ARLINGTON, VA, August 24, 2009—The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the largest professional organization in the world promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning, released the results of an informal survey of its members to gauge their views on the current state of science education. More than 3,500 science education professionals from across the country answered questions about the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), national assessments, professional development and other areas that affect science education. Most of the respondents were female, were middle or high school educators, and had more than 11 years of teaching experience. The survey focused on three broad areas: perspectives on science education, status of science teaching, and professional development. Several key points were magnified by the respondents.
Perspectives on Science Education
Respondents were divided in their views of standardized assessments and a national curriculum. Elementary educators were in agreement for a national curriculum (79 percent), while 51 percent of university educators disagreed. Fifty-three percent of elementary educators were also supportive of national assessments, while 52 percent of high school educators were not in favor of having national assessments.
Status of Science Teaching
When it came to the status of the profession, the topic that concerned science educators the most was student motivation (30 percent). State testing (17 percent), lack of materials to teach science
(15 percent) and the public’s perception of teaching (12 percent) were also huge concerns for science educators. Poverty was also of great concern (eight percent), but showed up most vividly when the issue of poverty was examined by ethnicity. African Americans and Hispanics considered poverty to be a very important issue (11 percent). Lack of administrative support and salaries received the fewest amount of votes, but were still considered important.
More than half of the respondents felt that the most important quality of a science teacher was the ability to translate content into learning. Sixty-seven percent of respondents agreed that incorporating real-world problems into the classroom was the best way to make science relevant and interesting to students.
The survey also revealed that NCLB continues to be problematic for teachers. Fifty-five percent of science educators surveyed felt that NCLB has negatively impacted the teaching of science and their school (48 percent). One apparent reason for this is that the annual testing and accountability provisions mandated by NCLB in reading and mathematics has forced many elementary teachers to significantly reduce the amount of time spent on teaching science in their classrooms. This hinders science educators continuing efforts to provide quality science-learning opportunities and experiences to help students’ develop their critical thinking skills and prepare them to be active participants in today’s society. Science educators want an emphasis on science at the elementary level (29 percent). They also want smaller class sizes (19 percent) and opportunities to collaborate with one another (16 percent).
“President Obama has said that education is critical to America’s economic future. And in a global economy that is predicated on technological and scientific innovations, science and math are critical disciplines,” said Francis Eberle, executive director, NSTA. “ America’s science educators are telling us that science needs to be introduced in the elementary levels. They need the resources to infuse science learning with real world problems so it is relevant to students.”
Many science educators (58 percent) who responded to the survey reported they do not receive enough opportunities for professional development specifically in science. Elementary educators
(74 percent) answered they are offered more opportunities in non-science areas. Educators also have preferences for the type of professional development opportunities they find most beneficial; Educators preferred one-to-four day activities with colleagues (51 percent), conferences (49 percent), and a week or multiple week courses and institutes (26 percent).
“Quality teaching is the single most important factor in bolstering student achievement,” said Julie Luft, a professor of science education at Arizona State University (ASU) and a member of the NSTA board of directors. “When teachers are given the professional development opportunities to keep current in both their knowledge of science and their skills in teaching, they are far more effective with students.”
To view the survey results, click here.
The Arlington, VA-based National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), www.nsta.org, is the largest professional organization in the world promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all. NSTA's current membership includes more than 60,000 science teachers, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business and industry representatives, and others involved in science education.
Tanya Radford, NSTA
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