Evolution is a fact of natural science. But how often do we think about the fact that science — or rather science education — is itself evolving?
Middle- and high-school physical science, life science, and earth and space science used to be largely matters of rote memorization — of properties, principles, formulas, theorems, laws, and axioms.
In recent years, however, the best science educators and the most forward-thinking school districts have begun to embrace a more inquiry-based approach: one focused on collaboration, student-led problem solving, and a hands-on, investigative understanding of the methods and aims of professional scientists.
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), developed by a consortium of scientific and educational partners in recent years, have codified and formalized what this “new” science curriculum for schools should look like. And those standards have been widely, though not yet universally, adopted.
But even states and districts that have not officially embraced NGSS are realizing that students are better served by a high-quality science curriculum that goes beyond “read-and-regurgitate,” to one that cultivates a sophisticated, in-depth grasp of content and concepts. One that develops key skills like communication and flexibility — life skills that will serve students throughout their educational and professional careers. There are big, important questions behind the new science pedagogy:
- How can concepts like cause and effect be made explicit to help students develop a coherent and scientifically based view of the world around them?
- How exactly do scientists investigate the natural world, or engineers design and build systems?
- What are the core ideas in all of science that have broad importance within and across the disciplines? Ideas that are absolutely essential to an educated person in the twenty-first century ?
- And what precisely are the connections among the four domains of science: physical science, life science, earth and space science, and engineering design?
It’s not just that there’s a new way of thinking about science education. It’s that there’s a powerful new way of engaging students around science that gets them behaving like scientists. It’s about getting them “doing the science” by analyzing, critiquing, creating. And when science becomes a creative endeavor, it not only revolutionizes learning, but it also opens doors to college and university majors and career options that students might otherwise never consider.
Enter Kognity. Kognity offers a digital education platform that puts quality science education — aligned to emerging science standards — at teachers’ fingertips. Designed to help students take ownership of their learning, the Kognity science platform not only brings order and structure to new styles of teaching science, but it also serves up curriculum, assessments, and professional development. In short, it’s everything teachers need to put the new science education into action in their classroom in a way that’s as individualized and customized as they want to make it.
With Kognity, educators have the flexibility to design their own classroom science-learning experiences. Suddenly, science classrooms are turned into real-world labs, and students and teachers alike find themselves exploring a new instructional framework of adaptable content rooted in phenomena-based and experiential lessons. Best of all, this is the kind of learning that enhances and nurtures young people’s natural curiosity about the world around them that all kids have, but that sometimes, sadly, gets stifled. And importantly, this isn’t learning that in any way replaces teachers, but rather puts educators at the center of the student experience and supports them there.
The exciting unfolding of the new science pedagogy over the last several years is not a whim or a trend. It is a simple imperative based on, among other things, the inexorable progress of technology. From robotics and artificial intelligence, to new frontiers in space exploration, to an explosion of hyper-futuristic health-care technologies, science is now, more than ever, a central driver and engine of the lives and the futures of all Americans.
That means scientific literacy isn’t merely an intellectual option anymore. It is essential to college admission, to success in the workforce, and to participation in a society in which the principles of science intersect with daily life.
Will the transition be easy? Of course not. Change never is. And improving science learning by implementing new standards requires instructional shifts, as states and districts have discovered. Superintendents, district-level curriculum directors, principals, department heads, and state officials wrestle with everything from budget priorities and standards alignment to school-board accountability, the expectations of parents, and the inevitable lack of time in the school day.
But with a digital partner like Kognity, formidable challenges for states, districts, administrators, and teachers become opportunities — and the way forward becomes both clear and exciting.
This is important: like the best breakthroughs in teaching these days, Kognity represents a hybrid of education and technology. And if the pandemic and resulting school shutdowns taught educators and parents around the world anything, it’s that technology is an invaluable resource — indeed a salvation — when put to the service of learning. The key is finding and using the right technology, and employing the best tools that provide just the right amount of support — tools that are flexible enough to allow teachers to adopt the technology yet aren’t so complex that technology overwhelms or discourages. That’s Kognity in a nutshell.
Meanwhile, equity is an important theme — perhaps the most important theme right now — in U.S. schools. Perhaps the best thing about the new science standards is that they offer a thoughtful and coordinated approach that enables educators to inspire future generations of science education for all students, not just for those who used to quaintly be called “scientifically inclined.”
Is this vision an educational pipe dream? Not at all. The emerging new style of science education is the means, the pathway, and the road map for achieving it. And Kognity represents the best, the most comprehensive, and the most convenient “way in.”
Dr. Erin Lark, Highly Capable and Differentiation Services, Vancouver Public Schools, and 2021 Regional Teacher of the Year; and Paul Berry, Head of Science Programs, Kognity