Page images

Even though the barriers encoun

are asked to spend a significant amount tered by teachers seeking to develop re

of time memorizing complex details of sponsive science programs are high,

biochemistry and molecular processes there appear to be enough successes to

even though most have neither the encourage others to try. Moreover, the

necessary access to experimental evisurveys suggest that the decentralized

dence nor the reasoning skills needed to system of American education.provides

follow the intricate conceptual arguconsiderable latitude to teachers who

ments. In a similar manner, chemistry wish to modify the curriculum in re

courses are likely to be replete with rote sponse to the special needs of their stu

presentations of quantum mechanical dents and communities. When one

models of atoms and molecules. views the constrictive character of

One can speculate that many school ministerial control of education in some

science programs may be strongly influother countries and the inhibiting effect

enced by unrealistic perceptions of what which this control has on their systems,

colleges expect high school graduates to one has reason to be grateful once again

know, with the result that students are for the vision of our founding fathers.

required to study material which they

cannot understand in any significant Junior High Science. Even though life

--Ierame). Berkowitz photo

way and which is unrelated to their curscience has become a standard course in

rent interests, on the grounds that the many schools, general science is still the only course taught in more than half of priority, usually fares badly in the com

material will be needed later. By now, it the junior high schools surveyed. Howpetition for scarce funds. As a result,

is painfully obvious that for most "later' ever, physical and earth science proinost of the nation's elementary schools

never arrives. grams are not uncommon. The survey

are inadequately equipped to provide a In summary, some readers will consuggests that the process of socialization

significant investigative laboratory expe- clude that one of the major inferences

rience to children. One of the more pes- that can be drawn from these reports constitutes an important educational objective in the junior high. Laboratory

simistic findings of the surveys was that and case studies is that much of the sechandouts, for example, sometimes list "fewer than half of the nation's elemen- ondary school science curriculum is

mismatched to the interests and needs of guidelines for appropriate classroom and tary school children are likely to have laboratory behavior in addition to in

even a single school year in which their the majority of students in our schools structions for carrying out a laboratory

teachers will give science a significant who will not pursue scientific or activity. To some extent, the socializashare of the curriculum and do a good technological careers. In the current

political setting of American education, tion objective may (but need not) inhibit job of teaching it." inquiry and investigative approaches to

characterized by declining enrollments, learning; many may view it as unfortu

resource shortages, and unrealistic social nate that schools have turned away from

Subjective Comments. A reader of expectations of schools, the inappropriinquiry approaches in favor of text-dom- these studies may conclude that the

ateness of the curriculum may contribute inated courses which stress knowledge science curriculum is responding pon

heavily to the frustration of teachers, the acquisition, often by rote methods. derously, at best, to changing social

malaise of students, and the dissatisfacconditions, individual needs, develop

tion of parents. Those whose interpretaElementary School Science. On the mental patterns of students, and percep

tion of these reports leads them to arrive basis of the survey data, elementary tions of community and political

at such a conclusion may well expect school science must still be regarded as a realities. The curriculum cannot be con

policy makers, teachers, and citizen significant problem area. Much of the sidered in isolation from the setting in

groups to re-examine the content of the difficulty stems from the fact that science which education takes place, but it may

school science curriculum to ensure that in the elementary schools, not regarded be useful to make some brief subjective

it is responsive to the needs of contemas basic, is given a low priority in com- comments on the curriculum, considered porary America. parison to reading, mathematics, social in a somewhat more limited sense: on Of course, readers' impressions destudies, and health. Most elementary the materials, practices, and perceptions

rived from the reports of site visitors school teachers and, presumably, their described in the studies.

