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--> Introduction The education of future generations may be the single most important challenge that this nation faces. Traditionally, society has placed the burden of kindergarten through twelfth-grade science education on teachers. However, educational systems are changing, and schools and communities are joining together to implement systemwide reforms in science education. Public and professional support for national science education standards was a catalyst for change. In 1991, a group of science education associations asked the National Research Council (NRC) to coordinate development of national standards for content, teaching, and assessment for K-12 science education. In early November 1994, the first full draft of these standards was publicly released for a national review. Approximately 40,000 copies of the draft were disseminated to more than 140 focus groups, including state departments of education, local school districts, and professional societies across the country. Contributions from focus groups were incorporated into the final draft, which was released as the NRC's consensus report, National Science Education Standards (1995). The report provides a focus for discussions of reform among groups with a variety of interests. In the agricultural sector, shifts toward more diverse consumer-oriented food markets, competition for global trade, and increased safeguards for the environment are putting greater demands on agriculture's base in science and technology. Agriculture is no longer only about production, but also involves the entire food and fiber system. Universities and colleges need to continue to attract qualified students into the agricultural sciences. To do that, promotion of agricultural concepts within a framework of food and environmental systems would appeal to students and teachers. However, many scientists who have spent their entire careers in research laboratories feel ill equipped to work with K-12 students.
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--> Educators in K-12 classrooms are experienced with child development and pedagogy but know little about using inquiry—a key strategy for learning science. Scientists have traditionally provided advice on science content, but have not adequately communicated methods of inquiry. A question is raised as to appropriate roles for scientists in K-12 science education. Until recently, science education reform has been occurring at local, state, and national levels with little focus on the links between these levels. Although a wealth of experience is represented by the agricultural professional societies, increased specialization has created barriers across disciplines and with educators. This lack of integration has led academic scientists, professional societies, and the K-12 education community to view educational reform as their own separate agendas. As a result, teachers and scientists have little contact with each other. Without coordinated and sustaining support for teachers, the education of our nation's children could be at stake. Because of these concerns, strong interest developed in providing a forum where educators and professional societies could discuss the roles scientists can play to improve K-12 science education. On November 17-18, 1995, the National Research Council's Board on Agriculture and Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education convened a group of scientists and educators representing 42 professional societies to discuss ways in which examples from the agriculture, food, and environmental system can be used to enhance teaching of inquiry-based science. Educators shared their experiences in implementing the National Science Education Standards and provided their perspectives on teacher education, curriculum decisions and design, coordinating community resources, and sustaining support for science education reform. Scientists discussed their roles in undertaking education-related activities and new directions professional societies might take to make an impact on the quality of science education. The following proceedings summarize issues raised by forum participants and ideas to enhance collaboration between scientists and educators. The summary is limited to the views and opinions of those participating in the event. A National Vision Students should learn science for many reasons, and there are a number of advantages and outcomes if they do. Scientists agreed that children should understand and appreciate the richness of the world they live in—a world that they should and often do get excited about. ''Those of us who are engaged in science know what a rewarding venue it is for our own creativity,'' commented Paul Williams, plant pathologist at the University of Wisconsin and inventor of Fast Plants. "A challenge for us is to determine how best to convey the nature of science as we understand it to the generation that follows." Nurturing an interest in science is not a new concept. Paul Williams reminded the audience of 70 participants that, "It isn't as if this responsibility sud-
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--> denly arrived with the National Science Education Standards—the task has always been before us. We all know how precious and fragile the human characteristic of curiosity is. As parents we know that in young children curiosity is pristine, ever present, and unblemished. Our challenge as scientists concerned with education is how best to nurture and sustain this most valued human characteristic in our educational system through teachers and ensure that they experience the pleasures of science as we do." The professional societies represented at the forum consisted of scientists from highly specialized, agriculturally oriented disciplines. Each of the disciplines has adopted a set of highly specialized terminology to enhance communication. Paul Williams explained the limitations of that strategy. "This terminology essentially constitutes the secret language of science that isolates scientists from the public, teachers, and children. One of our primary responsibilities is to translate, into clear common language, the secret language of our diverse disciplines, so that we and they may engage in the exciting discourse that science will generate." There