Challenging Science Standards: A Skeptical Critique of the Quest for Unity

Challenging Science Standards: A Skeptical Critique of the Quest for Unity

by Charles R. Ault


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For several decades educators have struggled to identify the attributes all sciences have in common. In the popular mind this effort constitutes the importance of teaching “the” scientific method. In the policy maker’s world this pursuit yields standards for all Americans that unify the sciences. For teachers, the quest for unity has typically meant teaching science as process. However, a curriculum that prioritizes what all sciences have in common obscures their vital differences. For example, studying landslides is very different from doing x-ray diffraction; climate science is unlike medical research. Naïve ideas about scientific unity impoverish the public’s ability to evaluate scientific enterprises. Challenging Science Standards voices skepticism towards the quest for unity. Through analyses of disciplinary knowledge, school curricula, and classroom learning, the book uncovers flaws in the unifying dimensions of the science standards. It proposes respect for disciplinary diversity and attention to questions of value in choosing what science to teach. Illuminated by vignettes of children and adolescents studying topics ranging from snail populations to horse fossils, Challenging Science Standards proposes promising remedies.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781475818482
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 08/13/2015
Pages: 218
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Charles R. Ault, Jr. (“Kip”) Professor Emeritus, Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling, taught courses in science education, field geology, natural history, and curriculum theory to elementary and secondary science teachers for three decades. His early research addressed children’s conceptions of time, matter, and energy and his more recent interests have focused on earth science education.

Table of Contents


Foreword by John L. Rudolph
Introduction: Halting the Quest
Part I: The Nature of the Problem
Chapter 1: Unity v. Diversity
Chapter 2: The Scientific Method from Cradle to Grave
Chapter 3: Old Wine in New Bottles
Chapter 4: The “Alphabets” from NSF
Chapter 5: Abstract Liabilities
Chapter 6: Cataclysms Outside the Classroom
Chapter 7: The Downward Spiral
Part II: Diversity’s Starting Points
Chapter 8: The Second Style
Chapter 9: Geological Reasoning
Chapter 10: Metaphor and Analogy
Part III: Prospective Solutions
Chapter 11: The Twin Pillars of Thinking and Doing
Chapter 12: The Promising Idea of Core Progressions
Chapter 13:The Elbow and Ankle Tour of the Zoo
Chapter 14: Cracks in Unity’s Armor
Chapter 15: The Promise of Place
Conclusion: A New Coherence

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