Educational Effectiveness of GEMS

GEMS units can serve as strong curricular support to the national science and mathematics education reform efforts now underway, represented by the move toward implementation of national standards in science and mathematics.

For information relating to the effectivenss of Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading® please visit and see the effectivness studies section.

Three studies look at the GEMS Curriculum Sequences:

Two studies were conducted by a team at Florida State University. The first is titled, "Comparing the Efficacy of Reform-Based and Traditional/Verification Curricula to Support Student Learning about Space Science" and reports on the relationship between reform-based curriculum and the development of students’ knowledge of and attitudes toward space science. It can be downloaded here. The second, "Learning about Space Science: Comparing the efficacy of reform based teaching with a traditional/verifications approach" explores the relationship between curriculum and teachers’ knowledge and beliefs about teaching. The full report can be downloaded here.

A report conducted by the Center for Research, Evaluation, and Assessment (REA) examines student learning, as shown by unit pre/post assessment change, in the GEMS Space Science Sequence for Grades 6–8. REA, based at Lawrence Hall of Science, conducts both internal and external evaluation and research in mathematics and science education. Evaluation questions for this project took into consideration concerns and interests of curriculum funders, the curriculum development team, and potential users. Evidence of student learning is of primary interest to all stakeholders and is therefore the overarching question for this evaluation. Download the report here.

The information presented below relates to effectiveness of the GEMS Teachers' Guides:

In addition to the studies discussed below, GEMS was evaluated by the United States Department of Education's Mathematics and Science Education Expert Panel and found to be a "Promising Science Program." We have posted information on both the panel and the criteria they used in evaluating programs, and on their evaluation of the GEMS curriculum. (PDF Documents; Adobe Acrobat required to view).

In "The Educational Effectiveness of GEMS Activities," the GEMS Leader’s Handbook summarizes a variety of research studies that demonstrate the general effectiveness of the inquiry-driven, activity-based approach to science education, including the classic studies of Bredderman, Kyle, Shymansky, and others, as well as the work of Karplus, Thier, Atkin, and others on the learning cycle. GEMS units and other curricula developed at LHS are grounded in this approach. The GEMS development team endeavors to stay abreast of new developments in educational research, new approaches to assessment, and to take such findings into account as guides are developed and revised. (Barber, J., Bergman, L, and Sneider, C: "The Educational Effectiveness of GEMS Activities" and Sneider, C. "GEMS and Research: Three Case Studies" in the GEMS Leaders Handbook, pages 19–32, 1988, 1994, 1997.) A summary of the research is here.

From the inception of GEMS, the program has been involved in a number of collaborative projects funded by state and federal agencies, foundations, or corporate philanthropy. Many of these projects were based on curriculum sequences of GEMS units for primary and intermediate students and their teachers, sometimes in association with other activity-based curricula. Formal evaluations from a number of these projects indicate that the GEMS curriculum and instructional strategies have made a significant positive impact on student learning (as well as on attitudes toward learning and professional development). As relevant, pertinent aspects of these evaluations will be included under the appropriate headings. There are also several research studies that demonstrate the educational effectiveness of specific GEMS units, and their findings have been applied to the development of a significant number of other GEMS units.

These studies and evaluations indicate that the GEMS program:

• makes a significant and measurable difference in and impact on student learning;
• improves student and teacher understanding and practice of inquiry;
• has the demonstrated capability of reaching all students, including historically underrepresented groups, special education and gifted students, in a wide variety
of settings and regions;
• fosters positive attitudes and motivation of students and teachers in science and mathematics; and
• has considerable additional evidence of effectiveness and success.

Below, as an organizer, is a listing of these evaluation reports and studies, which are then linked to a more complete discussion of the topic.

Evidence of gains in student understanding of science.

Earth, Moon, and Stars Research Studies
• Galaxy Classroom Project (Pilot Program 1991-95) funded by Hughes Air and NSF
• PEACHES I Project (GEMS units), 1989–1994, funded by NSF
• Seabrook GEMS Site studies, 1997, 1999

Evidence of gains in inquiry, reasoning, and problem-solving skills.

Experimenting with Model Rockets Research Studies
• Galaxy Classroom Project Grades 3–5 (Pilot Program 1991-1995) funded by Hughes Air and NSF

Evidence of improvements in course enrollment, graduation rates, and
post-secondary school attendance.

• GEMS and Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement (MESA) partnership

Evidence of narrowing the gap in achievement of accomplishment between diverse groups.

Experimenting with Model Rockets Focus on Girls/Young Women
• Primary Institute in Science and Mathematics (PRISM) Project (1990–1997), funded by NSF
• Galaxy Classroom Project (Pilot Program 1991-1995) funded by Hughes Air and NSF
• Anecdotal information

Additional evidence of effectiveness and success.

• Bridging Preschool and Kindergarten through Science and Mathematics–PEACHES II, (1994-1999) funded by NSF
• Primary Institute in Science and Mathematics (PRISM) Project, II (1994-1997), NSF
• GEMS by Satellite Distance Learning Project, funded by Department of Education
River Cutters—AAAS Project 2061 analysis and revision process
• Science Core Assignments Program, New Standards Project, National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) (1997-1998)
• The School Community Mathematics Project (SCMP) 1990-1994, funded by the California Post-secondary Education Commission (CPEC), Eisenhower Mathematics and Science Education State Grant Program
• Study on the Learning Station Approach
• Trial Testing
• Standards-Based Recommendations
• GEMS Model Schools (or Districts)
• GEMS Sites and Centers: Other Evidence of Success




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