What are the National Science Education Standards?

What are the National Science Education Standards?
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The Editorial Team January 31, 2013

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The National Research Council developed the National Science Education Standards in 1995. The standards are broken down into six groups, which are not a curriculum but rather a set of goals for improving science education. These goals can be applied for all students, from kindergarten through college level. The objective is to improve scientific literacy and the ability to reason, think creatively and use problem-solving skills.

Standards for science teaching

Part of the standards for teaching science includes understanding that how much students learn is influenced by how the subject is taught. A student’s understanding is developed through social and individual processes. Actions of teachers are influenced by the teacher’s perception of science and by their understanding and interaction with students.

Standards for professional development for teachers of science

This portion of the National Science Education Standards seeks to convey the importance that effective science teaching is an ongoing process. As much as continuing education and development is involved in other professions, the same commitment for continued learning should be made by teachers.

Science is dynamic and teachers must keep up with the changes and grow in their knowledge of the subject. Teachers must also have the access to build on their knowledge and network with others in science education.

Standards for assessment in science education

This section addresses the need for assessments of teachers, students and science programs. It covers formative and summative assessment as well as classroom and external measures of achievement. Numerous ideas are presented for effective assessment techniques. Emphasis is placed on the fact that quality assessments of students should not be just a test or exercise but a learning opportunity.

Standards for science content

Content standards are designed to outline what students should learn and understand. The standards are a set of outcomes but not designated curriculum. Content standards are broken down into eight groups including physical science, earth and space science and life science. The history of science is also included. The premise is that students need a broad base of understanding through the full range of sciences to understand science as a whole.

Standards for science education programs

Standards for programs are broken down into groups, A, B, C, D, E, and F.

  • The A standard states that all elements of a program be consistent with one another and through all grade levels
  • Section B addresses the need for curriculum framework and consistent teaching practices
  • C discusses the need to align assessment policies with goals and expectations
  • Section D states that students must be provided with access to materials and resources for science education
  • E takes the access discussed and notes that it must be equitable to all students
  • Section F addresses the need for defined responsibilities in elements of science programs

Standards for science education systems

Educational systems are covered as elements from an individual school to a local district and then a state system. This portion of the standards shows the need for coordination between education, national organizations, government and the private sector. Issues are covered including state and federal funding for education and policy development.

National Science Education Standards were developed with four basic principles in mind. The first two are that science is a subject for all students and learning about science is an active, not passive, process. The third principle is that science taught in school needs to reflect cultural and intellectual traditions that characterize contemporary science. Finally, improving education in science should be part of overall education reforms.

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) uses these standards. In all, there are more than 200 pages of valuable information in the National Science Education Standards. The program is the result of four years of work and a joint effort of 22 science education and scientific groups. More than 18,000 contributors took park in the development.

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