Authoritarian science curriculum standards as barriers to teaching and learning: An interpretation of personal experience


  • Accepted under the editorship of Gregory Kelly.


This is a critical time for the science education community as we embark on the creation and implementation of new national science standards. The purpose of this essay is to offer insight into how the language of curriculum standards, including that found in state science standards in the United States over the past 15 years, has posed barriers to meaningful science teaching and learning. I synthesize research from educational policy, science education, curriculum theory, critical inquiry, and my own experiential learning from a particular case in the state of Georgia to analyze the effects of authoritarian standards language on science classroom teaching. I argue that curriculum standards based on a content and product model of education (A. V. Kelly, 1999), have been incongruent with research from cognitive psychology, science identity formation, language use, and science as inquiry. The final portion of the essay considers how a process-oriented set of curriculum standards, for example that found in New Zealand, could provide a more empowering epistemological foundation for classroom teaching. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed96:291–310, 2012