Tim Magner Outlines Vision for Modern Science Classrooms

Tim Magner, writing in CNN, outlines his vision of a modern science classroom and his belief that modern education has a duty to impart 21st century skills to its students: namely, to embed the four Cs (communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking) into the students’ educational experience.

21st-century readiness – having the knowledge and skills to pursue further education, compete in the global economy and contribute to society – demands much more of all of our students, and our education system must change to meet these demands.

Magner is excited by the Next Generation Science Standards and believes that their focus on the integration of deep content knowledge with application skills comprehends the modern challenge.

The science standards explore a range of active approaches to learning, from asking questions and defining problems to using models, carrying out investigations, analyzing and interpreting data, designing solutions and using evidence. These practices are not only essential science skills, but also form the core elements of the critical thinking and problem solving skills of P21’s Framework for 21st Century Learning.

The Next Generation Science Standards also acknowledge the importance of teamwork and communication to scientific practice by including collaborative inquiry as early as kindergarten.

Where I wish the standards were stronger is in creativity and innovation. Much of our economic success over the past century has been because of breakthroughs in science and technology. I hope that as these standards are implemented, science educators will work hard to infuse them with opportunities for students to see science as a creative endeavor. Science class could become a chance to invent the next generation of medicines, electronics or the myriad other innovations we will need to feed, clothe, power and empower our planet.

Magner would like to see a much greater emphasis on creativity in the implementation of the standards. The flipped classroom model, which is becoming increasingly popular with students and teachers alike, would be a key aspect of this. In a flipped classroom, content is absorbed at home while lessons focus on application of the knowledge. So, rather than being a mere information delivery system and wasting precious classroom time covering basic material; the teacher can actually teach. Magner believes that classroom discussion, experimentation and collaborative exploration should be the norm in a modern science classroom.

Tim Magner is currently the executive director of Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21). He recently served as the vice president of Keystone for KC Distance Learning (KCDL) and the director of the Office of Educational Technology for the U.S. Department of Education.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is a national organization that advocates 21st century readiness for every student as a means by which the United States can continue to compete in the global economy.