May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

The Actual Need for a Philosophy of Education

Posted: Thursday, September 15th, 2016

by Joseph Calmer, Ed.D

As the year begins, it is time for science teachers to think about their approach to this coming year. This year is an important one too, because of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The NGSS is in various stages of implementation across the state and among districts. The idea of NGSS is easy, but the actual practice of NGSS is difficult. Hopefully you’ve read the original framework ((NGSS Lead States, 2013). Maybe you’ve been able to read the California Draft Framework. When reading these tomes, you’ll probably find yourself agreeing with the authors. The teaching philosophy and pedagogy that frames the new standards are sound and are commensurate with current thoughts about teaching and learning (Bransford, Brown, Cocking, & ebrary, 1999; Hattie & Yates, 2013). The next step required for teachers is to turn theory into practice.

Transferring theory into practice is the hardest and most important step. Theorizing is fine, but the reality is that theory isn’t ‘taking attendance,’ ‘ordering supplies,’ ‘organizing classrooms,’ or any other of the myriad of things that go into classroom teaching. The reality is that something tangible has to be present for students to do. Creating the environment for learning is more about managing resources than theorizing. The notion of being a ‘reflective practitioner’ may seem more like an optional activity than a required one (Zeichner & Liston, 2013). Where does philosophy actually fit into a teachers’ daily list of tasks?

I enjoyed my credential program and talking about teaching. It seems like credential programs are where ‘educational philosophies’ are exclusively talked about. On the job, the discussions are more about copies, materials, desks, students, etc. The dialogues of philosophy are absent from teacher lounges. I am writing this to say that we need to revisit these talking points and bring them back to the forefront of our dialogues. I have been reading ­The Stone Reader and have been reminded of the interesting and importance of philosophy, especially for notions of teaching (Catapano & Critchley, 2015). The topics covered are succinct and allows for thought provoking inner dialogues. As a teacher, everything I do seems to ultimately relate back to my class. As I read the entries, I thought to myself “Man, I am really thinking here. How could I get my students to think this much?”



For example, here is a sample philosophical statement from W.V. Quine: “scientists (are) in search of an organized conception of reality”. As science teachers, we often talk about science theories, science facts, and the need for accurate data. Philosophy talks about perception and truth, things we take for granted, but really do affect the former. The objectivity of science is really dependent on the subjectivity of our senses and our frame of thought. N.R. Hanson talked about this in his paper about “Observation” (N. R. Hanson & Paul F. Schmidt, 1959). In “Observation”, Hanson explains how Tycho Brahe and Kepler both saw an orange disk in the sky. Kepler saw the Earth moving around the sun, but Tycho Brahe saw the sun move around the Earth. Hanson showed what one already “knows” and learns affects what they see. (It is a great article, and I was only exposed to it in a philosophy course.) To me, it is no wonder that “Natural Philosophy” became “Science”. As science teachers, I think it will serve us well to not forget our philosophical roots. This will allow us to think about our classes and act in accordance to our intended vision; ensuring students learn science.

Philosophy is often over looked as a practical subject and therefore not useful to the practical person. I would vehemently disagree. I think that if one takes the time to use the tools and canons of philosophy, they will be able to find their purposes and meanings of what they do (in the classroom). So, as we get the new year started, with a new set of standards, it’s the perfect time to approach our teaching practices differently. Philosophy is a tool to analyze our thinking. As one works, the “cow paths” of thought and practice are entrenched deeper and deeper (Norman, 2013). One rarely tends to stray from their comfortability of habit. By reading philosophy, one gets exposed to the obvious questions that we can’t see or think to ask ourselves. Philosophy really helps us find purpose, definitions, and meaning to the things we do and the thoughts we think. So, it may seem like a diversion to the litany of tasks that need to be done, but if you sit back and reflect on the purpose and meaning of what you are doing first, you may save time in the long run (and emerge better in the end for it).


  • Bransford, J., Brown, A. L., Cocking, R. R., & ebrary, I. (1999). How people learn: brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, D.C: National Academy Press.
  • Catapano, P., & Critchley, S. (2015). The Stone Reader: Modern Philosophy in 133 Arguments: Liveright.
  • Hattie, J., & Yates, G. C. R. (2013). Visible Learning and the Science of How we Learn (pp. 368).
  • N.R. Hanson, A., & Paul F. Schmidt, R. (1959). Patterns of Discovery. American Journal of Physics, 27(4), 285. doi:10.1119/1.1934835
  • NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States. Washington, D.C.: Achieve, Inc. on behalf of the twenty-six states and partners that collaborated on the NGSS Retrieved from
  • Norman, D. A. (2013). The Design of Everyday Things: Basic Books.
  • Zeichner, K. M., & Liston, D. P. (2013). Reflective Teaching: An Introduction: Taylor & Francis.

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

One Response

  1. We absolutely need our philosophical science teaching compass! May always be enlightened on our uncharted NGSS journey ahead with wisdom as we embrace new diverse perspectives.

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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.