AMERICA’S LAB REPORT
Investigations in High School Science
Susan R. Singer, Margaret L. Hilton, and Heidi A. Schweingruber, Editors
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20001
NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by Grant No. ESI-0102582 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
America’s lab report : investigations in high school science / Committee on High School Science Laboratories—Role and Vision, Board on Science Education, Center for Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education; Susan R. Singer, Margaret L. Hilton, and Heidi A. Schweingruber, editors.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-309-09671-5—ISBN 0-309-55100-5 (pdf)
1. Science—Study and teaching (Secondary)—United States. 2. Education, Secondary—Curricula—United States. 3. Laboratories—Curricula—United States. I. Singer, Susan R. II. Hilton, Margaret L. III. Schweingruber, Heidi A. IV. National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on High School Science Laboratories: Role and Vision.
Additional copies of this report are available from the
National Academies Press,
500 Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu
Copyright 2006 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America.
Suggested citation: National Research Council. (2006). America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science. Committee on High School Science Laboratories: Role and Vision, S.R. Singer, M.L. Hilton, and H.A. Schweingruber, Editors. Board on Science Education, Center for Education. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.
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COMMITTEE ON HIGH SCHOOL SCIENCE LABORATORIES: ROLE AND VISION
SUSAN R. SINGER (Chair),
Department of Biology, Carleton College
HUBERT M. DYASI,
School of Education, City College of the City University of New York
Center of Science and Mathematics in Context, University of Massachusetts, Boston
PAMELA J. HINES,
Science/American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, DC
Chicago Public Schools
DAVID PAUL LICATA,
Pacifica High School, Garden Grove, CA
Department of Biological Science, California State University, Fullerton
WILLIAM A. SANDOVAL,
Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles
JAMES P. SPILLANE,
Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University
CARL E. WIEMAN,
Department of Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder
MARGARET L. HILTON, Study Director
HEIDI A. SCHWEINGRUBER, Program Officer
JEAN MOON, Director,
Board on Science Education
MARY ANN KASPER, Senior Program Assistant
BOARD ON SCIENCE EDUCATION
CARL E. WEIMAN (Chair),
Department of Physics and JILA, University of Colorado, Boulder
Cognitive Studies in Education, University of Washington, Seattle
WestEd, San Francisco
DAVID T. CONLEY,
Center for Educational Policy Research, University of Oregon, Eugene
BARBARA L. GONZALEZ,
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, California State University, Fullerton
LINDA D. GREGG,
TERC, Cambridge, MA
JENIFER V. HELMS,
Education Consultant, Denver, CO
JOHN R. JUNGCK,
Biology Department, Beloit College
ISHRAT M. KHAN,
Department of Chemistry, Clark Atlanta University
Department of Teaching and Learning, University of Miami, Coral Gables
Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University
RICHARD A. McCRAY,
Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences and JILA, University of Colorado, Boulder
LILLIAN C. McDERMOTT,
Department of Physics, University of Washington, Seattle
MARY “MARGO” MURPHY,
Georges Valley High School, Thomaston, ME
Merck Institute for Science Education, Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, NJ
MARY JANE V. SCHOTT,
The Charles A. Dana Center, University of Texas, Austin
SUSAN R. SINGER,
Department of Biology, Carleton College
Boston Museum of Science
JEAN MOON, Director
HEIDI A. SCHWEINGRUBER, Program Officer
ANDREW SHOUSE, Program Officer
LaSHAWN SIDBURY, Senior Program Assistant
It will soon be 25 years since Terrell H. Bell, Secretary of Education in the Reagan administration, commissioned a task force to examine the state of education in the United States. The work of this commission resulted in the 1983 report A Nation at Risk: An Imperative for Educational Reform, which detailed what was then a shocking report card on American education. The report became not only a rallying cry for an improved and equitable system of education but also an early framework for education reform. Regarding high school science education, A Nation at Risk made the following recommendation:
The teaching of science in high school should provide graduates with an introduction to: (a) the concepts, laws, and processes of the physical and biological sciences; (b) the methods of scientific inquiry and reasoning; (c) the application of scientific knowledge to everyday life; and (d) the social and environmental implications of scientific and technological development. Science courses must be revised and updated for both the college-bound and those not intending to go to college. (p. 25)
In the science education community, we continue to be challenged by the goals for science education set out in A Nation at Risk. The call for students to be familiar with the methods of science inquiry and reasoning and to understand the concepts and processes of the sciences remains a visible, but largely unmet, national educational goal. Indeed, this book describes what we know and do not know about the potential of laboratories to serve as effective science learning environments. The book defines
such environments as places in which students can practice scientific inquiry and reasoning, come to understand different kinds of knowledge claims that scientists make, and build their knowledge of science content.
Since A Nation at Risk was released, the remarkable advances in science and technology have produced even greater public concern over the quality of science education. One has only to think about the human genome project. Completed in April 2003, it provides the complete genetic blueprint for humans. It is hard to comprehend the long-term effects of this kind of scientific advancement. In educational terms, however, such discoveries raise local, state, and national expectations for science education. Today a majority of policy makers, scientists, educators, and parents agree that high school graduates must have a sophisticated grasp and appreciation of science and technology to participate fully in the work place, to understand their everyday decisions on matter ranging from health to energy resources to climate, and to participate as informed citizens in the civic realm.
Interest in science education is shared around the world, whether the country is industrialized or developing. It seems universally understood that effective science education is a critical component for advancing scientific and societal development. In the United States, laboratories have been a part of science education since the late 1800’s. Though educational goals for labs have shifted over time as have instructional materials and laboratory equipment, their presence as part of high school science has been consistent. Given the long history of laboratories in school science, the absence of consistent and well-grounded research on high school labs is troubling. America’s Lab Report begins to fill this important void.
America’s Lab Report is the first consensus study to be completed under the guidance of the Board on Science Education. On behalf of the board, we want to thank the ten experts who served on the study committee. Each study committee member brought a wealth of knowledge about the nature and enterprise of science, the teaching and learning of science, and the institutions of schools and schooling to their deliberations. It was a very thoughtful group of committee members who took their charge very seriously.
Chair of the study committee, Susan Singer, warrants special acknowledgment. Being chair for a National Research Council study is a timeconsuming commitment and one that invites patience. Susan’s persistence and insight into the process engendered a great deal of respect. The entire committee process was helped by the skillful work of Margaret Hilton, study director, and program officer Heidi Schweingruber. Each brought a unique set of talents to their work for which I am very grateful.
Finally, on behalf of the Board on Science Education, we want to thank the National Science Foundation staff for their initial conversations on this
very challenging topic, their turning to the board to undertake this work, and recognition of the board as the right oversight group, and their support of this study.
America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science is born of hours of sustained examination of a broad body of evidence by a diverse and uniquely qualified group of experts. The result is a previously unavailable synthesis of research that supports a compelling discussion of the evolving role of laboratories in advancing the goals of science education. Our hope for the report is that, in the spirit of A Nation at Risk, it will catalyze informed debate about laboratories and school science that leads to improvement of science education for our nation’s high school students.
Carl E. Wieman
Board on Science Education
Board on Science Education
The committee and staff thank the many individuals and organizations without whom this study could not have been completed.
First, we acknowledge the support of the National Science Foundation (NSF). We particularly thank NSF program officer Janice Earle, who consistently supported and encouraged the study committee and staff during the past year and a half. We are also grateful to James Lightbourne, who organized discussions among the NSF staff, which led to the request for the study.
Individually and collectively, members of the committee benefited from discussions and presentations by the many individuals who participated in our three fact-finding meetings. At the first meeting, the following individuals informed the committee about key issues affecting teaching and learning in high school science laboratories: David Hammer, associate professor of physics and of curriculum and instruction, University of Maryland; Sean Smith, senior research associate, Horizon Research, Inc.; Gerald F. Wheeler, executive director, National Science Teachers Association; Warren W. Hein, associate executive director, American Association of Physics Teachers; Angela Powers, senior education associate, teacher training, American Chemical Society; Michael J. Smith, former education director, American Geological Institute. We also thank Janet Carlson Powell, associate director, Biological Sciences Curriculum Study; Robert Tinker, president, The Concord Consortium; Jo Ellen Roseman, director, Project 2061; and George De Boer, deputy director, Project 2061, American Association for the Advancement of Science, for briefing the committee on the role of science curriculum materials and technology in high school science laboratory activities.