and the results of questionnaires are inschool administrators see little relation- It appears that many science courses evitably influenced by their subjective ship between science and other areas of include material which is inappropriate views of the schools, science, and the the curriculum, a perception that existed for most of the students studying at that way in which children leam. Citizens, even before the recent emphasis upon level. For example, high school biology science teachers, and policy makers at all basic education

courses often contain substantial levels need to know more about what is Elementary school science, like that amounts of biochemistry and molecular being taught, and whether the curin junior and senior high schools, is biology, even though the majority of riculum is, in the main, appropriate for taught primarily by lecture and recita- biology students have not yet studied the students to whom it is presented, tion based on one textbook. Elementary chemistry. It is true that these portions taking into account their previous prepschools invest only a very small propor- of the text are not studied by all stu- aration and motivation. How well is scition of their budgets in curriculum ma- dents, but one is left with the impres- ence being taught? Do the methods conterials; science, perceived as of low sion, nevertheless, that many students vey something of the spirit of science? Is


basics" movement for which they were tunately, less than a fifth of the elemen* The lack of articulation in

not prepared in preservice training. tary science teachers had done so. science curricula between It is discouraging to note, too, that

The second most often attended ac

tivity reported was the In-Service Instigrades, within schools, and knowledge of science is rarely considbetween different schools ered basic by the state boards of educa

tute, with participation by 18 percent of tion, and science education is rarely in- the grade 7-12 science teachers and 10 at the same level is a

cluded in state needs statements. This in percent of the elementary teachers. significant finding." itself may be indicative of a low interest

While the evidence is overwhelming by the general public in supporting

that these government-supported prohigh-quality science instruction.

grams were considered to be of major the tentative nature of science made

Improved science teacher education,

help to science teachers, the majority of clear? Do our science classes foster in- both pre- and inservice, is an important

teachers currently teaching have not parquiry and scholarship? Quality assess- need. While continuing research in sci

ticipated in them. This fact should be ment is always a sensitive matter, but ence teaching/learning is vitally needed, carefully noted and appropriate action these are the issues which we must en- the results of that research need to be

taken. It is absolutely essential that gage, whether individually as teachers better communicated and applied in

elementary teachers be given continuous or collectively as faculties. both the preservice and inservice pro

inservice and supervisory consultant grams. One of the studies' observations

help in science and in the teaching of III. How are teachers educated? is that there is a critical need for preser

science since their education does not The studies contain information on the vice and inservice science education to

include any significant study in these background and education of the be viewed and dealt with as a continu

two areas. teachers in the sample populations that ous program rather than as discrete ensuggests some reason for concern. While tities handled by two different sets of IV. Who helps the teacher? each state sets minimum requirements

people. This presents a challenge to the Most school districts have coordinated for science teachers, state certification teacher-training institutions not only to

sequences of courses in print. But criteria still do not reflect those proposed do appropriate follow-up studies on

teachers at each grade level who were by professional associations which call, their graduates but to work even more critical of their students' previous learnparticularly, for more science content. closely with the school districts that

ing deviated from the syllabus as they This is especially crucial in the elemen- employ them.

saw fit. The lack of articulation in scitary and junior high schools, where

Although the studies seem to indi- ence curricula between grades, within most of the science instruction occurs. It cate that today's secondary school sci- schools, and between different schools is at these levels that teachers have the ence teachers are better educated than

at the same level is a significant finding least adequate science content prepara- were those of the 1950s, both the

Individual teachers--within broad limtion and the poorest physical facilities, teachers' perceptions and the findings of its-select the content and methods while at the same time the fewest certifi- research indicate that there is still a crit- which they believe appropriate, but the cation programs available to them. Sec- ical need for inservice education. Ap- study found that teachers were more on ondary school teachers fare better: Only proximately half of the elementary sci- their own than they wanted to be. The slightly more than one-tenth of them are ence teachers and more than 41 percent need for leadership in coordinating and currently teaching one or more science of the secondary science teachers took a directing individual teachers' efforts and courses for which they feel inadequately course for college credit in 1976–77. Siz- initiatives toward common goals was qualified. On the other hand, 16 percent able numbers of teachers have earned apparent but unfulfilled. of the elementary teachers surveyed feel one or more degrees beyond the

