Patricia D. Morrell, Ph.D., Head, School of Education, University of Queensland
Meredith Park Rogers, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Science Education, Indiana University-Bloomington
Eric J. Pyle, Ph.D., Professor of Geology, James Madison University
Gillian Roehrig, Ph.D., Professor of STEM Education, University of Minnesota
William Veal, Ph.D., Professor of Science Education and Chemistry, College of Charleston
With the advent of the Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council [NRC], 2012), it was suggested that the instruction of science education in K-12 classrooms make a radical change; more specifically, there was a shift from focusing on Scientific Inquiry to learning about science from the perspective of three-dimensions. Three-dimensional thinking about science consists of science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas. Hence, new science teacher program preparation standards needed to be drafted to meet this change in science education ideology. In response, the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) partnered with the Association of Science Teacher Education (ASTE) to prepare a new set of standards for science teacher preparation (SSTP). Previous standards for science teacher preparation were used for accreditation of preservice programs. The new SSTP will be used for program recognition.
Throughout 2016-2018, the joint NSTA/ASTE taskforce worked to mold the standards around the Framework’s 3-dimensional learning expectations to create K-12 coherence for science teacher preparation. As a result of this effort, new standards were approved by the NSTA and ASTE Boards of Directors in the summer of 2018, and these are now available through the NSTA website and the ASTE website.
The purpose of this blog is to introduce these new 2020 NSTA/ASTE Standards for Science Teacher Preparation. The aim of these revised Standards is to assist teacher preparation programs with (re)designing their programs to reflect changes in expectations for K-12 classroom science teachers as outlined in the Framework.
Research Base Informing New Standards for Science Teacher Preparation
The new SSTP were developed from a broad research base in science teaching and learning. They comprise six main areas for which the following section will give an overview of the research base driving each of the 2020 NSTA/ASTE Standards for Science Teacher Preparation: Content knowledge, content pedagogy, learning environments, safety, impact on student learning, and professionalism.
The new SSTP follow. Each Standard is introduced by a discussion of the research base for each area.
Standard 1: Content Knowledge – Research Base
Science content is often the first domain of knowledge that is thought of when one considers the preparation of new teachers of science. The impact of science content knowledge on new teachers’ practice has been the subject of an increasing base of research (National Research Council, 2007, 2010, 2015), encompassing not just the basic facts of science, but also how science is practiced and how content should be organized with respect to learners’ developmental sequencing (NRC, 2010, 2015). Strong content knowledge is cited as a primary characteristic of a teacher’s competence (Darling-Hammond, 2006; Diaz, et al., 2006; Grossman, Schoenfield & Lee, 2005; Kellough, 2003), feelings of being prepared (Banilower, et al., 2013), and self-efficacy (Davis, Petish, & Smithey, 2006). New teachers with strong science content knowledge inclusive of engagement with the practices of science can also critically assess scientific claims and gain flexibility in the use of scientific explanations (Chinn et al., 2008; Duschl & Duncan, 2009; Herrenkohl & Guerra, 1998; NRC, 2015; Radinsky, Oliva, & Alamar, 2010; Rosebery, Warren, & Conant, 1992; Sandoval & Millwood, 2005).
Standard 1 Content Knowledge is the only standard that has an addendum. In it, the team worked to specify, based on the Framework, what disciplinary knowledge (working across the 3 dimensions of the Framework) is needed at four teaching levels (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12) and in earth and space science, life science, physical sciences (physics and chemistry individually at the secondary level). These can be found at the ASTE and NSTA websites. The addendum was created as a checklist of questions that can determine the extent of content knowledge that a preservice teacher has about disciplinary knowledge in the four domains. Rather than questions that require short answers of facts, most questions require an answer that reflects the interconnected nature of science concepts.
Standard 2: Content Pedagogy – Research Base
Science teachers need to develop students’ skills and dispositions to use scientific and engineering practices to further their learning and to solve problems. Students need to experience instruction in which they (1) use multiple practices in developing a particular core idea and (2) apply each practice in the context of multiple core ideas. Developing lesson plans is one of the fundamental skills that all science teachers need to have to teach all types of students using formats that emphasize a variety of student-centered and 3D approaches in which students experience science by collecting empirical data (Ross & Cartier, 2015; Fick, 2018). In science, teachers need to be able to develop a variety of lessons and activities that can occur within a classroom, laboratory setting, or outside (e.g., Hainsworth, 2018). In addition, science teachers need to be able to develop lesson plans that integrate technology and allow students to use technology to collect and analyze data.
