Using science specialists may be a particularly useful strategy in schools and systems in which current K-5 teachers lack science knowledge and confidence in their ability to teach science.
Not much research has been done on the benefits of using subject matter specialists, and the results of these studies are mixed. Evidence suggests that teacher leaders can have an important influence on their peers’ practice, although such arrangements tend to be more common in schools that are acting on a number of fronts simultaneously. Schools with teacher leaders in science also tend to have students who do better in science, at least when such science specialists are embedded within broader reform efforts.
As research has made clear, teachers have not had access to the kinds of professional learning opportunities necessary for effective science teaching. Much remains to be learned about the connection between what teachers know and how their knowledge affects student learning. Future research will need to focus on a range of topics, from the effectiveness of professional learning support groups to the value of analyzing student work. In the meantime, educators and administrators will need to implement good reflective practice until research provides a more definitive direction.
Many schools and school systems are not currently poised to plan and enact a whole-scale systemic shift to support K-8 science in all of the ways described in this book. But this should not deter progress. Individuals and groups can take steps forward on specific aspects of this agenda. We describe some of the specific ways individuals can make incremental changes to build a system that supports K-8 science education locally.
Administrators play a critical role in supporting high-quality science education. This book describes some of the features of good science instruction that administrators can encourage teachers to initiate and that they themselves can look for in classrooms. Administrators can play an important role in encouraging everyone—teachers, students, curriculum and assessment professionals, and teacher educators—to revisit basic assumptions about science and how students learn it. Curriculum and assessment developers and professional development staff, for