Standards for Student Learning - Definitions and Descriptions, Historical Context, Comparing Past and Present, Potential for

Standards, as they are used in education, are verbal statements of goals or desired classes of outcomes. They describe what the goals of the system are. Standards-based educational reform has the intention of having most or all students reach identified standards and of organizing educational services, including teacher preparation and instructional interventions, to address such standards. The rhetorical linchpin of such a system is the standards themselves. Definitions and Descriptions Standards differ according to function and have fallen into at least three overlapping classifications. Content standards are intended to describe domain-specific topics, for example, student performance in areas of mathematics, such as measurement or probability, or in physics, such as force and motion. National professional groups, such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Historical Association, for example, have reached professional consensus about such standards. States have also put into place panels intended to recommend such standards for adoption to their state boards of education. School districts may choose to augment, focus, or redefine content standards adopted by their state. Content standards are often arrayed in a continuum of development, specifying, for instance, particular standards for eighth-grade students or for beginning readers or those standards thought to be necessary to meet high school graduation requirements. Skill standards are explications of either a fundamental skill, such as reading, or job-performance standards, such as the ability to work in teams. Skill standards are often, although not always, independent of a particular content domain. Performance standards, unfortunately, is a term used to denote two very different concepts, and users often fail to be explicit about their interpretation. Some educators use performance standards as a means to describe the "what" of education further or to give examples of tasks that fit particular content standards. Performance standards of this type are intended to communicate more clearly the intention of general content or skill standards. Good performance standards should link up to the design of assessments intended to measure the standards, although they are usually at some distance from that process. For example, the content standard "to understand the causes of major historical events in American history" might be illustrated by a description that says "The student will be given primary source documents related to an important historical era, such as the American Revolution or the Great Depression, and be asked to identify alternative explanations for the causes offered by different historical writers." The student will evaluate these arguments and use source material to explain in an essay which perspectives are most reasonable. These performance standards might then be augmented with a sample task and scoring scheme for a set of such essays. The second type of performance standard delimits the degree of proficiency, or the "how much" part, of performance. These performance standards are invoked following the development of assessments designed or selected to measure student performance of the standards. Frequently, these performance standards are described in terms intended to give a rough scale of competence, such as basic, proficient, or advanced. The operational definition of these standards is usually based on a cutscore – the dividing score between classifications–for example, "above 75 points." The underlying theory of standards-based reform is that it is criterion referenced. This means that performance of the system is judged in the light of attainment of the standards as measured by particular tests and assessments. Because the inferences drawn about educational improvement strongly depend on the validity of these achievement levels, or performance standards, they are of critical importance. Historical Context

The first screen was the psychology of learning. The Tyler rationale was an object of study in the 1960s and the 1970s but is no longer in the working memory of many educators. These ends. Tyler on curriculum and instruction in the "garden-variety schools. The overwhelming use of this source made great sense because the rhetoric around standards pointed to the use of "new and challenging" standards intended to support the learning of all children. schools should organize themselves as entities seeking to produce learning and achievement. once again weighed in on what students should learn in school. In his view. Because this process was sure to generate too many objectives. The focus on educational standards as the basis for targeting and evaluating student learning seems the product of the 1990s but has. the release that same year of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics standards. . Virginia. Although there was considerable excess in the 1960s and 1970s in the focus on operational. behaviorally oriented objectives. challenging standards equaled academic-or discipline-based learning. The experts. there was some evidence that the system worked. the 1992 report of the deliberations of the National Council on Education Standards and Testing. in fact. a venerable educational history. the Mathematical Sciences Education Board of the National Research Council in 1995. called his rationale. and the needs of learners. Comparing Past and Present Academic disciplines. candidate objectives were to be filtered by using screens of two types. the creation of measures of achievement and other outcomes to match the objectives. as they had in the curriculum reforms in the late 1960s and 1970s. in 1989 establishing national educational goals. led by professional organizations. To understand the idea of standards for student learning. to answer through the application of theory and empirical knowledge the question of feasibility. the movement in the United States was propelled by a connected and unprecedented set of events: the meeting of state governors at Charlottesville. Following on the educational reforms in Great Britain in the late 1980s. Outcome measures of learning and achievement should be considered the proximal ends of education. it is instructive to consider how the concepts of standards and assessments developed. The set was to be winnowed by the question "Can the objectives be taught and learned?" The second screen to reduce and make coherent standards was to articulate and apply a simple but integrated philosophy of education. tying compensatory education resources to evaluations of progress toward standards. The first was the academic disciplines. and the National Council of Teachers of English in 1996. In the public's mind. Tyler addressed the task of determining educational objectives in a systematic way. such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in 1989. in order to be pursued in a reasonable way. He described three potential sources for generating learning objectives: the subject matter discipline." Tyler constructed the problem of improving education with admirable logic. This philosophical screen was to answer questions of priority and coherence as well as value: "What goals are important and matter most?" The remainder of Tyler's argument. these statements of standards are often global and subject to multiple interpretations. Two principal sources provided standards in the 1990s. the joint effort of the International Reading Association/National Council of Teachers of English in 1994. and ways to involve feedback to improve the quality of education over time. Perhaps in response to behaviorism in goal statements.In the United States the 1990s were the decade of educational policy on standards and assessments. describing expectations for an integrated and applied form of mathematics learning. The conception of standards and assessments can be traced to the 1951 writings of Ralph W. who believe that the standards-based reform movement is a newly minted concept and revolutionary in its systemic focus. and the enactment of the Improving America's Schools Act of 1994. required deliberate decisions made by educators and other interested parties. focused on a systematic plan for teaching and learning and addressed criteria for the selection of learning opportunities. the society. These groups either took on or were assigned the leadership position on the generation of standards (goals) for schools in their subject matters.

