Within the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), there are three important dimensions to learning science. These three dimensions are combined to form each standard—or performance expectation—and each dimension works with the other two to help students build a cohesive understanding of science over time.
Science and Engineering Practices
Science and Engineering Practices describe what scientists do to investigate the natural world and what engineers do to design and build systems. The Science and Engineering Practices are what students do in science! The practices better explain and extend what is meant by “inquiry” in science and the range of cognitive, social, and physical practices that it requires. Students engage in practices to build, deepen, and apply their knowledge of the disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts.
The eight science and engineering practices are:
1.Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
2.Developing and using models
3.Planning and carrying out investigations
4.Analyzing and interpreting data
5.Using math and computational thinking
6.Constructing an explanation (for science) and designing a solution (for engineering)
7.Engaging in an argument stemming from evidence
8.Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information
Crosscutting Concepts help students explore connections across the four domains of science, including Physical Science, Life Science, Earth and Space Science, and Engineering Design.
The crosscutting concepts give the students a lens that shows them how to think about the problem at hand. The crosscutting concepts also let the teacher know what types of questions to ask.
There are 7 crosscutting concepts that the National Research Council has outlined, which appear in the Next Generation Science Standards. They are:
- Cause and effect
- Scale, proportion, and quantity
- Systems and system models
- Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation
- Structure and function
- Stability and change
For natural and built systems alike, conditions of stability and determinants of rates of change or evolution of a system are critical elements of study.
Disciplinary Core Ideas
The Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs) are the key ideas in science that have that students must learn at each level. They build on one another at each grade level. There are disciplinary core ideas in each domain of science: Physical Science, Life Science, Earth and Space Science, and Engineering. https://ngss.nsta.org/disciplinarycoreideastop.aspx
Another aspect of the Next Generation Science Standards is the use of Phenomena. Phenomena-based science encourages students to ask questions, discover connections, and design models to make sense of what they observe. Students examine a phenomenon and then ask questions, collaborate with partners, and design models.
Three-Dimensional Learning shifts the focus of the science classroom to environments where students use disciplinary core ideas, crosscutting concepts with scientific practices to explore, examine, and explain how and why phenomena occur and to design solutions to problems.
The focus is on making sense of science instead of memorizing a set of facts.
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