dren interact with science. In schools, for example, the organizational, human capital, policy, and material considerations that support science learning emerge as influential. This report also delves into particular parts of this broader picture and includes analysis of supports for teaching science (e.g., instructional systems, teacher knowledge, and professional development). Wherever possible we have tried to focus on the qualities of learning and contexts that are unique to science. Consequently, we steer clear of a broad range of factors that have clear implications for student learning of science (e.g., inequitable school funding, teacher workforce), but that are beyond the scope of this study.
This report is an effort to reconcile multiple evidence bases on science learning, in order to render a clear image of what is known collectively about how students across grades K-8 learn science. Synthesizing research from across diverse scholarly perspectives, the report details what is known about how K-8 students learn science in and out of school; what is known about curriculum, assessment, and instructional environments that support learning; and what are the science-specific resources and policies that support instructional systems. The report is intended to inform policy makers, researchers, and education practitioners.
This report builds on an earlier NRC report, How People Learn (1999a), which provided a concise description of the state of cognitive research, and it follows in the tradition of a series of reports that focus on learning in specific subject matter areas. These include Starting Out Right (National Research Council, 1999b) and Adding It Up (National Research Council, 2001a), consensus studies on reading and mathematics, respectively. The discussion of assessment of student learning expands on the research synthesis presented in Knowing What Students Know (National Research Council, 2001b). Discussion of large-scale assessment systems to meet the demands of the No Child Left Behind Act is beyond the scope of the current report. This topic is addressed in the report Systems for State Science Assessment (National Research Council, 2005).
The current volume also serves as the basis for a forthcoming guide on science learning targeted to K-8 practitioners. Whereas the current report is addressed to policy, research, and practice audiences, the practitioner guide will be addressed specifically to science education practitioners, ranging from classroom teachers, to curriculum developers, and to people who specialize in teacher professional development and assessment. The practitioner guide will focus on the findings from the current volume that are most relevant to practitioners and translate them in a clear, nontechnical manner through extended classroom-based scenarios illustrating how students learn