NSTA Survey Reveals Forensic Science Is Hottest New Trend in Science Teaching
Arlington, VA, October 25, 2004—According to a survey by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the world's largest organization of science educators, forensic science investigations—think DNA testing, hair analyses, and paper chromatography—have become the hottest new trend in science teaching.
Of the 450 middle and high school science educators who responded to an informal survey, 77 percent indicated that their school or school district is using forensic investigations to teach science. When asked if the popularity of forensic-based TV shows had ignited students' interest in science, the response was a resounding "yes" (78 percent).
"It is unmistakable that popular new forensic science shows like Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) and Forensic Files are resonating with students, especially those at the middle and high school level," said NSTA President Anne Tweed. "Science teachers are capitalizing on this interest and using it to immerse students in science learning. It's helping students discover how science is related to the real world how science can be used to solve problems, and how science can be used to solve problems."
Many teachers agree. When asked to comment on the popularity of forensic science lessons, hundreds of teachers responded:
"My kids are enthralled when we do forensics in class. I usually [conduct] two major units each year! They love the scientific testing, the thinking, and the conclusions they reach. They love being 'real' scientists."
"They [students] are able to see the power of science, as well as how it is done."
"Our forensic chemistry courses are the most popular science elective in the school."
The survey also revealed that forensic science lessons appear in many different forms. Nearly half of the teachers who responded (48 percent) indicated that they integrate lessons into existing science classes. Just more than 15 percent said they offer separate forensic science courses for students, and 14 percent use both approaches. When asked if teachers actually incorporated particular forensic TV shows into their lessons, 46 percent said "yes," while 36 percent said they did not.
The availability of good forensic science lessons has been a stumbling block for many teachers. When asked if forensic lesson plans and activities were secured from an outside source or developed in house, 24 percent indicated they obtained lessons from an outside source, 13 percent credited their district for developing the lessons, and 42 percent said that their district used both approaches.
To provide teachers with opportunities to use forensics in the classroom, NSTA teamed with Court TV in 2003 to develop exciting curriculum units on forensic science for middle and high school students. The collaboration resulted in two new forensic units now available as part of Court TV's award-winning Forensics in the Classroom (FIC) educational science initiative, developed in partnership with the American Academy of Forensic Science. FIC was launched on Court TV's website in 2002 as the first-ever, free standards-based forensic science curriculum for high school science teachers. Since its debut, more than 20,000 teachers have downloaded the materials. Teachers can download the new forensics curricula free at apps.trutv.com/forensics_curriculum/index.html.
The survey was conducted in early October through NSTA Express, NSTA's weekly e-newsletter.
The Arlington, VA-based National Science Teachers Association 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 55,000 science teachers, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business and industry representatives, and others involved in science education.