is a strong argument for a scientifically literate population, explained Harold Pratt, director of the K-12 Policy and Practice Division of the National Research Council's Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education. "A greater understanding of science can lead to a higher quality of life. Scientific principles can be applied to personal decision making and to discussions of scientific issues that affect society. Our nation's productivity will benefit from a work force well grounded in skills of science and technology." The National Science Education Standards The standards provide criteria for examining where education is today and a roadmap to where the nation wants education to be tomorrow. From a science education perspective, national standards have multiple meanings and multiple uses. First and foremost, they identify what students should know and be able to do at various grade levels and ages. Second, they specify the support needed for teachers and students: the resources, facilities, planning time, and opportunities for teachers to participate in decision-making processes. Beyond the classroom, the national standards describe program and system standards. At the forum, Harold Pratt guided participants through the National Science Education Standards (1996), concentrating on science content because that area is of great interest to scientists. The following four principles guided the development of the National Science Education Standards: Science is for all students. Science education should reflect the intellectual and cultural traditions of contemporary science. Learning science is an active, inquiry-based process. Improving science education is a part of a systemwide reform in education.
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--> Box 1 An Overview of the National Science Education Standards The National Science Education Standards defines the science content that all students should know and be able to do. Standards are provided for content, teaching, assessment, professional development, programs, and systems. They are based on the premise that learning science is something students do, not something that is done to them. They envision an active learning process in which students describe objects and events, ask questions, formulate explanations, test those explanations, and communicate their ideas to others. In this way, students build strong knowledge of science content, apply that knowledge to new problems, learn how to communicate clearly, and build critical and logical thinking skills. Content Standards The content standards describe the knowledge and abilities that K-12 students need to become scientifically literate. Scientific literacy is the knowledge of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision-making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity. The content standards are divided into eight categories: Unifying concepts and processes Science as inquiry Physical science Life science Earth and space science Science and technology Science in personal and social perspectives History and nature of science The first category of the standards, unifying concepts and processes, identifies powerful ideas that are basic to the science disciplines and help students of all ages to understand the natural world. This category is presented for all grade levels because the ideas are developed throughout a student's education. The other content categories are clustered for grades K-4, 5-8, and 9-12. Students develop knowledge and abilities in inquiry, which is the basis of learning in physical, life, earth, and space sciences. The science and technology category links the natural and designed worlds. The category of personal and social perspectives helps students to observe the personal and social impact of science and to develop decision-making skills. The history and nature of science category helps students to perceive science as a human experience that is ongoing and changing. Teaching Standards Science teaching is central to the vision of science education presented in the Standards. Teachers of science have theoretical and prac-
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--> tical knowledge about learning, science, and science teaching. The teaching standards describe the skills and knowledge teachers must have to teach science well. Teachers are encouraged by the National Science Education Standards to give less emphasis to fact-based programs and greater emphasis to inquiry-based programs with in-depth study of fewer topics. However, to attain the science education described in the National Science Education Standards, more areas than teaching practices and materials must change. The routines, rewards, structures, and expectations of districts, schools, and other parts of the school system must be used to endorse the vision, and teachers must be provided with resources, time, and opportunities to change their practice. Teachers can use the program and system standards to communicate that need to administrators and parents. Assessment Standards The assessment standards provide criteria to judge the progress of scientific literacy throughout the educational system. They can be used in preparing evaluations of students, teachers, programs, and policies. The assessment standards identify the essential characteristics of effective assessment policies, practices, and tasks. Teachers who use the assessment standards will think differently about what and where to assess, and the best way to determine what their students are learning. They will consider their students' fundamental understanding, their progress in developing understanding, and their need for alternative ways to demonstrate what they know. Professional Development Standards The professional development standards make the case that becoming an effective teacher of science is a continuous process, stretching from pre-service throughout one's professional career. The professional development standards can be used to help teachers of K-12 science to have ongoing, in-depth learning opportunities similar to those required by other professionals. Professional development standards call for teachers to have the following opportunities: Learn science through inquiry. Integrate knowledge of science, learning, and teaching.
