Historical Overview

Historical Perspective
Educational reform in the field of science was significantly affected by the launch of Sputnik in 1957.  Americans felt threatened by the technological advancements of the Soviet Union causing an outcry from the American people which led to a reformation of science education.  The federal government responded and today the scientific community continues the effort to develop scientific literacy and an understanding of the nature of science for all citizens.   

Scientific Literacy & Nature of Science
Many educators today strive to educate their students to be scientifically literate, a term introduced during the 1970s.  The National Science Education Standards define scientific literacy as "the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity" (National Science Education Standard, 1996).  To develop scientific literacy, students need to have an understanding of the "nature of science."  Norman and Judith Lederman define the phrase "nature of science" as the "values and assumptions inherent to scientific knowledge and the development of scientific knowledge" (Lederman & Lederman, 2004). 

Goals
My goal is to expose my students to the following components of "scientific literacy" and the "nature of science" during my unit:

  • ask, find, or determine answers to questions about everyday experiences.
  • describe, explain, and predict natural phenomena.
  • pose and evaluate arguments based on evidence and apply conclusions appropriately (National Science Education Standard, 1996).
  • all scientific knowledge is based, at least partially, on and/ or derived from observation of the natural world.
  • although scientific knowledge is empirically based, it nevertheless involves human imagination and creativity (Lederman & Lederman, 2004).

To develop these skills Bybee (1995) suggests replacing large amounts of information students are required to learn with key concepts that can be taught more in depth.  He also proposes integrating earth science, biology, chemistry, physics and even technology, math, ethics and social situations.  These ideas are crucial to developing students, who are scientifically literate.

References
Beaches and Towns Network, LLC. (2007).  No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.  Retrieved April 6, 2008, from http://www.nochildleftbehind.com/
Bell, R., Smetana, L. & Binns, I. (2005, October).  Simplifying Inquiry Instruction. The Science Teacher, 30-33.
Bracey, G. (2007, October).  The First Time ‘Everything Changed.' PHI DELTAKAPPAN, 119-136.
Bybee, R., Taylor, J., Gardener, A., Van Scotter, P., Powell, J., Westbrook, A., & Landes, N. (2006, July). The BSCS 5E Instructional Model: Origins, Effectiveness, and Applications. Colorado Springs, CO: BSCS.
Bybee, R. (1995). Science Curriculum Reform in the United States.  Retrieved September 12, 2008, from http://www.nationalacademies.org/rise/backg3a.htm
Bybee, R. (1997, October 4). The Sputnik Era: Why is this Educational Reform Different From All Other Reforms? ( Symposium, "Reflecting on Sputnik: Linking the Past, Present, and Future of Educational Reform," Washington, DC).
Crawford, B. (1998).  The Poisons Project. Science Scope, 18-21.
DeBoer, G. (1991).  Scientific Literacy and the New Progressivism.  In A History of Ideas in Science Education, 173-189.  New York and London: Teachers College Press.
EdSource (2008). No Child Left Behind Overview.  Retrieved April 15, 2008, from  http://www.edsource.org/edu_nclb.cfm
Frank, D., Jones, T., Little, J., Miaoulis, B., Miller, S., & Pasachoff, J. (2008). Focus on Physical Science (pp. 222-223) Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
Lederman, N. & Lederman, J. (2004). Revising Instruction to Teach Nature of Science.  The Science Teacher, 36-39.
Matthews, C. (1994, March). Interactive Video: Reviewing science, stereotypes, and society. The Science Teacher, 20-23.
Monet, J. & Etkina, E. (2008). Fostering Self-Reflection and Meaningful Learning: Earth Science Professional Development for Middle School Science Teachers. Journal of Science Teacher Education. Springer Science & Business Media.
National Research Council (1996) National Science Education Standards. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
Novak, J. (1991).  Clarify With Concept Maps.  The Science Teacher, 44-49.
Perlstein, L. (2004). The Issue Left Behind.  The Nation.  Retrieved April 6, 2008, from http://www.thenation.com/doc/20041108/perstein
U.S Department of Education (2007). No Child Left Behind: A Desktop Reference, p. 21.  Retrieved April 6, 2008, from http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/accound/nclbreference/page_pg21.html
Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design.  Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.