We know that students learn best when they are actively involved in constructing their own knowledge and are engaged in authentic learning experiences. In the science classroom, this means that students should be engaged in tasks that are characteristic of the work of scientists. But, what does “doing” science actually look like?
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have moved away from the term “inquiry,” in favor of the phrase “scientific practices.” This shift provides educators with more specificity around what it actually means to “do” science (and avoids representing the scientific method as a linear, lock-step process).
Below is an overview of the Eight Science Practices incorporated throughout the NGSS. To ensure an authentic and effective science learning experience, PK-12 students should be engaged in these practices on a regular basis:
1. Asking Questions
Students at all grades should be asking questions of each other about the texts they read, the phenomena they observe, and the conclusions they draw from their investigations. (NRC Framework 2012, p. 56)
2. Developing and Using Models
Modeling should begin in the earliest grades, with students’ creating concrete “pictures” and/or physical models (e.g., a toy car). In later grades, they move to more abstract representations (e.g., a diagram representing forces on a particular object in a system). (NRC Framework, 2012, p. 58)
3. Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
All students should engage in investigations that range from those structured by the teacher—in order to expose an issue or question that they would be unlikely to explore on their own—to those that emerge from students’ own questions. (NRC Framework, 2012, p. 61)
4. Analyzing and Interpreting Data
Raw data has little meaning on its own. Like scientists, students should be engaged in organizing and interpreting data through tables, graphs, or statistical analysis so that they may be used as evidence. (NRC Framework, 2012, p. 61-62)
5. Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
Mathematics is a tool used to represent variables and their relationships. Scientists use mathematics to help them carry out investigations, analyze data, and build complex models (e.g., computer simulations). (NRC Framework, 2012, p. 65)
6. Constructing Explanations
The goal of science is the development of theories that explain the world around us. Scientific explanations only become accepted theories when they are based on multiple independent lines of evidence, account for a breadth of phenomena, and have gone through rigorous peer review. Students need opportunities to construct and revise their own explanations of phenomena. (NRC Framework, 2012, p. 68-69)
7. Engaging in Argument from Evidence
Some explanations are better than others. Students should be provided opportunities to determine the strengths and weaknesses of a line of evidence, argue for the explanations they construct, and defend their interpretations of the data. (NRC Framework, 2012, p. 73)
8. Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
Science cannot advance if scientists do not communicate their findings clearly and persuasively. Like scientists, students need opportunities to evaluate and discuss the findings with peers. They also need opportunities to read, make sense of, and produce the genres of texts that are intrinsic to science. (NRC Framework, 2012, p. 76)
Transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards
The NGSS are fresh off the press and have yet to be adopted by IL. At this early stage in the transition, CPS has recommended that, for SY13-14, teachers focus their efforts on learning about and incorporating into instruction the 8 science and engineering practices. Instructional resources aligned with NGSS are only in the beginning stages of development. Therefore, AUSL recommends that teachers continue using the pacing guides and curriculum maps already in place, while focusing on incorporating the eight practices into regular instruction.
General Planning Resources for Science:
Interactive Science Pacing Guides
AUSL Curriculum Maps (currently on Sharepoint; will migrate over to TchAUSL)
CPS Science Content Framework 1.0 (supplemental resource)
Resources Related to the Eight Science Practices (and the Engineering Practices):
I invite you to post on TchAUSL examples of how you are incorporating these practices into your classroom for others to see!