explanations, teachers may select texts that characterize historical developments in science and that depict disagreements and how those are handled in science. These initial efforts will not necessarily help students learn how to operate in a scientific community, but they will help them see that argumentation and competing ideas are essential to science.
In addition to school system educators, many groups influence science education in the United States. Parents, scientific societies, museums and science centers, universities, publishers, and community organizations can all play an important role in supporting science learning. Each of these groups can work individually and together to advance science education, and we urge them to think about their work in terms of the research basis for science learning.
The science teaching and learning taking place in American classrooms today could and should do much more. Students should be able to build on the knowledge they bring to the classroom, pose good questions, find ways to explore those questions, investigate and evaluate alternative models, and argue their points of view.
With an increasingly diverse student population and persistent gaps in science achievement, the goal of scientific proficiency for all students may seem difficult to achieve. It is important to remember that young children come to school with a strong foundation of basic reasoning skills, knowledge of the natural world, and innate curiosity. In order to tap into these skills, teachers need to be sensitive to their students’ shared strengths as well as the ways in which each student is different. Teachers need to be willing and able to acquire or deepen their science content knowledge, and they need to be supported to take calculated risks in embracing instructional approaches that have been shown to benefit all students. This is possible when teachers act on the premise that, regardless of previous experience, existing knowledge, and cultural and linguistic differences, each and every one of their students is capable of learning science.
Much work still needs to be done to identify the best ways to bring about the kind of science instruction we describe in this book. But enough is known now to begin to move forward in the right direction. Research has shown us how much students can achieve in effective science learning environments. It has shown us what science education can and should be and where it needs to go. So let’s get going! Ready, set, science!