As the world becomes more connected and dependent on shared natural and intellectual resources, questions of how we create a high level of scientific literacy for all children throughout the globe become essential for us to consider. How can we leverage what we learn in each country to improve science education not only within our own country but around the globe? Children throughout the world, if we are to survive as a planet, will need to have a deep level of scientific literacy. In recent decades research and understanding of science instruction around the world has increased substantially, through continuously growing international cooperation on the part of science education researchers and as a result of international monitoring studies like TIMSS and PISA. This special issue of the Journal of Research in Science Teaching aims at building closer international cooperation, with a particular emphasis on valuing and keeping cultural diversity. We explore three closely linked facets of this international work: (1) the transformation of the world economies and cultures, (2) the increasing challenges faced by global socio-scientific issues (such as climate change), and (3) the globalization of science education research.
Globalization is a widely used term describing processes of global (i.e., worldwide) distribution of ideas and goods, most significantly with regard to scientific, technological, economic and cultural products and developments. Carter (2008a, p. 617) claims: “Globalization refers to the recent transformations of capital, labor, markets, communications, scientific and technological innovations, and ideas stretching out across the globe.” Charlton and Andras (2006) defined globalization as a phenomenon of modernization, which describes societies characterized by progressive growth in the complexity of communications, in particular, “specifically to the increasing dominance of an international network of communications—especially in the economy, but also in social systems such as politics, the mass media, and science and technology” (p. 869). According to Freeman (2005), globalization is going to be increasingly driven not only by individuals but also by a much more diverse, non-Western, non-white-group of individuals. Individuals from every corner of the world are being empowered. Globalization has worked to reduce the economic, political, and socio-cultural distance between people and cultures by expanding international relations.
Globalization not only refers to a series of economic but also technological changes that have modified the way the world works and transfers information (Penn, 2005, p. 4; cited in Quigley, 2009). These changes could include international trade, manpower migration, knowledge management, and information exchange.
With the exponential advancement of information technology reducing transaction costs and time constraints around the world, dual processes of globalization, namely, economic and institutional globalization, “operate in conjunction with the neoliberal policies creating conditions necessary for state restructuring of education on a global scale and then to transform the shape of education and how national school systems operate” (Astiz, Wiseman, & Baker, 2002; cited in Clothey, Mills, & Baumgarten, 2010, p. 308). Clearly processes of economic globalization may be only successful if backed up by processes of educational development, as education is critical for future economic progress (Brown, Lauder, & Ashton, 2008; Spring, 2008). Major conceptions of scientific literacy (Bybee, 1997; DeBoer, 2000; Millar & Osborne, 1998; OECD, 2006) point out that substantial familiarity with science concepts, principles, and features of the nature of science is needed both to further the development of science and technology and to critically evaluate the impacts of scientific developments on nature and society. In other words, on the one hand it is essential for further economic development to interest young people in engaging in future development of science and technology (such as developing semiconductors to advance information technology); on the other hand it is crucial to develop critical citizenship so as to avoid the dangers often affiliated with technological advances (such as human cloning). Briefly summarized, globalization of science related knowledge plays a significant role in supporting and reinforcing economic and cultural globalization. Hence, there is a “knowledge economy” (Ernest, 2008; Peters, 2002) focusing on global distribution of certain kinds of knowledge (here science related knowledge). Ernest (2008, p. 22) discussed various features of this knowledge economy for mathematics education.
Processes of globalization are not new phenomena. Science (as we know it since the times of Galileo Galilei in the 16th century) developed from the very start through close international cooperation first in Europe, later step by step worldwide (Charlton & Andras, 2006; Gough, 2008). Industrialization, at least in Europe, fuelled by a rapid development of technologies (such as the steam engine) may also be seen as a globalization. With regard to globalization of science education research, such processes started, perhaps, in the 1960s in the so called Western World as a response to the Sputnik shock. Although an increasing amount of research examining the impact of globalization on economics and policy is available, little research has been conducted and published investigating the implications of globalization in the areas of K-12 science classrooms, science teacher professional development, or science education research (Martin, 2010, p. 270).
