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Suggested Citation:"Appendix D." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Appendix D:
Introducing the National Science Education Standards*

What are the National Science Education Standards?

The National Research Council released the National Science Education Standards in December of 1995. The Standards define the science content that all students should know and be able to do and provide guidelines for assessing the degree to which students have learned that content. The Standards detail the teaching strategies, professional development, and support necessary to deliver high quality science education to all students. The Standards also describe policies needed to bring coordination, consistency, and coherence to science education programs.

The National Science Education Standards include standards for

  •   

    Content

  •   

    Teaching

  •   

    Assessment

  •   

    Professional Development

  •   

    Program

  •   

    System

Why do we need the Standards?

  •   

    Understanding science offers personal fulfillment and excitement.

  •   

    Citizens need scientific information and scientific ways of thinking in order to make informed decisions.

  •   

    Business and industry need entry-level workers with the ability to learn, reason, think creatively, make decisions, and solve problems.

*  

National Research Council. 1997. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; Available from National Academy Press, 1 (800) 624-6242. Mail your order to National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Ave., NW, Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix D." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×
  •   

    Strong science and mathematics education can help our nation and individual citizens improve and maintain their economic productivity.

  • Who developed the Standards?

    Committees and working groups of scientists, teachers, and other educators appointed by the National Research Council developed the Standards. They engaged in a four-year process that involved review and critique by 22 science education and scientific organizations and broad state and local participation of over 18,000 individuals, including scientists, science educators, teachers, school administrators, and parents. The national consensus that resulted from this process gives the Standards a special credibility. Educators throughout the country who use them to inform changes in science education programs can be assured that the Standards represent the highest quality thinking this country can provide its citizens.

    The vision of the Standards:

    All students, regardless of age, gender, cultural or ethnic background, disabilities, aspirations, or interest and motivation in science, should have the opportunity to attain high levels of scientific literacy.

    Guiding Principles behind the Standards

    •   

      Science is for all students.

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      Learning science is an active process.

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      School science reflects traditions of contemporary science.

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      Improving science is part of systemwide educational reform.

    How do students learn science?

    The Standards are based on the premise that learning science is something that students do, not something that is done to them. The Standards 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.

    Suggested Citation:"Appendix D." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
    ×

    Through their study of science, students

    •   

      Experience the richness and excitement of the natural world

    •   

      Apply scientific principles and processes to make personal decisions

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      Discuss matters of scientific and technological concern

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      Increase their potential contribution to society and to the economy

    What should students know and be able to do?

    The Content Standards describe the knowledge and abilities students need to develop, from kindergarten through high school, in order to become scientifically literate.

    What is scientific literacy? Scientific literacy is the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity. People who are scientifically literate can ask, find, or determine answers to questions about everyday experiences. They are able to describe, explain, and predict natural phenomena.

    Scientific literacy has different degrees and forms; it expands and deepens over a lifetime, not just during the years in school. The Standards outline a broad base of knowledge and skills for a lifetime of continued development in scientific literacy for every citizen, as well as provide a foundation for those aspiring to scientific careers.

    How are the National Science Education Standards different from the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Benchmarks for Science Literacy?

    The documents differ in three ways. First, they divide content by different grade levels. The Benchmarks are statements of what all students should know and be able to do in science, mathematics, and technology by the end of grades 2, 5, 8, and 12; the Standards use grades 4, 8, and 12 as end points. Second, the Standards place greater emphasis on inquiry, including it as important science content as well as a means of teaching and learning. Third, the Standards offer a broader set of standards for improving science education. They address all components of education, including teaching, assessment, professional development, program, and system, recognizing that improvement cannot occur or be sustained in one segment of the system alone. There is, however, a high level of consistency between the two documents in describing the content to be learned. The National

    Suggested Citation:"Appendix D." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
    ×

    Research Council believes that the use of the Benchmarks complies fully with the spirit of the content standards.

    What is included in content standards?

    Content standards are divided into eight categories:

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      Unifying concepts and processes

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      Science as inquiry

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      Physical science

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      Life science

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      Earth and space science

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      Science and technology

    •   

      Science in personal and social perspectives

    •   

      History and nature of science

    The content standards include traditional school science content but, in addition, encompass other knowledge and abilities of scientists. The first category of the content standards, unifying concepts and processes, identifies powerful ideas that are basic to the science disciplines and help students of all ages understand the natural world. This category is presented for all grade levels because the concepts 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 ground their learning of subject matter in physical, life, and earth and space sciences. Science and technology standards link the natural and designed worlds. The personal and social perspectives standards help students see the personal and social impacts of science and help them develop decision-making skills. The history and nature of science standards help students see science as a human experience that is on-going and ever-changing.

    What do teachers of science do?

