How would you improve science ed?

If you could make one change to improve science education, what would it be? Science Times asked 19 scientists, educators and students.

Quite a few called for science teachers who know science, math teachers who know math and lessons that ask students to solve real-world problems.

Maria Klawe, a computer scientist and president of Harvey Mudd College wants teachers to “help all students understand that hard work and persistence are much more important to scientific success than natural ability.”

Focus STEM courses on “creativity and invention,” says Sal Khan, creator of Khan Academy.  The “traditional skills . . .  are tools to empower creativity.”

States aren’t rushing to adopt Next Generation Science Standards, which was developed by a consortium of 26 states, notes the Hechinger Report. California adopted the standards last week, joining Maryland, Vermont, Rhode Island, Kansas and Kentucky.

Paul Bruno, a middle school science teacher from California – a state which got an ‘A’ in the Fordham ratings – has gotten attention for his critique of the NGSS. He said that basic content knowledge was needed before students could understand scientific and engineering practices, or how scientists ‘do science.’

Bruno worries the standards will confuse and overwhelm students by asking them to do too much at once.

California hasn’t decided when to implement NGSS, reports EdSource  Today.

Like the Common Core standards, their counterparts in English language arts and math, the new science standards stress problem solving, critical thinking and finding common principles or “cross-cutting concepts” that engineering and various fields of science share. They emphasize scientific thinking and big ideas over memorization in the hope that more students will become intrigued by science.

Implementing Common core standards in language arts and math is sucking up schools’ time, money and “mindshare.”

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  1. GEORGE LARSON says:

    I think the easist way to teach how science is really done is to teach the history of science, but not the triumphal, logical version that has been taught.

    • Ann in L.A. says:

      At a high school level, I like the idea of covering some of the ongoing questions of science. What are scientists disagreeing about today? Where are the debates? What haven’t we a clue about and are merely guessing? How have yesterday’s debates been settled? Might they be thrown into question again? etc.

      It would make science seem more alive, and show how it can be a career in which you could learn brand-new, never-before-known things.

  2. I think I would go with the “science teachers who know science, math teachers who know math”. Just finished reading Amanda Ripley’s book.

  3. They emphasize scientific thinking and big ideas over memorization in the hope that more students will become intrigued by science…

    Sure, because THAT paradigm worked out so well with math. Let’s do away with standard methods and facts kids! We’re on a voyage of discovery!

    At some point, there needs to be an admission that this stuff is hard, that the human brain isn’t biologically wired to think about things like electromagnetic fields and quantum mechanics. It takes discipline, patience and a modicum of skill to go down some roads. It’s disingenuous to imply that if we just make it curious enough, relevant enough; that the kiddos will suck it up like sponges.

  4. I teach high school biology, and one thing that I remember from grad school is that profs really don’t remember how little you can do when you know NOTHING. They can’t remember not knowing the basics. That being said, my students like it when I incorporate real-life examples, stories of scientists who clung to their wrong beliefs in the face of evidence, and tales of the nonsense that goes in in getting grants or publications. I give them as much hands-on experience as I can, but without some instruction in the basics first, it’s a waste of reagents. The first week of class, though, I have them find articles in the news and then find some mistakes, overstatements, bad comparisons, or failure to separate correlation from causation. I reiterate through the semester that they’ll be better able to do that if they actually know some facts and understand how science is done.

  5. My one change would be to insist that the course be taught in the multisensory mode. I would ban everybody that insists on teaching via auditory techniques only. Visuals are needed to reach all students.

    • My science classes did a better job than any others of using visuals — sometimes to the exclusion of anything else — think periodic table of elements, anatomical diagrams, representations of the solar system, systematic nomenclature, etc etc.

  6. Crimson Wife says:

    Include a period maybe 3 times per week where students could work in teams preparing for Science Olympiad, Destination Imagination, Odyssey of the Mind, or other science competitions. I’m pretty sure my kids learn far more science from their Science Olympiad participation than from our “official” science curriculum.

  7. Just HAVING elementary school science education would be the improvement I’d advocate. It is simply not given the same respect and time that mathematics or English commands.