Federal and state offices and legisla"not well qualified" to teach science, bachelor's: more than hall of the second tion which have increased administraand less than a quarter of them feel ary school science teachers and just over tive duties, plus local opposition to in"well qualified" to do so. This feeling of a quarter of the elementary science creasing school costs, have fostered the inadequacy by elementary teachers to teachers. However, since little of this trend both to decrease the number of handle science instruction permeates all graduate study by elementary teachers is central administrative offices and to rethree studies and indicates a need for done in academic science courses, there direct their efforts from "pedagogical to some serious work by all those who can is a pressing need for both preservice management matters." Decentralization help alleviate this problem.

and inservice training to overcome their of authority has moved some of the Reactions to the adequacy of preser- fear of teaching science, so that they management problems to building prinvice education for science teachers were may teach it well and with enthusiasm. cipals, leaving them less time to work mixed The Case Studies indicated some A consistent theme throughout the with teachers in developing and implelow estimates of the quality of education documents was the high value ascribed menting the educational program. The courses and a concern by observers that to NSF-sponsored activities in the edu- study found that only one in five of the many science teachers leave college with cation of science teachers. The most tre- districts surveyed employed full-time so little command of the substantive quently attended programs were the science supervisors/coordinators and content of the NSF-initiated curricula NSF Summer Institutes: Approximately that two in five school districts had that they are in need of remediation the two-thirds of the state science super

none. instant they graduate. In addition, visors and almost 40 percent of the 7-12th In the schools, instructional help and teachers feel threatened by the pressure grade science teachers surveyed had par- leadership for teachers can come from for accountability and the "back-to- ticipated in one or more of these. Unfor- the school principal and/or supervisory

personnel. The study found that about of teachers at any grade level consider
one-fourth of the principals in any grade computers or computer terminals neces-
range felt that they were "not well qual- sary. Similarly, most science classes do
ified" to supervise science instruction. not use cameras. While fewer than 15
The percentage of department chairmen percent of science classes make use of
found in the schools decreased from a greenhouses, almost 40 percent would
high of 74 percent in senior high schools use them if they were available. Almost
to a low of 27 percent in the primary identical figures were given for use of
grades. Chairmen who received ad- weather stations. Microscopes and scien-
ditional compensation increased from a tific models, on the other hand, are
low of one in ten in the primary grades widely used. Almost 30 percent of K-3
to one in two in senior high schools. science classes use microscopes, while

Teachers who had consultant and su- an additional 20 percent would like to
pervisory help were more satisfied than have them Usage goes up to more than
those who had to work more or less on 60 percent in fourth grade and remains
their own Elementary teachers, espe. at least that high through all of second-
cially, receive little supervisory, consul. ary school. Even though a third of 10
tant, and leadership support in teaching 12th grade classes use calculators, only a
science, although they are most comfort- tenth of junior high school classes use
able when such support is available. The them, and only about 2 percent of
studies found also that candidates for elementary schools report any calculator
elementary teacher certification are "sel- usage.
dom required to take more science con-
tent than that required for the general
education component of their under-

“ The greatest single concern graduate program." Thus teachers who

of almost everyone are least well prepared to deal with the

involved in education is teaching of science are given the least

for an improved program assistance More and more, two separate sys

of financial support." tems-management and instructional are developing within the schools and are interacting less and less. The man

Financial Needs. Although little in

formation was collected about the finanagement system absorbs the energies and time of administrators at both the

cial support of science instruction, that central administration and individual

which was gathered is worth sharing: school levels. The instructional system

The greatest single concern of almost functions through the efforts of in

everyone involved in education is for an dividual teachers working largely with

improved program of financial support. out leadership and direction except in

While the percentage of financial sup

port for the schools from federal and those few instances where curriculum

state sources has increased since 1955, and supervisory personnel are available. The need is evident. The absence of cur

federal support for science education has

declined since the late 1960s. Since state ricular and supervisory direction is subject to local attention and correction by

support tends to follow federal trends,

state support for science education has local schools' initiatives. The development of an effective science program re

also declined and is likely to continue to quires constant attention, leadership, and support; it cannot be left to develop

