Next Steps for Behavioral and Social Sciences in K-12 STEM Education

June 21, 2012

by Paula Skedsvold 

Drawing upon the National Research Council’s (NRC) Framework for K-12 Science Education, ACHIEVE began its work to create a set of common science standards. A draft of the science standards was released on May 11, 2012. 

The Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences joined with the American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, and Society for Research in Child Development to provide input as primary reviewers to the draft science standards report. There were many opportunities to embed relevant material from areas such as psychological, cognitive, developmental, learning, behavioral, perceptual, neuroscience, and human factors into the performance expectations, examples, and clarification statements. 

We are hopeful that the comments will serve to advance science learning in the four traditional content areas of science as well as engineering/technology, and that science learning can be enhanced by drawing connections to other scientific fields (e.g. connections between life sciences and the behavioral sciences) in order to show the unity of science. Several phases are envisioned for the science standards so the public (including our societies) will have an opportunity to review and comment again.

In parallel, the NRC arranged a planning meeting among a small group of stakeholders in the behavioral and social sciences to take stock of the status of these sciences in K-12 education; examine the path to expanding the curricula for our sciences similar to the work done in environmental education, engineering, statistics, and earth sciences; and consider what steps are needed to expand opportunities for all kids to be exposed to the full breadth of sciences at the K-12 level, including the behavioral and social sciences.  

The purpose of the meeting was to consider the NRC’s role in short- and long-term plans; whether the goals and plans for all the behavioral and social science disciplines will be similar; what relevant activities are currently underway that would benefit from the inclusion of our sciences; which key individuals or groups should be involved in the effort; how the inclusion of behavioral and social sciences may vary at different developmental stages and levels of K-12 education; the research base needed; teacher training needs; and how to build on key reports such as the AAAS’s Project 2061 and prior NRC and NSF reports.

A working group has been formed to advance the ideas and develop a more formal coordinating body (similar to the IOM Forum on Neuroscience) to facilitate the implementation of specific activities for years to come.