Carter (2005)1 takes a critical perspective regarding the consequences of globalization processes as outlined above with regard to science education. She argues that “science education improvement discourses are more representative of national responses to global economic restructuring and the imperatives of the supranational institutions than they are of quality research into science teaching and learning” (p. 573). In addition, she points out that neoliberalism aims to produce creative and flexible problem solvers for the knowledge economies of the global market (p. 574). Ironically, she also criticized neoliberalism for imposing auditing mechanisms like universalized testing of standards which can eliminate the possibility of flexible instruction. The paradox between curriculum standards, national assessments (e.g., NAEP), international competitions (e.g., TIMSS and PISA), and inquiry-based approaches to prepare citizens (national and global) for the 21st century should be carefully examined and analyzed in order to provide evidence for making policies for science education for our next generations.
Briefly summarized, globalization processes as outlined above have to be seriously taken into account in science education policy, science education research, as well as in planning and performing science instruction. The contributions in the present special issue provide ideas for dealing with this challenge.
Major Developments in the Research Domain of Science Education in the 1990s From a Global Perspective
Beginning in the 1990s the advent of the 21st century fuelled another intensive, and this time worldwide, debate about the aims of science instruction. It was a general consensus that the traditional orientation of science instruction in schools would not meet the challenges of globalization, such as advanced scientific and technological innovations and socio-scientific issues across the globe. As a result new conceptions of scientific literacy were developed—partly through international cooperation (Bybee, 1997; DeBoer, 2000; Millar & Osborne, 1998). The OECD presented a conception of scientific literacy that allowed for the measurement of key features of scientific literacy within the international monitoring studies PISA (OECD, 1999; for a further developed conception see OECD, 2009) carried out in 2000, 2003, 2006, and 2009. Whereas international monitoring studies completed before the 1990s, seemingly had limited effects on the development of science instruction in the participating countries and were only loosely linked to the science education research community, this changed step by step beginning with TIMSS (Third International Science and Mathematics Study; Beaton et al., 1996) followed by the series of TIMSS (now labeled: Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) and PISA studies. Clearly, these studies contributed significantly to the development of global perspectives of science education and to the internationalization of science education research. For instance, Germany organized a symposium on standards in science education in which representatives from different countries were invited to contribute their expertise and experiences on development of standards for scientific literacy in different cultures. Some of the participants were from countries with high ranking in PISA performance (such as Finland and Taiwan, see Waddington, Nentwig, & Schanze, 2007; for details see also DeBoer's article in this issue). Briefly summarized, however, it seems that PISA results (as well as results from TIMSS) were quite often used for developing science education in each home country and much less frequently for international cooperation concerning improving instruction.
Anderson, Chiu, and Yore (2010, p. 385) offer the criticism that few researchers, policy makers, and other stakeholders fully understood PISA's underlying framework or accepted the definitions of scientific literacy associated with the assessment frameworks. They claimed that the outcomes and features of PISA offer valuable information for policy makers. For instance, Denmark reacted to its nation's relatively low performance in PISA 2000 with an immediate response by the Minister of Education (Tørnæs, 2001, cited in Dolin & Krogh, 2010) announcing systematic evaluation and assessment (including an electronic computer-based system of national tests). However, Dolin and Krogh (2010) further argued that the PISA conception of scientific literacy might not accurately represent traditional Danish priorities (such as subject-centered knowledge/competencies). This may serve to caution policymakers to be mindful of making appropriate contextual interpretations of seemingly universal standards like PISA.
Fensham (2008) argues that TIMMS and PISA teach us little about what determines educational achievement in science. He claims: “The reports of these two projects give very little sense of what the students are experiencing day by day with their teachers in the classrooms, and how this can be improved” (p. 168).
On the positive side, however, one must also take into account that these studies spurred the development of various projects to improve the curriculum and instructional practice in several countries (Beeth et al., 2003; Ostermeier, Prenzel, & Duit, 2010) as well as research studies around the world, such as the video-based studies on the practice of science instruction (e.g., Roth et al., 2006; Seidel, Rimmele, & Prenzel, 2005). In Europe several EU funded projects have been carried out in close cooperation with science educators from several countries (e.g., PARSEL—Popularity and Relevance of Science Education for Scientific Literacy, 2011). Chiu (2011) shows that tensions between the findings of national assessments in a country (in her case Taiwan) and results of TIMSS and PISA may lead to fruitful debates that may be used to improve instruction in the country. In addition, the international monitoring studies TIMSS and PISA initiated or at least significantly fostered international cooperation with regard to educational standards concerning competencies school science instruction should develop (e.g., Waddington et al., 2007)2.
