I’m reveling in the fact that the world of science education has figured out:
cross-cutting concepts are critical and
inquiry practices are universally relevant
After decades of pedagogical pendulum swinging, there may actually be a framework for teaching & learning science – in schools or informal settings – that makes sense to the Ph.D. data-junkies & lab rats, the polymorphous cohort of K-12 teachers, the profit-driven publishers, the deep-pocket philanthropists, the local, state, and federal government agencies, and the average Jane/Joe Citizen-Scientist. The potential panacea starts with…
STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering & Math
STEM is a science education lifestyle or a pedagogical world view. The National Science Foundation offers a thorough explanation with supporting research, resources, and really cool examples.
- Bottom line on STEM? Hands-on, inquiry activities that integrate as many elements of STEM as possible is something every teacher and student in every setting of learning should be doing.
Add the ARTS and you’ve got the creativity & critical thinking that inspire all that STEM work, a.k.a:
STEAM is a great power source that fuels great ideas everywhere. Not to mention it’s the kind of mash- up this blog is designed to promote. But how can that STEAM be harnessed and put to good use?
NGSS is a framework of K-12 standards that are rich in content and practice and support aligned curricula, pedagogy, assessment, and teacher preparation and development. NGSS is NOT a prescription of didactic lessons to be taught by week X for subject Y to students in grade Z. What NGSS does offer is cross-cutting concepts and universal practices that should be the backdrop, the warp & woof, the integrated essence, and the rubric of accountability for teaching & learning discipline-specific sciences like biology, physics, geology, chemistry, etc with increasing depth & complexity across grade levels.
NGSS Practices of Science & Engineering [tweak the terms & this works in the Arts, too!]
- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
- Developing and using models
- Planning and carrying out investigations
- Analyzing and interpreting data
- Using mathematics and computational thinking
- Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
- Engaging in argument from evidence
- Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information
NGSS Cross-cutting Concepts
- Patterns. Observed patterns of forms and events guide organization and classification, and they prompt questions about relationships and the factors that influence them.
- Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation. Events have causes, sometimes simple, sometimes multifaceted. A major activity of science is investigating and explaining causal relationships and the mechanisms by which they are mediated. Such mechanisms can then be tested across given contexts and used to predict and explain events in new contexts.
- Scale, proportion, and quantity. In considering phenomena, it is critical to recognize what is relevant at different measures of size, time, and energy and to recognize how changes in scale, proportion, or quantity affect a system’s structure or performance.
- Systems and system models. Defining the system under study—specifying its boundaries and making explicit a model of that system—provides tools for understanding and testing ideas that are applicable throughout science and engineering.
- Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation. Tracking fluxes of energy and matter into, out of, and within systems helps one understand the systems’ possibilities and limitations.
- Structure and function. The way in which an object or living thing is shaped and its substructure determine many of its properties and functions.
- 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.
While it’s quite useful to have science pedagogy boiled down to two lists of 15 goals, NGSS comes with an multi-modal menu of flavorful, nourishing, and specific options on an impressively robust website that outlines research-based ‘disciplinary core ideas,’ ‘topics,’ & ‘individual performance expectations.’
Alphabet Soup to the Rescue:
NSTA, NRC, NABT, AAAS
If you already speak the language of science education then hopefully these acronyms meant a lot to you this year. They stand for four major science organizations who each do great things to improve scientific knowledge and science education for all. Things like research, professional development, effective (often free) online resources for K-16 education & beyond. Click the hyperlinks to dig into what each offers:
- NSTA – National Association of Science Teachers
- NRC – National Research Council
- NABT – National Association of Biology Teachers
- AAAS – American Association for the Advancement of Science
So remember, if you are teaching, learning, applying or just occasionally thinking about science…
cross-curricular thinking & doing are
scientifically proven necessities to quality education