The science and engineering world is constantly evolving, and new discoveries and applications are quickly integrated into new understandings! This phenomenon has created a new set of science standards in addition to the STEM curriculum that is used to provide the most up-to-date framework for educating future scientists. As a result, schools and teachers across the country are beginning to implement two tools aimed at transforming science and engineering education in the United States. These are A Framework for K-12 Science Standards: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas and the Next Generation Science Standards.
The framework is divided into three specific dimensions that are basic to deep understanding of how science and engineering work. They are:
- Science and engineering practices. Otherwise considered science behaviors, these practices are the actions scientists participate in while investigating, theorizing, and drawing conclusions about the scientific world. These practices also include engineering design which requires a different approach than scientific inquiry. Engineering design involves the discovery of a problem that can be solved via careful and comprehensive design. On the other hand, scientific inquiry requires the scientist to pose a question and then answer the question through investigation and experimentation.
- Crosscutting concepts. These key concepts can be applied across all areas of science. They serve as a link between the different domains and are designed to be explicitly taught to students. It is important for teachers to teach these key concepts and skills just like they specifically teach content because they help students organize, conceptualize, and internalize new knowledge. These crosscutting concepts are:
- Cause and effect
- Patterns, similarity, and diversity
- Scale, proportion, and quantity
- Energy and matter
- Systems and system models
- Stability and change
- Structure and function
- Disciplinary core ideas. Much like threads that weave together the STEM curriculum, classroom instruction, and all forms of assessment, these are essential ideas. In order for a science idea to be considered “core” it must meet at least two of the following criteria, but ideally, a core idea will meet all four of the following:
- Has relevance across a variety of disciplines or represents a key concept of one specific discipline.
- Supplies an essential skill that promotes understanding of additional ideas.
- Has importance at a range of grade levels and the ability to be studied at varying degrees of difficulty.
- Impacts the experiences and interests of students and relates to real life problems that require students to use scientific knowledge.
It helps to understand that all of the disciplinary ideas are divided into four domains: life sciences, earth and space sciences, physical sciences, and engineering, technology, and applications of science. Each core disciplinary idea contains a clear and concise explanation and range of grades for instructional planning and assessment purposes. The range of grades, each covering 3-4 grade levels, allows schools and teachers the flexibility to reflect on their instructional priorities within the established framework.
The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has a portion of its website dedicated to the Next Generation Science Standards. You can find updates, supporting documents, and resources to help with the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards and STEM curriculum.
For more information, download our FREE on demand webinar on “Cutting Edge Science,” a lively conversation about the Next Generation Science Standards featuring Marygrove College MAT’s Charles Pearson, Ph.D.