An Overview of the Literature on Globalization and Science Education
Whereas processes of globalization (also in the domain of education) are not new as argued above, the science education literature on “globalization” is quite recent and sporadic. We carried out a search on ISI Web of Science (2011)3 on the number of articles published on globalization. The total number of publications steadily increased through the 1990s reaching some 500 items in the early 2000s, followed by a minor additional increase (e.g., some 700 items in 2008). A similar pattern occurs for science education articles—however, on a more limited level. There are some 14 articles appearing in the 1990s and 81 in the 2000s. The number of articles published in the 2000s by year range from 1 (2005) to 16 (2008). These data show that the theme of globalization has not been a major focus in science education research so far. However, issues of globalization have played a major role in various key science education research fields, like socio-scientific issues, or the role of teaching and learning science in multi-cultural settings as will be outlined below.
Barriers Regarding Globalization of Science Education Research
As argued above international cooperation has developed substantially in the worldwide science education research community the past decade. The power of international cooperation became obvious in the 1980s when research on student alternative frameworks (Driver & Easley, 1978; Gilbert & Watts, 1983) was one of the major science education research fields. Systematic findings showed “when the to-be-learned concepts are incompatible with initial conception, then the naive conceptions tended to be: robust, consistent, persistent, homogeneous, and recapitulated across historical periods” (Chi, Slotta, & de Leeuw, 1994, p. 35). Similar conclusions were revealed (1) across studies, (2) across concepts, (3) across ages, (4) across educational levels, and (5) across historical periods (Chi, 1992). Research in various cultures around the world showed that certain conceptions were basically the same (e.g., conceptions based on bodily experiences; for instance, Vosniadou & Brewer, 1992) whereas others were significantly different, such as conceptions based on the way certain phenomena are addressed in the local languages or cultures. Lin and Chiu (2007), for instance, found that students' distinctions between acidity, alkalinity, and neutralized solutions were influenced by the Chinese characters of “ (neutralization)” or “” (implying mean, middle, neutrality, the golden mean in Confucianism). These findings contributed significantly to the development of conceptual change views of teaching and learning, not only in science education but also in educational psychology (Duit & Treagust, 1998).
While a substantial number of studies were carried out in close international cooperation, the power of such cooperation still is not employed often enough. It seems that two major barriers constrain fruitful international cooperation, especially where colleagues from rather different backgrounds work together.
First, there are significantly different traditions conceptualizing science teaching and learning. Gough (2008) argues that the “Western” tradition (which he also calls “Eurocentrism”) should not be superimposed on quite different cultures (see Quigley, 2009, for a similar argument). However, there are also significant differences regarding traditions and views of science education within the “Western” cultural tradition outlined by Gough (2008) such as the continental European “Didaktik” versus the anglo-saxon “curriculum” tradition. It turns out that the discussions about these differences have been rather fruitful for both sides, but it was difficult to find consensus for specific terminology in different cultures (Westbury, Hopmann, & Riquarts, 2000). Therefore, the different traditions around the world should not be seen primarily as barriers but as chances to see science education in a new light by appreciating the uniqueness of cultural differences.4 Such differences provide science educators opportunities to clarify their ideas and in the process come up with new ideas that perhaps can better promote the teaching and learning of science.
