So what is it that we want students to gain from a k-12 science education? What are the goals we should constantly work to promote in students?
Considering that rote memorization of scientific ideas leads to little understanding, I have identified ten goals for students that focus on life learning skills, and other traits that will be valuable to them in the future, no matter their career choice. Each goal below is accompanied by more specific explanations of what I might see students doing who meet that goal. I hope whatever your goals are for your students, you have thought about them extensively. We all want great things for our students, but if we do not have well articulated goals, our efforts will not be focused. I will post later on how we can consistently work to promote the goals below.
Student Goal 1) Students will demonstrate critical thinking.
A student who demonstrates critical thinking will defend their viewpoint using relevant evidence. Students will pose questions when new information does not agree with their current understanding, and look for further sources of evidence to support the new idea if necessary. Students will not accept blindly new information and be willing to question teachers, texts and other sources of information. A student who is capable of critical thinking should be able to solve problems in a stepwise sequence, and be able to revise the sequence if necessary.
Student Goal 2) Students will demonstrate a deep understanding of content and be able to apply this knowledge to problems in and out of the classroom.
Students with a deep understanding of the content will be able to clearly articulate that understanding by citing relevant evidence and sources when confronted with a question. Students will be able to make connections between various concepts and apply multiple concepts to a single problem when needed. Students will be aware of resources to find information regarding content, and use such resources when necessary. Students will use their knowledge of content when approaching a relevant problem and will be able to recognize which concepts are of value for specific situations.
Student Goal 3) Students will demonstrate creativity and curiosity.
Students who are creative will propose original ways to approach or solve problems. Students will ask thought-provoking questions during class discussion, and try to answer questions by piecing together previous knowledge. Students who are curious will come up with possible investigations and ask questions seeking explanation of ideas during class discussions. Students will develop their own ways to explain their ideas and look for evidence that supports their ideas.
Student Goal 4) Students will demonstrate respect.
Students will not interrupt others during discussions. Students will listen to other ideas and treat them as valid. Students will discuss positive aspects of ideas they do not necessarily agree with; this helps them to understand both sides of an issue, and makes them a better critical thinker. Students will follow classroom rules, and treat school property as though it were their own. Work area will be kept clean and students will remind each other of classroom rules. Each student will work cohesively with a team and treat themselves as part of that team.
Student Goal 5) Students will be responsible and conscientious members of communities.
Students will address global problems concerning the environment, energy needs, human needs, social concerns and others. Students will seek out remedies to such problems and debate which ideas offer the most effective solutions. Students will propose possible measures to be taken as citizens when a problem is found.
Student Goal 6) Students will exhibit confidence.
Students who exhibit confidence will be willing to participate in class, and willing to provide ideas, even if they are unsure of the idea’s worth. These students will be willing to try new procedures and willing to try again when they fail. Students will ask the teacher to clarify when they do not fully understand, and be willing to look for additional help if needed.
Student Goal 7) Students will set goals and assess their own learning and progress.
Students will set realistic goals for the semester, quarter, unit, and week. As weeks go by, students will become better at setting goals they are capable of achieving. Students will revise goals as needed. Students will use a journal to track their progress and to assess their own understanding. Students will seek ways to express their learning and check for understanding of new concepts.
Student Goal 8 ) Students will be active in their own learning.
Students will look for further resources when they feel they do not yet fully understand. Students will ask questions in class to clarify points of confusion. Students will create models to explain their ideas. Active learners will look into topics of interest beyond the classroom. Students will bring concerns about understanding to class discussions, and also cite how current material applies elsewhere, besides the classroom.
Student Goal 9) Students will use communication and cooperation skills effectively.
Students will be able to communicate clearly in large groups as well as one on one. Students will be able to communicate ideas succinctly through written language. Students will use correct terminology where appropriate. Students will use correct grammar and punctuation. Students will listen to other ideas and maintain eye contact during conversation and debates, and will speak in a respectful manner during such debates and discussions. Students who are able to cooperate are willing to let others do their fair share as well as pull their own weight in a group. Students will value all suggestions of group members equally. Students will attempt to resolve problems within their group before asking the teacher.
Student Goal 10) Students will understand the nature of knowledge.
Students will partake in discussions about the nature of knowledge and compare different ways of knowing. Students will apply principles of the nature of knowledge to different content areas. Epistemological discussions with students can help them become more reflective concerning their own thinking. By reflecting on what it means to know something in diverse areas, students will better understand how to learn effectively.
I hope these goals are lofty, children deserve no less than our highest expectations. Assessing these goals is difficult, but by carefully designing lessons and providing important experiences for students, we can promote these goals – however, like with anything, they must carry the goals to fruition. I’m sure some will tell me I’m an idealist with a goal list like that, so I leave you with some John Lennon’s Imagine:
You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.