A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Increasing Opportunities for Student Learning

By Keller, Thomas E.; Pearson, Greg | Technology and Engineering Teacher, February 2012 | Go to article overview

A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Increasing Opportunities for Student Learning


Keller, Thomas E., Pearson, Greg, Technology and Engineering Teacher


In this article, we introduce engineering and technology teachers to the process that led to the National Research Council's framework for K-12 science education and some of its content and delve into the dimensions of the framework that should be of most interest to engineering and technology teachers. We conclude by outlining our ideas for possible next steps teachers can take to improve instruction, taking the framework into consideration.

Introduction

In July of 2011, the National Research Council released a report that provided a vision for science education for all K-12 students in the nation. While this alone is an ambitious goal, the task given to the eighteen-member study committee was to also:

* Identify a small set of core ideas in each of the major science disciplines as well as those ideas that cut across disciplines, using a set of criteria developed by the committee.

* Develop guidance on implementation of the framework.

* Articulate how the disciplinary ideas and cross-cutting ideas intersect for at least three grade levels.

* Create examples of performance expectations.

* Discuss implications of various goals for science education (e.g., general science literacy, college preparation, and workforce readiness) on the priority of core ideas and articulation of learning expectations.

* Develop a research and development plan to inform future revisions of the standards.

The committee was composed of nine members of the National Academy of Sciences or National Academy of Engineering and nine members who were learning scientists, educational researchers, or educational policymakers or practitioners (NRC, 2011, Appendix C). In developing the framework, they drew upon current research on learning, research, and evaluation evidence on standards-based education reform, and past and existing efforts relevant to science education standards.

To help the committee undertake this important work, four design teams were established to conduct preliminary research and develop draft materials for consideration by the full committee (NRC, 2011, Appendix D). Committee work was informed by the philosophy that, while there is need for change in K-12 science education, pushing the system too fast and too far could result in abandonment of the effort. Traditional pillars of science--earth and space sciences, life sciences, and physical sciences--constituted three of the design teams and, based on foundational work done on engineering education, a fourth team was formed on engineering and technology. These teams, directed by a leader in each educational area, consisted of more practitioners than were on the committee, the operating theory being that the design teams would provide an important level of detailed input, and the committee would be the consensus body that would integrate the four areas, balance potential disciplinary imbalances, and decide what was included and what was not included.

Both the committee and design teams carefully reviewed past reports and current efforts to establish what had been done, how well it had been done, and what new works were of most importance. Clearly the AAAS Project 2061 reports, the National Science Education Standards, development of a new framework for the 2009 Science NAEE ITEEA's Standards for Technological Literacy, and the redesign of the AP program underway by the College Board were important. Two reports from the National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council--Engineering in K-12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects and Standards for K-12 Engineering Education--were also consulted. These two reports helped the committee make the case for addressing some aspects of engineering education alongside science education in Grades 1(-12.

Indeed, setting the bounds was one of the first tasks of the committee as it developed this framework. …

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