At its second meeting, the committee learned about a variety of factors influencing high school science laboratories, ranging from the nature of science to technology to state science assessments. We are grateful to each of the presenters, including: Jane Maienschein, professor and director of the Center for Biology and Society, Arizona State University; Robin Millar, professor of science education, University of York; Arthur Lidsky, president, Dober, Lidsky, Craig and Associates; Adam Gamoran, professor of sociology, University of Wisconsin; Marcia Linn, professor of development and cognition, University of California, Berkeley; Kefyn Catley, assistant professor of science education, Vanderbilt University; Mark Windschitl, associate professor, College of Education, University of Washington; Audrey Champagne, professor, Department of Educational Theory and Practice and Department of Chemistry, State University of New York at Albany; Thomas Shiland, science department chair, Saratoga Springs High School, NY; and Arthur Halbrook, senior project associate, Council of Chief State School Officers. We also thank the individuals who participated in panels addressing how financial and resource constraints and school organization influence laboratory teaching and learning. The panelists include: Daniel Gohl, principal, McKinley Technical High School, Washington, DC Public Schools; Shelley Lee, science education consultant, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction; Lynda Beck, former assistant head of school, Phillips Exeter Academy; and Kim Lee, science curriculum supervisor, Montgomery County Public Schools, VA.
We thank the following individuals who shared their expertise on student science learning with the committee at its final fact-finding meeting: Philip Bell, associate professor, College of Education, University of Washington; Richard Duschl, professor of science education, Rutgers University; Norman Lederman, professor of mathematics and science education, Illinois Institute of Technology; Okhee Lee, professor, School of Education, University of Miami; Sharon Lynch, professor of secondary education, George Washington University; Kenneth Tobin, professor of urban education, Graduate Center of City College, NY; Samuel Stringfield, principal research scientist, Johns Hopkins University Center for the Social Organization of Schools; Ellyn Daugherty, lead teacher, San Mateo High School Biotechnology Careers Pathway Program; Elaine Johnson, director, Bio-Link, City College of San Francisco; Robert Tai, assistant professor of science education, University of Virginia. At its last open session, the committee talked with a panel of master science teachers to learn about their approaches to laboratory teaching. We are grateful to each member of the panel, including Nina Hike-Teague, Curie High School, Chicago; Gertrude Kerr, Howard High School, Howard County, MD; Margot Murphy, George’s Valley High School, ME; Phil Sumida, Maine West High School, Des Plaines, IL; and Robert Willis, Ballou High School, Washington, DC.
Many individuals at the National Research Council (NRC) assisted the committee. The study would not have been possible without the efforts of Jean Moon, who quickly wrote the initial proposal in response to NSF’s request. Patricia Morison offered valuable suggestions at each committee meeting and during the review process, as well as providing helpful comments on several drafts of the report. Eugenia Grohman helped to focus the final committee meeting on the key messages and conclusions emerging from the study. We thank Kirsten Sampson Snyder, who shepherded the report through the NRC review process, Christine McShane, who edited the draft report, and Yvonne Wise for processing the report through final production. At an early stage in the study, Barbara Schulz invited us to a meeting with the Teacher Advisory Council, which provided practical insights into high school science laboratories. Brenda Buchbinder managed the finances of the project, and Viola Horek provided important organizational and administrative assistance. We are grateful to LaShawn Sidbury who arranged logistics for the first committee meeting. Finally, we would like to thank Mary Ann Kasper for her able assistance in supporting the committee at every stage in its deliberations and in preparing numerous drafts and revisions of the report.
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the Report Review Committee of the NRC. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
We thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Brian Drayton, Science Education, TERC, Cambridge MA; Kevin Dunbar, Department of Education, Dartmouth College; James W. Guthrie, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vanderbilt University; David G. Haase, Physics and The Science House, North Carolina State University; Thomas E. Keller, Science Education, Maine Department of Education, Augusta, ME; Vincent N. Lunetta, Science Education, and Science, Technology, Society (emeritus), Pennsylvania State University; Arlene A. Russell, School of Education and Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Los Angeles; James H. Stewart, Center for Biology, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Phil Sumida, Science Department, Maine West High School, Des Plaines, IL; and Ellen Weaver, Department of Biology (emeritus), San Jose State University.
Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions
and recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Michael E. Martinez, Department of Education, University of California, Irvine, and May Berenbaum, Department of Entomology, University of Illinois. Appointed by the NRC, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.