September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Teaching Physics Through the Crosscutting Concepts

Posted: Monday, February 8th, 2016

by Joseph Calmer

I have been teaching science for 10 years. During that time I have taught biology, anatomy/physiology, chemistry, and physics. When the NGSS began to trickle down to us teachers, I began to see the light at the end of the science education tunnel. The authors of the NGSS seemed to grasp the interrelatedness of the different disciplines of science and were trying to explicitly demonstrate that interconnectedness through the new standards. As a science teacher and a person who has studied science for a long time, the connections between science fields are painfully obvious, but to a new learner, the obvious may not be so obvious.

In the book, Developing a Pedagogy of Teacher Education, John Loughran identifies the notion of “making the tacit explicit” (Loughran, 2006). The idea of making the tacit explicit is at play with the crosscutting concepts. To science teachers and experts in science, the transdiciplinary nature of science is clear. To us, chemistry, biology, physics, etc, are not separate and distinct fields, they are simply permutations of different examples of science. Our students, being novices, probably do not see the panoply of science like we do, despite being exposed to the “scientific method” and “the scientific process” throughout their education. It is not their fault; they may never have had the teacher say, “Well, this is the biology and the chemistry and the physics…(of a phenomena)” They have always learned the aforementioned subjects in isolation. The curriculum has always been structured that way, but now it will be different.

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The NGSS has set to rectify this. As patrons of science, we can see the patterns, cause and effect, systems, etc. in a scientific story. Often the experts forget the novices’ perspective. To a student, that same story may only appear to be about a cellular respiration (which is from biology). They may not see the chemistry (molecular structure…) or the physics (thermal energy, entropy…). The NGSS has done an excellent job of creating seven items that span all of science. The work will be integrating them into our pedagogy and classrooms. The SEPs and DCIs are very comfortable to use. They are guidelines for objectives that are familiar to us. The CCC are new, but they are ingrained in the Nature of Science. Below, I point out some of the concepts that can connect to the CCC and can serve as a place for you to start.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but is a place to help you start making the tacit explicit to your students. Also, Peter A’Hearn has developed a site for educators to use the CCC and integrate them into lessons (A’Hearn, 2015). I hope this list will help make the tacit explicit:

  • Collisions: can be used as lesson on patterns
  • Newton’s Laws: can be used as lesson on cause and effect
  • Vectors: can be used as lesson on Scale, Proportion, and Quantity
  • Thermodynamics: can be used as lesson on systems and system models
  • Waves: can be used as lesson on energy
  • Circuit: can be used as lessons on structure function
  • Conservation of energy or momentum: can be used as lesson on stability and change

There are a myriad of directions the CCC can take a lesson. The existence of the CCC is by definition to integrate everything, so we can literally place any learning objective into a crosscutting concept. The only limit is creativity. As teachers, we can be seen as experts in both pedagogy and science, so we need to practice making lessons that help students see the obvious transdiciplinary nature of science.

The goal of teaching (implicitly) is making the tacit explicit to our students. The NGSS is a paradigm shift in science education. This shift has been a long time coming; Herbert Smith described a dilemma in science education that could be fixed when science is taught in its true interdisciplinary form along with its connection to humanistic roots (Smith, 1969). Despite the gravity of the shift (pardon the pun), I think that the CCC are a great place to start making a change in your lessons.

References

A’Hearn, P. (2015). Crosscut Symbols.   Retrieved from http://crosscutsymbols.weebly.com/

Loughran, J. (2006). Developing a Pedagogy of Teacher Education (Kindle Edition ed.). New York: Routledge.

Smith, H. A. (1969). Science: Trends and Dilemmas. In D. G. Hays (Ed.), Britannica Review of American Education (Vol. 1). Chicago, Il: Britannica Reviews.

Joseph Calmer, Ed.D, is a Physics and Chemistry Teacher at Lawndale High School.

TAGS- CCC, CROSS-CUTTING CONCEPTS, TRANSDISCIPLINARY

 

 

 

Written by Guest Contributor

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.

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