READI for Science


The READI approach to science engages students in authentic scientific literacy and inquiry practices through text-based investigations for purposes of explaining and constructing models of phenomena in the natural world. In the course of these investigations, students learn science content and argumentation, both oral and written. This approach to science embodies the reading, writing, reasoning and arguing practices that are part and parcel of the inquiry practices of scientists. Scientists learn about the work of others largely through reading (Yager, 2004). They read publications in their field looking for what’s new, often expecting that their understanding may change as a result of compelling new evidence (e.g., Bazerman, 1985; Roth, 1991; Sinatra & Broughton, 2011). But they read with a critical stance, evaluating the reliability and reasonableness of new findings and explanatory models against existing accounts. Most scientists also write regularly to keep track of their inquiries and to share their work with others using agreed upon forms of discourse (e.g., bench notes, research reports, and research reviews) (Goldman & Bisanz, 2002). The inquiry process engages scientists in building models and explanations of the phenomena they study, using multiple types of representations (e.g., verbal, visual) to record and share their ideas. Scientists understand that it is through this recursive literacy practice of writing and revising models and explanations based on evidence and counter evidence that robust scientific knowledge accumulates.

The most recent reform documents such as the Framework for K-12 Science (NRC, 2012) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013) depict science learning not as a static body of knowledge, but the processes that produce it. The READI approach takes a similar approach to science learning, but focuses specifically on supporting students’ engagement in scientific practices through text-based investigations. Our stance is that text-based investigations and first-hand experimentation compliment one another in providing opportunities for students to engage in scientific practice. Although there are numerous curriculum materials that focus on first-hand experimentation, there are fewer resources for both teachers and students that position texts as tools for inquiry.

The materials we provide here are reflective of the overarching READI science goal of helping students understand that the nature of science is not a body of “known” facts to be memorized but reflects our “best understandings” given the available evidence (goal 6). The text-based investigations are intended to develop inquiry dispositions and conceptual change awareness. The topics of the investigations were selected to have personal appeal to students to build engagement and investment of effort as well as an understanding of the contribution science can make to society. This overarching goal is infused through five additional goals of the READI approach. First, students engage in close reading to identify, analyze, and interpret scientific evidence in a range of science representations, including graphs, diagrams, models, and traditional verbal exposition. The text sets are designed to require synthesis of evidence and information across multiple representations (goal 2) to construct, justify, and critique (goals 3, 4, and 5) explanations and explanatory models using disciplinary core ideas as well as cross-cutting principles and concepts. These six READI learning goals are achieved through text-based investigations designed to encourage students in questioning, sense making and knowledge building through authentic evidence-based argument.

We want to emphasize that in moving from “learning the facts” to text-based inquiry it is important to develop classroom norms for engaging students in collaborative sense making. This may involve establishing norms for classroom participation, such as reading, and sharing about any confusions or highlighting important ideas in pairs, small groups, and whole class discussions. This may also involve students in questioning the texts they read, without the assumption that all or any of the information in a text is actually relevant to the inquiry question. The module in the case library “Reading Science Models” illustrates some ways in which these kinds of classroom norms can be established.

The case library includes two ninth grade modules that were used as part of a semester long, ninth grade biology course. The text sets are selected and sequenced to build students’ process skills and knowledge over the course of the module. The topics of the modules focus on two core ideas in Biology: Homeostasis and Evolution. The full set of materials for the semester-long biological sciences course is available for download at


Further reading:

Greenleaf, C., Brown, W., Goldman, S. R., & Ko, M. (2013, December). READI for science: promoting scientific literacy practices through text-based investigations for middle and high school science teachers and students. Washington, D.C.: National Research Council.

Osborne, J. (2002). Science without literacy: A ship without a sail? Cambridge Journal of Education, 32(2), 203–218.

Pearson, P. D., Moje, E., & Greenleaf, C. (2010). Literacy and Science: Each in the Service of the Other. Science, 328(5977), 459–463.

 For more information about our design process, see: Ko, M., Goldman, S. R., Radinsky, J. R., James, K., Hall, A., Popp, J., Bolz, M., & George, M. (2016). Looking under the hood: Productive messiness in design for argumentation in science, literature, and history.