Curriculum, Instruction, Teacher Development, and Assessment
In this chapter, we consider the changes needed across the K-12 science education system so that implementation of the framework and related standards can more readily occur. Standards provide a vision for teaching and learning, but the vision cannot be realized unless the standards permeate the education system and guide curriculum, instruction, teacher preparation and professional development, and student assessment.
By “system” we mean the institutions and mechanisms that shape and support science teaching and learning in the classroom. Thus the system includes organization and administration at state, district, and school levels as well as teacher education, certification requirements, curriculum and instructional resources, assessment policies and practices, and professional development programs. Our use of the term “system,” however, does not necessarily imply that all the components of the science education system are well aligned and work together seamlessly. Rather, adopting the idea of a system (1) acknowledges the complex and interacting forces that shape learning and teaching at the classroom level and (2) provides an analytic tool for thinking about these various forces.
The next section is an overview of four major components of the K-12 science education system, and in succeeding sections we consider each of them in turn. For each component, we discuss what must be in place in order for it to align with the framework’s vision.
These discussions do not include formal recommendations and are not framed as standards for each component, because the committee was not asked to undertake the kind of extensive review—of the research on teacher education,
curriculum, instruction, professional development, and assessment—that would be required in order to make explicit recommendations for related sets of standards for each component. Indeed, the committee and the timeline for our work would have required considerable expansion in order to give such an endeavor adequate treatment.
The committee instead relied on a number of recent reports from the National Research Council (NRC) that did examine research related to each of the components discussed in this chapter. They include Knowing What Students Know , Investigating the Influence of Standards , Systems for State Science Assessment , America’s Lab Report , Taking Science to School , and Preparing Teachers . The discussions in the following sections are based primarily on these reports.
Explicit standards for teaching, professional development, education programs, and the education system were included in the original National Science Education Standards (NSES) published by the NRC in 1996 . Although many of these standards are still relevant to K-12 science education today, the committee did not undertake a thorough review of these portions of the NSES. Instead, given our charge, we focused on the NSES standards that describe science content. For future efforts, we suggest that a review of the other NSES standards, in light of the research and development that has taken place since 1996, would be very valuable; such a review could serve as an important complement to the current effort.
KEY COMPONENTS OF K-12 SCIENCE EDUCATION
The key components of science education that we consider in this chapter are curriculum, instruction, teacher development, and assessment. It is difficult to focus on any particular component without considering how it is influenced by—and how it in turn influences—the other components. For example, what students learn is clearly related to what they are taught, which itself depends on many things: state science standards; the instructional materials available in the commercial market and from organizations (such as state and federal agencies) with science-related missions; the curriculum adopted by the local board of education; teachers’ knowledge and practices for teaching; how teachers elect to use the curriculum; the kinds of resources, time, and space that teachers have for their instructional work; what the community values regarding student learning; and how local, state, and national standards and assessments influence instructional practice.
We are not attempting to provide a full discussion of all possible influences on science education; rather, we focus on four major components that have critical roles to play and how they will need to evolve in order to implement the kind of science education envisaged by this framework. Our discussion also does not include detailed consideration of the process of gaining support for adoption of standards—for example, developing public will and engaging with state and local policy makers. We also do not discuss informal settings for science education, which provide many opportunities for learning science that complement and extend students’ experiences in school .
A Complex System
Much of the complexity of science education systems derives from the multiple levels of control—classroom, school, school district, state, and national—across which curriculum, instruction, teacher development, and assessment operate; thus what ultimately happens in a classroom is significantly affected by decision making distributed across the levels and multiple channels of influence.
Each teacher ultimately decides how and what to teach in his or her classroom, but this decision is influenced by decisions at higher levels of the system. First, there is the effect of decisions made at the school level, which include the setting of expectations and sequences in certain content areas as well as the principal’s, department chairs’, or team leaders’ explicit and implicit signals about teaching and learning priorities . Leaders at the school level may also make decisions about the time and resources  allocated to different subjects within guidelines and requirements set by the state, teacher hiring and assignments, the usage of science labs, and, in some cases, the presence of a school building’s laboratory space in the first place. The school leaders’ expectations, priorities, and decisions establish a climate that encourages or discourages particular pedagogical approaches, collegial interactions, or inservice programs [11, 12]. Furthermore, a school’s degree of commitment to equity—to providing opportunities for all students to learn the same core content—can influence how students are scheduled into classes, which teachers are hired, how they are assigned to teach particular classes, and how instructional resources are identified and allocated [13, 14].
At the next level of the system, school districts are responsible for (1) ensuring implementation of state and federal education policies; (2) formulating additional local education policies; and (3) creating processes for selecting curricula, purchasing curriculum materials, and determining the availability of instructional resources. District leaders develop local school budgets, set instructional priorities,
provide instructional guidance, create incentive structures, and influence the willingness and capacity of schools and teachers to explore and implement different instructional techniques. Teacher hiring and school assignment may also occur at the district level. Districts may provide support structures and professional development networks that enhance the capacity of schools and teachers to implement effective science curriculum, instruction, and formative assessments.
