Colleges and universities should teach science as a liberal art and redesign courses toward a multidisciplinary approach, according to a three-year study conducted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The report, ``The Liberal Art of Science: Agenda for Action,'' calls for curricular reform to focus on the undergraduate level. ``The four years of college are really critical for solving the whole problem of science education ... because half of America goes to college and the other half is taught by people who go to college,'' says Susan E. Cozzens, an associate professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a member of the AAAS study group.
``Well-prepared teachers are crucial to the proposed upgrading of scientific understanding for all Americans,'' the report concludes. ``Within five years, a new cadre of teachers taught in this manner should be in classrooms throughout the nation.''
It makes some specific recommendations for college-level science instruction:
Require all undergraduate students to take 15 or 16 semester hours of science instruction.
Increase faculty-student ratios by decreasing class sizes.
Adopt innovative textbooks and teaching materials.
The AAAS report supports the principle of teaching science ``as it is practiced at its best ... as open-ended rather than closed and investigative rather than merely confirmatory.''
It advocates ``more stringent education in science for future teachers'' and recommends that all students planning to teach science should major in the natural science they intend to teach.
The report notes that ``... the costs of implementing a new era in science education will be high. However, the costs of continuing to educate undergraduates inadequately in the sciences will be even higher.''