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Teacher Sensemaking

Contemporary Approaches in Science Education With All Students

By Okhee Lee, New York University; Tricia Shelton, NSTA; and Kate Soriano, NSTA

Posted on 2022-06-17

 Before A Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council, 2012) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; NGSS Lead States, 2013), research, policy, and practice did not work well together and, in some cases, even mistrusted each other. Research focused on conceptual work, such as project-based learning, problem-based learning, or place-based learning, using a limited number of science topics. Policy focused on science standards consisting primarily of science concepts to be tested. And practice did not see the relevance of research or policy for students in the classroom.

Following the Framework and the NGSS, there is now consensus among research, policy, and practice. The field is “speaking the same language” to achieve common goals.


Before: Research, Policy, and Practice Image




After: Research, Policy, and Practice Image

In this blog, we describe how contemporary approaches in science education based on the Framework and the NGSS “flip” traditional approaches. Both traditional and contemporary approaches address “What counts as science and science learning?” and “Who are science learners?” However, as shown in the figure below, how each approach addresses the two questions differs. Moreover, the shifts from traditional to contemporary approaches call for redefining “What is effective science instruction?” In describing these shifts, we focus specifically on what constitutes an instructional unit and lesson according to traditional and contemporary approaches.