When I finally went to kitchen, I picked up the phone bill and thought to myself “Now, why do I need this thing?” Once I remembered, I checked every page, and guess what? The number to the insurance company wasn’t even on it!
I had gotten the phone bill, but that didn’t help me to accomplish my mission of getting my son a replacement phone. The crazy thing is, I could have filed the claim online using the very computer that I was fooling around on when my son called me hours before. Sad.
I had become so focused on finding the phone bill that I lost sight of the mission. Was the mission to find the phone bill? No. Was the mission to find the phone number of the insurance company? Nope. The mission wasn’t to call the insurance company either. The mission wasn’t even to file a claim. The mission was to get my son a working telephone.
I didn't need to find the phone bill. I made that my goal because I thought it would accomplish my mission. But once I got that idea into my head, I was so focused on that one little detail that I lost sight of the mission.
In Robinson’s Weblog #017: What’s the Point? Part Three: To Science Content and Beyond, I wrote that for any entity, its purpose is the reason it exists and matters. And its mission describes what it needs to accomplish to fulfil its purpose. In the case of education, its purpose and mission are the same: to prepare students for life.
All components of education need to work together towards accomplishing its mission. A goal gives clarity and direction by defining the accomplishment of the mission. Each component of education needs to have a clear goal that, when achieved, accomplishes the mission — that is prepares students for life.
The goal of U.S. K-12 science education is articulated in A Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council, 2012), and it’s reflected in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). In Robinson’s Weblog #008: What’s the Big Idea? Part Two: The Big Ideas about Science Education (The Vision and Goal of the Framework), I quoted from the Framework when I wrote that the goal of the Framework is to ensure that all students:
1) have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science
2) possess sufficient knowledge of science and engineering to engage in public discussions on related issues
3) are careful consumers of scientific and technological information related to their everyday lives
4) are able to continue to learn about science outside school
5) have the skills to enter careers of their choice, including (but not limited to) careers in science, engineering, and technology.
By reading the goal of science education, you can see that it goes beyond simply ensuring that students have an understanding of the natural world (science content knowledge), but it also includes components to ensure that students are empowered to obtain, make sense of, and use scientific knowledge to inform their daily lives. Achieving this goal — along with the goals of other components of education— helps to accomplish the mission of education.
The goal gives science educators a clear picture of the end result we want to achieve with students, which keeps the mission at the forefront and focuses our efforts. This will help us to avoid getting so caught up in the details that the big picture gets lost — like going to the kitchen to get a phone bill that you don’t need because you created a goal that had nothing to do with your original mission.
It was very easy for me to become sidetracked from my mission of getting my son a replacement phone. This happens just as easily in education. There are many factors that compete for your attention and can cause you to become sidetracked. I wrote about one example in Robinson’s Weblog #018: What’s the Point? Part Four: Call Me Apathetic, But I Don’t Care, where I said that I am not concerned about improving U.S. STEM education just so America can compete in the global economy. Shocking, huh? But I’m not on a mission to solve America’s “STEM crisis”. And if I want to remain focused on achieving the goal of science education, then I can’t get so concerned about maintaining American leadership and competing with Asia that I lose sight of it.
The goal of U.S. K-12 science education articulated in the Framework gives science educators a clear picture of the end result we want to achieve with students. With a clear goal in hand, you are ready to devise an action plan for achieving it. I’ll explore this in upcoming weblog entries. Stay tuned!