The Department of Science Education at California State University, Chico is committed to providing the North State with the highest quality science education for all learners, programs for teacher subject matter preparation and professional development, and research on teaching and learning to promote scientific appreciation and understanding.
Bechtel and NSF Funding Further Enhance K-8 Course Sequence
The Department of Science Education recently received funding from the Bechtel Foundation to further integrate and improve the course sequence for Liberal Studies students at CSU Chico.
Liberal Studies students at CSU Chico take a carefully crafted series of 13 units of science as a required part of their major. These courses have already been cited as one of only 3 promising programs for preparing elementary teachers in science across the state! This funding will serve to make these courses even better.
The recently released Framework for K-12 Science Education states, "[Crosscutting] concepts help provide students with an organizational framework for connecting knowledge from the various disciplines into a coherent and scientifically based view of the world... These concepts should become common and familiar touchstones across the disciplines and grade levels. Explicit reference to the concepts, as well as their emergence in multiple disciplinary contexts, can help students develop a cumulative, coherent, and usable understanding of science and engineering."
Yet, for Liberal Studies students at many other universities, the coherence the Framework advocates is absent from their undergraduate science courses. Courses are frequently unconnected - a sequence of “general education” courses, none of which builds on the others in a principled way. Students are unlikely to see that a single explanatory framework ties together, say, a falling ball, trophic levels, and the water cycle. This disjointed background does not prepare future teachers to view science as having core “organizational frameworks” that connect knowledge from the different scientific disciplines.
We will use the Bechtel funding to address this “disjointedness” by coordinating the content of Liberal Studies science courses here at CSU Chico so that students are presented with explicit connections between the disciplines and experience science as providing a coherent framework for understanding the natural world. We strive to serve as a model to the CSU system for providing Liberal Studies majors with an integrated, coherent sequence of courses that address and inform best practices in teacher preparation.
The primary goal for this grant is to revise our courses so that the crosscutting concept of energy, already presented in depth, is presented so that its role as an “organizational framework for connecting knowledge from the various disciplines” is clear. This will include connecting energy to scientific practices described in the Next Generation Science Standards (in particular, constructing explanations; developing and using models; and engaging in argument around evidence) and integrating elements of the the English Language Arts Common Core Standards (in particular, writing logical arguments, developing vocabularies related to energy, and engaging in academic discussion).