There are many goals of science teaching. By using the following simple criteria, most goals can be summarized into a few categories.

  • Goals should be comprehensive enough to include the generally accepted aims and objectives of science teaching.
  • Goals should be understandable for other teachers, administrators, and parents.
  • Goals should be neutral, that is, free of bias and not oriented toward any particular view of science teaching.
  • Goals should be few in number.
  • Goals should differentiate concepts and abilities.
  • Goals should be easily applicable to instructional and learning objectives.

Using the aforementioned criteria, we can identify the following categories of goals for science education: scientific knowledge, scientific methods, social issues, personal needs, and career awareness. Many objectives can be deduced from these goals, but keep in mind that at any time all of the goals are not equally important. Still, they have been the goals underlying science curriculum and instruction.

  1. Scientific knowledge. There is a body of knowledge concerning biological, physical, and earth systems. For over 200 years, our science education programs have aimed toward informing students of these natural systems. This goal has been, and will continue to be, of significant importance for science teachers. Stated formally, this goal is: Science education should develop fundamental understandings of natural systems.
  2. Scientific methods. A second goal has centered on the abilities and understandings of the methods of scientific investigation. Descriptions of the goal have changed; for example, the terms inquiry and discovery have been used to describe the scientific methods goal. The goal can be stated as: Science education should develop a fundamental understanding of, and ability to use, the methods of scientific inquiry.
  3. Societal issues. Science education exists in society and should contribute to the maintenance and aspirations of the culture. This goal is especially important when there are social challenges directly related to science. This goal is: Science education should prepare citizens to make responsible decisions concerning science-related social issues.
  4. Personal needs. All individuals have needs related to their own biological/psychological systems. Briefly stated, this goal is: Science education should contribute to an understanding and fulfillment of personal needs, thus contributing to personal development.
  5. Career awareness. Scientific research, development, and application continue through the work of individuals within science and technology and through the support of those not directly involved in scientific work. Therefore, one important goal has been: Science education should inform students about careers in the sciences.