Second, a significant barrier seems still to be the predominance of English as the lingua franca for international science education. It is argued (see, e.g., Charlton & Andras, 2006) that for science somewhat restricted English is sufficient for international communication. However, for science education research this is the case only to a limited extent. As there is no formal language (like mathematical formula in physics) available for communicating most science education issues (such as descriptions and interpretations of argumentation, discourse, verbal reports, and other related qualitative research methods), quite substantial proficiency in English is needed. This is true in particular for qualitative studies whereas for psychometric studies a somewhat restricted English may be sufficient.5
Exchanging Indigenous Ideas for Science Conceptions
Based on sociological (e.g., Beck, 2000) and educational policy positions (Apple, 1999) Carter (2005, 2008a,b) argues that neoliberalist, neoconservative, and capitalist positions predominate in actual processes of economic but also cultural globalization. Neoliberalism is seen as “an economic and political fundamentalism that generalizes the economic form to all human conduct including education” (Carter, 2008b, p. 82), Neoconservatism “aims to reassert Eurocentric cultural control, protecting the ‘Canon’ from the contamination of competing narratives and practices newly available in the globalizing world” (p. 82). As mentioned above science related knowledge plays a significant role in supporting globalization processes on the level of economic and technological progress. Seen from the neoliberalist, neoconservative, and capitalist perspectives globalization in this sense may be seen as imposing “Western” science knowledge in an imperialist way on students that live in rather different cultures. Gough (2008) comes to a similar conclusion on the grounds of a slightly different theoretical framework. Quigley (2009) argues that student indigenous knowledge systems are exchanged for the Western science knowledge. All authors argue that there is the danger of just exchanging indigenous ideas for science conceptions, and that students, as a result, may loose their cultural identity and may become alienated from their indigenous culture (see Footnote 1).
However, these arguments also pertain to science learning in “Western” societies as well. Research on the role of student conceptions and conceptual change clearly showed that student pre-instructional conceptions are usually (partly fundamentally) different from the scientific view to be learned (Duit & Treagust, 1998). As a result, students experience many difficulties in understanding the new scientific point of view. Research available has shown that traditional instruction does not lead to an exchange of the old view for a new one. In other words, ordinarily teaching science does not result in extinction of the old ideas. They still serve their purpose in daily life and communication. However, it is possible to guide students, starting from their pre-instructional conceptions, to understand that the scientific view provides much more powerful thinking patterns than the old view. Aikenhead (1996) coined the term of “border crossing” from one culture to the other to conceptualize the learning difficulties mentioned. From the perspective of these arguments the fear that science views may be superimposed on students in countries with a different culture and hence may destroy identity appears less significant. It is rather unlikely that in fact the indigenous views are erased by science instruction. However, the argument that instruction needs to be designed according to the views and needs of the particular group and that hence a “one size fits all” (Quigley, 2009, p. 76) approach is not appropriate has to be taken into account as we still need to learn more in this area.
It should also be taken into account that teacher beliefs about instruction and acting in classrooms are rather different in various countries and cultures. Nargund, Park Rogers, and Akerson (in this issue), for example, investigated teachers' beliefs and their instructional behavior in an Indian school. A new way of teaching was introduced that basically followed methods of inquiry based instruction developed within “Western” cultures (here in the United States of America). It turned out that the two teachers did not enact these methods but stayed with their “traditional” instructional methods. It is interesting that this behavior resembles the difficulties experienced by teachers in Western cultures in adopting more student-oriented ways of teaching. It seems that teachers' “traditional” transport of knowledge views of teaching and learning predominate in both cultures (Abell, 2007).
Towards Scientific Literacy Facilitating Understanding of Global Socio-Scientific Issues (SSI) and Active Engagement in Society
In his widely cited position article “Time for action: Science education for an alternative future” Hodson (2003) argued that scientific literacy should explicitly include socio-political action. It comprises not only understanding of global socio-scientific issues (such as climate change or the use of nuclear power) but also the willingness and ability to engage in socio-political action.
Since the early 1990s, significant attention has been given to the importance of developing individuals' competencies related to knowledge and skills of science and technology in the context of socio-scientific issues (SSI) (Roth & Barton, 2004; Sadler & Zeidler, 2009). The significance of this approach is explicitly pointed out by Choi, Lee, Shin, Kim, and Krajcik in the present special issue. The specific area of SSI they refer to is climate change. Also in Bencze and Carter's contribution (in this issue) socio-scientific issues (here concerning an “ecological” worldview) play a significant role. A recent significant SSI is the use of nuclear energy due after witnessing the failure of the Japanese nuclear power plants in March 2011. Understanding socio-scientific issues has been given significance in various approaches to scientific literacy, as the more recent reviews by Roberts (2007) and Osborne (2007) reveal. In addition, active engagement has been also a concern in approaches like STS (Science, Technology, Society; Solomon & Aikenhead, 1994) or “socio-scientific” oriented science instruction (Ratcliffe, 1997).
