A Closer Look at Transfer Goals for Science

Oct 30, 2018

As we’ve discussed in the past, Jay McTighe’s transfer goals are an excellent representation of what it means to put Understanding by Design (UbD) principles into action. McTighe provides examples of suggested transfer goals for several different disciplines.

Taking a closer look at these discipline-specific transfer goals helps educators within that field see their curricular goals in a larger context while simultaneously providing inspiration to spark new projects, lesson plans, and classroom approaches.

This post will take a closer look at the transfer goals McTighe suggests for science, and this examination will demonstrate the ways that these approaches to science highlight both a big-picture perspective and an interdisciplinary approach. Both of these underlying principles can be applied broadly to everything from a full program curriculum redesign to a single classroom activity.

A Closer Look

If we take a look at the specific transfer goal examples (which are representative but not exhaustive) that could be used for science, we can better see how transfer goals operate. Here are the two that McTighe lists as transfer goals for science.

  • Evaluate scientific claims and analyze current issues involving science or technology.
  • Conduct a sound investigation to answer an empirical questions.

These goals are clearly rooted in scientific principles, but they are not bounded by that discipline. These are goals that students could practice in a range of classes, making them ripe for adaptation for interdisciplinary projects. These are also goals that could help frame the big picture thinking around the design of a science course curriculum as a whole.

The Big Picture

By saying that students should be able to evaluate claims and analyze current issues in science and technology, McTighe makes it clear that an effective science curriculum should start with the goals that students will need for the rest of their lives.

The emphasis on application to current issues helps demonstrate how important it is for students to be able to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to what they see in the world around them. This is an especially important lesson if we want students to be able to continue building on what they learn from year to year.

Rather than see each class as a compartmentalized lesson that starts when the bell rings and ends when the test is handed in, students learn to see the connections between what they learn in one classroom and everything else they do both in and out of school.

In science, this is especially important because the skills from one year are often necessary to understand the lessons for the next year. Building knowledge and complexity from year to year allows students to have a thorough, meaningful, and flexible understanding of science by the time they graduate. This is knowledge they can carry with them in everything from forming opinions on public policy to operating in the workforce to carrying on their education through college and beyond.

Interdisciplinary Process of Science

The second suggested transfer goal that McTighe gives helps us to understand the interdisciplinary nature of science. By ensuring that students can conduct a sound investigation to answer an empirical question, educators help students to see the scientific method as a process that can be applied broadly for problem-solving.

When students recognize the principles behind a “sound investigation” and the criteria that make something an “empirical question,” this becomes a method they can use to answer both empirical questions in science and empirical questions in other disciplines including history, psychology, sociology, and politics.

By helping students to see how they set up a problem and approach the process to finding an answer, science educators who keep this transfer goal in mind are giving students the tools they need to be successful both in their science classes as well as many other disciplines . . . and in life in general.

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