Standard 3: Learning Environment – Research Base
The learning environment required by the Framework and represented by NSTA-SSTP requires teacher candidates to support K-12 student participation in a learning community characterized by frequent opportunities to perceive and interpret phenomena via evidence-based reasoning in diverse settings. The reform-based views of equitable learning environments for 3-D science learning articulated in the crosscutting methods supported by culturally responsive teaching and found in diverse settings for learning science (Hernandez, Morales, & Shroyer, 2013; Kolonich, Richmond, & Krajcik, 2018). The prior knowledge and unique life experiences that all learners possess are required elements of an inclusive and equitable learning environment. This necessitates developing preservice teachers’ beliefs in their abilities to teach diverse learners and use culturally responsive pedagogy to accommodate diverse learner needs and avoid prejudices, stereotypes and biases that marginalize learners (Whitaker & Valtierra, 2018).
Standard 4: Safety – Research Base
For students to develop a full picture of science; that is, science content, process and “understanding how scientists work” (NRC, 2012, p. 43), science instruction is increasing its emphasis on hands-on activities in classrooms, laboratories, and the field. This focus on doing science has highlighted the importance of safety in preservice science teacher preparation. It is important that teacher candidates understand their responsibilities as in loco parentis; that they have a duty of care for their students to protect them from foreseeable risks (NSTA, 2015). The Council of State Science Supervisors (n.d.) summarizes the duty of care to include instruction, supervision, and maintenance of facilities and equipment. With the inclusion of engineering practices in science standards, the breadth of safety concerns has grown. Teachers need to be aware of safety precautions that must be taken in using tools and materials they might now use in classroom activities (Love, 2014; Roy, 2014).
Standard 5: Impact on Student Learning – Research Base
One important measure of the effectiveness of a classroom teacher is the impact on student learning. Classroom assessments are an integral part of reform-based science instruction and learning (Buck, Trauth-Nare, & Kaftan, 2010; NRC, 2014). These assessments should include both formative and summative tasks in which the teacher and students can reflect on instruction and learning. Teachers need the ability to implement and assess 3-D science learning. The NRC (2014) book entitled, “Developing Assessments for the Next Generation Science Standards’” provides concrete examples of 3-D assessments that can be used with crosscutting concepts, disciplinary core ideas, and science and engineering practices. When applied appropriately, assessments can determine the extent of learning about the nature of science, process skills, and content knowledge (Wertheim, Osborne, Quinn, Pecheone, Schultz, Holthius, & Martin, 2016). Reflecting on practice and assessment results help teachers to alter lesson plans so that learning is optimized.
Standard 6: Professional Knowledge and Skills – Research Base
As we move into the 21st Century, the expectations of what students will need to know and be able to do is extensive, and as such the expectations of what teachers will need to know and be able to do is also extensive (Davis et al., 2006). Darling-Hammond and Oakes (2019) note that teachers, to be effective today and into the future, “must become ‘adaptive experts’”. To become adaptive experts and address the challenges they face in the classroom, teachers need to continually seek ways to build on their knowledge and competencies as professionals. Therefore, it is critical that preservice teachers have the opportunity in their teacher education programs to experience the kinds of pedagogies of practice (Grossman, 2018) that will lead them to develop a professional mindset of becoming an adaptive expert and reflective practitioner. A reflective practitioner can develop a plan for consistent monitoring of progress towards teaching goals, identify potential areas of improvement through this monitoring process, and make evidence-based decisions about future instruction (Darling-Hammond & Oakes, 2019).
Vetting of the Standards
These standards were shared with professional disciplinary organizations for feedback as well as presented at regional and national NSTA and ASTE conferences and made available for sharing on-line. The final drafts were discussed with and approved by the Boards of both NSTA and ASTE in 2018.
Value of the SSTP to Stakeholders
We see these standards being used for a variety of purposes.
- Teacher Education Programs – The SSTP were primarily designed for Educational Preparation Programs to use for program review and (re)design. Ultimately, these Standards may be used for National Recognition of science teacher preparation programs.
- Teacher Educators – The SSTP are being used by higher education faculty to help with science content courses designed for teacher candidates.
- Teacher Candidates and Teachers – The SSTP are useful for teacher candidates and in-service teachers to reflect on their own knowledge, skills, and dispositions.