Concluding Remarks on the Literature on Globalization and Science Education Available
The above attempt to uncover the major issues discussed in the recent globalization literature in science education reveals a rich argumentation culture with critical positions prevailing. Regarding views of society, neoliberal, neoconservative, and capitalist perspectives presently predominating economic and cultural globalization processes are fundamentally questioned (e.g., Carter, 2005; Gough, 2008). A similar emphasis is given to questioning traditional views of instructional practices (e.g., Carter, 2008a,b) arguing in favor of new pedagogies that allow student self-responsibility and active engagement in teaching and learning processes. They should replace traditional passive receiver positions that are attached to the neoliberal, neoconservative, and capitalist positions. With regard to scientific literacy a position is favored that includes active engagement in society and not just an awareness of particular dangers and risks of certain technologies (e.g., Eisenhart, 2008; Hodson, 2003; Martin, 2010). The theoretical perspectives are usually convincingly presented and justified. In addition, examples of how these perspectives may be set into practice are presented (e.g., Carter & Dediwalage, 2010). However, a critical analyses suggests that based what is known about student learning processes and teacher professional development it is unclear whether such justified visions can actually become part of normal practice. Such research is missing so far—or at least is given limited emphasis. Moving the aims into the actual practice of normal schools seems to be rather ambitious. If, for instance, it is claimed that students should become able to actively engage in public debates on risky technologies (nuclear power or biotechnologies, for instance) solid science knowledge about those technologies is needed. Such considerations, for instance, are missing in Hodson's (2003) otherwise convincing argumentation.
Briefly put, the analyses of science education from the perspective of globalization provide new insights into how science should be taught and what should be emphasized. In addition, they also provide direction for further development of international cooperation regarding science education research. The richness of different traditions and perspectives of science education around the world surely is the major source for further research that leads to improvement of scientific literacy worldwide. Guo (2007) provided an overview of effective means of international cooperation to achieve this aim. It seems that the globalization perspective discussed in the present special issue offers a means to successfully continue the process of international cooperation in science education research. Obviously, “it becomes impossible to consider contemporary education in isolation from globalization as the dominant logic, rethinking, and reconfiguring social and cultural life in which it is located” (Carter & Dediwalage, 2010, p. 275).
Interestingly, there is another issue discussed in the “globalization” literature. Hwang and Roth (2008) argue that worldwide migration results in various cultures in a variety of different national classrooms. Hence, the debate about globalization in science education also provides thinking patterns to deal with teaching and learning in multi-cultural classrooms.
Briefly summarized, the literature available and discussed above addresses the significance of economic and cultural globalization in various respects. Particular emphases are given the way science should be taught, taking into account the rapid changes due to economic and cultural globalization and the development of science education research to support these developments.
On the Focus of the Contributions to the Present Special Issue
In May 2010 a call for contributions to a Special Issue on Globalization appeared in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching. The call included a brief general description of the aims of the Special Issue that basically carried the same message as the introductory lines of the present Editorial. The following list of potential topics was provided:
- (1)Gaps between science education research and the practice of science teaching.
- (2)Science & Technology and the Public.
- (3)Science Curriculum and Standards.
- (4)Instruction and Evaluation.
- (5)Teacher Professional Development.
- (6)Policies and Science Instruction.
Some 16 articles were submitted. Five of them were selected for the present special issue on the basis of the review processes. In the following a brief overview of the articles published is given.
The Globalization of Science Education (George DeBoer)
Based on two different major sources, the role educational standards play in 22 countries (USA, Canada, a number of European countries, Australia, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan) is investigated. The data discussed stem from an international conference on science standards held in Germany (Waddington et al., 2007) and from a study on differences and similarities of science standards in ten countries carried out by the US organization Achieve (2010). The role of standards is discussed within a framework that explicitly takes into account the interrelations of standards and the international monitoring studies TIMSS and PISA, worldwide attempts towards quality development of science instruction as well as science education research. In the recent literature on globalization in science education reviewed earlier, critical positions concerning standards prevail. It is, for instance, argued (Carter, 2005, p. 566), that standards play a major role in superimposing “Western” conceptions of science instruction on countries with genuine traditions worldwide. Basically the same argument is discussed in the contribution by Bencze and Carter in the present special issue. It is interesting, however, that the analyses DeBoer provides, reveal an impressive richness of different national interpretations of what standards may denote and which role they may play.6 In other words, the globalization of key ideas of standards based science education and the adoption of TIMSS and PISA assessment seem to leave room for national traditions basically staying alive. DeBoer also analyzes the role of standards in different countries from the perspective of aiming at developing common international standards. He argues that such an attempt could be fruitful, providing that “the framework should be written in language that is general enough to allow countries to interpret the standards and use them in ways that are most appropriate to their own needs” (p. 588).
