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Scientists, Engineers Pledge To Take Leading Role in Reform

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PASADENA, CALIF--The scientists and engineers who attended the National Science Resources Center's conference on science education here produced a set of recommendations designed to help guide reform efforts in the communities where they work as well as across the nation.

After spending six days analyzing the current state of science teaching, the 30 participants decided that "significant change in science education is necessary and significant change is possible.''

The science-resources center--a joint body of the Smithsonian Institution and the National Academy of Sciences--will use the recommendations in pursuing a newly launched, long-term effort dubbed the National Elementary Science Leadership Initiative.

To make science education both more effective for students and more representative of the real world in which working scientists operate, conference participants recommended that scientists, not educators, should take the initiative in ensuring the development of high-quality collaborative efforts that draw together teachers, administrators, scientists, and researchers.

"Scientists and engineers must take the lead in bringing about this collaboration,'' they stated. "And ... there is a need to recruit more [of them] to become engaged in these efforts.''

Many of the recommendations are targeted at a "systemic approach'' to improving the delivery of science education at the district level.

But conferees also stressed that scientists should actively participate in the national standards-setting process for science curriculum, teaching, and assessment that has been undertaken by the national academy's Coordinating Council for Education.

No 'One Shot' Plans

The group also concluded that:

  • Short-term, "one-shot efforts'' to improve science education should be avoided and that scientists should be encouraged to volunteer to teach classes and to play a "key role'' in in-service teacher education.
  • It is essential "to build a local base of political support for reform that includes teachers, scientists, parents, and local business and industry.''
  • A "critical need'' exists to develop a "new generation of inquiry-based science curriculum materials for middle and high schools'' and that such materials can most effectively be produced through "collaborative efforts'' of scientists and teachers.
  • There is a related need to produce complex, alternative forms of assessment that, while incorporating some multiple-choice elements, must work to develop "higher-order thinking skills.''
  • Scientists should play a proactive role in developing high-quality pre-service education programs in an effort to break an unproductive cycle in which teachers "teach as they were taught.''--P.W.


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