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Isabel Baez

03/03/2015
EDU 6326

When Process Skills are Divorced from Teaching Science Content in the High School
Setting
The continuous application of the scientific method in the science classroom is the
mean to teach critical thinking skills, which is one of the main purposes of science
education. In the State of Texas, to receive credit for any high school science course, at
least 40 percent of the science instruction must be dedicated towards conducting
laboratory practices (Texas Education Agency). Laboratory practices and the application
of the scientific method form part of a set of skills called: Science Process Skills. In that
sense, standardized science tests such as: the Biology STAAR test, The content specific
SAT, the AP science exams, and the IB science exams all have at least 40 percent of their
questions that assess science process skills. In most cases the test items are a combination
of both process skills and content knowledge, these questions are called dual coded
questions. The divorce of science process skills from the science concepts in the science
classroom produces students who will struggle in any type of science standardized test
and worst, students that will not have the required set of skills to perform in a college
setting.
Data from the science STAAR test, provided by a study conducted by the
curriculum department at Lamar Consolidated ISD, states that overall students, in the
district, perform 20 to 45 percent lower on dual coded questions compared to single

content knowledge questions. This study indicates that students are failing to interpret the
information that items, such as: charts, graphs, diagrams, and data tables (among other
types of items) provide, more over, students struggle to make the connection between the
item and the appropriate science concept. One cannot expect a different outcome if the
students are not been provided with plenty of opportunities to practice science process
skills.
The science process skills are skills that must be embedded in daily lesson plans;
the acquisition of them requires practice, consistency and numerous opportunities,
combined with different settings. Teachers need to select curricula which emphasize
science process skills (Padilla, 1990, p.2). This it not an easy task due to many factors
such as: class period time, access to lab equipment, students disposition, among others.
Proper planning and creativity are needed to successfully integrate process skills within
the lessons. There are several alternatives to traditional and lengthy labs. Todays
technology offers a great solution to lack of expensive laboratory equipment, in the form
of simulations. Another possibility is to provide the student with a set of data already
collected, either by the teacher or from a scientific study; although students will not
experiment, they will certainly be able to manipulate the data to reach a conclusion.
Administrators, department heads, curriculum specialists, and teachers must work
as a cohesive team to provide the necessary infrastructure so students will receive the
required laboratory experiences needed to succeed in any science standardized test, and
ultimately be college ready. Administrators must allocate budget for yearly stock of
laboratory supplies and training. The science curriculum specialist should research staff
development opportunities for the science teachers to get training in lab procedures and

safety. The science department heads must be responsible for keeping track of supplies
and equipment. And lastly but not least, teachers must do their due diligence in designing
their lesson plans to make laboratory experiences a priority. The end goal is to have
students ready to be successful in a science classroom at a post secondary setting, and this
is only feasible when science process skills are married with the science content and not
treated separately.

References
College Board. (2014). About the AP Physics C Mechanics Exam. Retrieved from
https://apstudent.collegeboard.org/apcourse/ap-physics-c-mechanics/about-the-exam

College Board. (2013). Getting Ready for the SAT Subject Test. Retrieved from
https://sat.collegeboard.org/SAT/public/pdf/getting-ready-for-the-sat-subject-tests.pdf

Padilla, M. J. (1990). The science Process Skills. NARST publications-Research matters


to the science teacher, No. 9004. Retrieved from
https://www.narst.org/publications/research/skill.cfm

Texas Education Agency. (2014). Revised dual coded assessment items May 2014-2015.
Retrieved from http://tea.texas.gov/student.assessment/staar/science/

Texas Education Agency. (2009). Chapter 112. Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for
Science Subchapter C. High School. Retrieved from
http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/rules/tac/chapter112/ch112c.html

Vogt,V. (personal communication, January 31st, 2015).