The state level is a particularly important one for schools. States, being constitutionally responsible for elementary and secondary education, play major roles in regulating and funding education—they provide nearly half of all public school revenues , with most of the remainder coming from local property taxes. Each state must develop and administer its own policies on standards, curriculum, materials selection and adoption, teacher licensure, student assessment, and educational accountability. Across states, the authority of schools and districts to formulate policy varies considerably. Some states have relatively high “local control,” with more power residing at the district level; others states have more centralized control, with more influence exerted by the state.
Finally, although the federal government contributes less than 10 percent of all funds invested by states and local districts in education , it influences education at all levels through a combination of regulations, public advocacy, and monetary incentives. For example, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind Act) requires the testing of students at specific grade levels.
There are also influences from the other stakeholders that have an interest in science education, such as parents, businesses, local communities, and professional societies. These stakeholders can become engaged at all levels—national, state, local—and often have a significant influence on what is taught and how it is taught.
Clearly, a science education system must be responsive to a variety of influences—some that emanate from the top down, some from the bottom up, and some laterally from outside formal channels. States and school districts generally exert considerable influence over science curricula, and they set policies for time
A science education system must be responsive to a variety of influences—some that emanate from the top down, some from the bottom up, and some laterally from outside formal channels.
spent on science. However, classroom teachers in the lower grades may have some latitude in how they use instructional time to meet district and state mandates. In high school, by contrast, district and state graduation requirements affect the types and numbers of science courses that all students are required to take. Beyond such minimum requirements, students and their parents determine the overall science course load that each student takes.
The Importance of Coherence in the System
The complexity of the system—with several components that are affected by or operate at different levels—presents a challenge to implementation of the framework and its related standards. Successful implementation requires that all of the components across the levels cohere or work together in a harmonious or logical way to support the new vision. This kind of system-wide coherence is difficult to achieve, yet it is essential to the success of standards-based science education.
In the literature on education policy, the term “coherence” is often used interchangeably with another term—“alignment” [17-19]—although others have suggested that alignment alone is not sufficient to make a system coherent . For example, not only would a coherent curriculum be well aligned across the grades or across subjects, it would also be logically organized, integrated, and harmonious in its internal structure. Here we treat coherence as the broader concept and alignment as only one of its dimensions.
A standards-based system of science education should be coherent in a variety of ways . It should be horizontally coherent, in the sense that the curriculum-, instruction-, and assessment-related policies and practices are all aligned with the standards, target the same goals for learning, and work together to support students’ development of the knowledge and understanding of science. The system should be vertically coherent, in the sense that there is (a) a shared understanding at all levels of the system (classroom, school, school district, state, and national) of the goals for science education (and for the curriculum) that underlie the standards and (b) that there is a consensus about the purposes and
uses of assessment. The system should also be developmentally coherent, in the sense that there is a shared understanding across grade levels of what ideas are important to teach and of how children’s understanding of these ideas should develop across grade levels.
CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS
Curriculum refers to the knowledge and practices in subject matter areas that teachers teach and that students are supposed to learn. A curriculum generally consists of a scope, or breadth of content, in a given subject area and of a sequence of concepts and activities for learning. While standards typically outline the goals of learning, curricula set forth the more specific means—materials, tasks, discussions, representations—to be used to achieve those goals.
Curriculum is collectively defined by teachers, curriculum coordinators (at both the school and the district levels), state agencies, curriculum development organizations, textbook publishers, and (in the case of science) curriculum kit publishers. Although standards do not prescribe specific curricula, they do provide some criteria for designing curricula. And in order to realize the vision of the framework and standards, it is necessary that aligned instructional materials, textbooks, and computer or other media-based materials be developed as well.
Curricula based on the framework and resulting standards should integrate the three dimensions—scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas—and follow the progressions articulated in this report. In order to support the vision of this framework, standards-based curricula in science need to be developed to provide clear guidance that helps teachers support students engaging in scientific practices to develop explanations and models [5, 21-24]. In addition, curriculum materials need to be developed as a multiyear sequence that helps students develop increasingly sophisticated ideas across grades K-12 [5, 25, 26]. Curriculum materials (including technology) themselves are developed by a multicomponent system that includes for-profit publishers as well as grant-funded work in the nonprofit sectors of the science education community. The adoption of standards based on this framework by multiple states may help drive publishers to align with it. Such alignment may at first be superficial, but schools, districts, and states can influence publishers if enough of them are asking for serious alignment with the framework and the standards it engenders.
While standards typically outline the goals of learning, curricula set forth the more specific means—materials, tasks, discussions, representations—to be used to achieve those goals.
Integration of the Three Dimensions
The framework’s vision is that students will acquire knowledge and skill in science and engineering through a carefully designed sequence of learning experiences. Each stage in the sequence will develop students’ understanding of particular scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas while also deepening their insights into the ways in which people from all backgrounds engage in scientific and engineering work to satisfy their curiosity, seek explanations about the world, and improve the built world.
A major question confronting each curriculum developer will be which of the practices and crosscutting concepts to feature in lessons or units around a particular disciplinary core idea so that, across the curriculum, they all receive sufficient attention .
Every science unit or engineering design project must have as one of its goals the development of student understanding of at least one disciplinary core idea. In addition, explicit reference to each crosscutting concept will recur frequently and in varied contexts across disciplines and grades. These concepts need to become part of the language of science that students use when framing questions or developing ways to observe, describe, and explain the world.
Similarly, the science and engineering practices delineated in this framework should become familiar as well to students through increasingly sophisticated experiences with them across grades K-8 [28, 29]. Although not every such practice will occur in every context, the curriculum should provide repeated opportunities across various contexts for students to develop their facility with these practices and use them as a support for developing deep understanding of the concepts in question and of the nature of science and of engineering. This will require substantial redesign of current and future curricula [30, 31].
Important Aspects of Science Curriculum
In addition to alignment with the framework, there are many other aspects for curriculum designers to consider that are not addressed in the framework. This section highlights some that the committee considers important but decided would
Through discussion and reflection, students can come to realize that scientific inquiry embodies a set of values. These values include respect for the importance of logical thinking, precision, open-mindedness, objectivity, skepticism, and a requirement for transparent research procedures and honest reporting of findings.
be better treated at the level of curriculum design than at the level of framework and standards. Considerations of the historical, social, cultural, and ethical aspects of science and its applications, as well as of engineering and the technologies it develops, need a place in the natural science curriculum and classroom [32, 33]. The framework is designed to help students develop an understanding not only that the various disciplines of science and engineering are interrelated but also that they are human endeavors. As such, they may raise issues that are not solved by scientific and engineering methods alone.
For example, because decisions about the use of a particular technology raise issues of costs, risks, and benefits, the associated societal and environmental impacts require a broader discussion. Perspectives from history and the social and behavioral sciences can enlighten the consideration of such issues; indeed, many of them are addressable either in the context of a social studies course, a science course, or both. In either case, the importance of argument from evidence is critical.
It is also important that curricula provide opportunities for discussions that help students recognize that some science- or engineering-related questions, such as ethical decisions or legal codes for what should or should not be done in a given situation, have moral and cultural underpinnings that vary across cultures. Similarly, through discussion and reflection, students can come to realize that scientific inquiry embodies a set of values. These values include respect for the importance of logical thinking, precision, open-mindedness, objectivity, skepticism, and a requirement for transparent research procedures and honest reporting of findings.
Students need opportunities, with increasing sophistication across the grade levels, to consider not only the applications and implications of science and engi-neering in society but also the nature of the human endeavor of science and engineering themselves. They likewise need to develop an awareness of the careers made possible through scientific and engineering capabilities.
Discussions involving the history of scientific and engineering ideas, of individual practitioners’ contributions, and of the applications of these endeavors are important components of a science and engineering curriculum. For many students, these aspects are the pathways that capture their interest in these fields and build their identities as engaged and capable learners of science and engineering [34, 35]. Teaching science and engineering without reference to their rich variety of human stories, to the puzzles of the past and how they were solved, and to the issues of today that science and engineering must help address would be a major omission. It would isolate science and engineering from their human roots, undervalue their intellectual and creative contributions, and diminish many students’ interest.
Finally, when considering how to integrate these aspects of learning into the science and engineering curriculum, curriculum developers, as well as classroom teachers, face many further important questions. For example, is a topic best addressed by invoking its historical development as a story of scientific discovery? Is it best addressed in the context of a current problem or issue? Or is it best conveyed through an investigation? What technology or simulation tools can aid student learning? In addition, how are diverse student backgrounds explicitly engaged as resources in structuring learning experiences [36, 37]? And does the curriculum offer sufficiently varied examples and opportunities so that all students may identify with scientific knowledge-building practices and participate fully [38, 39]? These choices occur both in the development of curriculum materials and, as we discuss in the following section, in decisions made by the teacher in planning instruction.
LEARNING AND INSTRUCTION
Instruction refers to methods of teaching and the learning activities used to help students master the content and objectives specified by a curriculum. Instruction encompasses the activities of both teachers and students. It can be carried out by a variety of pedagogical techniques, sequences of activities, and ordering of topics. Although the framework does not specify a particular pedagogy, integration of the three dimensions will require that students be actively involved in the kinds of learning opportunities that classroom research suggests are important for (1) their understanding of science concepts [5, 40-42], (2) their identities as learners of science [43, 44], and (3) their appreciation of scientific practices and crosscutting concepts [45, 46].
Several previous NRC committees working on topics related to science education have independently concluded that there is not sufficient evidence to make prescriptive recommendations about which approaches to science instruction are most effective for achieving particular learning goals [3-5]. However, the recent report Preparing Teachers noted that “there is a clear inferential link between the nature of what is in the standards and the nature of classroom instruction. Instruction throughout K-12 education is likely to develop science proficiency if it provides students with opportunities for a range of scientific activities and scientific thinking, including, but not limited to: inquiry and investigation, collection and analysis of evidence, logical reasoning, and communication and application of information” .
