Five Important Science Teaching Organizations


Research in science education is a significant force in impacting the practice of science.  Science educators (researchers and teachers) around the world have created a strong community of practice that contributes to our understanding of how students learn, and the nature of science teaching, pedagogy, and curriculum.

You will find on this page links to science education organizations, many of which have online journals, and sponsor conferences throughout the year.

If you would like an organization or a conference added to this list, please use the comments form at the bottom of this post.


The table here represents just a few of the variety of journals in science education.  Visiting anyone of these journals and organizations will lead you to further resources.

National Association for Research in Science Teaching
Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education
Science Education
International Journal of Science Education
International Journal of Environmental and Science Education

Have you added your favorite journal or organization. We’ll organize the list into another post. Thank you for sharing your ideas.

Some Questions About the NSTA Position on the New Generation of Science Standards

In the most recent issue of NSTA Reports (National Science Teachers Association), Francis Eberle, NSTA Executive Director wrote an opinion piece entitled First Steps Toward New Science Standards. Although not an official position of the NSTA membership, the article does outline the general attitude of the organization toward the recent effort to develop a Conceptual Framework for New Science Standards, and the forthcoming process to develop a new generation of science standards.

The new conceptual framework was developed by a committee appointed by the National Research Council, which received funding for the project from the Carnegie Foundation. The 16 member committee was comprised of scientists, and educators, but there were no classroom science teachers on this committee. The committee did hold open meetings, and earlier in the summer, one could visit the NRC’s website, and provide feedback on the draft recommendations for the new framework. The feedback process is completed and the NRC will be releasing the final document which will define the framework that will be used to develop a new generation of science standards. The new science standards will be developed by Achieve, a Washington, D.C.-based organization established 15 years ago by the National Governors Association, with the support of large corporate sponsors. The purpose of Achieve is to help states raise academic standards, improve assessments and strengthen accountability. At a 2005 Achieve Summit “participants agreed to a bold action agenda aimed at restoring value to the high school diploma through aligning standards, improved teacher quality, clear identification of goals and measurement of progress, increased accountability for high schools and colleges, and streamlined governance between the K–12 and postsecondary worlds.”

According to the NSTA Executive Director,

The time is right to build on these seminal documents (National Science Education Standards and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) released Benchmarks for Science Literacy), incorporate a new body of research into how students learn science, and put science education stakeholders on a united path toward greater student understanding of science. The growing movement toward the adoption of common standards makes this effort in science even more important and timely.

There is a growing movement toward the adoption of common standards, and it is unfortunate that the NSTA does not question this movement toward a one-size-fits-all approach to education. Although the common core standards have been written only for mathematics and reading, the fact they were designed by Achieve, the organization that will develop the new science standards, in all likelihood these new science standards will become part of the common standards movement.

The common standards movement, and now, the the writing of a new generation of science standards rests in part on the opinion that state standards are inferior and inconsistent, and there is the need to increase student achievement, especially science and mathematics, in order to remain competitive in the global economic environment. It’s had to argue with this. However, there is the need to raise questions about this, and to look at the research that has been done to assess the quality of the new common standards. Firstly, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, once again, had provided the initial funding for the development of the common standards in math and reading, and the process was undertaken by the National Governors Association, and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The drive to develop the common standards has also been “adopted” by the U.S. Department of Education, and in its Race to the Top Fund ($4.5 billion), states that did not adopt the common standards lost 70 points on the 500 point scale for doing so. Why do these organizations want to develop a single set of standards, and will they be any better than the standards that exist in the 50 states today? These are questions that should be addressed by the NSTA, and by other professional teacher organizations. No questions appear in the NSTA Executive Director’s article.

In a research study entitled Common Core’s Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade (July, 2010) by Sandra Stotsky and Ze’ev Wurman from Pioneer Institute, the authors compared the common core standards with the state standards in California and Massachusetts. The results of the study show that the common core standards are inferior to California and Massachusetts state standards, and that the developers of the common core standards seemed to ignore the work that had already been done. The fact is state departments of education around the country have in one sense been coerced into accepting the common core standards in order to apply for very large Federal grants, and there is the assumption that a national set of standards will be superior to standards developed at the state level.

The results of the Pioneer study call into question the assumptions undergirding developing national standards, especially when they appear to be developed by same organization (Achieve). Here are some conclusions drawn from the Pioneer study that I think warrant our attention.

Conclusion #1. Common Core’s literature and reading standards in grades 9-12 do not prepare students for college and career better than those in California and Massachusetts. Common Core’s high school standards fall well short of those in California and in Massachusetts 2001 and 2010 in specificity of literary and cultural content.

Conclusion #2. Although Common Core’s standards represent a laudable effort to shape a national curriculum, the draft-writers chose to navigate an uncharted path and subject the entire country to a large- scale experimental curriculum rather than build on the strengths that can be documented in Massachusetts or California. Consequently, by grade 8 their mathematics standards are a year or two behind the National Mathematics Advisory Panel’s recommendations, leading states, and our international competitors.

