Ten Questions to Ask Your Neighborhood School About Local Science Education
Is science literacy for all high-school graduates a major goal of the K-12 program?
Throughout their school years, all students—not just those with scientific careers in mind—should be gaining knowledge and skills in science and mathematics to prepare them to live in a world increasingly shaped by science and technology.
What guidelines do teachers and school administrators use to improve student learning?
Teachers can take advantage of documents such as Science for All Americans, Benchmarks for Science Literacy, and National Science Education Standards (or state guidelines based on them) to see how their own textbooks, teaching strategies, and tests compare. These documents represent the best thinking of hundreds of teachers, scientists, and learning researchers on what students should know and be able to do at various grade levels.
What provisions are made in the curriculum for students of different interests, talents, and ambitions?
Flexibility in teaching and classroom materials rather than a “one-size-fits-all” approach is needed to reach all students.
What is the proportion of girls and minority students enrolled in advanced classes?
Curriculum and teaching styles should foster the success of all students, with particular attention to encouraging those who have traditionally been underrepresented in science and mathematics courses.
Are students learning connected concepts rather than simply memorizing isolated facts, formulas, and technical terms?
Making meaningful links among related scientific ideas helps students retain what they’ve learned and provides a strong framework for future learning.
Is the learning active?
Students learn better if their instruction includes observing, collecting, sorting, and using tools to measure, design, record, and analyze. Students also need time to reflect on what they have learned and to practice communicating their procedures and findings effectively.
Do teachers welcome curiosity, reward creativity, and encourage healthy questioning?
Students should be encouraged to think and work in ways that are characteristic of science and mathematics, which include having some healthy skepticism, an open mind, and an appreciation of the practicality and the beauty of science.
Are teachers given encouragement, time, and resources to update their own skills and knowledge?
Teachers benefit greatly from discussing ideas about practices and materials with one another. They also need the opportunity to take courses and participate in workshops about research on effective instruction and current scientific knowledge.
Do teachers look for and deal with students’ misconceptions about how the world works?
Research shows that students come to school with persistent ideas of their own—some correct and some not—about almost every topic likely to be encountered in the science curriculum. Teachers should help students understand scientific views by finding out about their ideas and addressing them directly.
Do teachers at different grade levels work together to clarify what ideas will be learned when?
Continuity of learning is important. Teachers need to discuss learning goals across grade levels so that students tackle more complex ideas only after they have learned simpler ones.
1998. Ten Questions to Ask Your Neighborhood School About Local Science Education.