Given the above, it is apparent that comprehensive reform in science
education reform is needed. In this
section, I provide some suggestions for reform of student
learning 'outcomes'; that is, ways in which students might benefit from
their educational experiences.
In defining these categories, Derek
Hodson suggested that science and technology should be taught together
or, at least, in association with each other. There are numerous
reasons for this recommendations, but it is apparent
that the two fields often do interact and have similar general patterns
of thinking. For more about this, refer to: Sci-Tech and NoST.
students should learn in science education, we are
- indirectly - making decisions about the sort of society we envisage.
This is a contested topic. There are many competing perspectives about
a 'good' society. A current movement that I support is one that defines
societal 'goodness' in terms of wellbeing,
such as that in Canada.
Instead of focusing just on GDP, some societies emphasize such
indicators of wellbeing as levels of education and health and
environmental sustainability. There are indicators that
wellbeing is being challenged throughout the world. As a result,
educators like Derek Hodson (2003) have recommended
that science education emphasize development of individuals and groups
prepared to take action to address personal, social and environmental problems. To do so, his urges school
systems to aim for achievement in four broad learning domains, as
summarized at right. Noting that learning in these four domains is
interconnected, I have organized them into the STEPWISE
Students need to develop
understanding of essential
science & technology, including laws, theories and inventions. This
is comparable to the 'Basic
Concepts' domain in Ontario's curriculum.
about science &
Students need to develop
about the nature of products and practices in fields of science and
technology (NoST) and, as well, about
relationships among fields of science
and technology and societies and environments. This is comparable to
the STSE domain in Ontario.
to do science &
Students need to develop
affective) enabling them to direct science inquiry and technology
design projects. Accordingly, there must be opportunities for them to
direct such projects. This is addressed in the "Developing
Investigation and Communication Skills" learning domain in Ontario.
Students need to develop expertise for
taking socio-political action to address individual,
environmental problems and use that expertise for taking such
action(s). This is addressed under STSE in
- Helping students to understand
procedures used in schools for bringing about school-level policy
- Engaging students in Citizen
Recall data or information.
Understand the meaning, translation, interpolation, and
interpretation of instructions and problems. State a problem in one's
Use a concept in a new situation or unprompted use of an
abstraction. Applies what was learned in the classroom into novel
the work place.
Separates material or concepts into component parts so that
organizational structure may be understood. Distinguishes between facts
Builds a structure or pattern from diverse elements. Put
together to form a whole, with emphasis on creating a new meaning or
Make judgments about the value of ideas or materials.
A classic way of
analyzing the above learning domains was provided by Benjamin
Bloom. In 1956, he described
three major learning domains (A, B); the cognitive (e.g., thinking), affective (e.g.,
feelings) & psychomotor (e.g., muscular coordination) domains.
Although each of these domains is important, school science often
emphasizes teaching and learning in the Cognitive Domain and, within
that, school systems tend to emphasize so-called "Lower Order Thinking
i.e., Knowledge & Understanding. A major reason for this emphasis
may be these two domains are easiest to teach and assess. More effort
is needed to encourage "Higher Order Thinking Skills" (HOTS);
i.e., Application, Analysis, Synthesis & Evaluation. An important
aspect of working with these categories is the verb that is used to
develop 'objectives,' 'outcomes, ' 'expectations,' etc. (Refer to Verbs
There are many websites around the world providing ideas based on
Bloom's Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain; e.g., A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K.