    The Teaching Standards provide an answer to this question. Science teaching lies at the heart of the vision of science education presented in the Standards. Effective teachers of science have theoretical and practical knowledge about student learning, science, and science teaching. The teaching standards describe actions these teachers take and skills and knowledge they have to teach science well.

    Suggested Citation:"Appendix D." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
    ×

    CONTENT STANDARDS

     

    Grades K-4

    Grades 5-8

    Grades 9-12

    Unifying Concepts and Processes

    Systems, order, and organization

    Evidence, models, and explanation

    Change, constancy, and measurement

    Evolution and equilibrium

    Form and function

    Systems, order, and organization

    Evidence, models, and explanation

    Change, constancy, and measurement

    Evolution and equilibrium

    Form and function

    Systems, order, and organization

    Evidence, models, and explanation

    Change, constancy, and measurement

    Evolution and equilibrium

    Form and function

    Science as inquiry

    Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry

    Understandings about scientific inquiry

    Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry

    Understandings about scientific inquiry

    Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry

    Understandings about scientific inquiry

    Physical Science

    Properties of objects and materials

    Position and motion of objects

    Light, heat, electricity, and magnetism

    Properties and changes of properties in matter

    Motions and forces Transfer of energy

    Structure of atoms

    Structure and properties of matter

    Chemical reactions Motions and forces

    Conservation of energy and increase in disorder

    Interactions of energy and matter

    Life Science

    Characteristics of organisms

    Life cycles of organisms

    Organisms and environments

    Structure and function in living systems

    Reproduction and heredity

    Regulation and behavior

    Populations and ecosystems

    Diversity and adaptations of organisms

    The cell

    Molecular basis of heredity

    Biological evolution

    Interdependence of organisms Matter, energy, and organization in living systems

    Behavior of organisms

    Earth and Space Science

    Properties of earth materials

    Objects in the sky

    Changes in earth and sky

    Structure of the earth system

    Earth's history

    Earth in the solar system

    Energy in the earth system

    Geochemical cycles

    Origin and evolution of the earth system

    Origin and evolution of the universe

    Science and Technology

    Abilities of technological design

    Understandings about science and technology

    Abilities to distinguish between natural objects and objects made by humans

    Abilities of technological design

    Understandings about science and technology

    Abilities of technological design

    Understandings about science and technology

    Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

    Personal health

    Characteristics and changes in populations

    Types of resources

    Changes in environments

    Science and technology in local challenges

    Personal health

    Populations, resources, and environments

    Natural hazards

    Risks and benefits

    Science and technology in society

    Personal and community health

    Population growth

    Natural resources

    Environmental quality

    Natural and human-induced hazards

    Science and technology in local, national, and global challenges

    History and Nature of Science

    Science as a human endeavor

    Science as a human endeavor

    Nature of science

    History of science

    Science as a human endeavor

    Nature of scientific knowledge

    Historical perspectives

    Suggested Citation:"Appendix D." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
    ×

    Teachers of science

    • Plan an inquiry-based science program
    • Guide and facilitate learning
    • Assess student learning and their own teaching
    • Design and manage learning environments
    • Develop communities of science learners
    • Participate in on-going development of the school science program

    How can teachers apply the Standards in their classrooms? Individual teachers are encouraged by the Standards to give less emphasis to fact-based programs and greater emphasis to inquiry-based programs that engage students in an in-depth study of fewer topics. However, to attain the vision of science education described in the Standards, more than teaching practices and materials must change. The routines, rewards, structures, and expectations of districts, schools, and other parts of the system must endorse the vision, and provide teachers with resources, time, and opportunities to change their practice. Teachers can use the program and system standards to communicate this need to administrators and parents.

    How is science learning assessed?

    The Assessment Standards provide criteria to judge progress across the system toward the science education vision of scientific literacy for all. They can be used in preparing evaluations of students, teachers, programs, and policies.

    Assessments should

    • Be deliberately designed for the decisions they are intended to inform
    • Measure both achievement and opportunity to learn
    • Clearly relate decisions to data
    • Demonstrate fairness in design and use
    • Support their inferences with data

    Will the Standards help teachers test their students more effectively? Teaching and testing are integral components of instruction, and cannot be separated. As content and teaching strategies

    Suggested Citation:"Appendix D." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
    ×

    become aligned with the Standards, so must classroom assessments. The assessment standards identify essential characteristics of effective assessment policies, practices, and tasks at all levels. Teachers who use the standards will think differently about what to assess, when to do so, and the best ways to determine what their students are learning. They will consider carefully the fundamental understandings their students are working to learn, the place their students are in developing understanding, and a variety of alternatives to help their students demonstrate what they know.

    Will standardized tests change? The Standards address the need for systems to reconsider the purpose, data analysis, and sample size in all large-scale assessments. There are already indications that changes in items on common standardized tests are being considered, as are the designs used by states, districts, and others who conduct large-scale science assessments.

    What do teachers need to know and how will they learn it?

    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 have the on-going, in-depth kinds of learning opportunities that are required by and available to all professionals.

    Professional Development Standards call for teachers to have opportunities to

    •   

      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

    How will teachers gain the science content knowledge they need? To help their students achieve high levels of science literacy, teachers need to understand deeply the content they teach. Building science knowledge

    •   

      Involves active investigation

    •   

      Focuses on significant science

    •   

      Uses scientific literature and technology

    Suggested Citation:"Appendix D." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
    ×
    •   

      Builds on teachers' current knowledge

    •   

      Encourages on-going reflection

    •   

      Supports collaboration among teachers

    How will teachers improve their science teaching? Effective teachers of science have specialized knowledge that combines their understanding of science with what they know about learning, teaching, curriculum, and students. They develop this unique type of knowledge through both pre-service and inservice learning experiences that

    •   

      Deliberately connect science and pedagogy

    •   

      Model effective teaching practices

    •   

      Address the needs of teachers as adult learners

    •   

      Take place in classrooms and other learning situations

    •   

      Use inquiry, reflection, research, modeling, and guided practice

    What is an effective school science program?

    The Program Standards address the need for comprehensive and coordinated science experiences across grade levels and support needed by teachers in order for all students to have opportunities to learn. The program standards will help schools and districts translate the Standards into effective programs that reflect local contexts and policies.

    Program Standards call for

    •   

      Consistency across all elements of the science program and across K-12

    •   

      Quality in the program of studies

    •   

      Coordination with mathematics

    •   

      Quality resources-teachers, time, materials

    •   

      Equitable opportunities for achievement

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      Collaboration within the school community to support a quality program

    Quality Programs of Study

    •   

      Include all content standards

    •   

      Select developmentally appropriate content

    •   

      Emphasize student understanding through inquiry

    •   

      Connect science to other subjects

    Suggested Citation:"Appendix D." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
    ×

    Are the Standards a science curriculum? Curriculum is the way content is designed and delivered. It includes the structure, organization, balance, and presentation of the content in the classroom. The Standards do not prescribe a specific curriculum but, rather, provide criteria that can be used at the local, state, and national levels to design a curriculum framework, a key element in a school or district's science program, or to evaluate and select curriculum materials. Effective science programs are designed to consider and draw consistency from the content, teaching, and assessment standards, as well as professional development, program, and system standards.

    How does the system support science learning?

    The System Standards call on all parts of the educational system—including local districts, state departments of education, and the federal education system—to coordinate their efforts and build on one another's strengths. The standards can serve as criteria for judging the performance of components of the system responsible for providing schools with necessary financial and intellectual resources.

    System Standards require

    •   

      Policies consistent with vision of the Standards

    •   

      Coordination of policies within and across system

    •   

      Continuity of support over time

    •   

      Sufficient resources to support program

    •   

      Equitable policies

    •   

      Attention to anticipated effects

    •   

      Individual responsibility for achieving the vision

    The road ahead.

    The changes required to achieve the vision of the Standards are substantial and will take well into the 21st century. No one group can implement them. The challenge of a Standards-based science program extends to everyone within the education community. Change will occur locally, and differences in individuals, schools, and communities will result in different pathways to improvement, 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.

    Suggested Citation:"Appendix D." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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    Suggested Citation:"Appendix D." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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    Suggested Citation:"Appendix D." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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    Suggested Citation:"Appendix D." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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    Suggested Citation:"Appendix D." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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    Suggested Citation:"Appendix D." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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    Suggested Citation:"Appendix D." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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    Suggested Citation:"Appendix D." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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    Suggested Citation:"Appendix D." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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    Today's undergraduate students--future leaders, policymakers, teachers, and citizens, as well as scientists and engineers--will need to make important decisions based on their understanding of scientific and technological concepts. However, many undergraduates in the United States do not study science, mathematics, engineering, or technology (SME&T) for more than one year, if at all. Additionally, many of the SME&T courses that students take are focused on one discipline and often do not give students an understanding about how disciplines are interconnected or relevant to students' lives and society.

    To address these issues, the National Research Council convened a series of symposia and forums of representatives from SME&T educational and industrial communities. Those discussions contributed to this book, which provides six vision statements and recommendations for how to improve SME&T education for all undergraduates.

    The book addresses pre-college preparation for students in SME&T and the joint roles and responsibilities of faculty and administrators in arts and sciences and in schools of education to better educate teachers of K-12 mathematics, science, and technology. It suggests how colleges can improve and evaluate lower-division undergraduate courses for all students, strengthen institutional infrastructures to encourage quality teaching, and better prepare graduate students who will become future SME&T faculty.

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