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Curriculum Reform Movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. Chapter 8: History of Ideas in Science Education Amanda Johnson & Mandi Brooks. How did we get here?. America had an unmet need for scientists and engineers in WWII Soviet launch of Sputnik in October 1957

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curriculum reform movement of the 1950 s and 60 s

Curriculum Reform Movement of the 1950’s and 60’s

Chapter 8: History of Ideas in Science Education

Amanda Johnson & Mandi Brooks


How did we get here?

  • America had an unmet need for scientists and engineers in WWII
  • Soviet launch of Sputnik in October 1957
  • Perceived threat to national security brought on by the Cold War
Shift in education from social relevance to traditional rigor
  • During the mid 1950’s, the NSF (funded by the federal government) financially supported several curriculum projects
  • Provide a set of curriculum materials of high quality and considerable appeal
  • Prepare students for entering into college science programs
projects funded by the nsf
Projects funded by the NSF…
  • PHYSICS: Physical Science Study Committee- 1956
  • BIOLOGY: Biological Sciences Curriculum Study- 1959
  • CHEMISTRY: Chemical Bond Approach Project- 1957

Chemical Education Material Study- 1959

  • EARTH SCIENCE: Secondary School Project- 1966

Earth Science Curriculum Project- 1967

  • PHYSICAL SCIENCE: Introductory Physical Science- 1967
  • ELEMENTARY SCIENCE: Science- A Process Approach- 1967

Study Elementary Science Study – 1969

Science Curriculum Improvement- 1970

commonalities of the programs
Commonalities of the Programs
  • Present a coherent set of related concepts with broad unifying themes
  • Reduction of the number of topic covered in favor for more current and in-depth study
  • Included historical dev’t of the subject
  • Excluded technological applications, relation to everyday life
Reform Movement was led by college science professors with the help of school teachers
  • Education faculty played a secondary role, if any
  • A number of educational theorists lent considerable support and generated momentum
jerome bruner
Jerome Bruner
  • Noted psychologist from Harvard
  • The Woods Hole Conference (1959)
  • Supported new structure and inductive learning strategies
  • Felt there should be more intuitive or creative thought processes
  • Introduced Piaget’s work- translated into the concept of a “spiral curriculum”
joseph j schwab
Joseph J Schwab
  • Curriculum theorist from University of Chicago; was part of BSCS in 1959
  • Felt the nation faced three important needs:
    • additional scientists
    • competent political leaders
    • a public sympathetic to ongoing programs of scientific research
Schwab’s new conceptions of science:
    • Scientists no longer viewed knowledge as stable truth
    • Fluid enquiry as a means to invention
    • New vital importance of science for discoveries, principles, and applications
  • Stressed the processes by which scientists generated the knowledge
how successful were the new programs
How successful were the new programs?
  • A number of studies investigated the effectiveness of the new programs…

-NSF’s “National Survey”(1977) –

-Suzanne Quick (1978) - effects on commercial textbooks

-CHEM Study Group (1964)- evaluate any changes in enrollment into science classes

new directions for teaching secondary school science
“New Directions for Teaching Secondary School Science”
  • Written by Paul Hurd in 1970
  • Identified specific pros and cons in his overall analyses of the projects


  • More up to date and valid information
  • Engaged students in independent, “discovery”- type investigations
  • Presented a more accurate picture of the nature of science
  • Dealt with smaller number of significant concepts taught in depth and in context


  • Too difficult for avg high school students
  • Didn’t seem to motivate students to study science- not related to real world, personal concerns, practical applications
  • Ignored the role of science in everyday life
The national scope of the projects…
  • Funding by the federal government …
  • Widespread use of the courses…

…made this effort unmatched in the history of American education.

Sound familiar???