April 25, 2006
For immediate release
Lorna Endler of the Gevirtz School at UC Santa Barbara at the forefront of closing the achievement gap between U.S. and international students
It is a widely held belief that the American educational system suffers from an “achievement gap,” as studies repeatedly show U.S. students lag behind many of their international peers. The most recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (2003) ranks U.S. eighth graders below not only students from the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea and Japan but also from Singapore, Estonia and Hungary. In an effort to address this issue, Lorna Endler, a supervisor of secondary science credential candidates in the Teacher Education Program at UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz School, presented a session titled “Changing minds: teaching children the thinking skills necessary for scientific inquiry” at the National Conference on Science Education in early April.
Endler, a former science teacher in the UK and Australia, brings the fresh perspective of an outside observer to this thorny question of student achievement. She advocates a well-researched British enrichment program entitled Cognitive Acceleration through Science Education (CASE) that she is familiar with as a teacher/researcher in Australia. She has also demonstrated the success of CASE in a school district in Oregon by her doctoral research, soon to be published as a chapter in the book Applications of Rasch Measurement in Science Education (JAM Press, July 2006).
CASE, the largest science teacher professional development program in Britain, differs from more typical science instruction in several key ways. Lessons begin with concrete, physical demonstrations involving cognitive conflict or puzzlement. Problem solving tasks follow, which require the use of higher order thinking – students must manipulate information and ideas in ways that transform their meaning and implications – for their successful solution. Children work in groups that have been chosen to mix their abilities, and are prompted to reflect on their own thinking, before presenting their solutions to the class. Teachers assist students to transfer what they have learned to new contexts. Children exposed to the CASE project show enhanced cognitive development, and achieve significantly higher scores in national tests not only in science, but also in mathematics and English at age 16+.
The National Science Teachers Association, the world’s largest organization of science educators, sponsors the National Conference on Science Education, now in its 54th year.
[Professor Endler is available for interviews; to arrange an interview, contact George Yatchisin at 805 893 5789]