Issue Date: December 12, 2011
Preparing Chemistry Teachers For The Next Generation Science Standards
Calls to improve K–12 science education are becoming increasingly vocal as the need for a highly trained scientific workforce and a scientifically literate citizenry has become imperative in the U.S. To address this need, the National Research Council (NRC) created the Committee on Conceptual Framework for New Science Education Standards, which released its final report in July 2011 (C&EN, July 25, page 11). Copies of the report, entitled “A Framework for K–12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas,” can be obtained on the National Academies Press website. The American Chemical Society, through its Committee on Education and individual members, provided input as the NRC framework was being developed.
The NRC framework “describes the major scientific ideas and practices that all students should be familiar with by the end of high school,” the committee notes in its report, and includes an increased emphasis on engineering and technology when compared with current science standards. The NRC report presents a three-dimensional framework that embraces specific disciplinary ideas, cross-cutting elements applicable across the disciplines, and science and engineering practices. These three dimensions can and should be “integrated in the context of standards, curriculum, instruction, and assessment,” the report says.
Major chemistry concepts are embodied in the physical sciences domain of the framework, which covers four core topics: matter and its interactions, motion and stability (forces and interactions), energy, and waves and their applications in information transfer. Intertwined with these disciplinary concepts are cross-cutting elements (such as cause and effect) and aspects of the practice of science and engineering (such as investigating, evaluating, and developing explanations and solutions).
The NRC framework report provided the basis for the development of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), expected to be released in late 2012. The NGSS are being created by a collaboration among NRC, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve, with input from states and stakeholders. (Achieve is an independent, bipartisan, nonprofit education reform organization based in Washington, D.C., that was created to help states raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments, and strengthen accountability.)
The end point of the new standards, as articulated in the NRC framework, is ambitious: “By the end of the 12th grade, students should have gained sufficient knowledge of the practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas of science and engineering to engage in public discussions on science-related issues, to be critical consumers of scientific information related to their everyday lives, and to continue to learn about science throughout their lives.”
What do these new standards mean for current and future teachers of science? The Association of Public & Land-grant Universities (APLU) convened representatives of disciplinary societies, K–12 and higher education associations, funding agencies, and NRC earlier this fall to discuss the NRC framework, the NGSS, and their implications in preparing high school science teachers. Participants noted that disciplinary societies, such as ACS, can help build awareness of both the framework and standards within their own communities, define what the documents mean for teachers using the standards within a disciplinary context, and help translate the NGSS into practice.
The focus on preservice education at this meeting stemmed, in part, from APLU’s Science & Mathematics Teacher Imperative (SMTI), the American Physical Society’s Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC), and ACS’s nascent Chemistry Teacher Education Coalition (CTEC). SMTI engages 125 public research universities, which educate more than 8,000 science and math teachers annually, in preparing a new generation of science and math teachers. PhysTEC improves and promotes the education of future physics and physical science teachers by demonstrating successful models, spreading best practice ideas, and transforming physics departments to engage in preparing physics teachers.
ACS is expanding its activities related to the preparation of high school chemistry teachers with the ACS-Hach Programs and CTEC. Currently, the ACS-Hach Programs provide scholarships for chemistry majors pursuing certification as high school chemistry teachers as well as for second-career chemistry teachers.
CTEC’s mission is to actively engage chemistry departments in the preparation of future chemistry teachers. An invitational workshop, sponsored by the National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, was held in June to outline the key elements of CTEC. ACS is collaborating with NSF, PhysTEC, and APLU to develop a robust CTEC initiative that will increase both the quality and quantity of high school chemistry teachers while catalyzing changes in the culture of teacher education shared by chemistry departments.
It has been 15 years since NRC released National Science Education Standards. The release of the NGSS—standards for today’s students and tomorrow’s workforce—will mark the beginning of a new era in K–12 science. Curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development all need to align with the new standards. ACS, along with its sister societies, will play a key role in translating the new standards into practice for current and future teachers of science.
Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.
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