prior conceptions about a subject and facilitate the necessary processes of conceptual change and development. Finally, when one looks at science as a process of participation in the culture of scientific practice, attention is drawn to the ways in which children’s individual cultural and social backgrounds can, on one hand, create barriers to science participation and learning due to possible conflicts of cultural norms or practices with those of science, and, on the other hand, provide opportunities for contributions, particularly from students from nonmainstream cultures, that enrich the discourse in the science classroom. One also sees a range of practices, such as model building and data representation, that each in itself is a specific skill and thus needs to be incorporated and taught in science classrooms.
It is thus clear that multiple strategies are needed, some focused primarily on key skills or specific knowledge, others on particular conceptual understanding, and yet others on metacognition. The issues of what children bring to school and of how teaching can build on it to foster robust science learning with this rich multiplicity of aspects are the core topics of this report.
Understanding science is multifaceted. Research has often treated aspects of scientific proficiency as discrete. However, current research indicates that proficiency in one aspect of science is closely related to proficiency in others (e.g., analytic reasoning skills are greater when one is reasoning about familiar domains). Like strands of a rope, the strands of scientific proficiency are intertwined. However, for purposes of being clear about learning and learning outcomes, the committee discusses these four strands separately (see Box 2-1 for a summary).
The strands of scientific proficiency lay out broad learning goals for students. They address the knowledge and reasoning skills that students must eventually acquire to be considered fully proficient in science. They are also a means to that end: they are practices that students need to participate in and become fluent with in order to develop proficiency.
Students who are proficient in science:
know, use, and interpret scientific explanations of the natural world;
generate and evaluate scientific evidence and explanations;
understand the nature and development of scientific knowledge; and
participate productively in scientific practices and discourse.
The strands are not independent or separable in the practice of science, nor in the teaching and learning of science. Rather, the strands of scientific proficiency are interwoven and, taken together, are viewed as science as