TABLE 1-1 New Approaches Included in Post-Sputnik Science Curricula


New Post-Sputnik Curricula

Traditional Science Curricula

Time of development

After 1955

Before 1955


Nature, structure, processes of science

Knowledge of scientific facts, laws, theories, applications

Role of laboratories

Integrated into the class routine

Secondary applications of concepts previously covered

Goals for students

Higher cognitive skills, appreciation of science


SOURCE: Shymansky, Kyle, and Alport (1983). Reprinted with permission of Wiley-Liss, Inc., a subsidiary of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

teacher (or both) derived the concept from the experimental data, usually during a classroom discussion; and (3) concept application in which the student applied the concept (Karplus and Their, 1967). Evaluations of the instructional materials, which were targeted to elementary school students, revealed that they were more successful than traditional forms of science instruction at enhancing students’ understanding of science concepts, their understanding of the processes of science, and their positive attitudes toward science (Abraham, 1998). Subsequently, the learning cycle approach was applied to development of science curricula for high school and undergraduate students. Research into these more recent curricula confirms that “merely providing students with hands-on laboratory experiences is not by itself enough” (Abraham, 1998, p. 520) to motivate and help them understand science concepts and the nature of science.

In sum, the new approach of integrating laboratory experiences represented a marked change from earlier science education. In contrast to earlier curricula, which included laboratory experiences as secondary applications of concepts previously addressed by the teacher, the new curricula integrated laboratory activities into class routines in order to emphasize the nature and processes of science (Shymansky, Kyle, and Alport, 1983; see Table 1-1). Large meta-analyses of evaluations of the post-Sputnik curricula (Shymansky et al., 1983; Shymansky, Hedges, and Woodworth, 1990) found they were more effective than the traditional curriculum in boosting students’ science achievement and interest in science. As we discuss in Chapter 3, current designs of science curricula that integrate laboratory experiences

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement