Science Education in the 21st Century: Using the Tools of Science to Teach Science
On behalf of the members of the National Science Board it is a privilege to be with you today. The National Science Board, consists of 24 Presidential appointees, and is an independent Federal body established by the Congress in 1950 to govern the National Science Foundation and serve as national science policy advisors to the President and Congress.
NSF plays a critical role in supporting fundamental research, education and infrastructure at colleges, universities and other institutions throughout the country. It is the principal federal agency charged with promoting science and engineering education at all levels and in all settings, from pre-kindergarten through career development. A key goal of the NSF is the investment in people; to develop diverse, internationally competitive, and globally engaged workforce of teachers, scientists, engineers, and well-prepared citizens.
Most of the targeted professional development and tools for science teachers are found within the Education and Human Resources Directorate, but across the directorate there are over 59 diverse activities which support education, teacher enhancement and provide community outreach. Activities from “Bridges for Engineering Education Planning Grants” for K-12 and pre-service teachers to the “National Radio Astronomy Observation and Research Program” reach out to provide teacher development and tools for K-12 teachers.
NSF recognizes that the key to preparing an informed, scientifically literate society and inspiring students to choose STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic) careers starts with the classroom teacher.
To highlight a few key projects within the EHR Directorate charged with teacher enhancement:
Instruction Materials Development
Multi-year & Supplement Student materials, assessment and applied research
Math & Science Partnership
Comprehensive and Targeted Projects, Research and Technical Assistance
Centers for Learning and Teaching
STEM Ed. Leadership, Focused research on critical needs in K-12 STEM Education & Teacher Education
Information Technology Experiences for Students & Teachers Center (Evaluation & Tech. Assistance), Student Research, Student & Teacher Research
The Math, Science, Partnership (MSP) program at the NSF supports large, model, innovative projects developed to improve K-12 student achievement in mathematics and science. Successful models that can be widely replicated by state math and science partnership programs under No Child Left Behind.
One promising MSP effort is through the National Science Teachers Association.
There are many different approaches to providing teachers with sustained quality professional development. NSTA in conjunction with the University of Montana, and the New Teacher Center at the University of California Santa Cruz have created an e-mentoring program called “e-Mentoring for Student Success.” NSTA recognized one of the first problems facing new teachers is that feeling of isolation thus this project will focus on providing beginning teachers with round the clock access to a network of other beginning teachers, experienced instructors, and scientists. Study groups and seminars will also be part of the mentoring project and building of collegial support. This is just one example of an innovate NSF, MSP grant which has the potential for national impact and the ability to scale-up nationwide.
NSF provides fund for Instructional Materials Development. One example is the Active Physics curriculum project. This project was designed to make physics accessible to all students rather than the 20-25% of high school graduates who have traditionally enrolled in physics classes. Using the National Science Education Standards and research from the cognitive and behavioral sciences, this curriculum was developed using the rigor of sound physic content. Active Physics is now being used in several urban school districts like Boston and San Diego. Here you will find students who would not have taken physics are now enrolled in these classes.
LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) near Livingston, LA is an example of a large NSF facilities and research grant whose education initiative provides teachers in Louisiana with professional development, summer internships and instructional materials to help enhance the understanding of physics. This is not just at the high school level but reaches out to elementary teachers as well.
I would like to also mention a couple of innovate not-for-profit programs which contributing greatly to the enhancing the teaching skills of highly qualified teachers. Project Lead the Way, is found in nearly 800 schools in forty states and in DC in 2004. It provides summer training, year long mentoring and curriculum to high school teachers and counselors to assure the success of teaching a more diverse group of students in engineering and engineering technology.
The other is the Advanced Placement Incentive Program created by the O’Donnell Foundation. This program, found in over 28 districts throughout Texas, provides teachers of high school Advanced Placement classes with rigorous professional development, classroom mentoring, team building and financial incentives. They have now scaled down into the middle level providing teachers with professional development to help build their knowledge base so they may teach the necessary skills students need in order to be qualified to enter the AP Classes. This program has had tremendous success bring minority and women into the AP classroom. These students are finding out being a science nerd can be cool.
In my experience over the years of working with hundreds of teachers across the country there are three key things to bringing about a change in teacher attitude and skill level:
- A supportive administration to value and provide quality professional development in science which is sustained over a long period of time,
- Provide materials, textbooks and other instructional materials which can help facilitate quality science instruction.
- And time; time for teachers to analyze and reflect on their on their own practices and time for lesson study conducted with knowledgeable facilitators. This collegial approach provides the depth of understanding necessary to bring about change.
By creating these pathways for teachers we are likely to inspire and see greater student achievement in science. We know, not all students will go into STEM careers, but we can hope all students will be scientifically literate citizens of this planet.
Advanced Placement Strategies, Inc., Gregg Fleisher, President, 4311 Oak Lawn Avenue, Suite 620, Dallas, Texas 75219: www.apstrategies.org
It’s About Time, Active Physics, 84 Business Park Drive, Armonk, NY 10504: www.its-about-time.com
National Science Teachers Association, 1840 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22201-3000: www.nsta.org
National Alliance For Pre-Engineering Programs, Project Lead The Way, 747 Pierce Road, Clifton Park, NY 12065: www.pltw.org