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Science education

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Science education is the field concerned with sharing science content and process with individuals not traditionally considered part of the scientific community. The target individuals may be children, college students, or adults within the general public. The field of science education comprises science content, some sociology, and some teaching pedagogy.

Historical Background

Science education in secondary schools began in the UK in 1867 (Layton, 1981). The creation of a science curriculum occurred at that time due to pressure from the British Academy for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) via a formal report published that year (Layton, 1981). BAAS promoted teaching of “pure science” and training of the “scientific habit of mind.” The progressive education movement of the time supported the ideology of mental training through the sciences. BAAS emphasized separately pre-professional training in secondary science education. In this way, future BAAS members could be prepared. In the US, science education was a scatter of subjects prior to its standardization in the 1890’s (Del Giorno, 1969). The development of a science curriculum in the US emerged gradually after extended debate between two ideologies, citizen science and pre-professional training. The National Education Association formed a Committee of Ten in 1892 to formulate a curriculum. This committee supported the citizen science approach focused on mental training and withheld performance in science studies from consideration for college entrance (Hurd, 1991). The BAAS encouraged their longer standing model in the UK (Jenkins, 1985). The US adopted a curriculum that was similar to the UK secondary schools; it included both pre-professional training and mental training. The format of shared mental training and pre-professional training consistently dominated the curriculum from its inception to now. However, the movement to incorporate a humanistic approach, such as is science, technology, society and environment education is growing and being implemented more broadly in the late 20th century (Aikenhead, 1994). Reports by the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), including Project 2061, and by the National Committee on Science Education Standards and Assessment detail goals for science education that link classroom science to practical applications and societal implications.


Whilst public image of science education may be one of simply learning facts by rote, science education in recent history also generally concentrates on the teaching of science concepts and the addressing misconceptions that learners may hold regarding science concepts or other content. Research shows that students will retain knowledge for a longer period of time if they are involved in more hands on activities.

United States

In many U.S. states, K-12 educators must adhere to rigid standards or frameworks of what content is to be taught to which age groups. Unfortunately, this often means teachers rush to "cover" the material, without truly "teaching" it. In addition, the process of science is often overlooked, such as the scientific method, and critical thinking, producing students who can pass multiple choice tests (such as the New York Regents exams and the Massachusetts MCAS), but cannot solve complex problems. Although at the college level American science education tends to be less regulated, it is actually more rigorous, with teachers and professors fitting more content into the same time period.

In 1996, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences of the U.S. National Academies produced the National Science Education Standards which is available online for free in multiple forms. Its focus on inquiry-based, rather than memorization-based, science education was somewhat controversial at the time, but has been shown to be more effective as a model for teaching science, if less amenable to multiple-choice tests.

Concern about science education and science standards has often been driven by worries that American students lag behind their peers in international rankings.[1] One notable example was the wave of education reforms implemented after the Soviet Union launched its Sputnik satellite in 1957.[2] In recent years, business leaders such as Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates have called for more emphasis on science education, saying the United States risks losing its economic edge. [3][4] Public opinion surveys, however, indicate most U.S. parents are complacent about science education and that their level of concern has actually declined in recent years.[5]

United Kingdom

In UK schools science is generally taught as a single subject science until age 14-16 then splits into subject-specific A levels (physics, chemistry and biology).

In September 2006 a new Science programme of study known as 21st Century Science was introduced as a GCSE option in UK schools, designed to "give all 14 to 16 year olds a worthwhile and inspiring experience of science"[1].


  • Layton, D. (1981). The schooling of science in England, 1854-1939. In R. MacLeod & P.Collins (Eds.), The parliment of science (pp.188-210). Northwood, England: Science Reviews.
  • Del Giorno, B.J. (1969). The impact of chaning scientific knowledge on science education in th United States since 1850. Science Education, 53, 191-195.
  • Hurd, P.D. (1991). Closing the educational gaps between science, technology, and society. Theory into Practice, 30, 251-259.
  • Jenkins, E. (1985). History of science education. In T. Husen & T.N. Postlethwaite (Eds.) International encyclopedia of education (pp. 4453-4456). Oxford: Pergamon Press.
  • Aikenhead, G.S. (1994). What is STS teaching? In J. Solomon & G. Aikenhead (Eds.), STS education: International perspectives on reform (pp.74-59). New York: Teachers College Press.

See also

External links

el:Διδακτική των φυσικών επιστημών]]
it:Scienze dell'educazione]]
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