Friday, March 6, 2009

Dig deep or go wide?

From the ASCD Smartbrief comes this article about benefiting from depth vs. breadth in science ed. Very interesting as our district is looking at dismal science results from last year's PSSA's, a president that wants more students to succeed in college, and focus on 21st century skills that focuses on working deeply with content. Which is more important?

From the article, these tidbits:

The 8,310 students in the study were enrolled in introductory biology, chemistry or physics in randomly selected four-year colleges and universities. Those who spent one month or more studying one major topic in-depth in high school earned higher grades in college science than their peers who studied more topics in the same period of time.

The study also points out that standardized testing, which seeks to measure overall knowledge in an entire discipline, may not capture a student's high level of mastery in a few key science topics. Teachers who "teach to the test" may not be optimizing their students' chance of success in college science courses, Tai noted.
When you don't know exactly what is on the test, you have to teach everything. It is not the best way to teach. Working deeply with key integrated concepts is much more important.

Public opinion needs to decide what is most important (educating children and creating success for their future as well as ability to navigate in the world). Should we worry about creating "scientists." Perhaps, but on focusing on content, they will hate it. What is the best way to do this? Why not tap into innate curiosity, focus on the process, and work deeply with content?

The PSSA tests are not going to be an indicator of who will do well in college nor is it an indicator of what they really understand. Every year, more is added to the plate. Is it time to get back to the basics? (concepts and process, that is)

Tags: ASCD, Science Daily, science education

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