For example, researchers have studied classroom teaching interventions involving curriculum structures that support epistemic practices (i.e., articulation and evaluation of one’s own knowledge, coordination of theory and evidence) ; instructional approaches for English language learners ; the effects of project-based curricula and teaching practices ; the effects of instruction on core ideas, such as the origin of species ; and the influence of multiple representations of learning . Others have investigated curricular approaches and instructional practices that are matched to national standards  or are focused on model-based inquiry . In some work, there is a particular interest in the role of students’ learning of scientific discourses, especially argumentation [33, 53, 54]. Taken together, this work suggests teachers need to develop the capacity to use a variety of approaches in science education.
Much of this work has examined pedagogical issues related to the “strands” of scientific proficiency outlined in Taking Science to School , and we next turn to those strands.
What It Means to Learn Science
The NRC report Taking Science to School  concluded that proficiency in science is multifaceted and therefore requires a range of experiences to support students’ learning. That report defined the following four strands of proficiency, which it maintained are interwoven in successful science learning:
1. Knowing, using, and interpreting scientific explanations of the natural world.
2. Generating and evaluating scientific evidence and explanations.
3. Understanding the nature and development of scientific knowledge.
4. Participating productively in scientific practices and discourse.
Strand 1 includes the acquisition of facts, laws, principles, theories, and models of science; the development of conceptual structures that incorporate them; and the productive use of these structures to understand the natural world. Students grow in their understanding of particular phenomena as well as in their appreciation of the ways in which the construction of models and refinement of arguments contribute to the improvement of explanations [29, 55].
Strand 2 encompasses the knowledge and practices needed to build and refine models and to provide explanations (conceptual, computational, and mechanistic) based on scientific evidence. This strand includes designing empirical investigations and measures for data collection, selecting representations and ways of analyzing the resulting data (or data available from other sources), and using empirical evidence to construct, critique, and defend scientific arguments [45, 56].
Strand 3 focuses on students’ understanding of science as a way of knowing. Scientific knowledge is a particular kind of knowledge with its own sources, justifications, ways of dealing with uncertainties , and agreed-on levels of certainty. When students understand how scientific knowledge is developed over systematic observations across multiple investigations, how it is justified and critiqued on the basis of evidence, and how it is validated by the larger scientific community, the students then recognize that science entails the search for core explanatory constructs and the connections between them . They come to appreciate that alternative interpretations of scientific evidence can occur, that such interpretations must be carefully scrutinized, and that the plausibility of the supporting evidence must be considered. Thus students ultimately understand, regarding both their own work and the historical record, that predictions or explanations can
be revised on the basis of seeing new evidence or of developing a new model that accounts for the existing evidence better than previous models did.
Strand 4 includes students’ effective engagement in science practices with an understanding of the norms for participating in science, such as norms for constructing and presenting scientific models and explanations, for critiquing and defending a claim while engaged in scientific debates, and for students’ motivation and attitudes toward science. For example, over time, students develop more sophisticated uses of scientific talk—which includes making claims and using evidence—and of scientific representations, such as graphs , physical models , and written arguments [60, 61]. They come to see themselves as members of a scientific community in which they test ideas, develop shared representations and models, and reach consensus. Students who see science as valuable and interesting and themselves as capable science learners also tend to be capable learners as well as more effective participants in science . They believe that steady effort in understanding science pays off—as opposed to erroneously thinking that some people understand science and other people never will. To engage productively in science, however, students need to understand how to participate in scientific discussions, how to adopt a critical stance while respecting the contributions of others, and how to ask questions and revise their own opinions .
The four strands imply that learning science involves learning a system of thought, discourse, and practice—all in an interconnected and social context—to accomplish the goal of working with and understanding scientific ideas. This perspective stresses how conceptual understanding is linked to the ability to develop explanations of phenomena and to carry out empirical investigations in order to develop or evaluate those knowledge claims. Furthermore, it recognizes the conceptual effort needed for students’ naive conceptions of the world to be modified as they learn science, rather than maintained with little change even as they contradict the material being taught. These strands are not independent or separable in the practice of science, nor in the teaching and learning of science. Rather, they are mutually supportive—students’ advances in one strand tend to leverage or promote advances in other strands. Furthermore, students use them together when engaging in scientific tasks.
The NRC report Learning Science in Informal Environments  built on these proficiencies by including two additional strands. The first highlighted the importance of personal interests related to science, and the second noted the importance of helping learners come to identify with science as an endeavor they want to seek out, engage in, and perhaps contribute to. Science-linked interests
and identity are important aspects of the science proficiencies of all learners, and we have discussed them specifically in other parts of the framework (see Chapters 2 and 11).
