The Impact of Using Coherent Curriculum on Students’ Understanding of Core Ideas in Chemistry

  • Namsoo ShinEmail author
  • Sung-Youn Choi
  • Shawn Y. Stevens
  • Joseph S. Krajcik


A coherent curriculum that clearly defines sets of ideas that build upon one another to meet desired learning goals can successfully support the development of meaningful understanding across time. This study explores the influence of a coherent curriculum as a systematic approach to aligning and sequencing specific ideas to support students in developing deeper knowledge of chemistry core ideas by comparing students in classrooms that used coherent instructional materials with those that used more traditional materials. We followed approximately 1225 middle school students from 6 schools in 4 different states over 4 time points, across 2 school years, and across 3 grade levels. 165 assessment items were used to measure student understanding along a learning progression, which provides a guide for how students may move toward more sophisticated understanding over time. Students’ estimated ability parameters obtained from item response theory analysis were used to compare the achievement between the coherent and traditional curriculum groups. Hierarchical linear model analysis was employed to examine students’ learning growth rates between different curriculum materials by grade and school. The results revealed that there are differences in the trends of learning between the coherent and traditional group by grade and school performance level. The coherent curriculum shows a promising effect on student learning, particularly in high- and middle-performing schools. However, there are limits to using coherent curriculum on a low-performing school. This study concluded with a discussion of challenges and promises for using coherent curriculum materials to support student learning.


Coherent curriculum Learning progression Middle school Science 



This research was supported by a National Science Foundation grant (DRL 0822038).

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (DOCX 139 kb)


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Copyright information

© Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Namsoo Shin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sung-Youn Choi
    • 2
  • Shawn Y. Stevens
    • 3
  • Joseph S. Krajcik
    • 4
  1. 1.College of EducationMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Dongguk UniversitySeoulSouth Korea
  3. 3.University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.CREATE for STEM Institute, Michigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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