The differences between our day and that of
the ancients are in refinements and degree. We are on our way, but have
far to go.
Chapter iii, continuing
the same line of thought developed in chapter ii, deals with ways
and means. It undertakes to show how the major aims of science education
are to be realized by teaching that is directed toward the achievement
of more immediate goals, here designated "the objectives of science
Of the issues in the teaching of science that are important today, few
are new. At least one, the individual versus the demonstration method of
performing experiments, was of major significance before World War I
and will probably not be settled beyond question for years to come. In
contrast, other issues that were of primary importance a decade ago have
been resolved or have ceased to be significant.
One aim of education is the development of the abilities of children as
individuals to the end that they will be able to secure the maximum of
good for themselves. Another major aim is the development of the individual
for social responsibility. There is no dichotomy in the content and
procedures of these aims. Children can be in the process of growth toward
science objectives if they respond to the challenges and problems with
which the environments are filled. Children may seek explanations of
many of the events they encounter. In turn, the explanations they understand
and accept as children have much to do with the kind of individuals
they will be when they become adults.
When the objectives of science education have been decided, attention
then turns to the determination of the basic areas of science from which
experiences and content are to be selected. It is important to realize that,
from the point of view of children, science has few artificial boundaries.
In observing and interpreting the phenomena of the environment, children
are not likely to categorize these happenings in terms of the special
fields such as astronomy, botany, or chemistry. It seems logical, therefore,
to select curriculum materials on the basis of the environment.
If the teacher will keep in mind the kinds of questions asked by children
on many occasions, he will have a natural approach to the scientific
method. For instance, such challenges as: How do we find out? How do
we know this is true? Are you sure of your facts? Is that a guess or can
you prove it? The elements of the scientific method (see chap. iii) can
be adapted to the level of the children in such a way that they will know
what they are doing and why they are doing it and will have some control
over the process.
Evaluation is an integral part of learning as well aFi of teaching.
A purpose that enlists our best efforts and a sense of achievement make
for effective learning. Children should participate in evaluation wherever
posRible, each pupil evaluating his own progress. The pupil needs to learn
to evaluate as accurately as possible in terms of better living. Self-evaluation
with the help of an understanding teacher will lead to intelligent self-direction.
In the typical one-room school there is a range in ages from four-and-a-half
to fourteen or fifteen years. Seldom are there many supplementary
books or other library materials, and usually there is no museum to
which the pupils have access. On the other hand, materials found naturally
in the environment are usually present in considerable variety and
abundance. Indeed, a rural environment affords great educational opportunities
for children. Weather is an especially significant part of rural life
because it is so closely related to the crops upon which occupational success
depends. Plants and animals have to be guarded against various
types of disease. Motors and other machines are in constant use about the
farm. Rural children see and hear about these things constantly so that it
is usually not difficult to find and to guide their interests in the science of
the everyday world.
It is the responsibility of the institutions engaged in preparing classroom
teachers for the elementary school to see that their graduates are
competent, with respect to both subject matter and methods, to teach
the science which is appropriate for the grade level at which they expect
to be employed.
In spite of the rapid expansion of scientific knowledge and the even
more rapid expansion in applications of science and practical invention,
the percentage of high-school pupils enrolled in science courses has continued
In its earliest stages the problems involved were regarded as pertaining
to the first year of the four-year high school, rather than to seventh and
eighth grades which later became parts of the junior high school. Other
reports dealing with improvement of science instruction show that the
four-year high school and not the junior high school was then under consideration.
Within a few years, however, it became evident that all of the
junior high school years offered an excellent field for improved courses in
introductory science, which soon became known as general science.
It was pointed out in chapter xi that the sequence of science courses in
the senior high school has traditionally been biology in the tenth year
and either physics or chemistry in the eleventh or twelfth year. Some of
the smaller high schools alternate physics and chemistry in one of the
last two years.
During the last decade a fourth science subject, physical science, has
come into this sequence and has gained considerable recognition.
Each of these sciences may well contribute to the major objectives of
science teaching as set forth in chapters iii and xi. In general, they might
well have certain things in common, such as the principles of selecting
and organizing content, the methods used to reach the general objectives, etc. However, there is a quality of uniqueness about these areas of learning
that makes it desirable to consider each of them separately in this
The junior college is an institution usually offering two years of work
of collegiate grade and quality beyond the high school. Three types of
curriculums exist: (1) "lower division" work following the pattern of the
first two years of four-year college curriculums; (2) terminal curriculums
primarily of the general-education type; and (3) vocational curriculums
in agriculture, trade, technical, home economics, business, and semiprofessional
As a classroom activity, evaluation is an integral part of the total instructional
process. Any attempt to divorce evaluation from teaching, and
to teach without evaluating or to evaluate without regard for the purposes,
content, and methods of teaching-any such attempt is artificial,
and the consequences are almost certainly misleading. On the other hand,
the modern conception of instruction as the direction and guidance of
learning at once discloses the essential function of evaluation. It provides
data by means of which to determine initial status or readiness for learning,
progress and difficulties in learning, final attainment, and extent of
retention and transfer.
In approaching the discussion of the education of science teachers for
secondary schools, two important aspects of the problem must be recognized,
namely, preservice education and in-service education. Both of
these will be treated in this discussion. The general purposes to be
achieved both by preservice and by in-service education are in many
respects closely similar, although the materials and methods to be used in
dealing with prospective teachers in colleges and with teachers of experience
who are actually on a job may be different in many particulars.
