based on theories of learning that emphasized the central role of students’ own ideas and concrete experiences in creating new and deepened understandings of scientific concepts.
Throughout the country, use, or at least awareness, of these new curriculum materials prompted educators to provide students with more laboratory and other “hands-on” experiences, more opportunities to pursue their own questions, and more focus on understanding larger scientific concepts rather than disconnected facts. Although the effective use of these new materials was not as widespread as anticipated (Weiss, 1978; Harms and Kahl, 1980; Harms and Yager, 1981), this new view of school science did prompt more study and careful thinking about major issues in science education. Furthermore, and of special significance to this volume, the changes of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s widely disseminated the idea of helping students to develop the skills of inquiry and an understanding of science as inquiry.
The developers of the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996) had this historical perspective on which to base their work. Studies of teaching and learning in science classrooms had led to two observations. First, most teachers were still using traditional, didactic methods (Stake and Easley, 1978; Harms and Yager, 1981; Weiss, 1987). Examination of science classrooms revealed that many students were mastering disconnected facts in lieu of broader understandings, critical reasoning, and problem-solving skills. Some teachers, however, were using the new curriculum materials, such as those from the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS), Science Curriculum Improvement Study (SCIS), Elementary Science Study (ESS), Intermediate Science Curriculum Study (ISCS), and Physical Sciences Study Committee (PSSC). Their students were spending large amounts of time in inquiry-based