Date of Award

Fall 12-19-2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)

Department

Education and Human Development

First Advisor

Younkeyong, Nam

Abstract

Nationally, the most important goal of contemporary science education is to produce scientifically literate adults (Zimmerman, 2007). The current goal of the National Framework for K-12 science education, which is to ensure that by the end of 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science. This includes their ability to possess sufficient knowledge of science and engineering information to adequately engage in public discussions on related issues. These abilities will increase in time with a goal of creating a student body that is able to continue to learn about science outside school. Further, it strives to create students who are careful consumers of scientific and technology. Most importantly, the framework strives to ensure that American students have the required skills to enter careers of their choice, including (but not limited to) careers in science, engineering, and technology (U.S. Department of Education, 2008). These goals are meant to hold true in elementary schools as well as it is here that children receive their initial experience of formal science education. They are taught, by selection of national and state curriculum, what matters in the world and how to deepen their understanding of concepts presented. Despite the goals and intent of elementary science education, the role of science in elementary grades has been declining steadily in the United States according to some national and private research.

Meaningful science education reaches beyond the science classroom as the thinking skills used to understand science can be related to other formal and informal thinking skills (Kuhn, 2002). Currently, recent efforts to reform and improve the way science is taught strives to make certain that those who do not pursue a career in science are able benefit from the basic thinking skills taught in the classroom (Ford & Forman, 2006; Metz, 2004; ONeill & Polman, 2004). By focusing on interventions that encourage the development and practice of investigation and inference skills, science education will become increasingly relevant to the needs of all students (Zimmerman, 2007).

Despite current efforts and the conceived notions of the importance of science, the role of elementary science education and its effectiveness is declining in the United States. A host of research suggests that science education should be centered around inquiry-based learning. A central issue of elementary science education is that inquiry and Nature of Science education is not present in the curricula of most elementary science teachers’ personal education. To remedy this issue, it has been found that appropriate pre and in-serve science education in the form of professional developments can increase a teacher’s ability to effectively teach elementary science.

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