Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Framework for K-12 Science Education

 Framework for K-12 Science Education
(National Academy of Sciences)

As the title implies, the general basis of the reading this week deals with providing a framework for K-12 science education.  The framework has a few overarching goals, some of the most notable include a hope by the end of 12th grade students have enough science and engineering knowledge to participate in public discussions, can decipher what information is credible (related to their everyday lives), and have skills to enter careers of their choice.  The reading implies that currently where K-12 education is failing is by focusing too much on breadth over depth and not providing engaging opportunities to show students how science is really done.  The framework suggests K-12 science education should be built around three dimensions: scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting across fields, and core ideas in physical sciences, life sciences, earth and space sciences, and engineering, technology, and applications of science.  One section dives into discussion comparing and contrasting science versus engineering, aiming to highlight the importance of both in K-12 education. Most of the reading goes into more depth about the structure and importance of their framework and how it can be used successfully. 

The reading connects a lot with what we have been learning about the process of modeling so far in class.  In the section Principles of The Framework, references to inquiry, models, representations, development of explanations and claims, argumentation and analysis, critique, review, revision, collaboration, and community are all mentioned.  The reading really hones in on the importance of building and revising knowledge and abilities, which is a focus in modeling as well.  The reading ties in well with discussions we have been having in class.  One of the goals being that students should be able to engage in public discussion of sciences and be able to decipher what information around them is credible is huge.  We had a long discussion on the importance of science literacy and communication among not only the scientific community, but also every other community and the world as a whole.  The idea of less breadth and more depth in core ideas, with a focus on engaging students in opportunities to experience how science is actually done is something I hope to see more of in the future.  We have discussed how difficult effective modeling seems with so many standards and expectations to be covered in place in such a small amount of time.  I think this revised framework would allow for more effective modeling to take place and allow students to get a lot more out of a science class.


  1. Im interested to hear your take on The Framework's version of depth over breadth. While there may not be as many subjects to cover under their standards, I still feel that their 'core ideas' are limiting in their specificity. As we learned in psychology, student interest is critical to their motivation to learn. If they repeatedly learn the same systems over the course of their schooling, and struggled with a system or had a bad teacher during middle school, they may be less motivated to learn more about it or feel like theyre already too far behind when the topic comes up again in high school. By having such strict core ideas, you also limit teachers' potential to mix up which subjects they cover year to year to capture that class' diverse interests and potentially remove a passion of the teacher's which would remove a potentially excellent learning experience for the students to share the teacher's excitement. I agree that it is a step in the right direction but I dont think its perfect yet!

    1. I would comment that I completely agree with you, Kim, and Elizabeth that the framework is not perfect at all. Some of it seems impractical, and some of the same challenges arise with what "should" be taught. I guess as far as an explanation of my take of The Framework's vision of depth over breadth, I think page 31 sums it up nicely, "an important role of science education is not to teach "all the facts" but rather to prepare students with sufficient core knowledge so that they can later acquire additional information on their own". I think about how many facts I have had to learn or memorize which now I have completely forgotten. I feel like more depth in core science areas would give students more tools to make connections and learn how to explore areas of interest on their own (because it would be extremely challenging with 30 students to explore 30 different concepts in depth based on individual interests). That being said, I think you can still give students opportunities to explore areas that they are interested about inside the classroom. Perhaps I didn't catch exactly how specific the core ideas are in the framework, but I hope there is room for both the students and teacher to explore what interests them. Although some of the core ideas like “Ecosystems: interactions, energy, and dynamics” might seem specific, I feel there are a vast amount of ways this can be taught and a lot of room for different interests. Maybe some students are more interested in interactions between parasites and hosts, or autotrophs and heterotrophs, or keystone species, or scenarios where two species interact in way that benefits them both. I was thinking of the core ideas in a light that still allowed for new concepts and different interests to be explored, but maybe I’m confused here. As y’all said, a step in the right direction might be a better way to put it.

  2. I am conflicted about the whole breadth versus depth in core ideas. As a scientifically inclined person, I really appreciate going into depth about certain subjects. However, as a future teacher, I am concerned with limits on classroom time and garnering interest in my students. Depth in certain topics can cause some students to disengage in learning if they feel like they do not care or want to care about that topic. So I guess as a teacher, I would need to assess interest of my students as I go through lessons, and those topics that seem to have a wide interest from students or get a lot of questions, I would delve into and spend more time on.
    I think core standards are very odd in that some are so very specific that it limits one in such a way that there has to be "teaching to a standard" but from other standards I have read like "critical thinking about [insert subject]" is limiting in it's lack of specificity. How can a teacher possibly design a lesson plan around a vague idea or even assess his/her students for that? How would a teacher prove that that particular standard has been met?

  3. Joey, you bring up a good point about the issue of time. While this framework is ideal, that the problem, it is ideal. The framework, while limiting the core ideas to a smaller set, strives to include both instruction and a much heavier emphasis on practical application and discussion. While this may be possible, it is so only in an ideal classroom where every student is on the same page and learning at the same pace. As Laura touched upon in her response, equity is a major component of teaching and even more importantly, teaching for success. Thus, with the pressure of also supplying each student with the material and support they need, teaching a set of core ideas, and having time to apply the concepts learned to the student’s everyday lives, this seems impractical. Furthermore, I think the framework, as Laura stated above is not perfect, because it runs into similar problems with the current standards. The current standards place more emphasis on certain subjects and certain subunits within these subjects. Thus, how will we adequately determine what sciences should be focused on and within that, which core ideas should be stressed. As I stated in my other comment, what about vocational schools or magnet schools that have certain pathways? What will this design look like in their schools? Can this framework be better applied to those schools?


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