Although the strands are useful for thinking about proficiencies that students need to develop, as framed they do not describe in any detail what it is that students need to learn and practice. Thus they cannot guide standards, curricula, or assessment without further specification of the knowledge and practices that students must learn. The three dimensions that are developed in this framework—practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas—make that specification and attempt to realize the commitments to the strands of scientific literacy in the four strands. There is not a simple one-to-one mapping of strands to the dimensions, because the strands are interrelated aspects of how learners engage with scientific ideas. Table 10-1 summarizes how the strands of scientific literacy guided the design of the dimensions in the framework.
Implications for Instruction
As the report Taking Science to School concludes, “a range of instructional approaches is necessary as part of a full development of the four strands of proficiency. All students need to experience these different approaches” . “Approaches” here refer to the wide range of instructional strategies—from those that are led exclusively by the teacher to those that are led primarily by the student—that teachers can employ in science classrooms. Instruction may involve teacher talk and questioning, or teacher-led activities, or collaborative small-group investigations , or student-led activities. The extent of each alternative varies, depending on the initial ideas that students bring to learning (and their consequent needs for scaffolding), the nature of the content involved, and the available curriculum support.
Current research in K-12 science classrooms reveals that earlier debates about such dichotomies as “direct instruction” and “inquiry” are simplistic, even mistaken, as a characterization of science pedagogy . This research focuses on particular aspects of teaching methods, such
TABLE 10-1 Relationship of Strands and Dimensions
|Strands from Taking Science to School ||Dimensions in Framework||How the Framework Is Designed to Deliver on the Commitment in the Strand|
1. Knowing, using, and interpreting scientific explanations of the natural world
|Specify big ideas, not lists of facts: Core ideas in the framework are powerful explanatory ideas, not a simple list of facts, that help learners explain important aspects of the natural world. Many important ideas in science are crosscutting, and learners should recognize and use these explanatory ideas (e.g., systems) across multiple scientific contexts.|
2. Generating and evaluating scientific evidence and explanations
4. Participating productively in scientific practices and discourse
|Practices||Learning is defined as the combination of both knowledge and practice, not separate content and process learning goals: Core ideas in the framework are specified not as explanations to be consumed by learners. The performances combine core ideas and practices. The practices include several methods for generating and using evidence to develop, refine, and apply scientific explanations to construct accounts of scientific phenomena. Students learn and demonstrate proficiency with core ideas by engaging in these knowledge-building practices to explain and make scientifically informed decisions about the world.|
3. Understanding the nature and development of scientific knowledge
|Practices are defined as meaningful engagement with disciplinary practices, not rote procedures: Practices are defined as meaningful practices in which learners are engaged in building, refining, and applying scientific knowledge, to understand the world, and not as rote procedures or a ritualized “scientific method.” Engaging in the practices requires being guided by understandings about why scientific practices are done as they are—what counts as a good explanation, what counts as scientific evidence, how it differs from other forms of evidence, and so on. These understandings are represented in the nature of the practices and in crosscutting concepts about how scientific knowledge is developed that guide the practices.|
as teachers’ oral strategies in guided science inquiry  and how they influence students’ progress in scientific practices, crosscutting concepts and core ideas. For example, McNeill and Krajcik  studied how teachers’ instructional practices affected students’ scientific explanations; Kanter and Konstantopoulos  reported on the effects of teachers’ content knowledge and instructional practices on minority students’ achievements, attitudes, and careers. Other research has tracked how students’ learning of scientific argumentation related to their development of scientific knowledge [65, 66]. Technological resources for science learning offer another instructional option [67-69].
Engagement in the scientific and engineering practices and the undertaking of sustained investigations related to the core ideas and crosscutting concepts provide the strategies by which the four strands can be developed together in instruction. The expectation is that students generate and interpret evidence and develop explanations of the natural world through sustained investigations. However, such investigations must be carefully selected to link to important scientific ideas, and they must also be structured with attention to the kinds of support that students will need, given their level of proficiency. Without support, students may have difficulty finding meaning in their investigations, or they may fail to see how the investigations are relevant to their other work in the science classroom, or they may not understand how their investigations’ outcomes connect to a given core idea or crosscutting concept . Finally, sufficient time must be allocated to science so that sustained investigations can occur.
Ultimately, the interactions between teachers and students in individual classrooms are the determining factor in whether students learn science successfully. Thus teachers are the linchpin in any effort to change K-12 science education. And it stands to reason that in order to support implementation of the new standards and the curricula designed to achieve them, the initial preparation and professional development of teachers of science will need to change.
Schools, districts, institutions of higher education, state agencies, and other entities recruit, prepare, license, and evaluate teachers and provide an array of opportunities for their continued professional learning. A coherent approach to implementing standards would require all of these entities to work toward common goals and to evaluate the effectiveness of their requirements, procedures, teaching experiences, and courses in supporting the desired
Teachers are the linchpin in any effort to change K-12 science education…. In order to support implementation of the new standards and the curricula designed to achieve them, the initial preparation and professional development of teachers of science will need to change.
approaches. (A common response from state science supervisors who reviewed the framework’s draft version was to recognize the professional development demands it would place on the education systems in which they operate.) Alignment of teacher preparation and professional development with the vision of science education advanced in this framework is essential for eventual widespread implementation of the type of instruction that will be needed for students to achieve the standards based on it.