such as reading and computation. but usually without addressing the transfer issue. Students' needs. The fourth category of standards was in the general affective area and involved responsibility. economic competition. however. Society has changed scale and comprises greater numbers of individuals with different cultural." Second were fundamental skills. This strategy attempts to assign . to teacher-capacity variations. in which institutions and organizations must respond to market pressures. both the inventive type and the application or modifications of algorithms necessary for key procedures. Such approaches often targeted integrative or project learning. it is probably best to act as if a logical.S. that the United States might be permanently eclipsed on the one hand by the economic dynamos in the Far East and on the other by the power of the emerging European community. and the sense. Education has become regarded as a right by society for a far greater proportion of learners than ever before. and meta-cognition emphasized cognitive processes needed to display deep understanding. The promise of this approach was increased transfer. the student's individual needs. however. from national research studies. Third. In teamwork the emphasis was on roles and functions of team members rather than on "spirit. at the beginning of the 1990s. The argument for these sets of skills was tied to the importance of U. Without a framework as a guide for actions and understanding. for example) before attacking the next (e. and are used to judge a school or system and to assign sanctions based on putative standards-based performance. This source was narrowed to standards that were regarded as important in the workplace. and from the work of the U. A third source of Tyler's goals. and economic backgrounds. For the most part. the development of instruction). the expectations for education have changed dramatically from the 1930s and 1940s. from analyses of labor markets. student performance was far lower than had been imagined and hovered in the not-so-good to truly miserable ranges. and the competitive strut of contending policy perspectives. Potential for Success Will these standards work to improve education? Standards will be useful as a communication device to rally educators and the public. skills lacking in entry-level employees. or at least as if superimposing a staged process were important. Yet. societal sources of objectives took on four different varieties. a good example was teamwork. Paradoxically. and to emphasize the essential acts of teaching and learning in the system. found its way into standards through the focus on cognitive psychology.g. and that all that has been done is to substitute the term standards for goals and objectives. the degree to which they embrace traditional American values. step-by-step process could guide the decisions about present or future practice. Many differ substantially in their views of their own goals and prospects.Society. and service orientation. heretofore not emphasized in the academic side of schools. this source of objectives played out more directly in the application of the psychology screen and in the construction of assessments. and the value they place on alternative ways to attain their own goals. language. The system will fail programmatically and substantively. Arbitrary standards for achievement are set.S. A cynic might argue that the entire reform is explained by the psychological measure of paired associates.. Reports of needed skills from the state of Michigan. This specter was bolstered by the reports of international comparisons of educational achievement showing that U. it is difficult to think about such a complex system.S. to set realistic priorities about what standards can be achieved (as opposed to the enormous numbers typically adopted by states and localities). The first was a set of new tasks. The second source for the generation of standards was the society. to economic shifts. where the fundamentals of reading comprehension or mathematics problem solving. Changing expectations. and the softer sounding assessment for the term test. technical advances. Department of Labor Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills devoted attention to requirements for success in employment. It is clear that development of educational systems does not happen linearly on a cycle that supports achieving high levels of quality in one component (standards. or the explanation of subject-matter content. Consequently. these four strands of tasks were not reconciled. For the most part. leadership. unless serious effort is taken to connect measures systematically to the standards. there was a new emphasis on applied problem solving.

