Future Roles for Professional Societies and Scientists

Many opportunities exist for professional societies to contribute individually or collectively to K-12 education. Each society should be committed to science education and work to implement the goals of the National Science Education Standards. In addition, teachers and schools need help to improve the teaching and learning process, including the tools and techniques that they use. Professional societies can use their creativity to enhance the teaching and learning of children.

Umbrella Organization

The discussions in the forum clearly showed that every society was devoting more and more energy toward promoting educational materials and addressing K-12 issues. An explosion of programs is creating an information overload for K-12 classroom teachers and making distribution and dissemination difficult. Although individual members of societies have made individual contributions to science education reform, linking their activities would be more effective.

Participants suggested that information technologies will be important to effective communication. The World Wide Web might be a good way for societies to communicate with educators and other societies; more importantly, electronic connectivity will enhance access to information and new collaborations among teachers, scientists, and students.

The participants agreed that an umbrella organization was needed to provide leadership for moving the new science education standards forward. Various groups in the technical community are convening conferences to discuss education reform. For example, Sigma Xi had a conference in 1994 and published the



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--> Future Roles for Professional Societies and Scientists Many opportunities exist for professional societies to contribute individually or collectively to K-12 education. Each society should be committed to science education and work to implement the goals of the National Science Education Standards. In addition, teachers and schools need help to improve the teaching and learning process, including the tools and techniques that they use. Professional societies can use their creativity to enhance the teaching and learning of children. Umbrella Organization The discussions in the forum clearly showed that every society was devoting more and more energy toward promoting educational materials and addressing K-12 issues. An explosion of programs is creating an information overload for K-12 classroom teachers and making distribution and dissemination difficult. Although individual members of societies have made individual contributions to science education reform, linking their activities would be more effective. Participants suggested that information technologies will be important to effective communication. The World Wide Web might be a good way for societies to communicate with educators and other societies; more importantly, electronic connectivity will enhance access to information and new collaborations among teachers, scientists, and students. The participants agreed that an umbrella organization was needed to provide leadership for moving the new science education standards forward. Various groups in the technical community are convening conferences to discuss education reform. For example, Sigma Xi had a conference in 1994 and published the

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--> proceedings: Science, Educators, and the National Standards: Action at the Local Level. A similar topic was the subject of a recent National Research Council report: The Role of Scientists in the Professional Development of Science Teachers in 1996. Scientists are interested in finding a logical group to coordinate the professional societies. Just who could commit to that responsibility is unclear. Representatives suggested that a strategic plan be developed to identify roles individual professional societies could play in an umbrella organization. Although some participants suggested that the National Research Council be a convener, Carla Carlson, former staff member of the Board on Agriculture, indicated that some opportunities might exist already to integrate various society activities. Participants pointed out that duplication of organizational efforts could be avoided by working with an established national group, such as the Coalition for Education about Environment, Food, Agriculture, and Renewable Resources (CEEFAR). Certainly, the umbrella organizational concept is a topic that deserves more discussion within each professional society. Participants also discussed having regional or local gatherings. One of the benefits of having local meetings would be that scientists and educators could meet more easily and create connections that could be developed later. Resocialization of Academe In many cases, university scientists are interested in participating in K-12 education, but obstacles to gaining their widespread support remain. College and university faculty and administrators will need to coordinate their efforts in planning activities and course work for practicing and prospective teachers. Incentives to involve scientists in K-12 educational reform should be considered. Some scientists might become involved, but in general, such activities are not valued at the university level; the requirements for promotion and tenure make it more difficult to get involved in reform activities. Educators point out that scientists are often reluctant to volunteer for K-12 classroom activities (see Box 4). Thus, incentives to encourage scientists to participate in K-12 science education should be discussed. Scientists are concerned that university administrators do not encourage them to participate in K-12 education. Universities will need to address faculty rewards, particularly scholarships, awards, promotions, tenure, and publication opportunities. Based on the discussion, a suggestion was made that the professional societies could help to solve the problem of rewards by returning to their local universities to work with faculty administrators to develop rewards for faculty involvement in K-12 education. Paul Williams noted "that part of the reason that we're here today is to begin to wrestle with the resocialization of academe within the hierarchy of the tenure system, so that it is acceptable, in fact desirable, to encourage transitions." Many participants felt that the professional societies

