Step 7: Writing a Rationale

You're probably wondering why writing a rationale wasn't the first step in the curriculum development process. It should be clear, however, that you have invested some time thinking about the initial ideas of the mini-unit, categorizing them as skill and non-skill and analyzing the ideas in your unit by making a concept map. You are now in a much more powerful position to think about why you are teaching this mini-unit, and how you will communicate this to your students.

In writing a statement describing the rationale for your mini-unit you should consider these questions:

Thus a rationale statement will be determined by the values that influence your perception and conception of students (learners), society (science's relationship to society), and science (the subject matter).

Course, unit and mini-unit rationales can also be influenced by current trends and directions in science education. In the last twenty years there has been a shift toward a more student-centered (hands-on/minds-on) approach to the learner. A greater emphasis has and will continue to be placed on S-T-S (see chapter 6). Reports such as Project 2061 have given greater impetus for a cognitive approach to science teaching, and NSTA's Scope and Sequence Project has influenced the organization of the curriculum.

The mini-unit rationale that you write should also include a statement of science education goals (broad statements of intent) that reflect the integration of ideas concerning students, society and the nature of science. For example a rationale for a mini-unit on "the earth's past" might contain a goal statement such as: This mini-unit is designed to give middle school students an insight into, and an appreciation of life as it existed in the past, and ideas concerning how life evolved on the earth.

A complete rationale should contain a goal statement, as well as how the mini-unit attends to conceptions of the student, society, and the nature of science. Here is a complete rationale for a unit on the environment. Notice that the rationale includes aspects of the student, society and science, and how each is dealt with in the unit.

Sample Rationale: Environmental Education Unit

"To be truly educated, people need knowledge of, appreciation for, and skills relating to the world around them. Schools, largely responsible for educating individuals in our society, must equip people with the knowledge and ability necessary for them to preserve the environment for the physical, psychological and aesthetic needs of future generations. A person educated in this way knows enough to exhibit intelligent and reasonable concern for his or her environment and can presumably direct this knowledge and concern toward the preservation and improvement of the environment. A person's actions affect the environment as they occur in the context of the environment.

It is important, from the standpoint of enhanced self-image, personal enjoyment, and a meaningful life for people to know basic facts about the environment and their relationship to it. They should, as well, have the capability and inclination to act in a positive manner toward the environment.

In a technological society, which tends to insulate its members from the environment, this subject area is second to none in its importance. Actual experience with the environment is necessary for the proper treatment of this subject. Technology in our society appears, at times, out of control, or at least controlled by factors not related to environmental quality. For the preservation of society and the enhancement of individual lives, people must interact with their world on a educated basis."

Examine your list of intended learning outcomes, and write a rationale for your mini-unit. As you think about the rationale, think about the students you will teach, and how the content will relate to them. Next formulate the relationship between the content in your unit and potential social issues that it brings about. And lastly, how will you approach the nature of science in this mini-unit?