Skip to content
ascd logo

Log in to Witsby: ASCD’s Next-Generation Professional Learning and Credentialing Platform
December 1, 2006
Vol. 64
No. 4

EL Study Guide / Science in the Spotlight

author avatar

If it's true that, as Alan Leshner says in the interview that leads off this issue (p. 8), “Virtually every major issue facing global society today has science and technology at its core,” then it's important that educators become comfortable talking with young people about questions that touch on science and technology. Whether teachers teach science or not, they guide students who will see scientific breakthroughs impinge on their lives and future options in barely imaginable ways.

The Intersection of Science and Values

Consider Leshner's statement thatThe current increase in tension [between science and society in general] is coming about because scientific advances in many fields are beginning to encroach on issues of core human values....Those kinds of issues sometimes conflict with people's long-held beliefs about the world.
Describe a time in which you found a scientific advance or discovery—such as in health care, environmental issues, or technology options—bumping up against a preconceived value or practice you have long held. How did this affect your desire to learn more about the new scientific information?

Are Science Standards Feasible?

Several articles in this issue point out the strong correlation between a science teacher's high level of content knowledge in her or his chosen area of science and high student achievement. But as Gerald F. Wheeler (“Strategies for Science Education Reform,” p. 30) points out, many educators feel that national state science standards contain far too many elements to realistically cover in the amount of instruction time typically available. A majority of the science teachers polled by the National Science Teachers Association assert that a uniform set of national science content standards would help them do their jobs better—presumably by helping them keep better versed on content in the area of science they teach.
  • Acquire a copy of your state's required standards for science content and skills for the grade level or grade band you teach. If possible, discuss with science teacher colleagues their opinions on how realistic it is to cover this amount of content in any depth.
  • Observe one of these teacher's science classes several times during a two-week period, and look over copies of readings used in that period. Record how many of the state standards are at least partially addressed by class work in this time frame. Debrief with the teacher(s) and report back to the group.
To approach a realistic set of national science standards, Wheeler proposes that educators and policymakers:identify 100 concept topics for each grade band (K–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12) that all state standards share. Those “Science Anchors” could be mapped onto the national science standards. Identifying these common elements would give all stakeholders...a common target to build toward.
Invite several science teachers to a portion of one of your group meetings to discuss the feasibility of this proposal. Would pinpointing a core set of science standards that can fully be covered in a school year help both specialized and general classroom teachers teach from a firmer grounding in science content and concepts? What should some of these fundamental concepts be?

Mainly for Science Teachers: What Goes on in Science Classes?

  • Does the TIMSS's conclusion of too much activity for activity's sake, untethered to content, ring true to your experience teaching science and being trained to teach? What about in terms of the content, stated goals, and direction of textbooks and packaged modules or lesson plans for teaching science—or in popular after-school commercial offerings?
  • Look over your lesson plans for a recent science unit you taught. Were most of the activities clearly linked to scientific content?
  • Does the connection between science concepts and classroom activities always need to be explicitly spelled out for students? Is there value in having students plunge into challenging science-related activities and letting them do the work of connecting these explorations to bigger ideas? Consider what Bill Robertson says about whether it's possible to teach prescribed content through inquiry science (“Getting Past Inquiry Versus Content,” p. 67). How does the process he recommends relate to the possible need to firmly anchor high-interest activities or projects in content?

Naomi Thiers is the managing editor of Educational Leadership.

Learn More

ASCD is a community dedicated to educators' professional growth and well-being.

Let us help you put your vision into action.
From our issue
Product cover image 107029.jpg
Science the Spotlight
Go To Publication