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--> BOX 4 Involving Scientists in K-12 Education Kathy Scoggin, Minneapolis Marcy Open School "One of the best examples occurred this fall. I was doing a river watch, and I was planning to take all the kids down the river and collect little critters and do a count of water quality. I decided that I would really like an aquatic entomologist to come with me because I didn't know enough. So, in my naiveté, I called the university, and said, 'Would you like to come?' They said, 'No, try this number.' So about 5 numbers later, I finally got a student who had just finished her graduate studies. She'd had a career as a physical therapist, her children had grown up, she went back to college, and she decided, "I really did always like insects; that's what I'm going to learn about this time." So instead of being a physical therapist anymore she decided to become an entomologist. She didn't have a job yet, so the professor suggested that I try her. This is after I'd been turned down a number of times. I called her, she said, 'Sure, I'll come in.' It was the best thing I've done all year. She brought more nets with her than I had, and she brought collecting cans; I learned things from her about the logistics of how I was going to do this with all of those kids and make it safe and meaningful. And she learned all about those kids because she couldn't believe that they'd be so excited and want to know about these critters—'What is that?' and 'Do you see this one doing that?' and 'Look, there's one on top of another one!' when they'd find little parasites. She was so excited she said she would come back and began suggesting other projects. She learned a whole different thing about schools because she was there with kids, and I learned from her because I needed to know more about entomology to do a decent job. It wouldn't have happened if it hadn't been a one-to-one kind of thing; if we had just met and talked about it, it wouldn't have been the same. If you are interested in going a little bit beyond sharing your content knowledge, I think you need to try being there, seeing what it's like, volunteering for half a day." should have a role in that process, but that the changes must come from within the university. "I guess what I'm thinking is that our professional societies need to work out, within the context of their own cultures, some sort of operative structures that work for our particular cultures, that enable younger people with the desire and

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--> the zeal to do something for teachers in this context," Paul Williams continued. "As far as I'm concerned, this means encouraging them, letting them go, and changing the way we evaluate tenure on our university campuses so that they are recognized for the kind of contributions that they are making. Those are huge changes for academe to take; they're larger at some institutions than others; but they're all integral to this reform movement that we're talking about. I don't have the solution, but when I go back I know what I can do on my own turf. I think that your challenge, as representatives of your societies, is to ask how can you mobilize that notion in the individuals back in your own institutions. I think that the professional societies have an important role in validating the transitioning of faculty or or staff members, and in changing the structure of the universities and colleges so that they recognize this kind of interface as important to the whole system's future." The Value of the Forum Judith Williams summed up the value of the forum for participating teachers. "When I started teaching, it was my own little classroom . . . if we truly believe in our students and their outcomes and science education, it has got to become a partnership, and we've got to recognize each other's needs and what we can do together, or it's our students, our children, our grandchildren, our neighbors' children who will pay the price." In speaking for participants, William DeLauder indicated that, "Several challenging and exciting things have been presented at this workshop, but they do not necessarily lead societies down the same path. It is obvious from the comments of the different groups that goals of cooperation, coordination, and communication are shared among participants. How best to achieve these is obviously the dilemma. It also is very important to recognize the tremendous implications of K-12 reform for higher education and all formal and informal educational endeavors. Scientific societies have been primarily research based. If societies are to have impact, then it must be recognized that the National Science Education Standards don't say anything about agriculture. You find "food" and "renewable resources" twice. But their absence provides societies with the opportunity to address how agricultural sciences affect the application when we get down into the frameworks and the curricula. That is the challenge.'' Agricultural professional societies have performed a broad range of services in higher education, adult learning, and provision of technologies. Societies need to consider how they can enhance early student learning in science and emphasize K-12 education.

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