Posted on behalf of James Brown, Executive Director STEM Education Coalition.
In today’s economy, strong STEM skills – science, technology, engineering, and math – are a central element of a well-rounded education and every student needs to have a strong foundation in these subjects in order to land and succeed in virtually any job – from the shop floor to the research lab to the board room. Further, the best, most highly paying jobs are nearly all in the STEM fields.
Over a dozen states have now adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), with more poised to do so over the coming years. These new standards will help prepare students for college and careers and will bring project based learning, key core concepts, and cross cutting ideas that will result in a sea change in the way science education is taught in the United States.
Why should we care?
Science education is essential to our daily lives as Americans and helps prepare us to be informed citizens and discerning consumers. A principle goal of the Next Generation Science Standards is to move away from the practice of “teaching to the test” and instead focus on learning the process of science so that students develop the skills to pose effective questions and investigate their own answers.
Today, students are trained to answer specific factual questions about what they have learned in class, but research shows they often struggle to translate that knowledge into solutions in real world situations. The NGSS approach seeks to integrate knowledge with practice, teaching students to develop ideas and judge them on their own according to scientific principles.
Historically, K-12 instruction has encouraged students to master lots of facts that fall under “science” categories, but research shows that engaging in the practices used by scientists and engineers plays a critical role in comprehension. Teaching science as a process of inquiry and explanation helps students think past the subject matter and form a deeper understanding of how science applies broadly to everyday life.
The NGSS focuses on a relatively small number of core concepts that students can build on from grade to grade. This more manageable scope will allow teachers to teach concepts and methods that are common to all scientific disciplines — which better matches with the way research shows us that students learn.
Our job as advocates for STEM education is to mobilize our community of employers, professionals, educators, and their supporting organizations to become informed about the benefits and implications of these standards and to be engaged in their success. As individual states proceed with adopting and implementing new rigorous, high-quality science standards, we are committed to ensuring the long-term success of that process.
Click here to find out more about Discovery Education’s solution for NGSS.