International Geoscience Educators' Perceptions of Approaches to K-12 Science Education for the 21st Century

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ABSTRACT

Several different approaches to formal science education have been advocated by professionals in science education in the United States. Their efforts, ideas, and research have influenced the directions of global science education. The purpose of this study was to explore international geoscience education professionals' priorities for science education for the new millennium. A survey was conducted to determine the perceptions of seven literature-based approaches to science education among 51 professionals (15 different countries) who participated in the third International Geoscience Education Conference. Results indicated that the 'Integration' approach was the top choice, followed by a choice emphasizing 'Conceptual Change.' Years of teaching were not significantly related to participants' perceived importance of each approach, but national origin was related. Among the three major participant countries, Australia, U.S.A., and Japan, Japanese participants rated two approaches (Education Technology and Internet Based Teaching & Learning) as less important than did Australian and U.S. participants. For the other five approaches respondents' opinions were not significantly different at α = .05.

BACKGROUND

Trends and issues of science education have been affected by social, industrial, economic, and international situations, resulting in a history of repeated requests for reform. For example, after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, U.S. science education developed an approach focused on the logical structure of the disciplines and on the processes of science (DeBoer, 1991). As McCormack (1992) described, learning through hands-on investigations became the emphasis of science teaching and learning for nearly two decades. Under the National Science Foundation's (NSF) support, many new programs and curriculum projects were developed in the U.S. during the 1960s (e.g., the Science Curriculum Improvement Study (SCIS), Science-A Process Approach (SAPA), the Earth Science Curriculum Project (ESCP), the Physical Science Study Committee (PSSC), the Biological Science Curriculum Study (BSCS)). However, "by the end of the 1960s, largely out of a recognition of the curriculum projects' failure to achieve some of the more important social goals of science teaching, a new theme [scientific literacy] began to emerge in the discussions of science educators." There was a new movement toward "the development of scientific literacy and a revitalized emphasis on the relationship between science and society that had been interrupted by the disciplinary studies of the 1960s and late 1950s" (DeBoer, 1991, p. 172).

In the 1970s and '80s, the importance of the relationship between science and society aligned with the phrase STS (Science-Technology-Society) (Bybee and DeBoer, 1994). Science education content was filled with discussions of STS themes in an approach that was humanistic, value oriented and relevant to a wide range of personal, societal, and environmental concerns.

During the 1990s, concerns about the quality and effectiveness of science education resulted in several major efforts directed toward restructuring the science curriculum, including Project 2061 of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS, 1989, 1993, 1998) and the Scope, Sequence, and Coordination project of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA, 1992). In addition, the National Science Education Standards, which are designed to foster science literacy for all in the 21st centurv, were established by the National Research Council (1996).

Historically, the ideas, opinions, and research of U.S. professionals have had a great impact on the direction of science education globally. U.S. institutions train new international professionals, and U.S. scholars serve as visiting experts abroad, influencing various issues and approaches to the teaching of science through their prestige and support. …

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