Resources for Science Literacy: Professional Development
Helping teachers understand and use science literacy goals
This resource can be read online.
Support continues to grow for the science literacy goals in Project 2061’s Science for All Americans and Benchmarks for Science Literacy and the National Research Council’s National Science Education Standards. Yet much remains to be done before teachers and students across the country can reach those goals. For example, educators must themselves be literate in science, mathematics, technology, and their interconnections. They must know how to teach in ways that will help students understand and retain the most important concepts. And they must be able to select curriculum materials that meet benchmarks and standards.
The Role of Teachers in Reform
For these reforms to succeed, a new kind of professional development is needed—one that emphasizes the role of teachers as decision makers and provides them with the knowledge and skills necessary to understand and effectively work toward science literacy. Even teachers who have a firm grounding in the science content and are confident that they can work toward science literacy often find other obstacles that impede reform. For example, they may not have access to the most current education research, they may be unsure about how Benchmarks relates to national standards in science and mathematics, or they may need help in determining whether curriculum materials match specific learning goals.
To help educators overcome these difficulties, Project 2061 has created its first CD-ROM tool, Resources for Science Literacy: Professional Development. The CD-ROM contains six components that can be used by higher education faculty in planning pre-service education, by school districts in designing in-service staff development programs, and by teachers for self-guided study of the learning goals in Science for All Americans and Benchmarks.
A New Approach to Professional Development
With this new CD-ROM, Project 2061 introduces the first professional development tool to be based on learning goals such as benchmarks and standards. Resources for Science Literacy: Professional Development provides science educators with an understanding of science literacy, what it requires of students, and how teachers can help students achieve it. The wealth of material and information presented on the CD-ROM can serve as the cornerstone of a long-term professional development program that will enhance both content knowledge and teaching craft.
Organized around the goals presented in Science for All Americans, Resources offers a carefully selected collection of bibliographies, research findings, comparisons of Benchmarks to national standards documents, college course plans, and a diverse set of workshop designs that will help educators to:
Expand their knowledge of science, mathematics, and technology content. Without further study, few teachers can be expected to master all of the topics in Science for All Americans and how they interconnect. With its database of descriptions of more than 120 books for general readers dealing with many areas of science, technology, and mathematics, the Science Trade Books component of the CD-ROM can help teachers at all levels fill in gaps in their content knowledge. The database can be searched by Science for All Americans chapters and sections so that users can compile a reading list around those topics. This component can be used as a guide for teachers’ reading and discussion groups; as an acquisitions aid for libraries and teacher resource centers in schools and districts; as a source for recommended supplementary reading in undergraduate courses; and as part of any in-service professional development program that focuses on science content.
For higher education faculty, the College Courses component contains descriptions and analyses of 15 undergraduate courses that attempt to foster science literacy. Links in the descriptions direct the user to relevant chapters and sections of Science for All Americans. The descriptions, some of which discuss how the courses contribute to student learning, can serve as discussion points for developers of pre-service and in-service programs aimed at science literacy. They might also guide teachers as they explore on their own a specific area of science, mathematics, or technology. In addition, the set of questions used to analyze the courses for their contribution to science literacy can be applied to other courses and materials.
Use Benchmarks and national standards more effectively. To help educators deal with the complex task of sorting out national, state, and local guidelines for the various disciplines, Resources for Science Literacy includes Comparisons of Benchmarks to National Standards. Users can examine detailed analyses of how Benchmarks relates to the national content recommendations for science, mathematics, and social studies. In particular, the comparison of Benchmarks and National Science Education Standards makes it much easier for educators to work with both benchmarks and standards when making decisions about curriculum, instruction, and assessment.
Study difficulties students have in learning Benchmarks ideas. To successfully teach topics from Benchmarks, educators should know what to expect of students at various grade levels. Yet many educators may not have access to the latest education research. Curriculum developers and teachers can use the Cognitive Research component as a guide to findings on how students understand and learn specific concepts that are essential to science literacy. Benchmarks’ Chapter 15: The Research Base and its accompanying bibliography are supplemented with a new collection of references to articles on research findings in teacher journals. This research literature sheds light on the ability of students of various ages to understand many of the topics in Science for All Americans and Benchmarks, provides rationale for the placement of benchmarks, and identifies common preconceptions that students may hold.
Design workshops to prepare teachers for reform. After Benchmarks for Science Literacy was published in 1993, Project 2061 staff, teachers, and education consultants designed a variety of workshops to help educators consider the far-reaching implications that specific learning goals would have for curriculum, instruction, and assessment. The Project 2061 Workshop Guide component of the CD-ROM includes a general framework, menus of options, and complete example scripts that school districts or schools can use to design their own versions of these workshops for faculty and staff.
The workshops focus special attention on helping educators apply benchmarks and standards to the most immediate tasks at hand: crafting curriculum frameworks, selecting or designing curriculum materials, and planning instruction. Teachers can use the background materials as the basis for the self-guided study of Project 2061 and its reform tools.
About Resources for Science Literacy
The professional development components included on the CD-ROM have been tested and used by educators around the country. Each component can be used on its own for a specific task or in combination with other components to accomplish more advanced goals. For example, users could create a customized list of recommended trade books dealing with scientific inquiry (a topic in Science for All Americans Chapter 1: The Nature of Science); then review the specific learning goals related to that topic in Benchmarks for Science Literacy and the National Science Education Standards; go on to explore the available cognitive research on student learning of concepts related to scientific inquiry; and, finally, examine the college course syllabi for suggestions on developing a systematic approach to learning more about the topic.
Resources for Science Literacy: Professional Development is Project 2061’s first tool to be developed primarily for an electronic medium. Its companion print volume offers a sampling of the kinds of material included on the CD-ROM along with directions for using the disk.