At the time of the study (1977), the by chance through the unorganized and

average per pupil expenditure in school

districts across the nation was $1,246. A undirected efforts of individual teachers, regardless of how excellent these in

recurring concem in the Case Studies dividual efforts may be

was that increasing energy costs and
frequent voter rejection of special school

levies were reducing funds available for V. With what do teachers teach? the school science program. Relatively The individual classroom teacher still few schools have specific budgets for determines the primary mode of instruc- science equipment and supplies. In gention in most classrooms, with the

eral, schools are more likely to have textbook the primary tool. Less than 10 specific budgets for science supplies percent of the schools have used prac- than for equipment, and secondary tices such as modular scheduling or tele- schools are significantly more likely than vision instruction. Nor do the majority elementary schools to have specific

budgets for both.

A sizable number of school districts-over one-third-did report receiving funds in 1975-76 from the National Defense Education Act for facilities, equipment, and supplies used in science instruction, and one-fourth got similar funding from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in the same school year. On the other hand, only a very small number of school districts received science instruction funding from other government grants, specific state grants, private foundations, or parent organizations.

Teachers considered inadequate facilities, insufficient funds for purchasing equipment and supplies, and lack of materials for individualized instruction as the three most serious problems affecting science instruction. More than half of them wanted money to buy supplies on a day-to-day basis. This is an appropriate request that could be accommodated within the limits of existing financial support if administrators and teachers would work cooperatively toward a solution

Inadequate student reading abilities and lack of teacher planning time were also considered serious problems by teachers, in addition many of them felt that the major area that needed improvement was the availability of laboratory assistants or para professional help. Insufficient time to teach science was considered a more serious problem in the lower than in the upper grades.

do so.

VI. Whom do teachers teach? Accurate enrollment figures are typically difficult to get, but the studies do furnish us with some general information and with what may be a discouraging note. While enrollments in public elementary schools were increasing from 1955-1969, class sizes during that period were reduced. During that same period, secondary school enrollments also increased, as did the percentage of students enrolled in science courses. That percentage has remained relatively stable. Enrollments, however, are now beginning to decline, with elementary enrollment declining more rapidly than secondary. Public school enrollments, particularly, have dropped considerably in some areas where integration and consolidation of schools have led to the emigration of substantial numbers of students to private and church-related schools. Inevitably, just as the increas

teachers as partners. This speaks for Teachers must assume more respon-
more effective organizational patterns in sibility for creating conditions which
the schools in which the talents and will enhance their efforts in the dass-
ideas of teachers are harnessed and di- room. This may seem an unreasonable
rected by knowledgeable school leaders. expectation to teachers enmeshed in
It also means a willingness on the part of the demands of each day's teaching, but
teachers and administrators to be flexi- teachers and administrators within in-
ble and empirical in considering new dividual schools must find ways to
content, methods, and goals.

provide time for unhurried thought and
The continuing rejuvenation of sci- deliberate planning. Total and final re-
ence content and teaching methods in sponsibility for what happens in science
response to new findings and societal teaching does not rest solely on the
goals requires access to and utilization shoulders of teachers, but a successful
of the national wisdom. Otherwise, local school program in science education is

initiatives will amount to little more solely dependent upon what they do

Ferone) Berkowitz photo than stirring the pot! Large-scale infu- with their students. Unmistakably, the ing enrollments had an impact on

sions of curriculum innovations, such as teacher is the key! schools, the decreasing enrollments will

the NSF-sponsored projects, are valuable have an impact, especially financially. in that they provide materials which no

VIII. What can be done? Despite the fact that the percentage

school district could develop on its own. of secondary school students taking sciThe continued availability of such mate NSF-sponsored studies on science edu

We have described and interpreted three ence courses has not decreased, it is rials is essential to the growth and im

cation to inform teachers and to suggest nevertheless true that the percentage provement of the science education en

areas in which they can continue to intaking chemistry and physics is very terprise in the United States. Indeed,

fluence the quantity and quality of scismall. It seems likely that one reason most superintendents felt that federal

ence education. We have taken the posithese numbers are so small is that only

support for continued curriculum de 21 percent of the states require more velopment was essential (66 percent

