The statements below summarize GSTA's official positions on important issues that affect science education in Georgia. These statements are offered to support your efforts to advocate for science education in your classroom, school, district, and beyond. GSTA's Board of Directors and membership have developed and adopted position statements on the following topics.
POSITION STATEMENT ON THE TEACHING OF EVOLUTION
Evolution is a unifying concept for science and in the broadest sense can be defined as the idea that the universe has a history: that change through time has taken place. If we look today at the galaxies, stars, the planet Earth, and the life on Planet Earth, we see that things today are different from what they were in the past: galaxies, stars, planets, and life forms have evolved. Biological evolution refers to the scientific theory that living things share ancestors from which they have diverged: Darwin called it “descent with modification.” There is abundant and consistent evidence from astronomy, physics, biochemistry, geochronology, geology, biology, anthropology and other sciences that evolution has taken place.
Science is a method of testing natural explanations for natural phenomena observed in our world and beyond. These explanations are based on our understanding discovered through scientific investigations. The body of scientific knowledge changes as new observations and discoveries are made. This process allows for scientists to develop and refine theories based on empirical evidence through repeated testing. As a result, a scientific theory is a well supported and widely accepted explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate laws, hypotheses, and facts. Explanations that are inconsistent with empirical evidence and/or data or are untestable such as those that come from myths, personal beliefs, or religious values cannot be considered scientific.
The Georgia Science Teachers Association supports the position that evolution is a major unifying concept of science and should be included as part of K-College science curricula and offers the following recommendations:
- Science teaching should emphasize evolution in a manner commensurate with its importance as a unifying concept in science and its overall explanatory power.
- Policy makers and administrators should not mandate policies requiring the teaching of creation science or related concepts such as so-called “intelligent design,” “abrupt appearance,” and “arguments against evolution.”
- Science teachers should not advocate any religious view about creation. Teachers should be nonjudgmental about the personal beliefs of students.
- Administrators should provide support to teachers as they design and implement curricula that include evolution. They also should support teachers against pressure to promote nonscientific views or to diminish or eliminate the study of evolution.
- Parental and community involvement in establishing the goals of science education and the curriculum development process should be encouraged. However, the professional responsibility of science teachers and curriculum specialists is to provide students with quality science education not bound by censorship, faulty scholarship, or unconstitutional mandates.
Adapted from National Science Teachers Position on the Teaching of Evolution
POSITION STATEMENT ON THE TEACHING OF CLIMATE SCIENCE
Climate is defined as the mean and variability of weather over a long period of time. Climate Change is a term often used to describe how the regularities of climate are changing. Climate in this instance refers to global climate.
According to A Framework for K-12 Science Education, by the end grade 12, students should understand the following:
Climate change can occur when certain parts of Earth’s systems are altered. Geological evidence indicates that past climate changes were either sudden changes caused by alterations in the atmosphere; longer term changes (e.g., ice ages) due to variations in solar output, Earth’s orbit, or the orientation of its axis; or even more gradual atmospheric changes due to plants and other organisms that captured carbon dioxide and released oxygen. The time scales of these changes varied from a few to millions of years. Changes in the atmosphere due to human activity have increased carbon dioxide concentrations and thus affect climate. (NRC, 2012, p. 188)
Additionally, A Framework for K-12 Science Education supports including the following in climate science education:
Current models predict that, although future regional climate changes will be complex and varied, average global temperatures will continue to rise. The outcomes predicted by global climate models strongly depend on the amounts of human-generated greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere each year and by the ways in which these gases are absorbed by the ocean and the biosphere. Hence the outcomes depend on human behaviors as well as on natural factors that involve complex feedbacks among Earth’s systems. (NRC, 2012, p. 189)
The Georgia Science Teachers Association supports the position that
- Global climate change is occurring.
- Earth’s climate is warming.
- Present warming trends are causing changes to the Earth’s landscape.
- Present warming trends will present society with significant future challenges.
- Human activity has increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere.
- Investigating the impact of human activities on global climate change is a fundamental aspect of teaching climate science.
- Teaching climate science including evaluating the causes of climate change is an essential and integral part of earth and environmental science education.
Because science is a method of explaining the natural world, it assumes the universe operates according to regularities and that through systematic investigation we can understand these regularities. Whenever these regularities change, it is imperative that scientists investigate the causes of this change. As a result, The Georgia Science Teachers Association supports following A Framework for K-12 Science Education in regards to climate science and requests that all future Georgia science standards reflect incorporation of the above position.
Reference: National Research Council (NRC). (2012). A Framework for K-12 Science Education. Washington, chair: National Academy Press.
