Curriculum Evaluation for resource Standards for K-12 Engineering Education?
This resource, though focusing on engineering contains critical aspects that are essential to helping students develop content area literacy and disciplinary literacy in the field of science. According to the authors, the evolving status of engineering and science in general in K-12 schools “severely limits the potential value of developing traditional content standards.” While developing the standards of science education could take substantial time, there are certain steps that could be taken to improve the consistency and quality of science education for K-12 students, as well as, students in other levels of education (National Research Council, 2010).
First, science content or curriculum developers should reach consensus on core ideas in science. To take full advantage of the mapping and infusion approaches and espouse teacher professional development, curriculum development and assessment of science education, it is vital to first identify the most prominent skills, concepts and habits of mind in science. Instead of developing standards, faculty members should articulate critical core concepts. This is because these core concepts or big ideas may be contemplated as forming the foundation for the development of content standards upon which educational standards would be based. In the event that these core ideas do not result in concrete standards, they will still be useful in that they can prompt research that evaluates and clarifies learning progressions for basic ideas such as the idea of constraints. Moreover, the lack of specificity of these core ideas can provide flexibility for various stakeholders such as teachers, guidance counselors and textbook developers with a keen interest in science education.
It is the recommendation of the authors that foundations, science societies, federal agencies, and schools with an interest in improving science education should fund a consensus process aimed at developing a document describing the skills, concepts and dispositions of science that are appropriate for students. The core ideas outlined in the consensus document will be useful in a variety of ways such as providing a platform and professional trajectory for mapping approaches and infusion, as well as, providing guidance for teachers and students to work in informal settings such as after school programs and museums (National Research Council, 2010). The core ideas will also act as a resource base for formulating new curricula and improving existing curricula, designing assessments, conducting teacher professional development and informing education research.
Second, providing proper and clear guidelines for the development of instructional materials will guide the process of developing content area literacy and disciplinary literacy in the field of science. This is because the value of core concepts mentioned above will be immensely enhanced for all purposes if they are included in the guidelines for the development of instructional materials. The objective of the guidelines would be to enhance the quality of science education materials and accelerate their development, as well as, increase the number of teachers and students that can utilize them without formulating actual standards. If supporters of improvements in STEM education advocate for these guidelines, they could have a swift and positive impact on the development of science curricula that would be based on a more representative and focused idea of the practice of science. Moreover, vivid guidelines could provide a framework for assessment development in science and create the foundation for possible development of content standards. The outcome of such guidelines would be students emulating their teachers by creating lesson plans that incorporate scientific precepts even in informal education settings.
A suitable recommendation regarding the provision of guidelines for the development of instructional materials is for the federal government and science institutions to facilitate the development of guidelines for science instructional materials under the supervision of teachers with expertise in K-12 science education and science education in other levels of education and with the inclusion of the sentiments of students. These guidelines should be made available online to improve accessibility and periodically revised or updated as more data becomes available on the effect of science education on student learning, awareness and interest in sciences as a career option for students, improvements in technological and disciplinary literacy, as well as, how students create design concepts and practices over time. Since guidelines are not treated in the same standing as scientific standards, developers of instructional materials and teachers may not feel the urge to follow them unless they are required to utilize them by local policy or state law (National Research Council, 2010). Notwithstanding, following these guidelines will go a long way in providing students with a clear pathway for learning science and fostering content area literacy and disciplinary literacy.
Some of the possible features of guidelines for science instructional materials include:
- Elements of science design – The guidelines should describe the elements of scientific design such as research, problem identification, experimentation, brainstorming of solutions and prototyping in a manner that emphasizes that the process does not seek a single correct solution, but multiple solutions.
- Pedagogy – The guidelines should explain how scientific design can be utilized as a pedagogical approach that fosters contextual and student-centered learning while providing meaningful opportunities for application of scientific and mathematical concepts.
- Diversity – The guidelines should emphasize the need for science education materials that cater for diverse student populations and point out images and materials that discourage interest among certain population while providing ideal examples of instructional materials designed to appeal to students of all backgrounds.
- Implementation and Resources – The guidelines should outline the cost relating to the different models of science education, the need for discordant kinds of equipment needs and some of the policy and practical issues associated with implementation.
- Key scientific skills, concepts and dispositions – The guidelines should highlight the importance of science such as constraints, analysis, creativity, communication, systems, modeling, optimization, collaboration and connection between science and the society and how these essential scientific contents play out in instructional materials.
- Link between science and other subjects – The guidelines should outline how core scientific concepts relate to other content areas. For instance, scientific inquiry and research design share a number of characteristics that make them ideal problem-solving techniques in that scientific inquiry can be utilized to develop data necessary to solving a research design problem. Moreover, connections between science and mathematics include modeling, data collection and analysis and estimation.
- Results from Cognitive Sciences – The guidelines should highlight some of the most crucial results or findings from cognitive sciences, both about learning science specifically and learning in general. For instance, in science, we know that scientific design activities must allow enough time for redesign and purposeful iteration for them to have an effect on conceptual learning.
- Exemplars from existing curricula – The guidelines should incorporate representative activities from existing middle, elementary, high school and college/university science curricula.
Third, in as much as developing consensus on core ideas and formulating guidelines for the development of instructional materials will be vital steps toward higher quality and more consistent science education, continuous improvement in student content area literacy and disciplinary literacy will require ongoing research to answer fundamental questions regarding how students learn and discern science. In order to improve students content area literacy and disciplinary literacy, some of the fundamental questions that need to be addressed by the science curricula include:
- What are the most efficient ways of introducing and sequencing scientific skills and concepts for learners at different levels of education?
- What are the most prominent contemplations in designing programs, educator professional development, materials and assessments that engage all students, including those who are historically underrepresented in science?
- How do students come to fathom core scientific concepts and apply scientific skills?
- What are the most vital synergies in the teaching and learning of science and other subjects?
- What are the best strategies and settings for enabling students to discern science in schools, after school programs and informal education institutions?
Fourth, even though it is difficult, it is vital to measure the impact of reforms in science education to determine whether there is improvement in students content area literacy and disciplinary literacy. Even in situations where assessments are carried out, it can be difficult to determine which educational interventions are most effective in improving content and disciplinary literacy among students. Nonetheless, despite the challenges, it is important to assess how reform efforts affect the development of science education in K-12 schools and other levels of education in the United States and how reforms in other countries compare with those in the United States. Such data will provide a basis on which to either modify or discontinue science education reform efforts (National Research Council, 2010).
A suitable recommendation for improving the curriculum in terms of how students develop content area literacy and disciplinary literacy is to establish an inclusive picture of science education nationally and at the state level. This process should incorporate formal and informal education including online classes or sessions and after school initiatives. Moreover, the process of impact evaluation should be repeated periodically to determine the changes in scale, quality and impact of science education while taking into account how the consensus on key scientific ideas and the development of guidelines for instructional materials have contributed to the change.
National Research Council. (2010). Standards for K-12 Engineering Education? Washington: National Academies Press.