January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

Scientific and Engineering Practices Replace Investigation and Experimentation

Posted: Sunday, April 1st, 2012

by Peter A’Hearn

At last weekend’s CUE conference, I spoke to many publisher reps. I asked if their companies were starting to look at the NGSS and how they were approaching it. The most common response I got was, “We’ll just change the standards correlations on what we’ve already got.”

So, no big deal, there’s nothing new under the sun. My reading of the NGSS, however, suggests that there should be some big changes required in the way curriculum is designed and delivered to meet the vision of the NGSS framework. One of the best examples is to look at how different the “how we do science” part of the framework is from the one we currently use in California.


Scientific and Engineering Practices

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 mathematics and computational thinking
6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
7. Engaging in argument from evidence
8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information


These standards have a view of science, and what science does, that is much more broad than just setting up investigations using the “scientific method.” As the framework authors state,

Our view is that this perspective is an improvement over previous approaches in several ways. First, it minimizes the tendency to reduce scientific practice to a single set of procedures, such as identifying and controlling variables, classifying entities, and identifying sources of error. This tendency overemphasizes experimental investigation at the expense of other practices, such as modeling, critique, and communication.

The emphasis on practices like modeling, arguing from evidence, and constructing explanations go far beyond what the current California standards ask students to do. These practices have striking connections with the Common Core Standards’ emphasis on applying math and language arts skills in science.

Another big shift is the idea that these practices are to be integrated into every unit along with the content core ideas. For example, in a unit on geologic time, the practice of constructing explanations would be emphasized. This is very different from the way many science classes are now constructed with a unit at the beginning where the scientific method is taught and then it is put away for the rest of the year while content is taught. The addition of engineering practices is another big change that these practices will involve.

Okay, now it’s your turn. What do you think?


Some questions to consider:

Are there any practices listed that you feel are less important than others? Are there any central practices that you feel the committee left out?

Are teachers, students, and families prepared to shift their thinking about what science is? The idea that there is a single central “scientific method” is a strong one.

How will these practices be tested? How will teachers and students be held accountable? Will teachers and schools that struggle be punished?

These standards are intended for all students and some of these practices by the high school level ask students to engage in abstract thinking. Is it realistic to expect all students to reach the high bar set by these standards?


The purpose of this blog: We are about to begin the period for public review of the Next Generation Science Standards. The process is being guided by the Achieve. Twenty-six states including California have signed on to be part of the development of the standards and to adopt them when complete. The new standards will represent a big change in how science is taught in California, so teachers should be closely following the development and giving the feedback that comes with their experience. But few classroom teachers have the time to digest and respond to the amount of material that makes up the science standards. The purpose of this blog is to break it down into chunks and send it out a little at a time for teachers to respond. I will start with the framework and then move on to the standards when they are available. I will be making comparisons to the current California standards, but science teachers from other states are encouraged to participate. The framework can be downloaded as a PDF from the National Academies Press.

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

3 Responses

  1. Good to see the break-away from “THE Scientific Method,” finally! I also like the mandate to carry the processes of science throughout each course. In addition, I would encourage the inclusion of the Nature of Science (NOS), experiencing the realm, limits and assumptions of science, as well as why science is such an effective tool for understanding natural phenomena.

    While including variations on the processes of science, be sure to include how the historical sciences are generally done : the search for understanding events and phenomena of the past, unobserved or unrecorded by people and largely unrepeatable (e.g., forensics, geology, paleontology, astronomy, evolution science, etc.). Generally, this involves the search for clues, the forming of hypotheses based on those clues, and the testing of those hypotheses by searching for additional evidence (clues) suggested by those hypotheses.

    Also, hopefully careful attention will be placed on how hypothesis is defined and used. All too often it’s presented as a mere prediction of experimental results, or simply as an “educated guess” completely missing its role as a tentative, testable explanation about a natural phenomenon. Furthermore, it needs to be made clear that such explanations cannot include supernatural causes (simply because they cannot be definitively tested (any outcome is possible, so it can’t be potentially disproved). Students need to learn this. Finally, testing should be approached as a challenge to a hypothesis – an attempt to disprove it, and to show that results of the test could go either way – could clearly support the hypothesis, OR show that it doesn’t work, and therefore is rejected.

    These things should certainly become prominent in high school science, but the groundwork laid in elementary and middle school should be careful not to create misconceptions that would get in the way of these concepts at the high school level (e.g., a hypothesis being taught as just an “educated guess).

