Scientific and Engineering Practices Replace Investigation and Experimentation
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.
by Michelle French
Since the public reviews of the Next Generation Science Standards have come to a close, like many primary teachers, I’ve been wondering what science will look like in kindergarten, first, and second grade classrooms. Learn More…
“SOL Grotto, 2012. 1368 glass tubes, paint. Fabrication: Matarozzi Pelsinger, Rael San Fratello Architects. SOL Grotto is a contemporary take on a grotto or Throeau’s cabin – a spartan retreat that is a space of solitude and close to nature – where one is presented with a mediated experience of water, coolness and light. The SOL Grotto also explores Solyndra’s role as a company S#@t Out of Luck. 1,368 of the 24 million high tech glass tubes destined to be destroyed as a casualty of their bankruptcy, are used in the installation. The tube’s original role as a light concentrating element is extended to transmit cool air into the space via the Venturi effect, to amplify sounds from the adjacent waterfall via the vibrations of the tubes cantilevering over the creek, and to create distorted views of the garden. The form of the electric blue array evokes Plato’s Allegory of the Cave where shadows, light and sounds can call reality into question.”
Responses from Readers:
Peter A’Hearn: Rush hour in little blue circle land.
by Valerie Joyner
Congratulations to CSTA member and STEM Educator, Katherine Schenkelberg, of West High School, in Torrance, CA! Katherine was recently awarded one of the 2013 Vernier/NSTA Technology Awards. An appointed panel of experts selected her for her innovative use of data-collection technology. “The use of data-collection technology in the classroom helps foster students’ interest in STEM education and provides them with engaging, hands-on opportunities for scientific investigation,” said David Vernier, co-founder of Vernier and a former physics teacher. “For ten years Vernier and NSTA have recognized innovative STEM educators through this award and this year’s winners are no exception – their projects and programs truly utilize the power of data-collection technology as part of the teaching and learning process.” Learn More…
by Tim Williamson
Members of the California Science Teachers Association are now in the process of voting for qualified CSTA members to fill the seven openings on the CSTA Board of Directors for the 2013-2015 term.
The election is being conducted electronically and opened for voting on April 16, 2013. Voting will close on May 16, 2013. All CSTA members were sent links to the online ballot. Members for whom we do not have current email addresses or who request a paper ballot have been mailed a ballot and candidate statements. Learn More…