science and constructive practices K-8 science educators can enact in local settings.
The report has four major parts. Part I sets the stage for and includes this introductory chapter and Chapter 2, which addresses the goals of science education and our working model of scientific proficiency. What we call the strands of scientific proficiency are a touchstone throughout the report. We view science proficiency as multifaceted and the strands as interrelated, although for descriptive and analytic purposes we discuss the strands individually.
Part II tackles how students learn science. Chapter 3 provides a summary of the building blocks for science learning that are in place before children enter school. Chapters 4 through 7 map roughly onto the strands of scientific proficiency and summarize research that provides insight into how students’ proficiencies in each strand develop and can be supported across grades K-8. Chapter 4 describes children’s understanding of the natural world and how their understanding of scientific explanations can be fostered. Chapter 5 describes the processes involved in generating and evaluating scientific knowledge with specific attention to the role of prior knowledge and experience. Chapter 6 describes what students understand and what they can learn about epistemology and the nature of science. Chapter 7 describes the challenges to engaging students in science and the experiences that can help them become full participants in science classrooms.
Part III addresses the implications of research on science learning for educational settings, focusing in particular on K-8 schools. Chapter 8 builds from the research findings in Part II to develop the idea of learning progressions in science, which characterize how student learning of complex scientific notions might unfold given sustained instructional support over grades K-8. Chapter 9 summarizes current research on pedagogy, examining the central features that are common to current research-based instructional programs. This chapter includes a discussion of classroom-based assessment in science. In Chapter 10 we describe conditions in K-8 classrooms and schools that support quality science instruction, including the teachers’ knowledge of science, teaching, and learning; the necessary ongoing opportunities for teacher learning; and a coherent instructional system.
Part IV spells out our conclusions and recommendations for practice and research. Drawing from across the volume, Chapter 11 recapitulates the major findings and implications of the current research base on K-8 science learning. Here we also make recommendations for specific actors in the education system and lay out an agenda for the next generation of science learning research.