Networks of Practice in Science Education Research: A Global Context (Sonya N. Martin and Christina Siry)
With a particular emphasis on the role of English as the lingua franca in educational research, globalization of science education as a research domain is investigated. It is argued that English language proficiency is the “capital” that provides access to resources within the global science education community. If this capital is not available, successful participation in the international community of science educators is severely restricted. This presents the following dilemma: on the one hand a common language is needed, on the other hand native English science educators are significantly privileged. An analysis of publications that appeared in leading journals of science education research over 6 years resulted in a clear predominance of native English authors. It is also discussed that the review systems of the leading international journals of science education are significantly dominated by native English colleagues. Means to overcome the outlined barriers for science educators from outside the “inner circle” of native English speakers are discussed. The different voices of eleven science educators from around the world provide the frame to present potential solutions.
As the two co-editors of the present special issue are non-native English speakers, it could be argued that the need to use English also bears advantages and not just barriers. As mentioned, only well developed English proficiency opens the access to the international literature and communication. However, when translating from another language to English, there is the added value that we need to think about research issues twice, in English and in our mother language. Both offer (slightly) different perspectives allowing a richer view than that obtained from one language only.
Globalizing Students Acting for the Common Good (J. Lawrence Bencze and Lyn Carter)
It has been mentioned above that in the recent literature on globalization critical positions regarding predominant views of society, as well as prevailing approaches of scientific literacy and instructional practices play a significant role. The authors provide arguments that current science education typically aligns with neoliberal, neoconservative, and capitalist agendas predominating in societies worldwide. It is argued that the way science education is enacted in schools basically stabilizes the capitalist system leading, for instance, to excessive consumption of goods and media productions. A new position regarding science education is carefully outlined. Alternatives to the predominant “capitalist” orientation of societies worldwide, however, are only discussed somewhat superficially. They are, for instance, signified by the term “Just Science Education” without substantial explanation what this term means. The theoretical framework of science education developed significantly draws on Hodson's (2003) notion that “engaging in sociopolitical action” (p. 658) needs to be an essential part of science instruction, as well as his view that science instruction should include technology issues to a significant extent. This theoretical framework provided the basis for a larger project carried out with a number of teachers. It turned out that the initial “full” theoretical framework needed to be revised towards a “Pragmatic framework for activist science and technology education” as the teachers participating had severe difficulties in dealing with the full framework. In a nutshell, this is an article that illustrates the conflicts possible between well-argued theoretical frameworks and the reality of school practice. The pragmatic framework proposed clearly still bears a high innovative potential for the discussion on the further development of science education.
Re-Conceptualization of Scientific Literacy in South Korea for the 21st Century (Kyunghee Choi, Hyunju Lee, Namsoo Shin, Sung-Won Kim, and Joseph Krajcik)
Results of a close cooperation between science educators from Korea and the United States of America, aiming at developing a new framework for scientific literacy for Korea, are presented. The international literature on scientific literacy is taken into account. A preliminary online survey focusing on major perspectives of scientific literacy was carried out. Some 100 teachers in Korea and some 120 teachers in the U.S. participated. The results provided information on features of scientific literacy given major attention by the teachers. They were used for a preliminary validation of the new framework. This framework includes the following dimensions: (1) Content Knowledge (big ideas that explain phenomena individuals experience), (2) Habits of Mind (communication and collaboration; systematic thinking, use of evidence to support claims, information management); (3) Character and Values (ecological worldview, socio-scientific accountability; social and moral compassion); (4) Science as human endeavor (characteristics of scientific knowledge, science & society, the spirit of science); (5) Metacognition and self-direction (self-directed planning, monitoring, evaluating). Interesting new emphases that seem to suit the views of science education in Korea better than the existing conceptions are included. Whereas active engagement in socio-political action in other approaches of scientific literacy is given the major emphasis (e.g., Hodson, 2003), here understanding socio-scientific issues is in the foreground.
