Seven Questions with NSTA's Executive Director Gerald Wheeler. (Science)

By Ezarik, Melissa | Curriculum Administrator, August 2001 | Go to article overview

Seven Questions with NSTA's Executive Director Gerald Wheeler. (Science)


Ezarik, Melissa, Curriculum Administrator


Q: What trends in science education should administrators recognize?

A: The trends continue to be focused on reform. Released in 1996, the National Science Education Standards, which established inquiry-based learning as the key to effective science teaching, is driving reform efforts nationwide. Many states have adopted new content standards based on NSES, but ... the challenge is to gain greater understanding among leaders and greater comfort among educators. Reform must also include curricula that are not burdened by too many topics.

[A recent NSTA] survey of science teachers found that 56 percent want professional development delivered via distance learning. As a result, NSTA is working to develop and channel [online] professional development programs.

Q: What is the greatest challenge facing science education today, and how do the NSTA's efforts help meet this challenge?

A: Ensuring support and training for science teachers. If we expect our students to meet high standards, we must give teachers opportunities to update their knowledge and skills. We must also support mentoring programs to encourage and support new teachers.

Professional development is the cornerstone of NSTA's efforts. We recently launched the NSTA Institute [to link] our professional development activities and [provide] a framework for offering diverse programs in a variety of formats.

Q: What do you see as the ideal relationship between the NSTA and schools?

A: We'd like schools to consider NSTA a partner and resource for professional growth for teachers of science. Whether it's an NSTA convention, one of our teacher journals or an Internet course, we offer a multitude of opportunities. Partnerships ... already exist through NSTA's Building a Presence for Science program, [which enlists] advocates for science in every school building. Now established in nearly 25 states, the program's network is connecting teachers and promoting the vision of the NSES. Our goal is to have every state on board.

Q: When making decisions about science education, what is the most important thing for administrators to consider?

A: We encourage administrators to tap one of the best resources they have by bringing teachers into all phases of the decision-making process [involving] science. …

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