A New Framework for Science Education
As we encounter natural phenomena, we seek to understand what is happening around us. Not only does science help us answer these questions, it is at the root of how and why we ask them. Through this process we begin to understand that much of what we know about science can be explained through a small number of principles that explain the behavior of the natural world. So, why isn't science taught this way in our schools?
Science is often taught as a disjointed set of facts in traditional disciplines such as chemistry, biology, and physics without clear connections being made between the subjects. Today's frontiers in science are often at the disciplinary edges. Aided by the explosion in technology and scientific discoveries, new fields are arising that were hardly imagined a generation ago like synthetic biology, digital organisms, and genomics.
What we need is a radical overhaul of how science is taught- one that moves away from memorization of scientific facts to helping students develop a deeper understanding of science through questioning their observations, making connections, and seeing the relationship between natural phenomena.
Since 2006, a group of prominent scientists and educators have been meeting at Michigan State University with the support of the National Science Foundation to develop a new framework for science education. These experts identified eight fundamental science principles, which form a new basis for teaching science called 8+1 Science. Study of these eight concepts are joined together by inquiry, that is the 'plus One'. Inquiry, the uniquely human trait of asking why things happen around us, is a fundamental part of science.
By using the 8+1 concepts, even young children will have the ability to grasp complicated science topics. Educators can build a trajectory of learning in science by providing students with the base of science knowledge, whichcan be built upon as they proceed through the grades and encounter increasingly complex problems. Implementing 8+1 Science gives teachers a new way to bridge concepts in the classroom and develops their students' thinking about how to solve science problems. Without the confines of thinking within a traditional discipline, students are free to solve problems drawing from their knowledge of biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and other subjects, and apply this knowledge to new problems.
The 8+1 Science is a new way of thinking about and teaching science, not a new set of science standards. It supports basic concepts included in most sets of standards and can be implemented with existing curriculum, textbooks, and equipment. Teachers are being trained on how to incorporate 8+1 Science in their classroom as they teach their curriculum. By helping students apply what they are learning in science and make connections to the world around them, teachers are becoming more effective in what they teach and students learn creative and critical thinking skills.
PROM/SE Science Panel and authors of 8+1 Science:
- William Schmidt, PROM/SE Principal Investigator, University Distinguished Professor, College of Education, Michigan State University
- George Leroi, PROM/SE Co-Principal Investigator, Department Of Chemistry and College Of Natural Science Dean (emeritus), Michigan State University
- Simon Billinge, Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, Columbia University, Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Science Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory
- Leon Lederman, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Pritzker Professor of Physics, Illinois Institute of Technology (retired), and Nobel Prize recipient
- Audrey Champagne, Department of Chemistry and School of Education (emeritus), University at Albany, State University of New York
- Richard Hake, Department of Physics (emeritus), Indiana University
- Paula Heron, Department of Physics, University of Washington
- Lillian McDermott, Department of Physics, University of Washington
- Fred Myers, Director of Science, Glastonbury Connecticut Public Schools
- Roland Otto, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (retired)
- Jay Pasachoff, Department of Astronomy, Williams College
- Carl Pennypacker, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
- George Viebranz, Ohio Mathematics and Science Coalition
- Paul Williams, Department of Plant Pathology (emeritus), University of Wisconsin