Quality Science Education and NSTA
The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) is the largest organization in the world dedicated to promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all. NSTA works to improve science education and increase student learning by providing resources and training that support and enhance quality teaching. The association advocates for the importance of science and science learning and works to enhance science education through research-based policy and practice. NSTA’s current membership includes more than 58,000 science teachers, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business and industry representatives, and others involved in science education.
In this section learn more about NSTA and science education, including:
What Are the National Science Education Standards?
The National Science Education Standards present a vision of a scientifically literate population. The standards outline what students need to know, understand, and be able to do to be scientifically literate at different grade levels. They describe an educational system in which all students demonstrate high levels of performance, in which teachers are empowered to make the decisions essential for effective learning, in which interlocking communities of teachers and students are focused on learning science, and in which supportive educational programs and systems nurture achievement. The Standards point toward a future that is challenging but attainable—which is why they are written in the present tense.
What Is NSTA’s Position on Elementary School Science?
The National Science Teachers Association supports the notion that inquiry science must be a basic in the daily curriculum of every elementary school student at every grade level. In the last decade, numerous reports have been published calling for reform in education. Each report has highlighted the importance of early experiences in science so that students develop problem-solving skills that empower them to participate in an increasingly scientific and technological world.
- Click here to read NSTA's position statement on Elementary School Science
What Is NSTA’s Position on Parent Involvement in Science Education?
The National Science Teachers Association strongly advocates parent involvement in science education. Parents play an essential role in the success of students in schools. Parents who encourage the daily use of science concepts and process skills enhance their child’s ability to learn the skills necessary for success.
- Click here to read NSTA's position statement on Parent Involvement in Science Education
What Is NSTA’s Position on Science Competitions?
The National Science Teachers Association recognizes that many kinds of learning experiences, including science competitions, can contribute significantly to the education of students of science. With respect to science competitions, such as science fairs, science leagues, symposia, Olympiads, scholarship activities, and talent searches, the association takes the position that participation should be guided by principles enumerated in its position statement.
- Click here to read NSTA's position statement on Science Competitions
What Do Children Know and How Do They Learn?
(From the National Research Council report Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K–8)
- Children have substantial knowledge of the natural world before entering school.
- What children are capable of depends on prior education, not just age and grade.
- Students’ knowledge and experience influence science understanding.
- Race and ethnicity, language, culture, gender, and socioeconomic status influence the knowledge and experience that students have.
- Students learn science by actively engaging in science practices.
- A range of approaches is needed in order for students to be proficient in science.
- The report emphasizes that doing science entails much more than reciting facts or being able to design experiments.
- To develop a strong understanding of science, students in elementary and middle school should be encouraged to master a relatively small number of crucial concepts, and gradually expand their knowledge of those topics.
- Too often, students are presented with a long list of disconnected facts and ideas, leaving them with no sense of what is most important and a poor understanding of the overall rules of science.
- The next generation of science standards and curricula at the national and state levels should be centered on a few core ideas and should expand on them each year, at increasing levels of complexity, across grades K–8.
- The study recommends reorganizing local, state, and federal teacher-training programs to focus on core concepts in science, as well as building teachers’ understanding of the rules and practices of science.
Four Strands of Science Proficiency
Four intertwined and equally important strands comprise the NRC’s definition of proficiency in science. All K–8 education should offer students opportunities to engage in the four strands of science proficiency.
The four strands include:
- Develop the ability to know, use, and interpret scientific explanation of the natural world.
- Generate and evaluate scientific evidence.
- Understand the development of scientific knowledge.
- Learn to participate productively in scientific practices and discussions.