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America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science
ing and influenced by federal needs. In physics, for example, federally funded efforts to develop nuclear weapons led research to focus increasingly at the atomic level. In order to maintain public funding while reducing unwanted public pressure on research directions, the scientists sought to use curriculum redesign as a way to build the public’s faith in the expertise of professional scientists (Rudolph, 2002). They wanted to emphasize the humanistic aspects of science, portraying science as an essential element in a broad liberal education. Some scientists sought to reach not only the select group who might become future scientists but also a slightly larger group of elite, mostly white male students who would be future leaders in government and business. They hoped to help these students appreciate the empirical grounding of scientific knowledge and to value and appreciate the role of science in society (Rudolph, 2002).
Changing Views of the Nature of Science
While this shift in the goals of science education was taking place, historians and philosophers were proposing new views of science. In 1958, British chemist Michael Polanyi questioned the ideal of scientific detachment and objectivity, arguing that scientific discovery relies on the personal participation and the creative, original thoughts of scientists (Polanyi, 1958). In the United States, geneticist and science educator Joseph Schwab suggested that scientific methods were specific to each discipline and that all scientific “inquiry” (his term for scientific research) was guided by the current theories and concepts within the discipline (Schwab, 1964). Publication of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Kuhn, 1962) a few years later fueled the debate about whether science was truly rational, and whether theory or observation was more important to the scientific enterprise. Over time, this debate subsided, as historians and philosophers of science came to focus on the process of scientific discovery. Increasingly, they recognized that this process involves deductive reasoning (developing inferences from known scientific principles and theories) as well as inductive reasoning (proceeding from particular observations to reach more general theories or conclusions).
Development of New Science Curricula
Although these changing views of the nature of science later led to changes in science education, they had little influence in the immediate aftermath of Sputnik. With NSF support, scientists led a flurry of curriculum development over the next three decades (Matthews, 1994). In addition to the physics text developed by the PSSC, the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) created biology curricula, the Chemical Education Materials group created chemistry materials, and groups of physicists created Intro-