If you are teaching using the NGSS or Utah SEEd standards you have probably heard of the crosscutting concepts. There are three dimensions to science instruction Science and Engineering Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Disciplinary Core Ideas.
The Crosscutting Concepts for Science Instruction
The crosscutting concepts provide a lens through which students can think about the topic at hand. Crosscutting concepts have applications across all domains of science. As such, they are a way of linking the different areas of science. They include patterns; cause and effect; scale, proportion, and quantity; systems and system models; energy and matter; structure and function; and stability and change.
A Framework for K–12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (Framework) recommends science education in grades K–12 be built around three dimensions: science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts that unify the study of science and engineering through their common application across fields of study in science. The Framework identifies seven crosscutting concepts that bridge disciplinary ideas. Their purpose is to help students deepen their understanding of the disciplinary core ideas.
“Science is made of facts as a house is made of stones. But a collection of facts is no more a science than a pile of stones is a house.”-Henri Poincare
Students need a vision of what they are trying to build. They need to be able to ask the big questions so that they can form meaningful structures. Each crosscutting concept is a lens that allows you to look at a problem and ask questions to know where you are going with those questions.
The crosscutting concept in the standard tells the teacher what type of questions to ask.
K-ESS2-2 Construct an Argument supported by evidence for how plants and animals (including humans) can change the environment to meet their needs. In this standard, the crosscutting concept is change, or stability and change. The teacher could as questions such as:
What type of changes does a beaver do to its environment? When the beaver cuts down a tree that is a change but when the beaver builds a dam it causes other changes. What changes does it cause?
Utah SEEd has made it particularly easy for teachers by underlining the crosscutting concept in each standard.
Utah SEEd Standard 1.3.1 Plan and carry out an investigation to show the cause and effect relationship between sound and vibrating matter. Emphasize that vibrating matter can make sound and that sound can make matter vibrate. (PS4.A)
Here the teacher might ask questions about the cause and effect of vibration and sound? What causes sound? Can sound cause vibration or is vibration only the effect of sound?
The crosscutting concepts guide the student’s thinking and give them a lens through which to see a problem or issue. The CCC gives the teacher guidance by indicating what type of questions they should ask.