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--> Engage in continuous reflection and improvement. Build coherent, coordinated programs for professional learning. Program Standards The program standards address the need for comprehensive and coordinated experience in science across grade levels and support for teachers so that all students have the opportunity to learn. The program standards will help schools and districts translate the National Science Education Standards into effective programs that reflect local contexts and policies. Effective science programs are designed to consider and draw consistency from the content, teaching, and assessment standards, as well as the professional development, program, and system standards. System Standards The system standards call on all parts of the educational system—including local districts, state education departments, and the federal educational system—to coordinate their efforts and build on one another's strengths. The system standards can serve as criteria for judging the effectiveness of components of the system responsible for providing schools with necessary financial and intellectual resources. The Road Ahead The changes required to achieve the vision of the National Science Education Standards are substantial and will continue well into the 21st century. No one group can implement them. The challenge of a National Science Education Standards-based science program extends to everyone within the educational community. Change will occur locally, and differences in individuals, schools, and communities will result in different ways to improve the system, different rates of progress, and different school science programs. What is important is that change be pervasive and sustainable, leading to high-quality science education for all students. SOURCE: National Research Council. 1997. Introducing the National Science Education Standards. National Academy Press: Washington, D.C. For ordering information on National Science Education Standards or Introducing the National Science Education Standards, call the National Academy Press Bookstore at (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 or browse the National Research Council's World Wide Web site at: http://www.nap.edu/.
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--> Figure 1 A systemic view of the National Science Education Standards Source: Harold Pratt, National Research Council. The National Science Education Standards report describes content as the specific capacities, understandings, and abilities in science, whereas curriculum is the structure, organization, balance, and presentation of the content in the classroom. The eight broad categories of science-content standards for K-12 (listed in Box 1, above) represent a wider definition of content than was used in the past and include the basic principle of learning science through inquiry. According to the National Science Education Standards, inquiry "requires that students combine processes and scientific knowledge as they use scientific reasoning and critical thinking to develop their understanding of science." The intention of the National Science Education Standards is to describe "the abilities to carry out an investigation, as well as the understanding of the nature of the inquiry and experimental processes." Scientists were eager to discuss the content standards, and clearly some were concerned that the National Science Education Standards contained few refer-
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--> ences to food, fiber, and renewable resources. Vernon Cardwell, professor of agronomy at the University of Minnesota, asked for help in identifying opportunities where examples from agriculture could address the content areas of the National Science Education Standards. Understandably, many educators and scientists might have difficulty reconciling the interdisciplinary aspects of agriculture with the basic science categories listed in the National Science Education Standards. In his reply, Harold Pratt explained that the national standards were not designed to prescribe a particular curriculum or course of study. "If you look at the program standards, you see they advocate a variety of contexts for developing curriculum materials and teaching strategies. The curriculum can take many forms; the instruction can blend things together in a variety of ways. We simply needed a way to catalog outcomes—list the knowledge that we wanted students to achieve." According to the National Science Education Standards, assessment standards "provide criteria to judge progress toward the science education vision of scientific literacy for all. The standards describe the quality of assessment practices used by teachers and state and federal agencies to measure student achievement and the opportunity provided students to learn science." To this end, the National Science Education Standards incorporates assessment strategies as a feedback mechanism to measure the progress of reform throughout the educational system (see Figure 1). If scientists are going to be effective in reform efforts, they need to understand that science education is much larger than content. It also includes instructional strategies for inquiry-based science education, professional development opportunities for educators, sufficient financial and intellectual resources; and assessment strategies. Also important to the educational system are universities and colleges; science museums; science resource institutions; and parents. Addressing what students should learn without thinking about the total context or system in which they learn is short sighted. The National Science Education Standards provides a framework to unify all the interacting components needed to improve science education in the long term.
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