The performance of U.S. students in science has been in the news this week, as we ranked 23rd in an international standardized assessment given to 15 year-olds in schools. We asked Martin Storksdieck, the director of the National Research Council Board on Science Education, for his perspective.
On December 7th the results of the largest international assessment of student performance in reading, math and science were released. The Programme for International Student Assessment, known as PISA, is conducted under the coordination of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and is supported by national organizations in 65 countries. The ranking of countries in PISA, based on the scholastic performance of a statistical sample of their 15-year olds on this test, can be a matter of much national pride or disappointment, may lead to questions about its validity and fairness, or might get ignored entirely. However countries may respond to this huge international effort, or whether one agrees entirely on the appropriateness of the assessment being used, PISA does elicit questions about why students in some countries do so much better than students in other countries, and ultimately what the factors are that make for effective education.
While research on reasons for country differences exist, there is little agreement on how much one country can learn from another. However, research on what contributes to effective science teaching and learning that is ultimately reflected in sophisticated and appropriate tests of student performance has been compiled and critically assessed in a variety of recent reports from the National Research Council. In Taking Science to School, America’s Lab Report and Learning Science in Informal Environments, various expert committees developed frameworks and criteria for effective science learning, based on existing evidence. These reports contain much of the information that can guide best practice in science education, and, if applied widely in and out of classrooms, may help improve student performance on tests like PISA.
These books and other titles from the National Research Council can inform discussion and provide guidance to promote science education.
|Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8
What is science for a child? How do children learn about science and how to do science? Drawing on a vast array of work from neuroscience to classroom observation, Taking Science to School provides a comprehensive picture of what we know about…
|Ready, Set, SCIENCE!: Putting Research to Work in K-8 Science Classrooms
What types of instructional experiences help K-8 students learn science with understanding? What do science educators teachers, teacher leaders, science specialists, professional development staff, curriculum designers, school administrators need to know to…
|America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science
Laboratory experiences as a part of most U.S. high science curricula have been taken for granted for decades, but they have rarely been carefully examined. What do they contribute to science learning? What can they contribute to science learning? What is the…
|Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits
Informal science is a burgeoning field that operates across a broad range of venues and envisages learning outcomes for individuals, schools, families, and society. The evidence base that describes informal science, its promise, and effects is informed by a…
|Surrounded by Science: Learning Science in Informal Environments
Practitioners in informal science settings–museums, after-school programs, science and technology centers, media enterprises, libraries, aquariums, zoos, and botanical gardens–are interested in finding out what learning looks like, how to measure it, and…
|Engineering in K-12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects
Engineering education in K-12 classrooms is a small but growing phenomenon that may have implications for engineering and also for the other “STEM” subjects–science, technology, and mathematics. Specifically, engineering education may improve student…
|Exploring the Intersection of Science Education and 21st Century Skills: A Workshop Summary
An emerging body of research suggests that a set of broad “21st century skills”–such as adaptability, complex communication skills, and the ability to solve non-routine problems–are valuable across a wide range of jobs in the national economy. However, the..
|Nurturing and Sustaining Effective Programs in Science Education for Grades K-8: Building a Village in California: Summary of a Convocation
K-8 science education in California (as in many other parts of the country) is in a state of crisis. K-8 students in California spend too little time studying science, many of their teachers are not well prepared in the subject, and the support system for..
|Systems for State Science Assessment
In response to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), Systems for State Science Assessment explores the ideas and tools that are needed to assess science learning at the state level. This book provides a detailed examination of K-12 science..
|How Students Learn: Science in the Classroom
How Students Learn: Science in the Classroom builds on the discoveries detailed in the best-selling How People Learn. Now these findings are presented in a way that teachers can use immediately, to revitalize their work in the classroom for even..
|How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition
This popular trade book, originally released in hardcover in the Spring of 1999, has been newly expanded to show how the theories and insights from the original book can translate into actions and practice, now making a real connection between classroom…