Associated with school
systems' emphasis on LOTS, rather than HOTS, is
an excessive emphasis on instruction in Hodson's (2003)
above; that is, on teaching 'content' (e.g., laws, theories, &
which are 'products' of science and technology). Teaching about
S&T is so excessive that very little attention is given to
the other 3 domains above. Moreover, an emphasis on products of S&T
tends to send a message to students that science is highly efficient,
successful (i.e., in terms of achieving 'truths') and unproblematic in
terms of possible adverse effects on individuals, societies and
environments. In other words, an over-emphasis on 'Learning science
& technology' sends inappropriate messages about NoST. To overcome
such problems, the American Association for
the Advancement of Science (AAAS, 1989) proposed - many years ago -
that governments reduce expectations (objectives, outcomes) for student
learning of 'products' of S&T, thus enabling teachers to 'do more
with less'; that is, do a better job of learning in the other domains
above. This is an old recommendation that still applies in our current
Related to the above two ways of analyzing learning is the idea of metacognition; that is, a person's awareness of what
and how they learn and ways of improving their learning. This involves
several categories within Bloom's Taxonomy,
such as analysis, evaluation and synthesis. It has been demonstrated
that students' learning can be increased if
they develop metacognitive
awareness and abilities; that is, if they can think about their own
learning and be proactive about improving it.
for Curricular Change
Based on the above
arguments, along with other issues discussed below, I suggest that at
least the following changes to science curricula are required to ensure
each student gains the best education possible:
Most of these recommendations are embodied in my curricular
and instructional framework, STEPWISE.
- Reduce 'Content':
expectations for teaching
and learning of products of science and technology. Ideas, concepts,
facts, etc. that students are expected to learn could be consolidated into fewer more
general themes. Project 2061 in the USA (AAAS, 1989),
for example, promoted teaching and learning
within broader "themes"
or 'big ideas,' although curricula have not heeded this call.
Science & Technology Education: For at least the reasons
that fields of science and technology often are integrated and that
often the same people conduct both science and technology, these two
fields need to be integrated in schools. Ideas from the
US document, Technology
can be helpful. Furthermore, science and technology education need to
be integrated with education in other subjects. The
government has made some progress along these lines with their "Interdisciplinary
Studies" curriculum. However, progress must be made in supporting
and implementing this more widely.
Curriculum: Ensure expectations for teaching and learning take
into account needs and interests of local communities - including
'local' ones in the sense of diverse cultural heritages. A
good example of local curriculum is at: Rekindling
Encourage learners to learn from each other,
the concept of distributed
expertise. This also is a natural way to distribute diverse
knowledge (e.g., cultural).
Learning: Education needs to move away from prioritizing of LOTS and 'Products Education' towards a greater
emphasize on HOTS and the other domains above. For 'deep'
learning, students need to focus on fewer learning topics and have
opportunities to use HOTS in relation to them.
Curriculum: Officially sanction and enable situations that allow
students to achieve learning outcomes NOT planned by others; but,
rather, which arise through authentic knowledge building contexts under
students' control. Such activities will be student-directed (SD) and
open-ended (OE). Although teachers often control learning in
'problem-based learning' (PBL) approaches, the scenarios in them could
be SD/OE. An
excellent starting place for this type of learning is at: Problem-based
Learning in Biology. Along similar lines, students must be given
opportunities to conduct SD/OE science inquiry (e.g., experiments and
studies) and technology design (e.g., invention) projects. An excellent
website for this is at: Let's
Do Projects. An excellent book about
personalization of learning is: Rethinking
Skills Education: To overcome students' dependency on teachers
and other authorities, they need to be engaged in skills apprenticeships to help them
develop expertise for creating, communicating and critiquing knowledge
(e.g., such skills for design of experiments).
Epistemological Learning: This is similar to Hodson's (2003) "Learning
About Science & Technology." It implies learning NoST, STSE and WISE Problems, along with conceptions
inherent to Skills Education. For
example, students could learn: i) science and technology often are
interdepedent, ii) businesses often convince people in science and
engineering to compromise the integrity of their work for the sake of
generating profitable products, iii) many chemicals in manufactured
foods appear to cause cancer, iv) scientists and engineers often have
personal biases, such as a favourite theory or method.
- Prioritize WISE
Activism: Because of the severity of WISE Problems and that living and
non-living things on Earth are all integrated, students need to be
given expertise and motivation for developing and implementing plans of action for addressing WISE
Association for the
Advancement of Science [AAAS] (1989). Science
for all Americans: A Project 2061 report on literacy goals in science,
mathematics, and technology. Washington, D.C.: AAAS.
Hodson, D. (2003). Time for
action: Science education for an
alternative future. International
Journal of Science Education, 25(6),