description of how the opportunities to learn are best designed. The fourth standard addresses the characteristics of quality professional development programs at all levels.

Professional Development Standard A

Professional development for teachers of science requires learning essential science content through the perspectives and methods of inquiry. Science learning experiences for teachers must

  • Involve teachers in actively investigating phenomena that can be studied scientifically, interpreting results, and making sense of findings consistent with currently accepted scientific understanding.

  • Address issues, events, problems, or topics significant in science and of interest to participants.

  • Introduce teachers to scientific literature, media, and technological resources that expand their science knowledge and their ability to access further knowledge.

  • Build on the teacher's current science understanding, ability, and attitudes.

  • Incorporate ongoing reflection on the process and outcomes of understanding science through inquiry.

  • Encourage and support teachers in efforts to collaborate.

Knowledge and Understanding of Science

One of the most serious questions in science education is what science a teacher needs to know. What does it mean to know a lot or a little, have a sound foundation, and have in-depth understanding? The criteria of credit hours that states, professional organizations, and higher education institutions use to prescribe content requirements are inadequate indicators of what is learned in a course. Therefore, the following discussion focuses on the nature of the opportunities to learn science needed by teachers, rather than on credit hours. It is assumed that teachers of science will continue to learn science throughout their careers.

[See Content Standards (all grade levels) in Chapter 6]

To meet the Standards, all teachers of science must have a strong, broad base of scientific knowledge extensive enough for them to

  • Understand the nature of scientific inquiry, its central role in science, and how to use the skills and processes of scientific inquiry.

  • Understand the fundamental facts and concepts in major science disciplines.

  • Be able to make conceptual connections within and across science disciplines, as well as to mathematics, technology, and other school subjects.

  • Use scientific understanding and ability when dealing with personal and societal issues.

Beyond the firm foundation provided by the content standards in Chapter 6, how much more science a teacher needs to know for a given level of schooling is an issue of breadth versus depth to be debated and decided locally while respecting the intent of the Standards.

Breadth implies a focus on the basic ideas of science and is central to teaching science at all grade levels. Depth refers to knowing and understanding not only the basic ideas within a science discipline, but also some of the supporting experimental and theoretical knowledge. The ways ideas interconnect and



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement