By: Donna Barrett-Williams, President - Georgia Science Teachers Association
A Framework for Science Education (NRC, 2012) outlines a vision for quality science education for ALL students. The Frameworks notes that “concerns about equity should be at the forefront of any effort to improve the goals, structures, and practices that support student learning and educational attainment of all students” (NRC, 2012, p. 277). Simply put, equity is at the heart of science and teaching, and education is a beacon of light for our students. Thousands of students regularly turn to their trusted teachers for their words, insights, and advice on how to manage the confusing world they see around them. (NSTA, 2020).
The Georgia Science Teachers Association stands in solidarity with the African American/Black and Brown communities against racial inequities. We are committed to social justice and want to do our part to support science teachers and their students. We acknowledge the need for us to do more to live up to our guiding principles of embracing diversity, equity, and respect as we strive to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching for all.
The K-12 Framework and Appendix D provide resources for working with diverse student groups. Organized based on the four federally defined accountability groups, English Language Learners (ELLs), low socioeconomic status (SES), students with disabilities, and students from major racial and ethnic groups, Appendix D includes case studies and instructional strategies related to diverse learners. Strategies emphasized include:
Understanding scientific concepts and not just memorizing them
Connecting scientific principles to real-world situations and phenomena, supporting engaging and relevant content and evidence-based investigations, models, and arguments
Developing a contextual understanding of scientific knowledge and solutions, helping students to become better informed and well-equipped citizens
Providing specific strategies such as using project-based learning and place-based strategies, using multiple representations and culturally relevant pedagogy strategies to support ALL students
The most important message is that ALL students need to be engaged in these approaches. It is important ALL students are actively engaged in science. This includes developing models, engaging in evidence-based arguments, and analyzing data. The key is engaging students in an authentic experience and finding ways to help them make sense of science concepts. We need to avoid a deficit model whereby the assumption is that “some of our students can’t handle it” or this will only work for my “advanced” students. It is critical that we engage ALL learners in these practices.
We know that as an organization that we need to do more to support teachers and students to deepen our understanding of equity, diversity, and social justice. We have had a focus on equity and we want to deepen that work. Equity was a conference strand at the 2020 GSTA conference and we had several keynote speakers that addressed issues surrounding equity. We know this is the right work for us to focus on as an organization. While we may be in different places in our personal journeys, we hope that we can support each other as we learn more about these important issues. We’ve collected a series of resources to help us get started. Please reach out to your district representative and board members to let us know what you need. Book studies, professional learning, conference sessions – let us know how we can support you. I am committed to reading the books below.
STEM Teaching Tools – Equity Resources
National Science Teachers Association
The Science Teacher March 2020 issue featuring the theme “Social Justice in the Science Classroom”
May issue of Next Gen Navigator, focusing on social justice in the science classroom.
NSTA’s position statements here.
Resources on Racism and Social Justice