Practice Brief 2 -- Topics: Background Instruction

Why should students investigate contemporary science topics—and not just "settled" science?

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Why It Matters To You
  • Teachers should at least at times engage students in investigations of contemporary science and engineering topics.
  • District staff and PD providers should communicate with teachers about instructional materials, community resources, and projects focused on contemporary STEM topics.
  • School Leaders should support the teaching of contemporary investigations by forming relevant partnerships and locating resources.

What is the Issue?

Students are frequently asked to investigate "settled" science topics and to simply confirm what is already known, but they can learn "basic science" through contemporary topics. The integration of contemporary scientific problems into K-12 instruction can give learners exciting ways to learn and apply disciplinary core ideas of science, engage purposefully in the science and engineering practices, and even make meaningful contributions to science, engineering and/ or their communities through their investigations.

Authors:

KATIE VAN HORNE AND PHILIP BELL


Reflection Questions

  • What current topics in science interest you? How do they relate to learning goals in NGSS?
  • To what degree are students conducting authentic science investigations in your classroom? What can be done to help students see scientific knowledge developed and applied to real world problems?
  • Contemporary science is in the news, interesting, and often applicable to students' lives. How can you incorporate timely, interesting, and relevant topics in your teaching? How can you highlight connections, assign readings, or teach through contemporary investigations?

Things to Consider

Attending to Equity

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