The Search for ‘Core’ Ideas in Science

By Sean Cavanagh — October 30, 2009 1 min read
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Some of the country’s top researchers on science education have been meeting at the National Academies in the hope of laying the groundwork for new and improved standards in that subject.

The goal is to create a conceptual framework built around “core ideas,” in science. That framework could in turn inform the future development of standards as part of the multistate Common Core State Standards Initiative, an ongoing project we’ve been writing about a lot.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the researchers at the Academies, a congressionally-chartered entity that provides advice to the federal government, are using language that will sound very familiar to followers of the Common Core. They want to establish a framework that promotes the study of “fewer, deeper, clearer, and higher” ideas in science, which echoes the fewer-clearer-higher theme of the Common Core. The Academies organizers also believe that recent research on student cognition in science can help shape better standards, said Martin Storksdieck, the director of the the board on science education at the National Academies. For instance, researchers today take a strong interest in a concept known as “learning progressions,” basically, ordering lessons in a way that reflects how students learn and builds on what they already know.

Research is showing that students “are capable of learning much more in science than we thought them capable of before,” Storksdieck told me. He described a prime goal of science standards this way: “We need to teach science in a way that gives students a stronger sense of just how exciting science is.”

I’ve written a bit about the potential for the Common Core to move on to science, after finishing language arts and reading standards. As part of its work on a science framework, the Academies staff have been working with the National Science Teachers Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Storksdieck noted. The science researchers have also stayed in touch with Achieve, which is a partner in the Common Core, he added.

Here’s a useful page that offers papers and presentations from an Academies conference held this month on the creation of standards. Stay tuned.

Photo of Albert Einstein courtesy of Library of Congress.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.