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Executive Board Motion on Conceptual Frameworks for New Science Education Standards

In July 2010 the Committee on Conceptual Frameworks for New Science Education Standards (a committee of the National Research Council) released a draft report titled A Framework For Science Education that presented a vision of the scope and nature of education in science and engineering that is needed in the 21st century. The document described the major scientific ideas and practices that all students should be familiar with by the end of high school.

The committee sought public comment, so the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), the American Physical Society (APS), and the American Institute of Physics (AIP) sponsored a focus group that met during the 2010 AAPT Summer Meeting in Portland, Oregon. A representative from David Heil & Associates, Inc facilitated the group. The members were all science/physics education experts from throughout the United States.

The NRC Science Conceptual Framework Discussion Group Meeting Summary can be read on the AAPT website at http://www.aapt.org/Resources/upload/100815-Focus-Group-Report-on-Draft-Frameworks.pdf.

Executive Board Motion

The AAPT Executive Board, on behalf of the Association, strongly encourages the NRC to address the following aspects in the next version of the Framework document:

  • The Vision for science education in the document should explicitly address the need for students to learn science every year of their K-12 education.
  • The Physical Science Core Disciplinary Ideas expressed in the document should adequately present fundamental physics concepts. The document currently combines physics concepts with chemistry topics. Since these disciplines have very different fundamental principles and discuss the principles using very different language; we believe that a more effective approach would be to explicitly define the core ideas for each discipline separately and then build bridges between the two content areas.
  • The Science Practices listed in the document should be expanded to include additional accepted aspects of the nature of science including: predicting and falsifying, problem solving, the necessity for proposing multiple hypotheses, the use of multiple and independent means for verifying conclusions, the use of creativity, and that this process is cyclic in nature so that scientists can enter the practice at multiple points. The document should also include specific language that science must be communicated, generally through the peer reviewed publication process and organized presentations, so that work can be replicated over a period of time.
  • The document should have a stronger emphasis on the concepts of design and problem solving in the context of science. This may mean reducing the current emphasis on Engineering Practices listed in the document.
  • The Engineering Practices listed in the document should be recast so that they focus on the processes or core concepts related to engineering rather than the nature of engineering. Moreover, these concepts should be accessible by teachers as part of their teacher preparation program. The current draft document identifies engineering concepts that very few teachers have adequate training to teach.

The AAPT commends the NRC for tackling these difficult topics by incorporating some of the educational research in teaching and learning over the last 15 years. Further, we recommend that they continue to examine discipline specific educational research as they work to prepare the next draft of the Frameworks.