In the USA, the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) and the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund (TFNEF) looked at how each US state science standards for public schools addressed climate change. These standards identify the basic information and skills students are expected to master in their courses of study. They guide the content of statewide testing and assessment, textbooks and other teaching materials, and classroom activities. Each state has its own process for writing and adopting standards.
20 states and the District of Columbia (DC) use the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) which were agreed by a consortium of states working together with the National Research Council, the National Science Teaching Association, and the American Association based on the National Research Council’s Framework for K–12 Science Education, that was created in 2011. Another 24 states have written their own standards guided by the Framework. The remaining six states use science standards not based on the Framework.
Reviewers evaluated how climate change is addressed in all 50 states (and DC). The reviewers considered the treatment of climate change in each set of standards with respect to the following four key points that the researchers say form a basic outline on the scientific consensus on climate change:
– 1. It’s real: Recent climate change is a genuine phenomenon.
– 2. It’s us: Human activity is responsible for the global change in climate.
– 3. It’s bad: Climate change is affecting and will continue to affect nature and society.
– 4. There’s hope: It is possible to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
In evaluating how the standards addressed those four points, the reviewers considered six focus questions for each of them:
To what extent …
– A. is the treatment of the issue in the standards helpful in permitting students to reach these conclusions?
– B. is the treatment of the issue in the standards appropriately explicit?
– C. is the treatment of the issue in the standards integrated in a coherent learning progression?
– D. do the standards make it clear to teachers what knowledge and skills students are expected to attain?
– E. would a student who met the performance expectations in the standards relevant to the issue be prepared for further study in higher education?
– F. would a student who met the performance expectations in the standards relevant to the issue be prepared for responsible participation in civic deliberation about climate change?
The results were mixed, as you might expect. If you want to see them, and to read more about this study, just click here.
Of greater interest (for this post), is the approach taken: the 4 key points and the 6 focus questions – and the extent to which they might be used in the UK to examine how well the basic curriculum is set to address issues and help students.
With the 4 key points, we’d perhaps not use phrases such as “It’s bad”; in fact, we might just say something like:
–  Recent climate change is a really happening
–  Human activity is responsible for most of the current changes to the climate
–  Climate change is already affecting and will continue to affect nature and society
–  It’s possible to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
The 6 focus questions are trickier because we don’t have school standards like the Americans do. England (c/o the UK government) has the national curriculum and exam syllabuses at GCSE, and the devolved administrations have their own equivalents. We have nothing like the Next Generation Science Standards. If anyone wanted to carry out this research over here, it might be helpful to re-phrase the 6 questions:
To what extent ...
– A. is the treatment of the issue helpful in permitting students to understand the 4 key points?
– B is the treatment of the issues appropriately explicit?
– C. is the treatment of the issues part of a coherent learning progression?
– D. is it clear to teachers what knowledge, understanding and skills students are expected to attain?
– E. would students at the end of their course of study be prepared for study in the next phase of education?
– F. would students at the end of their course of study be prepared be prepared for responsible participation in civic deliberation about climate change?
Does anyone, we wonder …