Next-gen science education

Science education should be deep, engaging and coherent, declared a National Research Council panel, which issued a new framework for science standards. Achieve, a nonprofit, will design the “next-generation” standards, which advocates hope will be adopted by most states.

Common Core Standards, now adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, cover English Language Arts and math only, notes Ed Week.

The framework is built around three major dimensions: scientific and engineering practices; cross-cutting concepts that unify the study of science and engineering; and core ideas in four disciplinary areas—physical sciences, life sciences, earth and space sciences, and engineering, technology, and the applications of science.

Framers hope to return science to the K-3 curriculum and to add engineering and technology in the K-8 grades to “provide a context in which students can test their own developing scientific knowledge and apply it to practical problems.”

The report calls for focusing on core scientific ideas and teaching problem solving rather than “just memorizing factual nuggets,” the New York Times summarizes.

“That is the failing of U.S. education today, that kids are expected to learn a lot of things but not expected to be able to use them,” said Helen Quinn, a retired physicist from the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, Calif., who led an 18-member committee that spent more than a year devising the framework.

The committee hopes “to ensure that by the end of 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science,” the report states.

Do our students know too many facts? It makes sense to focus on understanding core ideas and applying knowledge to solve problems, but it sure helps to have some knowledge to apply.

Update: The computer scientists want to add computer science to the curriculum.