The development of the National Science
was guided by certain
principles. Those principles are
- Science is for all students.
- Learning science is an active
- School science reflects the
intellectual and cultural traditions
that characterize the practice of
- Improving science education is
part of systemic education reform.
accompanied the incorporation of these
principles into standards. Tension also will
arise as the principles are applied in
school science programs and classrooms. The
following discussion elaborates upon the
principles and clarifies some of the
SCIENCE IS FOR ALL
STUDENTS. This principle is one of
equity and excellence. Science in our
schools must be for all students: All
students, regardless of age, sex, cultural
or ethnic background, disabilities,
aspirations, or interest and motivation in
science, should have the opportunity to
attain high levels of scientific literacy.
Teaching Standard B,
Assessment Standard D,
Program Standard E, and
System Standard E]
assume the inclusion
of all students in challenging science
learning opportunities and define levels of
understanding and abilities that all should
develop. They emphatically reject any
situation in science education where some
people--for example, members of certain
populations--are discouraged from pursuing
science and excluded from opportunities to
Excellence in science
education embodies the ideal that all
students can achieve understanding of
science if they are given the opportunity.
The content standards describe
outcomes--what students should understand
and be able to do, not the manner in which
students will achieve those outcomes.
Students will achieve understanding in
different ways and at different depths as
they answer questions about the natural
world. And students will achieve the
outcomes at different rates, some sooner
than others. But all should have
opportunities in the form of multiple
experiences over several years to develop
the understanding associated with the
The commitment to science
for all students has implications for both
program design and the education system. In
particular, resources must be allocated to
ensure that the Standards
do not exacerbate the
differences in opportunities to learn that
currently exist between advantaged and
disadvantaged students. [See
Program Standard D and
System Standard D]
LEARNING SCIENCE IS AN
ACTIVE PROCESS. Learning science is
something students do, not something that is
done to them. In learning science, students
describe objects and events, ask questions,
acquire knowledge, construct explanations of
natural phenomena, test those explanations
in many different ways, and communicate
their ideas to others. [See
Teaching Standard B]
In the National Science
, the term "active
process" implies physical and mental
activity. Hands-on activities are not
enough--students also must have "minds-on"
experiences. Science teaching must involve
students in inquiry-oriented investigations
in which they interact with their teachers
and peers. Students establish connections
between their current knowledge of science
and the scientific knowledge found in many
sources; they apply science content to new
questions; they engage in problem solving,
planning, decision making, and group
discussions; and they experience assessments
that are consistent with an active approach
Learning science is something
students do, not something that is done
Emphasizing active science
learning means shifting emphasis away from
teachers presenting information and covering
science topics. The percieved need to
include all the topics, vocabulary, and
information in textbooks is in direct
conflict with the central goal of having
students learn scientific knowledge with
SCHOOL SCIENCE REFLECTS
THE INTELLECTUAL AND CULTURAL TRADITIONS
THAT CHARACTERIZE THE PRACTICE OF
CONTEMPORARY SCIENCE. To develop a rich
knowledge of science and the natural world,
students must become familiar with modes of
scientific inquiry, rules of evidence, ways
of formulating questions, and ways of
proposing explanations. The relation of
science to mathematics and to technology and
an understanding of the nature of science
should also be part of their education.
An explicit goal of the
National Science Education Standards
is to establish high
levels of scientific literacy in the United
States. An essential aspect of scientific
literacy is greater knowledge and
understanding of science subject matter,
that is, the knowledge specifically
associated with the physical, life, and
earth sciences. Scientific literacy also
includes understanding the nature of
science, the scientific enterprise, and the
role of science in society and personal
life. The Standards
recognize that many
individuals have contributed to the
traditions of science and that, in
historical perspective, science has been
practiced in many different cultures. [See
definition of science literacy]
Students should develop an
understanding of what science is, what
science is not, what science can and
cannot do, and how science contributes
Science is a way of knowing
that is characterized by empirical criteria,
logical argument, and skeptical review.
Students should develop an understanding of
what science is, what science is not, what
science can and cannot do, and how science
contributes to culture.
EDUCATION IS PART OF SYSTEMIC EDUCATION
REFORM. National goals and standards
contribute to state and local systemic
initiatives, and the national and local
reform efforts complement each other. Within
the larger education system, we can view
science education as a subsystem with both
shared and unique components. The components
include students and teachers; schools with
principals, superintendents, and school
boards; teacher education programs in
colleges and universities; textbooks and
textbook publishers; communities of parents
and of students; scientists and engineers;
science museums; business and industry; and
legislators. The National Science
provide the unity of
purpose and vision required to focus all of
those components effectively on the
important task of improving science
education for all students, supplying a
consistency that is needed for the long-term
Although terms such as
"scientific literacy"and "science content
and curriculum" frequently appear in
education discussions and in the popular
press without definition, those terms have a
specific meaning as used in the National
Science Education Standards
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. It also
includes specific types of abilities. In the
National Science Education Standards
, the content
standards define scientific literacy.
