Joint 52nd Northeastern Annual Section / 51st North-Central Annual Section Meeting - 2017

Paper No. 2-1
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM


DUGGAN-HAAS, Don, The Paleontological Research Institution, 92 South Drive, Amherst, NY 14226,

The most impactful scientific research and the most widely adopted technological innovations share the characteristic of bringing together the familiar in unfamiliar ways. Arguably, a key reason efforts at science education reform have failed to succeed at realizing their goals is that they are not “optimally distinct.” If an innovation is not sufficiently different from current practice, it will fail to make much difference in practice. If it is too different from current practice, it will not be adopted as proposed changes are too far removed from professional norms to be either understood or accepted. Optimally distinct innovations blend the familiar and the innovative in such a way that successful adoption is more likely than if the innovation is either too mundane to make a difference in outcomes or too unusual to be implemented. Similar characteristics can be found in high impact scientific research - the highest impact science features highly conventional science combined in exceptionally unconventional ways.

Using content related to climate change, energy, and Critical Zone (CZ) science, we engage in a conceptual investigation of the question, “Can atypical combinations of conventional educational approaches yield improvements to the outcomes of K-12 science education?” While each of these topic areas is clearly within the realm of science courses, none of the three topics is typically taught broadly or in depth. All are also strongly interdisciplinary, both within the sciences and beyond. Further, to be deeply understood, these topics all require understandings of systems science.

The Next Generation Science Standards is a disruption to the K-12 educational system that demands innovation. Advantaging the confluence of NGSS implementation with the growing importance of these highly interdisciplinary system-science topics while also attending to characteristic features of generally effective innovations holds promise for breaking science education reform’s long-standing losing streak. We advocate combining well-understood effective characteristics of field study with common classroom approaches across the curriculum to provide learning opportunities that are broad and deep in the approach to content and optimally distinct, thus offering durability of a science education reform approach.

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