National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996)
The first of the four guiding principles that guided the development of the National Science Education Standards (NSES) is "Science is for all learners." This principle (the equity principle) speaks to both excellence and equity. Regardless of any aspect of diversity (age, race, sex, cultural or ethnic background, interest, or ability) all students should have the opportunity to attain high levels of scientific literacy. The key word in the previous sentence is "opportunity", which means many experiences over the duration of their schooling to develop deep understanding of the outcomes described in the Standards. To address the mandate of excellent science opportunities for all students their teachers should understand what is meant by "equity", recognize the diversity of the learners in their classrooms, adjust their curricula to make science an inclusive endeavor, and incorporate teaching strategies that create a culture of success for all learners.
Standards for the Professional Development of Teachers of Science specify the criteria upon which judgments about the quality of professional development experiences for science teachers should be made. These experiences should enable teachers throughout every phase of their careers to grow in their profession and to assist them in providing opportunities for all students to become scientifically literate. Science Education Program Standards focus on school and district opportunities for teachers to teach and for students to learn science. These standards address the design and implementation of science programs to insure excellent science experiences for all students. Providers of professional development for teachers and other school personnel should be well acquainted with both of these sets of standards and provide leadership in their implementation.
Modules for Professional Development
The authors of the resources in this collection embraced the four guiding principles behind the NSES as we developed modules to assist providers of professional development (PPD) for teachers of science. We recognize that, like students, teachers who will form the audience that PPDs will instruct using our resources should have the opportunity to attain a high level of science literacy. Because teachers have similar diversities to those of their students, the equity principle applies to them as learners, too. PPDs must recognize the diversity of the preparation, experience, motivation, and interest of the participants in their audience as well as acknowledge the attributes usually enumerated as markers of diversity. Modeling teaching behaviors recommended to address diversity in the K-12 classroom when working with adult learners in the professional development setting will assist the audience to implement similar behaviors in their own classrooms. In the next sections we provide: 1) a brief summary of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) position statement on multicultural science education and 2) some common teaching strategies recommended for use in teaching K-12 learners which should be modeled in PPD's delivery of instruction.
Multicultural Science Education
In 2000, NSTA's board of directors adopted a position statement on multicultural science education (NSTA, 2001). NSTA puts forth its belief that all children deserve an opportunity to learn science and can achieve a high degree of science literacy. NSTA calls on professional organizations, corporations, institutions, and agencies to assist the schools in ensuring science teaching for all learners. In six declarations, NSTA addresses all aspects of science teaching to achieve the goal of science for all:
- Science education programs must nurture all children and help them develop a positive self-concept.
- Equitable access to quality science education must exist for all children regardless of their culture.
- Contributions of many cultures to our knowledge of science must be included in the curriculum.
- Science teachers must be knowledgeable and use culturally relevant teaching practices.
- Culturally diverse children should have opportunities to consider careers in science, technology, and engineering.
- Instructional strategies must recognize and respect cultural differences of children.
Teaching Strategies to Promote Equitable Science Learning
- Know your audience: Administer a questionnaire to obtain some general demographic information (preparation to teach, licensure area, years of teaching experience, etc) about the audience in the professional development session. Ask participants some general questions to ascertain their learning preferences and attempt to incorporate activities to reach the different styles preferred by the participants.
- Our modules are developed around lessons for students that incorporate inquiry-based activities as essential elements. Point out to the participants in your professional development (PD) session that the use of hands-on activities that excite and challenge students is more effective in reaching ethnic minority students than is a steady diet of textbook science.
- Cooperative learning strategies are more effective than those that foster competition. Such strategies imply the use of groups to carry out the learning plan. Choose group membership to balance the demographic profiles and strengths of the individuals who will assist each other in their learning. Be sure that each member of the group has an assigned task and vary the task so that each person has an opportunity to lead the discussion, conduct the data collection, report the results, etc.
- Emphasize safety in carrying out the PD session activities and remind participants that an emphasis on safety and orderly management of activities in their classrooms maximizes the participation of all students regardless of their abilities, etc.
- Include all participants in class discussion. Make sure that the quiet, reflective participants have ample opportunity to think about their responses to your questions before calling on someone else to answer (i.e. wait time). Divergent questions can assist in fostering participation in the discussion.
- Incorporate reading and writing (as well as oral communication) in the PD session. Integrating use of these language areas in the science class assists all learners with building literacy skills.
- Build opportunities for success of each participant. Realize that some participants may be science-phobic due to previous negative experiences in science settings. A climate of acceptance and encouragement will assist in building the participants' self-efficacy.
- Each module can be tailored to the particular audience with whom you will work. It is impossible for the modules' authors to tailor the modules to the history or culture of every group that might experience them. For example, applications of the science content or examples of technology associated with the science content can be personalized to fit the audience or the locale where the professional development activities are taking place. Creating such connections in the classroom helps make science make sense to students and assists them to feel associated with their learning, thus increasing their motivation to succeed.
- Provide a variety of ways in which participants can express their understanding of the content covered in the professional development session. Not only will you be acknowledging the participants' different learning preferences when you offer a variety of assessments, but you will also model for participants a best assessment practice that they can implement in their classrooms.
- Celebrate the science accomplishments of all "scientists" - those professional scientists (especially those from traditionally underrepresented groups) and those lesser known men and women (the participants in the PD session). The message must be "we are all scientists".
- Check teachers' implementation plans for evidence of the incorporation of equitable teaching and assessment strategies.
National Research Council. (1996). National science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
National Science Teachers Association. (2001). Science learning for ALL: Celebrating cultural diversity. Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.
Gender Equity in Science Education
This website has been designed to provide teachers with practical ideas and strategies for improving the achievement of female students in science. Its purpose is to introduce the problem, provide some background information, and present some strategies, ideas, and checklists for providing and assessing equity in the science learning environment.
Critical Issue: Ensuring Equity and Excellence in Science
Remembering the Child: On Equity and Inclusion in Mathematics and Science Classrooms
This site offers goals, actions to undertake, pitfalls to avoid, and illustrative cases to ensure that "All students deserve equitable access to challenging and meaningful learning and achievement in science, regardless of race, ethnic group, gender, socioeconomic status, geographic location, age, language, disability, or prior science achievement."
Education Reform Publications
Provides a practical guide to accessing and implementing gender-fair strategies. This guide, developed by the WEEA Equity Resource Center, takes the themes and strategies outlined in their online course - Engaging Middle School Girls in Math and Science - and offers teachers realistic strategies and activities to implement equitable instruction and curriculum in the science classroom.
Specific Programs About Gender Equity in Science Targeting Teachers and Students
Provides a comprehensive list of on-line gender equity resources
Criteria for Equitable Life Science Lessons
Step-by-step guide on developing life science lessons.
This web site is a compilation of curriculum materials that promote excellence and equity in mathematics, science, and engineering instruction.