Scientific Societies Respond to NAS Draft Report “A Framework for Science Education”

The National Academy of Sciences released a draft report on July 13, 2010, that provides a “conceptual framework” to “guide the development of next generation standards for science education.”

The task of developing specific science education standards will, according to the NAS, be done by a Washington, DC, non-profit organization, Achieve. The NAS is seeking feedback on its conceptual framework, including whether there are any “important major areas of science that have been overlooked and are important for ALL students to know.”

The current standards for science education were developed over a decade ago. Neither these standards nor the current framework address the behavioral and social sciences as a core part of science education, although the draft report itself draws heavily on learning science, cognitive science, and education research.

The behavioral and social sciences community has been calling for a fuller integration of these sciences in science education. In 2004, the National Science Foundation’s Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate issued a plan of action for improving SBE science education at all levels of education. According to the NSF-supported report, Education and Training in the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences: A Plan of Action, “a recurrent theme is the need for greater acknowledgement that the SBE sciences are an integral part of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)…. No place is more ripe for building this awareness than in science education itself and, in particular, in K-12 education, where the SBE sciences are conspicuously absent from introductory materials on the nature of science and the identification of phenomena that are amenable to scientific analysis.”

The draft framework will influence the teaching of science to K-12 (kindergarten through 12th grade) students for years to come. Unfortunately, the absence of behavioral and social sciences in the framework conveys a narrow view of science, and limits our ability to expose students to the range of phenomena that are subject to scientific analysis. Given its potential impact, scientific societies in the behavioral and social sciences have coordinated a response to the draft report that calls for inclusion of the behavioral and social sciences as core sciences.

Read a letter written to PCAST that raises similar issues (PDF) »