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Theoretical Overview - Science Reform, Science Literacy and the Nature of Science
The curriculum used in this unit comes from the knowledge gained by looking at science reforms, science literacy, and the ways we have taught the nature of science over the last sixty years. It is interesting to see we are not much further in our curriculum development as a nation than we were six decades ago. In the 1950’s and early 1960’s our country had a boom in science education funding and concern due to the challenge by President Kennedy to get a man on the moon in ten years time. (Schademan, 2008) The driving force of this challenge was national security and to keep our spot as a world leader in economics, technology and science. Imagine the picture of Science education where teachers are being mandated to read scripted lessons from textbooks, to teach exactly in the same manner as their peers, and that a single multiple choice tests is being used to measure all student’s learning, much like today’s classrooms.
Since this unit is developed with the middle school student in mind, it is important to point out direction taken by both of the two major reforms in how they addressed the middle school. In the 1960’s the reform went from the high school down through the junior highs and into the elementary school (Bybee, 2005). It also placed emphasis on the idea that those who could “do science” would be selected out of the group to become scientists (Barton and Yang, 2000). The middle school (even though at this time they were still junior highs and not transformed into middle schools yet) was just that, in the middle of the reform, with more emphasis placed on the high school curriculum. On the contrary, the second reform in the late 1980’s also went in a chronological order, but this time it started in the elementary school and went up through the high school. (Bybee, 2005) And again the middle school was just that, in the middle.
This unit takes this into account and uses the knowledge gained by the 1980’s reform to help students become more experienced and scientifically literate through a theme and hands on approach to learning. In spite of the high stakes, test and text book driven curriculum now offered, this unit approaches the science theme of evolution by focusing on the scientific literacy of students.
Loague, Keith. (2001) “Teaching Strategies for Case-Based Learning: Environmental Problems in the Classroom”. April 19, 2001 Hartley Conference Center, Mitchell Earth Sciences Building. Stanford, Ca.
Schademan, Alfred. (2008) 625 History [PowerPoint Slides]. Retrieved from https://vista.csuchico.edu/webct