The standards devote insufficient attention to the need for an interdisciplinary curriculum, and represent a contracted view of the “common core” that disregards the role of schools in preparing students for citizenship. William G. Wraga, Professor, University of Georgia as quoted in Education Week
You probably know that the National Research Council has published A Framework for K – 12 Science Education: Practices, Cross-Cutting Ideas and Core Ideas. The report was issued by the Committee on a Conceptual Framework for K – 12 Science Education Standards.
As Dr. Wraga wrote, the standards, especially the Common Core Standards, lack any attention to interdisciplinary curriculum and it is his judgement that this has resulted from the “discipline myopia” that characterizes the Standards (in any field of study).
How does the Framework for K – 12 Science Education fare? There are several criticisms that I identify here, and ask you to think about your own professional work, and what you think of these criticisms.
1. Composition of Committee and Design Teams. You will probably agree that a committee that is going to create a framework for K – 12 science education ought to comprised of a mix of individuals from academia, research organizations and K – 12 schools. An examination of the report shows that there were 19 individuals on the Conceptual Committee, and 19 people on the four design teams. There were no K – 12 educators on the Conceptual Committee. There were two persons listed of the 19 design team members who worked in either a state department of education or a school district. But there were no science teachers listed in the report. This is a serious problem in my opinion because it sends the message that K – 12 science educators are either not capable or not interested in serving on such boards, and committees.
2. Discipline Myopia. Using Dr. Wraga’s terminology, you can see that I am extending this criticism to the Framework for K – 12 Science Education. The Framework promotes four disciplinary content areas, Life science, Earth/Space Science, Physical Science, and Engineering and Technology. As a result, the curriculum that is implied from the Framework is overly discipline oriented, and except for the addition of the area entitled Engineering and Technology, is no different than the 1996 National Science Education Standards. Even in elementary and middle school, there is little attempt of interrelate the content of science. Interdisciplinary science is not a structure in the Framework.
3. Student as Outsider. This might seem overly critical, but the Framework is written from the standpoint of the discipline of science, and very little attention is placed on students, their communities, and environment. The content is seen as out there to be learned, rather putting the context of learning as the center of the Framework. Much of the work in environmental education, STS, science and social issues is put on the periphery of the Framework.
4. What about the Content? One reader had this to say about the content in the life science section of the Framework: “That section is certainly improved, but still reads as if written by individuals with only a superficial background in biology. In the evolution section, natural selection is still ill-defined and treated as the only mechanism for change. In the information processing section, animals are apparently the only organisms that can sense and respond to their environment.“ Although Dr. Fugate is questioning the nature of the content, because there were no science teachers on any of the panels, we can question the relevancy as it relates to K – 12 students. Or at least we can raise questions.
5. Pipeline Mentality. The Framework underscores the domination of curriculum by a pipeline mentality, and disregards the more important notion of preparing citizens to live in a changing world. Very few students will go on to careers in science or engineering, and as you read this report, you’d think that this is still the major goal for teaching science in our schools.
What do you think about the new Framework? What other criticisms would you name? Let us know what you think.Tags: Critique of Framework, Framework for K-12 Science Education, Science Eduction, science teaching