School of Education faculty member helps guide response to science teaching standards

Science Education Professor Akerson leads NARST

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

An organization devoted to teaching science has come out with guidelines for implementing the new curriculum guidelines for science in the classroom. NARST: A Worldwide Organization for Improving Science Teaching and Learning Through Research, has just released position papers on the “Next Generation Science Standards.”

Valarie Akerson, professor of science education at the IU School of Education, is the current president of NARST. She said that the organization wanted to support the standards with helpful guidelines.

“The Next Generation Science Standards are an exciting opportunity to make important changes in science education,” Akerson said. “One way NARST seeks to support change in science education is through research  on science teaching and learning. The position papers intended to make recommendations for successful implementation of the NGSS were initiated by Sharon Lynch, the NARST President for 2012-2013, and Lynn Bryan, the NARST President 2013-2014, to provide support and aid in research-based approaches to science education reform.”

More on the NARST position papers and links to the resources are available in the official release from NARST below.

NARST Releases Responses to Next Generation Science Standards

August 2014

Reston, VA—NARST: A Worldwide Organization for Improving Science Teaching and Learning Through Research, convened a task force of science education researchers to create position papers that focus on the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The NGSS, created through a collaboration between the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, and others, are supported by the National Governors’ Association and 26 state education agencies.

Using systematic and rigorous research approaches, NARST seeks to educate educators in the implementation of the standards. Eight position papers are now available and posted on the NARST website at  The topics covered are: accountability, assessment, curriculum materials, engineering, equity, informal science education, pre-service teacher education, and professional development. These position papers are informed by current research in science education and have been peer-reviewed by NARST members.

Together, the papers paint brief, vivid pictures of the changes needed to implement the NGSS. The state of K-12 science education in the U.S. suggests that a comprehensive response to the implementation of the NGSS is likely to be helpful to the policymakers, practitioners, and parents who will ask questions and need thoughtful answers.  Some highlights from the papers are:

  • A systems view of the NGSS initiative that can avoid past pitfalls and realize equitable and genuine improvement in schools;
  • Insights on assessment regarding NGSS performance expectations in terms of systems, contexts, purposes, and validity and fairness;
  • Attention to the amount of content students can learn and not simply the amount that teachers can “cover”;
  • Recommendation that all of the engineering practices, crosscutting concepts and disciplinary core ideas be considered together to see how engineering is represented as a whole in NGSS;
  • Attention to equity through building a roadmap and vision for how equity and diversity can be addressed to inform implementation of NGSS;
  • Recommendations for how informal science education sector is positioned to engage and support NGSS;
  • Vision of NGSS implementation as an opportunity for new approaches to science education for pre-service teachers;
  • Recommendations about what to include in professional development programs to ensure successful implementation of NGSS by practicing teachers.

Sharon Lynch of the George Washington University (NARST President, 2012-2013), and Lynn Bryan of Purdue University (NARST President, 2013-2014), initiated the effort to create the association’s NGSS position papers. The project continues under the leadership of Lynn Bryan and Valarie Akerson of Indiana University (NARST President, 2014-2015).

In Fall 2014, NARST will collaborate with National Science Teachers Association to produce a series of three webinars for teachers and science education researchers. The authors of the position papers will lead the sessions. The first three webinars will be on engineering, curriculum materials, and equity.

To learn more about the NARST Policy Statements please contact:

Valarie Akerson, President
Indiana University
201 North Rose Avenue                               
Bloomington, IN 47405                               
Office: 812-856-8140                                   

Lynn Bryan, Immediate Past President
Purdue University
100 N. University St.
West Lafayette, IN 47907
Office: 765-496-2859