Across the United States, there isn’t adequate guidance on how much time on learning schools need to dedicate to science instruction.
According to a new report by the nonprofit group Achieve, this needs to change, and the change needs to happen at the state level.
There are 40 states plus the District of Columbia that have now adopted the NGSS or similar next generation standards for science.
Time on Learning in a Next Gen Classroom
An inadequate amount of science time on learning is not news to many teachers who struggle to incorporate science into their already full days. In fact, not enough time on learning for science is one of the most common complaints facing schools implementing the Next Generation Science Standards.
Most teachers know they need to spend more time on science, but they just don’t have enough hours in the day.
However, it is becoming increasingly important for students to get enough science time on learning as schools and districts move to implement their states’ new science standards.
This is because the new science standards are performance expectations, and for students to be able to perform the expectations, they need regular opportunities to engage in three-dimensional learning.
Students need to be “actively engaged in the full range of scientific and engineering practices in the context of multiple core ideas,” according to a report by the National Research Council.
In other words, students need multiple opportunities to develop and use the practices as they work with varied disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts to make sense of phenomena. They need time to work with their own ideas, make mistakes, and try again, testing out their assumptions in different contexts.
Achieve’s report concluded that the solution needs to come at the state level. “States should consider policies that establish expectations for the time devoted to science instruction,” the report states, adding that any policies need to provide specific recommendations, rather than vague statements.
Only 19 states have a specific policy regarding how much time on learning should be spent on science in grades K-5, the report found. Most of those policies were “vague and/or recommendations did not indicate a specific time committed to science education in elementary school.” This trend continued on in middle school as well.
However, there is growing evidence that elementary and middle school students not only benefit from science time on learning but also that they’re developmentally ready to tackle scientific questions.
“In contrast to the commonly held and outmoded view that young children are concrete and simplistic thinkers, the research evidence now shows that their thinking is surprisingly sophisticated,” the NRC has reported. “Important building blocks for learning science are in place before they enter school.”
In fact, making sure that there is enough time on learning for science instruction has many benefits because next generation science results in meaningful learning. It provides students with the space to develop their critical thinking skills, which are useful in every discipline and have the important effect of also improving performance test scores in every discipline.
Because of this, any next generation-designed curriculum needs to provide teachers with the opportunity to integrate STEM, ELA, and math so that students are learning and applying their skills across disciplines in real-world scenarios.
The Achieve report, titled “The State of State Science Education Policy: Achieve’s 2018 Science Policy Survey,” also looked at the need for high-quality and aligned assessments to fully meet the vision set forth in the next generation of science standards.
We’ll explore next generation assessments next week.