Teaching science as envisioned by the framework requires that teachers have a strong understanding of the scientific ideas and practices they are expected to teach, including an appreciation of how scientists collaborate to develop new theories, models, and explanations of natural phenomena. Rarely are college-level science courses designed to offer would-be science teachers, even those who major in science, the opportunity to develop these understandings. Courses designed with this goal are needed.
Teachers also need to understand what initial ideas students bring to school and how they may best develop an understanding of scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas across multiple grades . Furthermore, in order to move students along the developmental progression of practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas, teachers need science-specific pedagogical content knowledge [72-74]—such as the ability to recognize common prescientific notions that underlie a student’s questions or models—in order to choose the pedagogical approaches that can build on those notions while moving students toward greater scientific understanding of the topics in question. In sum, teachers at all levels must understand the scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas; how students learn them; and the range of instructional strategies that can support their learning. Furthermore, teachers need to learn how to use student-developed models, classroom discourse, and other formative assessment approaches to gauge student thinking and design further instruction based on it. A single “science methods” course cannot develop this knowledge in
any depth across all subjects for high school science teachers, nor across all grades for elementary school teachers. Furthermore, many teachers now enter the system through alternative paths that may not include coursework in science teaching.
The research base related to strategies for science teacher preparation has been growing in the past decades [75-77]. Recent research has focused on the kinds of teacher knowledge to be addressed [78-82], particular programs and courses for prospective teachers , and how induction programs (which provide early mentoring and evaluation experiences, for example) can support new teachers . However, an NRC committee charged with reviewing teacher preparation programs concluded that there is virtually “no systematic information on the content or practices of preparation programs or requirements for science teachers across states” . In other words, while there is some research on what might be effective in preservice education little is known about what is actually offered.
State licensure requirements and the content of state licensing exams suggest that the requirements in science are fairly weak for elementary teachers and probably inadequate for middle school teachers. Although there is some evidence about approaches to professional development for K-12 science teachers [85-93], the research base needs further evidence from studies across K-12 teachers at different grade levels and across different disciplines [94-96]. Given these circumstances, the discussion in the following subsections is based on the information available, the committee’s professional judgments, and logical inferences about what knowledge and skills teachers need to have in order to provide the learning experiences implied by the framework.
Prospective science teachers will need science courses and other experiences that provide a thorough grounding in all three of the framework’s dimensions . Thus science teacher preparation must develop teachers’ focus on, and deepen their understanding of the crosscutting concepts, disciplinary core ideas [98, 99], and scientific and engineering practices  so as to better engage their students in these dimensions [101, 102]. The goal of building students’ understanding of the core ideas over multiple grades means that teachers will need to appreciate both the current intellectual capabilities of their students and their developmental trajectories . Toward this end, preservice teachers will need experiences that help them understand how students think, what they are capable of doing, and what they might reasonably be expected to do under supportive instructional conditions .
Preservice teachers will need experiences that help them understand how students think, what they are capable of doing, and what they might reasonably be expected to do under supportive instructional conditions.
Ensuring that teachers incorporate the full range of scientific and engineering practices described in the framework is likely to be a challenge, but science methods courses will need revision to support prospective teachers’ eventual facility with that range in their classrooms. This means introducing prospective teachers to a spectrum of scientific investigations, including simple investigations in the classroom using everyday materials, field studies outside the classroom , formal experiments carried out in the laboratory , and student-designed investigations . Teachers also need opportunities to develop the knowledge and practices to support these investigations, including how to prepare, organize, and maintain materials; implement safety protocols; organize student groups; and guide students as they collect, represent, analyze, discuss data, argue from evidence, and draw conclusions .
Given that prospective teachers often rely heavily on curricular materials to guide their preparation and teaching, they will also need experiences in analyzing and revising curricular materials using standards- and research-based criteria [105, 106]. In addition, in this age of accountability, new teachers will need support in developing their knowledge of forms of assessment .
Beyond investigations, the discourse practices also are an important component of the framework [82, 107]; teachers will need support to learn how to facilitate appropriate and effective discourse in their classrooms [108, 109]. The emphasis on modeling is also new and will need to be an explicit element of teacher preparation [75, 110].
Moreover, preservice experiences will need to help teachers develop explicit ways to bring the crosscutting concepts into focus as they teach disciplinary content ideas. In effect, the framework calls for using a common language across grade levels for both scientific and engineering practices and crosscutting concepts. Engaging teachers in using this language during their preparation experiences is one strategy for ensuring that they develop facility and comfort with using it in the classroom.
The practices of obtaining, representing, communicating, and presenting information pose a particular challenge. Although elementary science teachers are usually also teachers of reading and writing and have experience in that
realm, this is not the case for most secondary science teachers. Even for elementary teachers, their experience as literacy teachers rarely stresses science-specific issues, such as developing understanding based on integrating text with pictures, diagrams, and mathematical representations of information. For science teachers to embrace their role as teachers of science communication and of practices of acquiring, evaluating, and integrating information from multiple sources and multiple forms of presentation, their preparation as teachers will need to be strong in these areas .