POSITION STATEMENT ON ASSESSMENT
The Georgia Science Teachers Association supports quality teaching and learning that lead to high levels of student achievement. An assessment phase is an essential part of any teaching and learning cycle, and student achievement in science should be evidenced by multiple student assessments that are fair and equitable. The design and selection of these assessments must reflect best teaching practices which ensure that students:
- Understand essential science content.
- Use science and engineering practices.
- Think critically and solve problems.
- Explain real world phenomena using science content, practices, and crosscutting concepts.
Assessment data must be viewed as a reflection of the learning processes and should be used to make adjustments in content, teaching, and/or learning strategies in order to improve student achievement. If linked to student promotion and/or teacher accountability, assessment data must also be used to design the necessary changes to stimulate improvements.
With respect to the use of local, state, and/or national assessments, the Georgia Science Teachers Association advocates the following:
- Assessments must be a part of a well aligned system of science goals, benchmarks, instructional topics, and instructional strategies.
- All appropriate “stakeholders” (teachers, parents, students, administrators, and community members) should be involved in the development of the science program as well as in the selection of appropriate formative and summative assessments.
- Assessments should accurately reflect all levels of depth of knowledge, science and engineering practices (asking questions and defining problems, developing and using models, planning and carrying out investigations, analyzing and interpreting data, using mathematics and computational thinking, constructing explanations and designing solutions, engaging in argument from evidence, and obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information), and the ability to connect science to real world phenomena.
- Assessments should be administered at identified points in the overall K-12 science program to allow for a variety of instructional plans (subject oriented, integrated, problem-based, etc.).
- Science assessments should receive the same emphasis and should have the same role in accountability in the overall assessment program as other academic disciplines.
- Many aspects of student achievement in science are best measured by performance based assessments rather than traditional, multiple choice, paper and pencil tests.
- Reports of assessment data should reflect the level of student accomplishment on a performance continuum to encourage exceeding basic standards.
POSITION STATEMENT ON LABORATORY SCIENCE
The Georgia Science Teachers Association recognizes the importance of laboratory investigations in providing students with opportunities to engage in all three dimensions of science learning.
Three-dimensional science instruction must engage students in hands-on investigations that are founded in sound scientific concepts and real world situations that are of interest and relevant for students.
In order to ensure that laboratory investigations are implemented effectively, adequate facilities, time, and materials must be provided for students and teachers to be able to experience science to its fullest. Proper lab facilities will allow for the development of the skills that are necessary for the processes of scientific investigations as well as the communication and conceptualization of scientific phenomena.
Since laboratory experiences are of critical importance in the process of developing students’ cognitive and affective understanding of science, the Georgia Science Teachers Association makes the following recommendations:
- Laboratory experiences must be supported by a budget, at both the system level and building level, that is specific to the regular maintenance of facilities and equipment. Funding should be sufficient enough to support an equitable hands-on experience for all K-12 students through current and operable equipment and materials. The use of funds must be flexible enough to allow for immediate purchases and reimbursement of materials needed throughout the year.
- All science classes, K-12, must include significant instructional time dedicated to investigative experiences. Elementary students should engage in meaningful hands-on activities that support their development of scientific explanations. The experiences provide a foundation for, but cannot be replaced by, literacy integration. Middle school students should have multiple opportunities each week to engage in science and engineering practices. At the high school level, students should focus on collecting data to serve as the basis for argumentation and explanations of scientific phenomena.
- All science students should be taught in a classroom with sufficient workspace to include flat movable desks or tables/chairs, equipment, and hands-on materials. Elementary labs should have convenient access to water and electricity and provide for storage of materials. Middle school labs must have sufficient access to water and electricity along with appropriate storage for materials. High school labs must have laboratory stations equipped with water, gas, and electricity to serve all students. In addition, appropriate facilities to work with students of all grade levels with special needs should be provided.
- Teachers should be properly trained in lab safety procedures. Adequate storage for equipment and supplies including a separate storage area for potentially dangerous materials must be provided. Provisions must be made for the temporary storage and removal of waste. School laboratories must have Safety Data Sheets available for chemicals as well as a chemical hygiene plan in place to address the protocols and procedures for teacher and student safety.
- Computers, programs, and other digital tools should be available for student use as an integral part of science activities and laboratory investigations. These tools should aid students in the design and implementation of investigations both in the classroom and the field. They should promote depth of learning and collaboration among students.
- Local and state assessment of student performance must reflect the full range of student experience in science, including the science and engineering practices that support inquiry based lab investigations.