Scientific literacy means
that a person can ask, find, or determine
answers to questions derived from curiosity
about everyday experiences. It means that a
person has the ability to describe, explain,
and predict natural phenomena. Scientific
literacy entails being able to read with
understanding articles about science in the
popular press and to engage in social
conversation about the validity of the
conclusions. Scientific literacy implies
that a person can identify scientific issues
underlying national and local decisions and
express positions that are scientifically
and technologically informed. A literate
citizen should be able to evaluate the
quality of scientific information on the
basis of its source and the methods used to
generate it. Scientific literacy also
implies the capacity to pose and evaluate
arguments based on evidence and to apply
conclusions from such arguments
Individuals will display
their scientific literacy in different ways,
such as appropriately using technical terms,
or applying scientific concepts and
processes. And individuals often will have
differences in literacy in different
domains, such as more understanding of
life-science concepts and words, and less
understanding of physical-science concepts
Scientific literacy has
different degrees and forms; it expands and
deepens over a lifetime, not just during the
years in school. But the attitudes and
values established toward science in the
early years will shape a person's
development of scientific literacy as an
Scientific literacy implies that
a person can identify scientific issues
underlying national and local decisions
and express positions that are
scientifically and technologically
CONTENT AND CURRICULUM.
The content of school science is broadly
defined to include specific capacities,
understandings, and abilities in science.
The content standards are not a science
curriculum. Curriculum is the way content is
delivered: It includes the structure,
organization, balance, and presentation of
the content in the classroom. [See
Program Standard B]
The content standards are
not science lessons, classes, courses of
study, or school science programs. The
components of the science content described
can be organized with a variety of emphases
and perspectives into many different
curricula. The organizational schemes of the
content standards are not intended to be
used as curricula; instead, the scope,
sequence, and coordination of concepts,
processes, and topics are left to those who
design and implement curricula in science
Curricula often will
integrate topics from different
subject-matter areas--such as life and
physical sciences--from different content
standards--such as life sciences and science
in personal and social perspectives--and
from different school subjects--such as
science and mathematics, science and
language arts, or science and history.
UNDERSTANDING. Implementing the
National Science Education Standards
acquisition of scientific knowledge and the
development of understanding. Scientific
knowledge refers to facts, concepts,
principles, laws, theories, and models and
can be acquired in many ways. Understanding
science requires that an individual
integrate a complex structure of many types
of knowledge, including the ideas of
science, relationships between ideas,
reasons for these relationships, ways to use
the ideas to explain and predict other
natural phenomena, and ways to apply them to
many events. Understanding encompasses the
ability to use knowledge, and it entails the
ability to distinguish between what is and
what is not a scientific idea. Developing
understanding presupposes that students are
actively engaged with the ideas of science
and have many experiences with the natural
inquiry refers to the diverse ways in which
scientists study the natural world and
propose explanations based on the evidence
derived from their work. Inquiry also refers
to the activities of students in which they
develop knowledge and understanding of
scientific ideas, as well as an
understanding of how scientists study the
natural world. [See Content Standards A
[9-12] & G[K-4]
[9-12] (all grade levels)][See
Teaching Standard B]
Inquiry is a multifaceted
activity that involves making observations;
posing questions; examining books and other
sources of information to see what is
already known; planning investigations;
reviewing what is already known in light of
experimental evidence; using tools to
gather, analyze, and interpret data;
proposing answers, explanations, and
predictions; and communicating the results.
Inquiry requires identification of
assumptions, use of critical and logical
thinking, and consideration of alternative
explanations. Students will engage in
selected aspects of inquiry as they learn
the scientific way of knowing the natural
world, but they also should develop the
capacity to conduct complete inquiries.
Although the Standards
this should not be interpreted as
recommending a single approach to science
teaching. Teachers should use different
strategies to develop the knowledge,
understandings, and abilities described in
the content standards. Conducting hands-on
science activities does not guarantee
inquiry, nor is reading about science
incompatible with inquiry. Attaining the
understandings and abilities described in
Chapter 6 cannot be achieved by any single
teaching strategy or learning experience.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY.
As used in the Standards
, the central
distinguishing characteristic between
science and technology is a difference in
goal: The goal of science is to understand
the natural world, and the goal of
technology is to make modifications in the
world to meet human needs. Technology as
design is included in the Standards
as parallel to
science as inquiry.
Technology and science are
closely related. A single problem often has
both scientific and technological aspects.
The need to answer questions in the natural
world drives the development of
technological products; moreover,
technological needs can drive scientific
research. And technological products, from
pencils to computers, provide tools that
promote the understanding of natural
The use of "technology" in
the Standards is
not to be confused with "instructional
technology," which provides students and
teachers with exciting tools--such as
computers--to conduct inquiry and to
understand science. [See Content Standard
E (all grade levels)[K-4]
Additional terms important
to the National Science Education
Standards , such
as "teaching," "assessment," and
"opportunity to learn," are defined in the
chapters and sections where they are used.
Throughout, we have tried to avoid using
terms that have different meanings to the
many different groups that will be involved
in implementing the Standards
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