The committee recognizes that incorporating the elements identified above will place significant demands on existing teacher preparation programs and on science teaching in college-level science departments. This may be particularly the case for the preparation of elementary teachers, who are typically required to take only a limited number of science courses and a single science methods course. A variety of mechanisms for integrating these elements will probably need to be considered, including modification of courses, addition of courses, and changes in licensing requirements. Any such redesigns should be oriented to the framework’s three dimensions while incorporating research-based knowledge of what is most effective in teacher preparation.
Inservice Professional Development
Preservice preparation alone cannot fully prepare science teachers to implement the three dimensions of the framework as an integrated and effective whole. Inservice professional development will also be necessary to support teachers as they move into classrooms and teach science education curricula based on the framework [19, 112] and to introduce current teachers to the elements of the framework and the teaching practices that are needed to support them. Science-specific induction, and mentoring, and ongoing professional development for teachers at all stages of their careers, are needed.
This professional development should not only be rich in scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas but also be closely linked to teachers’ classroom practices and needs . Such professional development will thus need to be closely tied to the standards and curricula specific to the school, district, and state in which a particular teacher is teaching . This burden will fall at local and state levels, but the capacity to meet it could be improved by coordinated development of teacher inservice programs capable of serving multiple states that choose to adopt the same set of standards. The capacity of the informal science learning sector to support effective teacher development
will also need attention to ensure that the work that such institutions as science museums do in teacher professional development is likewise aligned to the framework’s vision.
Because elementary teachers teach several subjects, it will be especially important to consider how best to meet their combined needs through teacher preparation, early- career induction support, and ongoing professional development . Some exploration of alternate models of teacher assignment, particularly at the upper elementary and middle school grades, may be needed. Even for secondary science teachers, facility with conceptual understanding of the framework [115, 116] and with the practices described here [80, 117] will require continuing professional development.
It should be understood that effective implementation of the new standards may require ongoing professional development support and that this support may look different from earlier versions. For example, the use of technology-facilitated approaches—such as teachers’ video clubs to study their practices collaboratively  or the use of geospatial or modeling technology—while rare today, may become commonplace .
Assessment refers to the means used to measure the outcomes of curriculum and instruction—the achievements of students with regard to important competencies. Assessment may include formal methods, such as large-scale standardized state testing, or less formal classroom-based procedures, such as quizzes, class projects, and teacher questioning. In the brief subsections that follow, we discuss some of the more challenging issues related to assessment that are part of the landscape for implementing the framework and its resulting standards.
Purposes of Assessments
As discussed in Knowing What Students Know , there are at least three purposes for educational assessment:
1. Formative assessment for use in the classroom to assist learning. Such assessment is designed to provide diagnostic feedback to teachers and students during the course of instruction. Teachers need assessment information about their individual students to guide the instructional process.
2. Summative assessment for use at the classroom, school, or district level to determine student attainment levels. Such assessment includes tests, given at the end of a unit or a school year, that are designed to determine what individual students have achieved.
3. Assessment for program evaluation, used in making comparisons across classrooms, schools, districts, states, or nations. Such assessment often includes standardized tests designed to measure variation in the outcomes of different instructional programs.
Schools, districts, and states typically employ assessments for all three purposes and sometimes today for a fourth purpose—evaluation of teacher effectiveness. Often the multiple forms of assessment have been designed separately and may not be well aligned with each other . But just as the education system as a whole needs to function coherently to support implementation of the framework and related standards, the multiple forms of assessment need to function coherently as well. That is, the various forms of assessment should all be linked to the shared goals outlined by the framework and related standards while at the same time be designed to achieve the specific purpose at hand.
In addition, designers of assessments need to consider the diverse backgrounds that students bring with them to science class. For example, from an analysis of the language demands faced by English language learners on science performance assessments, Shaw, Bunch, and Geaney  concluded that assessment developers need to eliminate barriers of language, gender-biased examples, and other forms of representation that preclude some students’ useful participation.
More fundamentally, the education system currently lacks sophistication in understanding and addressing the different purposes of assessment and how they relate to each other and to the standards for a particular subject. For example, a glaring and frequent mistake is to assume that current standardized tests of the type
used by most states to assess academic achievement for accountability purposes can also suffice to fulfill the other purposes of assessment. Such a “one-size-fits-all” notion of assessment is demonstrably inadequate. No single assessment, regardless of how well it might be designed, can possibly meet the range of information needs that operate from the classroom level on up [1, 3].
Assessment Contexts: Classroom and Large-Scale Uses
In addition to differences in purpose, there are differences among assessments (and similarities) in their contexts of use, which range from the classroom level to the national level. As discussed in the NRC report Assessment in Support of Instruction and Learning: Bridging the Gap Between Large-Scale and Classroom Assessment , there are many desirable design features that should be shared by assessments, whether intended for use at the classroom level (for formative or summative purposes) or intended for large-scale use by states and nations (typically for accountability purposes). There are also some unique design characteristics that apply separately to each context. Many of the desirable design characteristics, shared or unique (to each context of use) alike, are currently unmet by the current generation of science assessment tools and resources.
