Science Group Launches Project To Upgrade College Curriculum
In an effort to increase scientific literacy, particularly among teachers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science has launched a project aimed at improving the undergraduate science curriculum.
The two-year project, announced late last month, will be financed by a $570,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. It is is being developed, according to association officials, in response to proposed reforms in teacher education.
"The proposal was motivated by the recommendations from the Carnegie Forum [on Education and the Economy] and the Holmes Group that all teachers have a liberal-arts education before they begin their training,'' said Audrey B. Champagne, senior program director in the A.A.A.S.'s office of science and technology education.
"The question then becomes,'' she said, "'what is the nature of that liberal-arts education?'''
Although the association is primarily interested in the preprofessional training of teachers, Ms. Champagne said, the new project will examine all aspects of undergraduate education.
"It would not be feasible to look at the liberal-arts education of teachers in particular, since they represent a small percentage of undergraduates,'' she said.
The association believes, she added, that the project will improve science education by raising the science literacy of all graduates.
"More people who graduate from college become parents than become teachers,'' Ms. Champagne said. "Science literacy begins in the home.''
According to the proposal submitted to the Carnegie foundation, the project will provide support for colleges attempting to restructure their undergraduate programs to engender "the science competence required by citizens of the 21st century.''
Such programs should include the social, philosophical, and historical ramifications of science, the proposal states.
"Conditions at most institutions of higher education are such that initiatives for such change are unlikely to come from science faculty,'' the proposal continues.
"Science faculty, especially those at research universities, are rewarded for research, not curriculum development.''
The new project is expected to build on Project 2061, a Carnegie-funded effort already underway at the association.
That program seeks to determine what every 18-year-old should know in science and technology, according to Ms. Champagne. The new project, she said, "could be called '2061: Four Years Later.'''
To begin the inquiry, the AAAS-led Coalition for Education in the Sciences, a group of 80 scientific and engineering associations, will hold a conference in May or June.
Association officials said they expect the conference will generate greater discussion of the role of the sciences in the liberal arts, as well as a core group of organizations willing to participate in the project.
Following the conference, the AAAS will convene a 15-member study group, consisting of working scientists and scholars in the natural sciences, the professions, and the history and philosophy of science.
The study group will develop model programs and courses intended to engender scientific and technological literacy.
These models will be disseminated among scientific and professional societies and higher-education institutions.
A final statement is expected to be released in early 1989.