The Time to Be Heard Is
Posted: Tuesday, May 1st, 2012
by Peter A’Hearn
The first draft of the Next Generation Science Standards were expected to be released by the end of April. Now that it is May 1 and the draft standards have yet to be released to the public, CSTA has learned that the revised release time frame has been revised to mid-May. The review window will be only three weeks long once the draft is released, so please stay tuned to CSTA for word when the draft is available and take some time to study and give feedback through http://www.nextgenscience.org/. You can choose to provide feedback on only the areas in which you have the most expertise. CSTA will be working with other statewide organizations to alert members to public review sessions as well. That information will be made available soon after the draft standards are released.
The Next Generation Science Standards will include the three dimensions as outlined in the framework: core content ideas, scientific and engineering practices, and cross-cutting concepts. This month I will focus on the cross-cutting relationships aspect of the framework. This is a new emphasis compared to the current California standards. The current standards have content (Core Ideas), and Investigation and Experimentation (similar to practices) but no analogue to the cross- cutting concepts. I have heard people complain that the “Big Ideas” got left out of the current California standards. The writers of the NGSS framework address this omission:
Although crosscutting concepts are fundamental to an understanding of science and engineering, students have often been expected to build such knowledge without any explicit instructional support.
The NGSS framework makes them explicit and expects them to be integrated tightly with practices and with core ideas.
These concepts should become common and familiar touchstones across the disciplines and grade levels. Explicit reference to the concepts, as well as their emergence in multiple disciplinary contexts, can help students develop a cumulative, coherent, and usable understanding of science and engineering.
The cross-cutting concepts chosen by the writers are best considered when fleshed out with an explanation. They are:
1. Patterns. Observed patterns of forms and events guide organization and classification, and they prompt questions about relationships and the factors that influence them.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. Structure and function. The way in which an object or living thing is shaped and its substructure determine many of its properties and functions.
7. Stability and change. For natural and built systems alike, conditions of stability and determinants of rates of change or evolution of the system are critical elements of study.
This set of crosscutting concepts begins with two concepts that are fundamental to the nature of science: that observed patterns can be explained and that science investigates cause- and-effect relationships by seeking the mechanisms that underlie them. The next concept – scale, proportion, and quantity – concerns the sizes of things and the mathematical relationships among disparate elements. The next four concepts – systems and system models, energy and matter flows, structure and function, and stability and change – are interrelated in that the first is illuminated by the other three. Each concept also stands alone as one that occurs in virtually all areas of science and is an important consideration for engineered systems as well.
Chapter 9 of the NGSS framework gives some insights into how the cross-cutting concepts and practices can be integrated with core ideas in a science unit. For example in K-2 students classify animals by the foods that they eat. In doing this they learn the life science content core idea that animals need food to live and grow. They engage in the scientific practice of arguing from evidence to support their classification and presentation of information. The crosscutting concept for this unit is patterns- that animals can be grouped by what they eat. At the other end of the K-12 continuum, high school students working on the concepts of how atomic structure relates to the periodic table are engaged in the practice of modeling, but are also looking at patterns as the cross-cutting concept.
A challenge for many will be that there are not that many instructional materials that have used cross-cutting concepts to connect different area of science. There are some publishers that do use a big idea to connect may ideas together, but most leave the connections for the students to make as noted by the writers of the framework.
Your turn now- what are your thoughts about the cross-cutting concepts? Some guiding questions:
Are these the right concepts to help students to make connections across the sciences?
Do these concepts connect to other disciplines?
What are the challenges of implementing this vision of science education?
How can the use of cross-cutting concepts enrich student learning?
Are some of these more or less important?
Would you have included different cross-cutting concepts?
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 National Research Council. 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 to, beginning with the Framework. 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 Next Generation website at http://www.nextgenscience.org/.
Pete A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is region 4 director for CSTA.
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Joseph Calmer
Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”
I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. Learn More…