Science Communication Versus Science Education: The Graduate Student Scientist As A K-12 Classroom Resource

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Jeff Strauss
Richard E. Shope III
Susan Terebey

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Abstract

Science literacy is a major goal of science educational reform (NRC, 1996; AAAS, 1998; NCLB Act, 2001). Some believe that teaching science only requires pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) (Shulman, 1987). Others believe doing science requires knowledge of the methodologies of scientific inquiry (NRC, 1996). With these two mindsets, the challenge for science educators is to create models that bring the two together. The common ground between those who teach science and those who do science is science communication, an interactive process that galvanizes dialogue among scientists, teachers, and learners in a rich ambience of mutual respect and a common, inclusive language of discourse (Stocklmayer, 2001). The dialogue between science and non-science is reflected in the polarization that separates those who do science and those who teach science, especially as it plays out everyday in the science classroom. You may be thinking, why is this important? It is vital because, although not all science learners become scientists, all K-12 students are expected to acquire science literacy, especially with the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). Students are expected to acquire the ability to follow the discourse of science as well as connect the world of science to the context of their everyday life if they plan on moving to the next grade level, and in some states, to graduate from high school. This paper posits that science communication is highly effective in providing the missing link for K-12 students’ cognition in science and their attainment of science literacy. This paper will focus on the “Science For Our Schools” (SFOS) model implemented at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) as a project of the National Science Foundation’s GK-12 program, (NSF 2001) which has been a huge success in bridging the gap between those who “know” science and those who “teach” science. The SFOS model makes clear the distinctions that identify science, science communication, science education, and science literacy in the midst of science learning by bringing together graduate student scientists and science teachers to engage students in the two world’s dialogue in the midst of the school science classroom. The graduate student scientists and the science teachers worked as a team throughout the school year and became effective science communicators as they narrowed the gulf between the two worlds.

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