) and tion that ultimately improvement can than one year of science in grades 9-12.

stem only from the initiatives and efforts that NSF should help teachers leam how For the great majority, that one year is to use the new curricula (77 percent).

of teachers supported and assisted by

local administrative and supervisory tenth-grade biology, with fewer than

Implementation of new materials can half advancing into chemistry. The attri- only take place at the local level and then personnel. While local efforts will surely tion becomes even more severe in only if teachers are prepared and willing can be accomplished by teachers, ad

have limitations, we believe that much to use them physics, with fewer than half of the nation's chemistry students going on into

Since so much depends on teachers,

ministrators, and parents who are comthat fundamental discipline. it becomes necessary to focus attention

mitted to improving the science prothere. Unfortunately, the study found

grams of their schools, even in the abVII. Do teachers count? that many teachers feel they have little

sence of federal or state funds. This will

require leadership, energy, and a clear Almost all elementary school science is power to change things, see little more

definition of school priorities. Schools taught by teachers in self-contained

they can do themselves, and are re-
signed to the status quo. Many problems ignore the basic precepts of organiza-

which are not well managed and which classrooms. Secondary science classes

and conditions which teachers feel inare taught more often by special science teachers. The studies found, not surpris. The fact is that many of these obstac

tion and team building are not going to hibít science teaching were reported.

improve their science curricula in any ingly, that within any classroom the sciles-such as insufficient background in

substantial way, even if federal or state ence taught and the way it is taught is dependent primarily on what the inscience, lack of equipment, inadequate

funds are available. Federal efforts to room facilities, and insufficient time

support research and development in dividual teacher believes, knows, and

science education are essential, but we does. Numerous studies indicate that

can be eliminated or at least attenuated the type of instruction does affect stuif teachers will refuse to accept them as

cannot expect governmental support to barriers. dent leaming and that the teacher is the

solve what are essentially local prob

lems. most important instructional variable.

The studies have confirmed construcThe critical role of the teacher in institut- " responsibility tive changes in the schools as a result of ing changes in science teaching is well for what happens in

the infusion of new courses and teachdocumented

seience teaching does not

ing approaches in the sixties. It is our Changes in science teaching nationwide are simply the summations of

rest solely on the shoulders view that the continuing promotion and

support of curriculum development and changes in individual schools function

of teachers, but a ing independently with or without

successful school program

related teaching innovations by NSF,

USOE, and other federal or state funding strong and inspired local initiatives and

in science education is

agencies are essential to consolidate and leadership. Any movement to change

solely dependent upon build upon the accumulated experience science teaching and learning will re- what they do with their and positive changes which have taken quire the wholehearted support, cooper- students.”

place. While these national efforts do not ation, and creative involvement of

necessarily have to be directed to the


“ An assessment of the

present science content of the school curriculum should be organized and conducted by a team of distinguished academic scientists, . science teachers, and educators."

creation of complete courses in the
PSSC, BSCS, and CHEM Study tra-
ditions, much more attention needs to
be paid to the creation and trial of
methods which build upon the research
and development efforts of the past two
decades, with emphasis on the use of
new technologies such as videodiscs and
microcomputers to individualize instruc-

We further believe that more
economical and productive approaches
to curriculum development and dis-
semination can be organized at the na-
tional level without a loss in effective-
ness. We propose that professional sci-
ence education organizations should as-
sume responsibility for exploring and
developing such alternative approaches.
For example, the success of the National
Assessment of Educational Progress in
gaining access to schools-once assur-
ances were given that the results of the
assessment would not be attributable to
individuals or systems-suggests that a
subject matter assessment is feasible. An
assessment of the present science con-
tent of the school curriculum should be
organized and conducted by a team of
academic scientists and outstanding sci-
ence teachers and educators.

