curriculum by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) indicates that all curricular content is typically represented as of equal importance, with little attention to its interconnections or functionality. According to Roseman, Kesidou, Stern, and Caldwell (1999), authors of the AAAS report, the science texts evaluated by AAAS included many classroom activities that either were irrelevant to learning key science ideas or failed to help students relate their activitiy to science ideas.
Science curriculum has long been criticized as reflecting an impoverished and misleading model of science as a way of knowing (e.g., Burbules and Linn, 1991; Hewson and Hewson, 1988). Methods of science dominate the school science curriculum, with little emphasis on the role of theory, explanation, or models. More contemporary views of science (Giere, 1991, 1999; Solomon, 2001; Longino, 1990) “as a multidimensional interaction among the models of scientists, empirical observation of the real world, and their predictions” are seldom included (Osborne et al., 2003, p. 715).
Although there are notable exceptions to this pattern, most K-8 curricula would appear to at least exacerbate the epistemological shortcomings with which children enter school. In the words of Reif and Larkin (1991, p. 733): “Science taught in schools is often different from actual science and from everyday life. Students’ learning difficulties are thus increased because scientific goals are distorted and scientific ways of thinking are inadequately taught.”
Another factor that needs to be considered in understanding and attribution of children’s shortcomings in this regard is teachers’ understanding of science as a way of knowing (Akerson, Abd-El-Khalick, and Lederman, 2000). The epistemic cognition literature has documented shortcomings in students at all levels of study, including college and beyond. It is not surprising that shortcomings in the understanding of science as a way of knowing have been identified in K-8 teachers.
A small literature of classroom-based design studies indicates that these limitations may be at least to some degree ameliorable by instruction. Design studies, in which researchers create conditions favorable to students’ learning about the scientific enterprise, show that elementary and middle school students can develop their understanding of how scientific knowledge develops (Carey et al., 1989; Khishfe and Abd-El-Khalick, 2002), including a more sophisticated understanding of the nature and purpose of scientific models (Gobert and Pallant, 2001; Schwartz and White, 2005). With appropriate supports for learning strategies of investigation, children can generate meaningful scientific questions and design and conduct productive scientific investigations (e.g., Metz, 2004; Smith et al., 2000).
For example, in the small elementary school in which she was the lone science teacher, Gertrude Hennessey was able to systematically focus the lessons on core ideas built cumulatively across grades 1-6. She chose to