Most science assessments, whether intended for classroom or large-scale use, still employ paper-and-pencil presentation and response formats that are amenable only to limited forms of problem types. In fact, most large-scale tests are composed primarily of selected-response (multiple-choice) tasks, and the situation is often not much better at the classroom level. Assessments of this type can measure some kinds of conceptual knowledge, and they also can provide a snapshot of some science practices. But they do not adequately measure other kinds of achievements, such as the formulation of scientific explanations or communication of scientific understanding . They also cannot assess students’ ability to design and execute all of the steps involved in carrying out a scientific investigation  or engaging in scientific argumentation. A few states have developed standardized classroom assessments of science practices by providing uniform kits of materials that students use to carry out laboratory tasks; this approach has also been used in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science test. However, administering and scoring these hands-on tasks can be cumbersome and expensive .
Computer-based assessment offers a promising alternative [6, 123]. Simulations are being designed to measure not only deep conceptual understanding but also the science practices that are difficult to assess using paper-and-pencil tests or hands-on laboratory tasks . In 2006 and 2009, the Programme
for International Student Assessment (PISA) pilot-tested the Computer-Based Assessment of Science (CBAS), designed to measure science knowledge and inquiry processes. The 2009 NAEP science test included interactive computer tasks designed to test students’ ability to engage in science inquiry practices. And the 2012 NAEP Technological Literacy Assessment will include simulations for assessing students’ facility with information and communications technology tools and their ability to engage in the engineering design process. At the state level, Minnesota has an online science test with tasks that engage students in simulated laboratory experiments or in investigations of such phenomena as weather and the solar system. There is hope that some of these early developments in large-scale testing contexts can be used as a springboard for the design and deployment of assessments, ranging down to the classroom level, that support aspects of the framework.
Designing high-quality science assessments that are consistent with the framework, that satisfy the different purposes of assessment, and that function in the varying contexts of use is an important goal, which will require attention and investment to achieve. Such science assessments must target the full range of knowledge and practices described in this report. They must test students’ understanding of science as a content domain and their understanding of science as an approach. And they must provide evidence that students can apply their knowledge appropriately and are building on their existing knowledge and skills in ways that lead to deeper understanding of the scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas. Science assessments must address all of these pedagogical goals while also meeting professional educators’ standards for reliability, validity, and fairness.
Although we have distinguished three purposes of assessment and different contexts of use, quality instruments for each purpose and context depend on the
same three basic components: (1) theories and data about content-based cognition that indicate the knowledge and practices that should be tested, (2) tasks and observations that can provide information on whether the student has mastered the knowledge and practices of interest, and (3) qualitative and quantitative techniques for scoring student performance that capture fairly the differences in knowledge and practice .
Every assessment has to be specifically designed to serve its intended purpose and context of use. An assessment designed to provide information about students’ difficulties with a single concept so that it can be addressed with instruction would be designed differently from an assessment meant to provide information to policy makers for evaluating the effectiveness of the overall education system. Details about the design of assessments for any given purpose or context are beyond the scope of the framework, as are the principles for designing systems of assessments that operate across the classroom, district, and state levels. However, guidance to states for developing a coherent system of assessments can be found in the NRC report Systems for State Science Assessment .
As this chapter’s discussion suggests, the committee’s work on the framework and resulting standards is only the beginning. In order for students to experience and engage in the opportunities needed for understanding the three dimensions of scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas described in the framework, many other players and components of the system will need to change, often in dramatic ways. And these changes will need to occur in parallel, driven by a common vision, as well as iteratively, because each affects the capacity of other components of the system to implement the framework and standards. It is the committee’s vision that the framework and standards based on it can help drive ongoing evolutionary change in science instruction through parallel and interlocking developments across the multiple components of the system.
Curriculum developers will need to design K-12 science curricula based on research and on learning progressions across grade levels that incorporate the framework’s three dimensions. Teacher preparation programs and professional development programs will need to provide learning opportunities for teachers themselves in order to deepen their conceptual understanding, engage in scientific and engineering practices, and develop an appreciation of science as a way of knowing in a community of knowledge builders. These programs will also need to
enhance teachers’ skills in investigating students’ ideas, selecting effective teaching practices, assessing students’ progress, and developing classroom communities and discourses in which all students and their ways of knowing are valued and respected. College science departments will need to attend to the needs of prospective science teachers. Assessment developers will need to develop creative, valid, and reliable ways of gathering evidence about students’ progress across the domains and grade levels to satisfy different purposes at different levels of the science education system.
Furthermore, because these changes are needed across the entire science education system—involving not only the educators at the front lines but also those who make and implement policies—professional development for state-level science supervisors, school boards, district-level leaders, principals, and curriculum specialists will be necessary as well. In that way, all components and players in the science education system can mesh coherently with the framework’s vision for a more inclusive, focused, and authentic science education experience for all students.
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