Friday, September 22, 2006

Inquiry Learning And Direct Instruction Needed For K-8 Science, Says NAS' National Research Council

The National Research Council, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineers, released a report yesterday that paints a dire picture of science education in the United States. The report is a typical grab bag of issues facing educators but key problems include a failure to offer meaningful science content to students at an early age and having No Child Left Behind state standards that are overly broad and which deemphasize "deep understanding" and an engagement with the scientific process.

The report also attempted to take a balanced view on the role of varying teaching styles. Hands-on learning and self-inquiry are important, the council agreed, but direct instruction is also essential. As the Washington Post reports:

One longtime battle about science education involves method: direct versus self-inquiry and hands-on learning. The report comes down on both sides, saying that one does not work without the other.

"Teaching content alone is not likely to lead to proficiency in science, nor is engaging in inquiry experiences devoid of science content," the report said.

Children proficient in science, the report states, should know, use and interpret scientific explanations of the natural world; generate and evaluate scientific evidence and explanations; understand the nature and development of scientific knowledge; and participate productively in scientific practices and discourse.

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