Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Marcia Fetters

Second Advisor

Dr. William Cobern

Third Advisor

Dr. David Schuster

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Paul Vellom


This study examines elementary science content standards curriculum coherence between the People's Republic of China and the United States of America. Three aspects of curriculum coherence are examined in this study: topic inclusion, topic duration, and curriculum structure. Specifically this study centers on the following research questions: 1) What science knowledge is intended for elementary students in each country? 2) How long each topic stays in the curriculum? 3) How these topics sequence and connect with each other? 4) And finally, what is the implication for elementary science curriculum development?

Four intended science curriculum frameworks were selected respectively for each country. A technique of General Topic Trace Mapping (GTTM) was applied to generate the composite science content standards out of the selected curriculum for each country.

In comparison, the composite USA and Chinese elementary science content standards form a stark contrast: a bunch of broad topics vs. a focus on a set of key topics at each grade; an average of 3.4 year topic duration vs. an average of 1.68 year topic duration; a stress on connections among related ideas vs. a discrete disposition of related ideas; laundry list topic organization vs. hierarchical organization of science topics.

In analyzing the interrelationships among these characteristics, this study reached implications for developing coherent science content standards: First, for the overall curriculum, the topic inclusion should reflect the logical and sequential nature of knowledge in science. Second, for each grade level, less, rather than more science topics should be focused. Third, however, it should be clarified that a balance should be made between curriculum breadth and depth by considering student needs, subject matter, and child development. Fourth, the topic duration should not be too long. The lengthy topic duration tends to undermine links among ideas as well as lead to superficial treatment of topics.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access