Conclusion #3. Our analysis of Common Core’s mathematics and ELA standards, and the evidence we provide, do not support the conclusion drawn by many other reviewers that Common Core’s standards provide a stronger and more challenging framework for the mathematics and English language arts curriculum than (or an equally as challenging framework as) California’s and Massachusetts’ standards have provided.

The new framework for science, and subsequent development of the science standards leaves science teaching outside the process, looking in, and in the end, held responsible for the implementation of standards developed by outsiders. It is true that some teachers might have been involved in the summer feedback meetings, or might have taken the time to complete the online feedback questionnaire for the Science Framework, but in reality, the professionals that are responsible for creating the learning environment for the implementation of the standards have not been at the center of the process—where they rightfully should be.

What do you think about my assessment of the relationship of NSTA and the New science standards?

Linking Research and Practice in Science Teaching

For many years I was fortunate to conduct seminars for the Bureau of Research in Education (BER), an organization that provides staff development and training resources for educators in North America.  One of the principles that provided the framework for the seminars that I did, and others that the BER offers is the link between research and practice.  That is to say, the seminars needed to show how current research in science education could be used to improve science teaching and student learning.  The seminars needed to be practical, but they also needed to be based on research.

I learned that science teachers were eager to not only be introduced to active learning science activities, but also were open to exploring the research forming the foundation for these activities.  The seminars were based on an adult active learning model, and an inquiry and humanistic approach to science teaching and learning.

In the most recent issue of the Journal of Research in Science Teaching (JRST), the official journal of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST), Dr. Julie A. Luft, of Arizona State University, Tempe, introduced the first virtual issue of the Journal of Research in Science Teaching which included nine articles focused on the thematic focus of scientific inquiry.  As Dr. Luft indicated, this an effort by two communities (science education researchers and science teachers) to bridge the research and practice gap.  The two communities she is writing about include the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST).  One important point that is made in her introductory article is that a recent research study conducted by NSTA indicated clearly that science teachers wanted to explore with their colleagues emerging issues in science education, and to participate in science education research.

That said, the issue is important, especially since we are beginning a new school year, and this is the time that courses begin, and attitudes about science learning begin to develop.  The issue explores a variety of topics related to inquiry in the science teaching.  Here is a list of the articles in the virtual journal:

  1. Embracing the essence of inquiry: New roles for science teachers Barbara A. Crawford
  2. Progressive inquiry in a computer-supported biology class Kai Hakkarainen
  3. Folk theories of inquiry: How preservice teachers reproduce the discourse and practices of an atheoretical scientific method Mark Windschitl
  4. Developing students’ ability to ask more and better questions resulting from inquiry-type chemistry laboratories Avi Hofstein, Oshrit Navon, Mira Kipnis, Rachel Mamlok-Naaman
  5. Characteristics of professional development that effect change in secondary science teachers’ classroom practices Bobby Jeanpierre, Karen Oberhauser, Carol Freeman
  6. Science inquiry and student diversity: Enhanced abilities and continuing difficulties after an instructional intervention Okhee Lee, Cory Buxton, Scott Lewis, Kathryn LeRoy
  7. Inscriptional practices in two inquiry-based classrooms: A case study of seventh graders’ use of data tables and graphs Hsin-Kai Wu, Joseph S. Krajcik
  8. Exploring teachers’ informal formative assessment practices and students’ understanding in the context of scientific inquiry Maria Araceli Ruiz-Primo, Erin Marie Furtak
  9. The development of dynamic inquiry performances within an open inquiry setting: A comparison to guided inquiry setting Irit Sadeh, Michal Zion
Luft, J. (2010). Building a bridge between research and practice Journal of Research in Science Teaching DOI: 10.1002/tea.20392

More on Reform in Science Education

In the last post, I called into question a recent editorial in the leading research journal in science education (Journal of Research in Science Teaching). The recommendations suggested were made more than 2 decades ago in a report that I sited (A Nation at Risk), and more recently, the AAAS published Science for All Americans. This report and subsequent publications by AAAS under the umbella of Project 2061, outlined reform in science education that surely supercedes the article in the JRST.

Charles Hutchison responded to my original post, and pointed out the dismal situation of graduation rates for high schools, and especially for African-Americans, Native-Americans and Hispanics.

The recommendations for reform suggested by AAAS and NSTA have made their way into schools over the past 20 years. However, during that time, the high school drop rate has increased slightly. The reform suggestions that have been made have not impacted the very groups that need reform. Why is that so?

It is a tough question to answer. Science educators have emphasized inquiry and hands-on teaching for as long as I have been a science educator (and that’s a long time). Yet, research that reports the nature of teaching (e.g. strategies used in the classroom), has yet to show that inquiry and hands-on learning lead the way in teaching methodology. It’s still teacher-centered, and presentation-oriented. So, the reforms that have been suggested have really not made their way into classroom practice—on a large scale.

How can that be changed? For starters, the new reformers need to be willing to look at who is NOT doing well in our schools. Why aren’t these students succeeding? What are the barriers preventing them from learning? Reformers also need to be drawn from the classroom as well as from educators, scientists, and citizens that understand the real problems in urban schools—especially middle and high schools.

The challenge is to see how science can be in the service of society, and the students who seem to be failing school today. How can science really help students become interested in school resulting in success?