Looking Back to Look Forward

On Monday I found myself working with a group of science education leaders from around Washington state. Craig Gabler from ESD 113 brought an old copy of Science in the Elementary Grades from the Centralia School District written in the early 1960s. I opened the document to the first page and found the following text.

Science education has three facets. The one is content, the other method, and the third is attitude.

All too frequently, teachers of science become too involved in the content of science.  In reality, science taught in this fashion becomes just another reading or lecture course. Hence, the methods that lead the learner to develop hypotheses from observation, checking these hypotheses or guesses for validity, and eventually arriving at a conclusion, are important. Finally, the accepting of a proven conclusion, even though it is apparently contrary to fact in the attitudinal area is a necessity. Therefore, content, method, attitude assume different roles in science than in teaching history, reading, etc. Content is arrived at through method to change attitude. Science becomes a way of thinking, a method for solving problems, a retreat from the thoroughly emotional plane of living.

This text made me think of how we are still struggling to meet this vision for science instruction 50 years later… We may not use the same terminology but the gist is the same.  So as we embark on the next generation of science standards, how will these standards be different? How will they help us to change and grow and improve our instruction? Or will someone just stumble on a dusty tattered copy of the NGSS document in the year 2062 and think, “We are still trying to do that”.

4 responses to “Looking Back to Look Forward

  1. Gosh I hope things are really, truly changing. I hope we’re learning from our past mistakes, and I hope we’re seeing how we must teach content and process. I honestly do think we’re in the middle of a paradigm shift. It may be glacier-slow, but I see real movement across the nation.

    I hope I’m seeing things as they really are.

    • Hi Lee,
      I agree that there is momentum for changes to happen.. but I also worry about how we tend to implement standards in educational systems. I worry that we lose the big picture and focus on things that don’t truly change our practices. I didn’t share this piece to be a “downer” but more as a reminder that the changes we are trying to make have been tried previously, so what are we (as leaders, teachers, parents, etc) going to do differently this time to make a real difference for all kids as science learners.
      Kirk

  2. Very interesting- thanks for sharing this! There is very little under the sun that is truly new (especially in education). However, I think that there is a lot of power in getting a critical mass pulling in the same direction. A major difference I see in the NGSS effort is the potential for buy-in in states across the nation into a single, shared vision for what good science education looks like. I think that will really help educators share the best materials, practices, and ideas with one another.

    That doesn’t mean that all these issues will be solved in 2062- I bet people will be struggling with the same problems because they are not the kind of problems that are ever “solved”. You could look at it like we’re grappling with the right problems (rather than some educational fad) if it’s been grappled with many times before.

    • Thanks for taking time to add your thoughts here Adam- I agree that there is lots of power in having a shared vison for science education. And I am very hopeful -despite the tone of the original post 🙂 I just worry that the NGSS themselves will not be used to their full potential or that the “implementation” of them will be handled in a shallow way. Hope you will keep contributing here.
      Kirk

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