eager and energetic in her exploration of a world full of surprises. Read more: Standards for Student Learning . is a compelling one. Performance. Comparing Past and Present. At the same time. What happens to the "natural" inquisitiveness of early childhood? The answer is that it needs to be channeled into the development of the cognitive skills that make for effective inquiry.S.uniformity to schools and systems that are inherently different –in governance. They gather." Scientific thinking is essential to science but not specific to it." and they will need to address forthrightly what requirements there may be to ensure the rising performance of all students. Potential for Success . analyze http://education. Coordination of Theories and Evidence . Students. and by posing problems.html#ixzz2gNPEgNMC Science Learning . Education. But the image fades as the child grows older. Standards. design an investigation. Historical Context. But are not children naturally inquisitive. now published state by state.National. most often becoming unrecognizable by middle childhood and certainly by adolescence. For the system to succeed in the context of democratic educational observant and sensitive to the intricacies of the world around them and eager to discover more? Do inquiry skills really need to be developed? The image of the inquisitive preschool child. and Council StateUniversity.stateuniversity. in capacity.Knowledge Organization And Understanding. and draw conclusions. science education standards. should be able to formulate a question. to make the case that scientific thinking is a critical educational objective. it is claimed. without exception cite competence in scientific investigation as an important curriculum goal from the early grades on. comes not from science education literature but from a description of language arts goals specified by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE): "Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions. They will need to understand more systematically and procedurally what they mean when they claim a system is "aligned. It is important that the cognitive skills involved in such activities be defined in a clear and rigorous enough way to make it possible to specify how they develop and how this development is best supported educationally. it may be asked. Tools . Reference to such skills in fact appears in discussions of curriculum objectives extending well beyond the discipline of science. it must be defined more broadly than "what professional scientists do.Definitions and Descriptions. The following description. More needs to be done than keeping alive a "natural curiosity. evaluate. and synthesize data from a variety of sources … to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience" (NCTE and International Reading Association website). for example.EXPLANATION AND ARGUMENTATION EXPLANATION AND ARGUMENTATION The K–12 U. and in development. policymakers will need to take steps to assure that growth in performance on measures is attributable to teaching and learning rather than to practices intended simply to raise test scores artificially." The natural curiosity that infants and children show about the world around them needs to be enriched and directed by the tools of scientific thought.

but coordination cannot occur unless the two are encoded and represented as distinguishable entities. Scientific thinkers intentionally seek evidence that will bear on their theories. Another way to define scientific thinking. The theory's possible falsehood and susceptibility to revision is recognized. then. Implications of the evidence for the theory are identified (relations between the two are constructed). . in contrast. the process of scientific thinking may lead to scientific understanding as its product. Although older children.One way to conceptualize these scientific thinking skills is as skills in the coordination of theories and evidence. One's existing understanding (theory) is represented as an object of cognition. distinct from the theory. it is the desire for scientific understanding–for explanation–that drives the process of scientific thinking. and even adults continue to have trouble in this respect. young children are especially insensitive to the distinction between theory and evidence when they are asked to justify simple knowledge claims. An intention exists to examine and potentially advance this understanding. Defined in this way. 5. adolescents. and they revise these theories in the face of new evidence. Evidence is encoded and represented distinct from the theory. If knowledge states are fallible. which is a misunderstanding of what is meant by theory-evidence coordination. 3. Scientific thinking is something one does. Regarded in this way. and that the implications of the evidence for the theory be contemplated. 6. Even very young children construct theories to help them make sense of the world. Skilled scientific thinking always entails the coordination of theories and evidence. 4. scientific thinking is more closely aligned with argument than with experiment and needs to be distinguished from scientific under-standing (of any particular content). Awareness of the possibility of false belief is thus a prerequisite to scientific thinking. But it is the capacity to advance these understandings that is reflected in scientific thinking. The criterion is only that the evidence be represented in its own right and its implications for the theory contemplated. 2. Evidence as a source of potential support (or nonsupport) for a theory is recognized. Indeed. one's own knowledge may warrant revision in the face of new evidence. the developmental origins of scientific thinking lie in awareness of knowledge states as generating from human minds. Enhanced understandings of scientific phenomena are certainly a goal of science education. is as intentional knowledge seeking. Scientific thinking. When conditions are favorable. The following six criteria for genuine scientific thinking as a process (in contrast to scientific understanding as a knowledge state) can be stipulated: 1. Scientific thinking requires that evidence be represented in its own right. whereas scientific understanding is something one has. involves theintentional coordination of theories with new evidence. It is not necessary that the theory be revised in light of the evidence. Note that the outcome of the theory-evidence coordination process remains open. But they do so without awareness. nor certainly that theory be ignored in favor of evidence.