Preceding chapters of this volume have presented serious thinking
directed toward extension and improvement of science education. Descriptions
have been presented of different types and levels of school
situations, needs, and possibilities. Recommendations arc given from
many investigations dealing with the educational uses of science. Specific
next steps to be taken are outlined as fully as seem to be justified by an
understanding of present practices, tendencies, and purposes. The committee
believes that the volume is a reasonable record of where we now
are and of tendencies toward further progress.
Investigations in science teaching have been carried forward on a
fairly broad front through the interval of the past fifteen years. They
have been concerned (1) with the evaluation of subject matter and
methods used in current practices in teaching, (2) with the continuous
revision of subject matter and methods, and (3) with the study of the
learning process. The contributions to science teaching from these investigations
will be considered under these three headings.
In attempting to present in reasonably compact form the trends in
problems and in methods of research exhibited in the contributions that
this Society has made to education as a science, the exposition has been
limited to the thirty-six yearbooks that have been published from 1902 to 1936.
The public-school administrator and the teachers must consider the problems of the program of studies in relation to the general purposes of the public-school system and more particularly in relation to the aims and purposes of the various units of the system.
Current statements of aims and objectives of science for the elementary school show the influence of the points of view that have been formulated during the past half century by workers in the field of nature study. Guided as they were by the philosophy of education formulated under the influence of psychological postulates no longer tenable, many of these statements are inconsistent with the principles of education accepted for guidance today.
This analysis of the educational values is given in an effort to call to mind some of the situations and some of the problems of everyday life and to show something of the background out of which they have come. Its aim is to illustrate how tested ideas have contributed to building up the things that are secure in our institutions and in our behavior. It illustrates some of the accomplishments in building security and some of the methods that have been the basis of attitudes that are functioning in human behavior.
From these presentations it is clear, we trust, that practices are not abreast of the best thought in curriculum work. Indeed, many prevailing practices in the schools find their only support in philosophical and psychological postulations that are recognized not only as obsolete but even as directly opposed to the postulations on which the organization of our school system is based. A problem of first rank importance to the educational worker, especially in the field of curriculum, is to define the aim of education in such a way that the definition will function as a guiding thought, will direct the teacher in choosing what to do in order to attain the aim.
In a discussion of the psychology of learning the question of what to teach—of what knowledge is of most worth—rises to a place of prominence. Current practices in science teaching and in other fields have been severely and justly criticized for overemphasis on memory work for the purpose of enabling the pupil to reproduce unrelated facts. Moreover, there has been so much looseness in claims for various impracticable and vaguely defined outcomes of science teaching that it would seem as if the real materials of education—problems in which methods may be used and situations and conditions toward which attitudes may be developed—have too small a place. Knowledge that has been, and that may be, tested for truthfulness is essential in educa- tion as a basis for problem solving and for understanding.
Educational research, in the modern sense of the term, was first applied to problems in the teaching of science a little more than twenty years ago. During the period since the publication of the results of these pioneer efforts there has been a large and rapidly increasing number of investigations of a wide variety of problems touching many phases of science teaching.
In the best modern schools, laboratory work and the various other activities of the science classroom are frequently carried on in the same room, and together they constitute a carefully integrated whole. The materials briefly presented in this chapter should therefore be considered as a continuation of those in Chapter VI. They have been grouped separately here for the sake of securing perhaps a clearer and more unified treatment of related groups of problems. The discussions, nevertheless, cover so wide a variety of problems, so diverse in nature as to make impossible a logical order of sequence.
During the past quarter century several factors have operated in modifying instructional materials in science, especially those for the secondary school. Prominent among these influences are (1) the 'high-school movement,' which, beginning about 1892, brought into the sec- ondary schools enormously increasing numbers of pupils, and therefore reduced to a marked extent the degree of selection; (2) a resulting diminished emphasis upon the college-preparatory aim, which combined with other factors to render progressiyely less satisfactory and less appropriate the earlier type of textbook that comprised merely a somewhat simplified revision of materials written by university teachers for college and university classes; (3) important trends in educational psychology, prominent among which were a discrediting of the current extreme theories of general transfer and discipline and of serial and saltatory development and a growing acceptance of the functional point of view and of the theory of gradual and concomitant development; and (4) the beginnings of modern educational research, which has been contributing findings of increasing scope and refinement.
The curriculum of science, as well as the materials for the courses that make up the curriculum, must be determined on one of three bases: (1) best opinion regarding what sequence of courses should comprise the curriculum and what elements should make up these courses; (2) the results of such researches as shed light upon these questions; and (3) a combination of opinion and the results of research.
In the past there has been a tendency to restrict the curriculum to the so-called 'fundamentals,' or '3 R's.' At present there is a definite trend in industrial nations toward the inelusion of liberal training in the program of studies for the elementary school. This is illustrated in courses of study of recent issue in the United States and in the new combine schools of Russia, the modern Volksschule of Germany, and the Decroly type of school in Belgium. The present movement is towards including science as a part of this liberal training in universal education.
In the organization of curricular materials in science the fundamental learning experiences will be directed toward the realization of large scientific principles. In the development of these principles an understanding and interpretation of environmental phenomena will be acquired which will enable the learners to meet new situations intelligently. The learners will be prepared in this way to react wisely to those situations common to their level of development, and at the same time will acquire a background of understanding which is fundamental in meeting future needs.
The outline of science for the grades of the elementary school that is presented in this chapter is extracted from a number of recent syllabi of science and serves to illustrate the program that has been presented in Chapter X.