Chemistry in Past and New Science Frameworks and Standards: Gains, Losses, and Missed Opportunities

I've read this recent JCE article a couple times and have been thinking about its potential impact on our K12 community as we begin to consider the challenges and the opportunities associated with the NGSS.  I consider Drs. Sevian and Talanquer to be accomplished, thoughtful, and insightful colleagues who care deeply about precollege chemistry teachers.  That being said, I think the reason why I wanted to share a bit about this particular article was because it was evident that they felt comfortable taking a 'stand' about what and what shouldn't be advocated for in the precollege chemistry curriculum.  For one, they offer the perspective that in the new K-12 frameworks and NGSS, school-level chemistry is grouped with physics into the amalgamated 'physical science' which obscures and undersells the important contribution of chemistry in its own right to science and science education.  They argue that chemistry is often perceived as a 'conventional science', mainly focusing on describing, explaining and predicting properties of substances and processes and is overlooked as a important contributor to the worlds of technology and engineering.  They also highlight the advantages of the particulate-level modeling approach that is advocated in the newest reform documents that essentially extend the kinetic-molecular theory to various contexts heretofore only addressed through macroscopic and symbolic representations, but identity-less atoms and molecules acting as hard spheres cannot explain the behavior of many real substances whose properties depend on their molecular structure.

I left the second read-through thinking that I was thankful for an informed critique of our newest set of curricular standards for today's chemistry teaching community, but also wondering to what extent would I have even considered doing something similar to the authors during my many years while in a high school teaching position. I'm pretty sure I would have joined some of my colleagues bemoaning the latest 'top-down' approach to K12 education, as I perceived these events, but am also pretty sure that I WOULDN'T have thought that I could (should!) also weigh in on these sweeping curricular changes with the broader science educational community through some type of dissemination outlet like a JCEX blog, conference presentation, or even a professional publication like JCE.  I think that's what I would love to see more of…a sense of agency, or the ability to have input into policy decisions, in the precollege chemistry community.  I think a forum like this one at JCEX is a great place to start, where we meet other like-minded folks that love molecules and moles but also to feel like we're professionals, with autonomy and a code of conduct and caretakers of the public trust.

I'd love to know how you think about these issues, and how we at JCEX can support your professional goals as chemistry teachers.



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Comments 2

Lowell Thomson's picture
Lowell Thomson | Tue, 04/08/2014 - 13:03

Hi Greg,

I read your post with interest, as I still haven't read the original article to which you refer. I will be adding it to my ACS ChemWorx list, though!

Given that I need to do more reading - and hopefully find time to come back with another comment - I'll lead in with this thought: Will the newly developed American Association of Chemistry Teachers give us that sense of agency and input into policy decisions that you mention here?

I often read that NSTA is working on policy issues, and other organizations have a clear interest in policy. Will AACT develop that voice also?

More later.



greg rushton's picture
greg rushton | Thu, 04/10/2014 - 03:48

Hi Lowell, I am hopeful that we will gain a stronger sense of agency with the formation and launch of AACT, but it remains to be seen how the organization is positioned within the community and with what leadership.  I hope that you and I can both have somewhat of a voice in this conversation. let's keep talking...greg