If the nation is to regain its lead in science education, the effort must begin in elementary schools, according to a new report, Getting Americans Started in Science.
In grades K-6, the report notes, “most children are not taught science at all, and when they are, they are taught in a manner that progressively diminishes their interest in the subject and their confidence in their capacity to learn it.” As a consequence, the authors note, American students score low on national and international science tests.
The report, which was conducted by the National Center for Improving Science Education, urges curriculum planners in the elementary grades to place as much emphasis on science as they do on reading and mathematics. It also recommends that the federal government lead a national effort to promote effective science teaching in those grades.
The federally funded research center’s blueprint for high-quality science instruction reflects a growing consensus among science educators. It stresses hands-on, activity-based learning rather than an emphasis on textbooks and lecturing. And it recommends new forms of assessment to replace multiple-choice tests. The new performance-based tests, the center suggests, should match the proposed curriculum and learning goals, and should probe children’s depth of understanding as well as factual knowledge.
Teacher-training programs, the center recommends, should model effective instruction. All prospective elementary teachers, it proposes, should take one or more science courses, and such courses should emphasize the processes and underlying principles of science rather than scientific facts.
The publication date and cost for Getting Americans Started in Science have not yet been determined.
For additional information and a list of other relevant publications, contact: The Network Inc., Publications, 290 S. Main St., Andover, MA 01810.
A version of this article appeared in the September 01, 1989 edition of Teacher as The Earlier The Better