Exploring Indian Secondary Teachers' Orientations and Practices for Teaching Science in an Era of Reform (Vanashri-Joshi Nargund, Meridith A. Park Rogers, and Valerie L. Akerson)
This study points to difficulties in an educational reform in a country with significantly different educational and cultural traditions when it is modeled after reforms in a “Western” country, such as the United States of America. In 2005 the National Council of Educational Research and Training in India introduced a new National Curriculum Framework for teaching and learning science. It was basically modeled according to standards for science instruction in the US. Instruction focused not only on science concepts and principles but included also views of the nature of science—as is the “norm” internationally. On the instructional method side teachers were asked to teach in a more “constructivist way” and not in a traditional manner. Two case studies were carried out by the Indian author to investigate the degree the views and orientations of two teachers on the one hand and their instructional practices on the other hand were in accordance with the new National Curriculum Framework. The two teachers with slightly different backgrounds in terms of their expertise in science and teaching science taught in the same private school. Hence the results were achieved in a setting representing the upper level of Indian science teaching. These case studies were modeled on the actual state of research on teacher professional development in the US. It turned out that the views and orientations of the two teachers investigated were fairly well in accordance with the new framework but the instructional practices were quite distinct from “constructivist oriented” instruction requested by the framework. Here traditional convictions that instruction needs to be teacher-directed prevail. It is interesting that there is a quite similar gap between teachers' views and orientations on the one side and their instructional behavior on the other side in “Western” settings. In India teachers are not well prepared for teaching science, and a special program to prepare teachers to introduce the new framework was not offered. It would be valuable to carry out further studies to investigate the reasons for the gap more fully.
In the above introductory remarks we stated that three closely linked facets play a major role in the contributions of the present special issue: (1) the transformation of the world economies and cultures, (2) the increasing challenges faced by global socio-scientific issues (such as climate change), and (3) the globalization of science education research. The first two facets focus on rethinking the currently dominant variants of science instruction from the perspective of globalization. The literature available on this issue at the moment is quite limited. The small number of alternative instructional approaches—taking in account the globalization issue—needs to be significantly increased.7 The approaches developed so far seem to be limited to the major features of instruction arising from work in socio-scientific science instruction and of variants of project-based reforms. Nevertheless, the existing literature convincingly illustrates that rethinking science education practice from the perspective of globalization is rather promising. Actual science education practice and science education research emphases are—partly fundamentally—challenged. It seems to be most valuable if the science education research community would seriously respond to these challenges. The third facet addressed in our opening remarks and discussed in articles of this special issue, namely the globalization of science education research, concerns the international cooperation of science educators in addressing the above challenges. So far, international cooperation is only in its infancy. The very advantage of this cooperation, namely to use the richness of different views of science education in the various cultures around the world, should be employed in a much more fruitful way. Barriers hampering the cooperation thus far are discussed but also possibilities to overcome them are presented. We hope that the present special issue written under the perspective of globalization may contribute to a rather general debate on the further development of our discipline.
1See also the contribution by J. Lawrence Bencze and Lyn Carter in the present special issue.
2See also the contribution by DeBoer in the present special issue.
3ISI searches the articles appeared in Citation Databases, including Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED)—1990-present, Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI)—1990-present, and Arts & Humanities Citation Index (A&HCI)—1975-present.
4In his concluding contribution to the present special issue Peter Fensham points out that the “richness in diversity” should be explicitly used. Similar positions are to be found in the remaining contributions as well.
5Sonya Martin and Christina Siry (this issue) discuss the significance of the language barrier from various perspectives. They also provide the results of a study on the acceptance rates of papers submitted to leading science education research journals. In addition they point to the following problem affiliated with the need to think and write in English. They argue that it may be difficult to explain research findings resulting from studies carried out within the “international science education research culture” to teachers in their home country.
6A similar argument is provided by Peter Fensham in his concluding contribution to the present special issue.
7See, for example, the instructional approach presented by J. Lawrence Bencze and Lyn Carter in this special issue.