A study of this type would be appropriately sponsored by a consortium of disciplinary science societies and their science education counterparts, We envision that NSTA, ACS, AAPT, NABT, and other societies would have major responsibilities. The results of such a study would command immediate atten. tion of teachers, school decision makers, and curriculum planners for much the same reasons that the curriculum reform movement of the 1960s attracted such a ready audience. The science teachers who are most capable of providing school curculum leadership are the ones most active in the affairs of their professional societies. They are the teachers who want to keep in close contact with the science research community because they find that this contact is intellectually stimulating and enhances their teaching. It is this sense of community, as much as any other circumstance, which made it possible for curriculum reform to proceed as rapidly as it did. If we believe that much of the science content of our secondary school courses (particularly that intended for students who will not go on in science) warrants re-examination, we must turn to the network of school and college sci

gether rather than separately. Currently few, if any, coordinated and focused activities exist in science education involving schools and nearby higher education institutions as partners. As an example, funds could be provided to support those proposals developed by teachertraining institutions in complete cooperation with local school districts--that involve appropriate pre- and in-service training programs in which science teacher training is seen as a continuum, with both groups having important and essential roles to play. Emphasis in such teacher preparation should be on ways to increase openness, flexibility, inquiry, and student involvement.

The NSF CCSS institutes of the past represented a small but significant step in that direction. Additional models need to be developed and tried. NSTA and similar national associations should lead in stimulating school and college faculties to organize and implement local working relationships which will enable teachers from schools and colleges in a community to know and learn from each other while being constructively occupied with projects designed to accomplish tasks of common concern.

ence teachers created by the curriculum
development efforts of the last two de-

We have earlier indicated the need
for immediate and appropriate assis-
tance at the elementary level. Given the
fiscal and political realities of the next
decade, it is unlikely that federal funds
can be made available on the scale re-
quired to provide direct in-service or
summer science training to a significant
fraction of elementary school classroom
teachers. Several alternatives suggest
themselves. Federal and state agencies
could provide support on a competitive
basis to colleges and universities seek-
ing to sponsor special resource-
personnel workshops for elementary
school team and grade-level leaders
whose schools make commitments to or-
ganize subsequent inservice training
programs using these personnel. These
workshops would focus both on subject
matter and on classroom techniques de
signed to enable children, and teachers,
to learn science effectively. This form of
support is appropriate for federal and
state governments, attractive to colleges
and universities, and useful for school
personnel. Serious consideration must
also be given to similar training in pre-
service programs to avoid perpetuating
the problems.

The U.S. Office of Education could
earmark funds for state departments of
education to award to schools seeking to
upgrade elementary school science pro-
grams, on a competitive and matching
(or in-kind) basis. School systems would
be free to specify how these funds
would be used in the science program
Options might range from the hiring of
science specialists and consultants to the
purchasing of laboratory equipment and

The effectiveness of local efforts to
improve science education--on all
levels--could be vastly increased if the
faculties and administrators of schools,
colleges, and universities worked to-

1. Report of the 1977 National Survey of Science,

Mathematics, and Social Studies Education. Iris
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Wash.D.C. 1978 (stock no 038-000-00364-0)
2 The Status of Pre-College Science, Mathemar-

ICS, and Social Science Educatron. 1955-1975
Volume Science Education Stanley L Helge-
son. Patricia E Blosser, and Robert W. Howe.
U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington,

D.C 1978 (stock no. 038 000-00362-3)
3 The Status of Pre-College Science, Mathemat.

ics, and Social Science Education: 1955 1975
Volume Il Mathematics Education Marilyn N.
Suydam and Alan Osborne U.S. Government
Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 1978. (stock

no 038-000-00371-2)
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ics, and Social Science Education: 1955-1975
Volume ill Social Science Education, Karen B
Wiley and Jeanne Rice US Government Print-
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038 000 00363-1)
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The Case Reports Robert E Stake. Jack Easley.
et al. US Government Printing Office, Wash-

ington, D.C. 1978 (stock no 038-000-00377-1)
6. Case Studies in Science Education Volume II:

Design Overview and General Findings. Robert
E Stake. Jack Easley, et al. US Government
Printing Office Washington, D.C. 1978 (stock

no. 038-000-00376-3)
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and Social Studies Educational Practices in U.S.
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