and infrequently do they see two factors as combining additively (much less interactively) to produce an outcome. Tools EXPLANATION AND ARGUMENTATION . Standards.stateuniversity. to the multiplist's equation of knowledge with subjective opinion. having to do with how one understands the nature of knowledge and knowing. Read more: Science Learning . analysis. what need is there to worry about controlling for the effects of other factors? . in contrast to the implicit theory revision that occurs without awareness as young children's understandings come into contact with new evidence. once one looks below the surface of inquiry learning. If a single (not necessarily consistent) factor is responsible for any outcome (as reflected in the inferential reasoning of many young adolescents). however. A mature mental model of causality in which effects combine additively to produce an outcome is critical to adoption of the task goal of identifying effects of individual factors and to the use of the controlled comparison strategy (which has been the focus of research on scientific reasoning) to achieve that goal. Research suggests that children lack a mental model of multivariable causality that most inquiry learning assumes. Only at a final. and argument–require that the process of theory-evidence coordination become explicit and intentional. inference.The Epistemology of Scientific Learning There is more to scientific thinking that needs to develop. it is less than obvious what cognitive processes are entailed. as the multiplist understands. If facts can be readily ascertained with certainty. as the absolutist understands.Knowledge Organization And Understanding. This metastrategic level entails explicit awareness of not so much what to do as why to do it–the understanding of why one strategy is the most effective strategy to achieve one's goals and why others are inferior. Epistemological understanding thus informs intellectual values and hence influences the meta-level disposition (as opposed to the competence) to engage in scientific thinking. As hinted earlier. a strategic meta-level that manages strategy selection can be proposed. at its core this development is epistemological in nature. attributing an outcome first to one factor and later to another. than a set of procedures or strategies for coordinating theories with evidence. An until recently largely neglected literature on the development of epistemological understanding shows a progression from an absolutist belief in knowledge as certain and disagreements resolvable by recourse to It is this meta-strategic understanding that governs whether an appropriate inquiry or inference strategy is actually applied when the occasion calls for it. evaluativist level is uncertainty acknowledged without foregoing the potential for evaluation of claims in a framework of alternatives and evidence. There is little incentive to expend the intellectual effort it entails.Scientific. scientific inquiry has little purpose. Despite its popularity in educational http://education. or if all claims are equally valid. and Theory StateUniversity. Thinking. They are not consistent over time in their causal attributions. Similarly. Evidence.html#ixzz2gNPqYFpa The phases of scientific thinking themselves–inquiry.

stateuniversity. The Social Context Equally critical is the social context in which all of this needs to take place. and argument. Read more: Science Learning . Opportunities should be plentiful for the frequent and regular exercise of skills of inquiry. they too must believe that learning and knowing are worthwhile. elaborated." Here. analysis. "How do you know?" or "What is the support for your statement?" When children participate in discourse that poses these questions. most importantly. thereby enabling these skills to be practiced. as long as the mistake is not made of regarding these discourse forms as exclusive to science. and Theory StateUniversity. scientific thinking skills stand the best chance of developing because they are needed and practiced and socially valued. the often neglected dispositional side of knowing. Although central to science. inference. If children are to invest the sustained effort that is required to develop and practice intellectual skills. making them more available. then. they acquire the skills and values that lead them to pose the same questions to themselves.If it is this total structure (including meta-strategic. as well as values) that needs to develop. Educators want children to become skilled scientific thinkers because they believe that these skills will equip them for productive adult lives. These values and beliefs can develop only through sustained participation in what Ann Brown in 1997 called a "community of learners. When students find themselves having to justify claims and strategies to one another. consolidated. But it is not enough that these adults believe it.Scientific. meta-level awareness and understanding of skills should be promoted by helping students to reflect on what and particularly how they know and what they are doing as they acquire new knowledge. Tools EXPLANATION AND ARGUMENTATION . this critical development extends far beyond the borders of traditional scientific http://education. The two endeavors reinforce one another: understanding informs practice and practice enhances understanding. and perfected. Scientific discourse asks.Knowledge Organization And Understanding. where do educators start? They probably need to begin at multiple entry points. meta-cognitive. A number of authors have addressed scientific thinking as a form of discourse. normally implicit meta-level cognitive processes become externalized. and epistemological understanding.html#ixzz2gNPuR8dQ . This is of course the richest and most authentic context in which to examine scientific thinking. Social scaffolding (supporting). may assist less able collaborators to monitor and manage strategic operations in a way that they cannot yet do alone. Thinking. At the same time. Returning scientific thinking to its real-life social context is one approach to strengthening the metalevel components of scientific thinking. Standards.

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