  2. The practices are well explained, but fall a little short on the emphasis of Inquiry instruction as well as the Nature of Science. Both of these were very explicit in the NSES and are now embedded within the Practices of science and engineering. I hope that teachers, curriculum designers, etc. do not feel that these items are any less important now that they are embedded and not as explicit.

  3. […] I’d like to put forward some thoughts on one strand of the new standards, the “Practices.” Last month in this venue, Peter A’Hearn explained how the new focus on practices is different from the current California […]

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California Science Test Academy for Educators

Posted: Thursday, February 15th, 2018

California Science Test Academy for Educators

To support implementation of the California Science Test (CAST), the California Department of Education is partnering with Educational Testing Service and WestEd to offer a one-day CAST Academy for local educational agency (LEA) science educators, to be presented at three locations in California from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. As an alternative to traveling, LEA teams can participate virtually via WebEx on one of the dates listed below.

The dates and locations for the CAST Academy are as follows:

  • Monday, April 23, 2018—Sacramento
  • Wednesday, April 25, 2018—Fresno
  • Thursday, April 26, 2018—Irvine

The CAST Academy will help participants develop a deeper understanding of the assessment design and expectations of the CAST. The academy also will provide information and activities designed to assist educators in their implementation of the California Next Generation Science Standards and three-dimensional learning to help them gain an understanding of how these new science assessment item types can inform teaching and learning. The CAST Academy dates above are intended for school and district science instructional leaders, including teacher leaders, teacher trainers, and instructional coaches. Additional trainings will be offered at a later date specifically for county staff. In addition, curriculum, professional development, and assessment leaders would benefit from this training.

A $100 registration fee will be charged for each person attending the in-person training. Each virtual team participating via WebEx will be charged $100 for up to 10 participants through one access point. Each workshop will have the capacity to accommodate a maximum of 50 virtual teams. Each virtual team will need to designate a lead, who is responsible for organizing the group locally. Registration and payment must be completed online at http://www.cvent.com/d/6tqg8k.

For more information regarding the CAST Academy, please contact Elizabeth Dilke, Program Coordinator, Educational Testing Service, by phone at 916-403-2407 or by e‑mail at caasppworkshops@ets.org.

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

Are you feeling behind on the implementation of NGSS? Then Accelerating into NGSS – the Statewide Rollout event – is right for you!

WHO SHOULD ATTEND
If you have not experienced Phases 1-4 of the Statewide Rollout, or are feeling behind with the implementation of NGSS, the Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout will provide you with the greatest hits from Phases 1-4!

OVERVIEW
Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout is a two-day training geared toward grade K-12 academic coaches, administrators, curriculum leads, and teacher leaders. Check-in for the two-day rollout begins at 7:30 a.m., followed by a continental breakfast. Sessions run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Day One and from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Day Two.

Cost of training is $250 per attendee. Fee includes all materials, continental breakfast, and lunch on both days. It is recommended that districts send teams of four to six, which include at least one administrator. Payment can be made by check or credit card. If paying by check, registration is NOT complete until payment has been received. All payments must be received prior to the Rollout location date you are attending. Paying by credit card secures your seat at time of registration. No purchase orders accepted. No participant cancellation refunds.

For questions or more information, please contact Amy Kennedy at akennedy@sjcoe.net or (209) 468-9027.

REGISTER

http://bit.ly/ACCELERATINGINTONGSS

DATES & LOCATIONS
MARCH 28-29, 2018
Host: San Mateo County Office of Education
Location: San Mateo County Office of Education, Redwood City

APRIL 10-11, 2018
Host: Orange County Office of Education
Location: Brandman University, Irvine

MAY 1-2, 2018
Host: Tulare County Office of Education
Location: Tulare County Office of Education, Visalia

MAY 3-4, 2018
Host: San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools
Location: West End Educational Service Center, Rancho Cucamonga

MAY 7-8, 2018
Host: Sacramento County Office of Education
Location: Sacramento County Office of Education Conference Center and David P. Meaney Education Center, Mather

JUNE 14-15, 2018
Host: Imperial County Office of Education
Location: Imperial Valley College, Imperial

Presented by the California Department of Education, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association/County Offices of Education, K-12 Alliance @WestEd, California Science Project, and the California Science Teachers Association.

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

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Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.