findings rerlated to the science and mathematics topics teachers teach. CTS builds a bridge between state and national standards, research on students' ideas in science and mathematics, and opportunities for students to learn science and mathematics through improved teacher practice. The process has been called "the missing link" for implementation of standards-based and research-informed science education.


Need for this Project

Engaging science educators in scholarly thought and purposeful use of standards and research on student learning is key to improving student achievement. National and state standards and an expanding body of cognitive research have been available to teachers since the start of the "standards-based" wave of science education reform. However, a systematic process and unified set of tools to collectively and deliberately utilize them in practice and within the newer embedded professional development structures has been missing.

New measures for teacher professional practice make this a critical time for teachers to have the tools and processes they need to continuously develop as professionals. In this age of standards and high stakes accountability, it is not enough to be guided by only a list of state standards or curriculum materials Teachers who strive to become accomplished science and mathematics educators need the right tools and processes to reach their professional goals. CTS fills the need for continuous learning by providing educators with an intellectually rigorous and invigorating process for examining the science and mathematics topics they teach so that all teachers and teacher educators can make well-informed decisions to improve student learning.


Underlying Knowledge and Research Base for CTS

National standards have been around for almost a decade, yet studies such as the National Research Council's 2002 report, Investigating the Influence of Standards, show that standards have not made a significant impact where it matters most--the classroom. Clearly, translating science and mathematics standards into classroom practice is a continuing challenge yet to be overcome. At the same time, there is a shift toward providing more substantive transformative professional development and supporting resources that reflect the current knowledge base and cognitive research on how teachers and students learn. In 2000, the NRC released How People Learn, a seminal publication that has raosed awareness among science and mathematics educators of the need to understand the preconceptions students bring to their learning. A major component of CTS is identifying, examining, and taking action on students' preconceptions.

CTS--by virtue of its focus on K-12 science and mathematics standards-based content, research into students' conceptions, and pedagogical strategies linked to specific ideas and skills--reflects the findings from How People Learn that distinguish expert teachers from novices. There is a strong link between teacher expertise, which involves both content and pedagogical content knowledge, and student achievement. Because teacher expertise has such a demonstrated impact on student learning, it stands to reason that processes that develop science teachers' knowledge and skills, such as CTS, are a sound investment toward improving student achievement in science and mathematics. CTS is informed by and utilizes the knowledge and research generated through the areas of:

  • National, State, and Local Standards
  • Research on Student Learning
  • Theory and Practice of Professional Development
  • Reading Comprehension Strategies
  • Teacher Content Knowledge
  • Pedagogical Content Knowledge
  • Teachers' Beliefs about Teaching and Learning

Audience for CTS

CTS is designed to reach teachers at all levels of the professional continuum from preservice teachers to novice teachers, to experienced teachers to highly accomplished teachers and teacher leaders. CTS is also designed for teacher educators including mentors, instructional coaches, professional development specialists, district and state level science coordinators, and pre-service university faculty and scientists who work with teachers. In addtion, CTS is a useful tool for administrators seeking to learn more about standards-based and research-informed science and mathematics practice, curriculum and assessment developers, informal science educators, and even home schooling parents. In a nutshell, CTS is a widely used, versatile tool designed for anyone seeking to learn more about science and mathematics teaching and learning.