Date: July 19, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Report Offers New Framework to Guide K-12 Science Education, Calls for Shift in the Way Science Is Taught in
The committee that wrote the report sees the need for significant improvements in how science is taught in the
The overarching goal of the framework, the committee said, is to ensure that by the end of 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science, the capacity to discuss and think critically about science-related issues, and the skills to pursue careers in science or engineering if they want to do so -- outcomes that existing educational approaches are ill-equipped to achieve.
“Currently, science education in the U.S. lacks a common vision of what students should know and be able to do by the end of high school, curricula too often emphasize breadth over depth, and students are rarely given the opportunity to experience how science is actually done,” said Helen Quinn, committee chair and professor emerita of physics at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Stanford, Calif. “The new framework is designed to address and overcome these weaknesses. It builds on what is known to work best in science education, based on research and classroom experience both in the
The framework was developed by an 18-member committee that included experts in education and scientists from many disciplines. The committee publicly released a draft in summer 2010 to obtain and incorporate feedback from the broader community of scientists, science educators, educational policymakers, and education researchers.
The framework is the first step in the development of new K-12 science education standards. The framework lays out the broad ideas and practices students should learn and will serve as the basis for specific standards, which will be developed in a process led by a group of states and coordinated by the nonprofit educational organization Achieve Inc. When the standards are finished, states may voluntarily adopt them to guide science education in their public schools.
In addition to serving as the foundation for the development of new standards, the framework can be used by others who work in K-12 science education, such as curriculum and assessment developers, those who train teachers and create professional development materials, and state and district science supervisors.
Science as Both Ideas and Practices
The framework specifies core ideas in four disciplinary areas -- life sciences; physical sciences; earth and space sciences; and engineering, technology and the applications of science -- that all students should understand by the time they finish high school. For example, among the core ideas in the physical sciences are “matter and its interactions” and “energy.” Students’ knowledge of these ideas should deepen over time, and the framework specifies aspects of each idea that students should know by the end of grades two, five, eight, and 12.
The framework also identifies seven crosscutting concepts that have explanatory value across much of science and engineering, such as “cause and effect” and “stability and change.” These concepts should be taught in the context of core ideas from the disciplines of science, the report says, but teachers should use a common language for these concepts across disciplines, so that students understand the same concept is relevant in many fields. These concepts should become familiar touchstones as students progress from kindergarten through 12th grade.
Just as important are scientific and engineering practices, which have been given too little emphasis in K-12 education, the committee said. The framework specifies eight key practices that students should learn, such as asking questions and defining problems, analyzing and interpreting data, and constructing explanations and designing solutions. These practices should be integrated with study of the disciplinary core ideas and applied throughout students’ K-12 education.
These three dimensions must be used together for students to understand how science works, the committee stressed. For example, students should use the practices -- such as conducting investigations and then analyzing and interpreting the data -- to deepen their knowledge of the core ideas.
Putting the Framework to Use
The report offers guidance to those who will use the framework to develop new science education standards. The standards should set rigorous learning goals that represent a common expectation for all students. They also should be limited in number to reflect the framework’s focus on a small set of core ideas and practices, and should include guidance about what does and does not need to be taught.
Developing new standards is a key step in making K-12 science education more coherent and effective, but it is far from the only one, the committee said. Curricula will need to incorporate the framework’s ideas and practices, and teacher preparation and professional development programs should provide ways for teachers to deepen their own conceptual understanding of the practices and ideas of science. Assessments will need to be linked to the shared goals outlined by the framework and related standards. And time, space, and resources for science learning need to be made available. “For all students to have the opportunity to learn the ideas and practices we’ve described, many other players and parts of the system will need to change, some in fundamental ways,” said Quinn.
The study was sponsored by Carnegie Corporation of
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NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
Committee on a Conceptual Framework for New Science Education Standards
Helen Quinn (chair)1
Professor Emerita of Physics
SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
Wyatt W. Anderson1
Professor and Dean Emeritus
Department of Genetics
Tanya M. Atwater1
Department of Earth Science
Science and Mathematics Learning Institute
Thomas B. Corcoran
Consortium for Policy Research
Bing Professor in Ecology
Department of Biology
Phillip A. Griffiths1
Director Emeritus and Professor of Mathematics
Institute for Advanced Study
Emeritus Professor of Science
Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Department of Physics
Linda P.B. Katehi2
John C. Mather1
Brett D. Moulding
Shriram Family Professor of Science Education
James W. Pellegrino
Professor of Cognitive Psychology and Education
Chief of Staff
Office of the State Superintendent of Schools
Professor of Learning Sciences
Rebecca R. Richards-Kortum2
Walter G. Secada
Professor and Chair
Department of Teaching, and
Senior Associate Dean
Deborah C. Smith
Assistant Professor of Science Education
Department of Curriculum and Instruction
2 Member, National