January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

What’s up with the Crosscutting Concepts?

Posted: Monday, July 1st, 2013

by Pete A’Hearn

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are almost here… but not quite yet. They haven’t been officially adopted by California, there isn’t a California framework, the assessments and curriculum are far off, and many of us are still being tested with the CSTs next year. Even so, in my past few blogs I have written about what teachers can do right now to start moving in the direction of NGSS by embedding the NGSS science and engineering practices into their instruction and by getting students involved in engineering projects.  

The crosscutting concepts are another place to get your feet wet. These are the “big ideas” that connect all of the sciences and help to make sense of nature, so they are already there in our current science standards even if they are not identified by name. Understanding the crosscutting concepts can help students make the connections and Ahas! that really help them understand how science and nature work. The NGSS lists 7 crosscutting concepts:

1. Patterns

Patterns

 

 

 

 

2. Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation

3. Scale, proportion, and quantity

Scale_Proportion_Quantity

 

 

 

 

4. Systems and system models

Systems

 

 

 

 

5. Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation

Energy_Matter

 

 

 

 

6. Structure and function

Structure_Function

 

 

 

 

7. Stability and change

Stability_Change

 

 

 

 

These crosscutting concepts are considered to be one of three strands of the NGSS, along with the disciplinary core ideas and the science and engineering practices. The standards are written so that a crosscutting concept is embedded in each of the performance expectations.

But sometimes it is a challenge to keep the big ideas in focus once we get into the nuts and bolts of a subject.  One strategy is to use the crosscutting concepts as a way to prompt reflection by using questions based on the concepts to push students into higher order thinking and making connections about what they are learning. I have created a set of symbols for each of the crosscutting concepts. Some examples are above. They can all be found at: http://crosscutsymbols.weebly.com

These symbols can be posted in class and used to signal what crosscutting concept is connected to the learning. There are questions on the website that can help drive discussions to help students understand and apply the concepts.  There is also a way for you and your students to post visual examples of where you see connections between the crosscutting concepts and their learning.  Please also let me know what your thoughts are about how to make the crosscutting concepts meaningful in the classroom.

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

3 Responses

  1. I went to one of your presentations and your handout had many questions that a teacher could ask for each of the CCC. I can’t find my copy and I am desperate for those quality questions. Could you send me a copy of them or direct me to where I can find them, please?

  2. I would like a copy of your questions to implement crosscutting in my lesson plans this year. This would be awesome! Thank you!

  3. Dear G. Yap,
    You can find the questions on the crosscut symbols website. If you click on one of the crosscutting concepts, and then scroll down the page a bit, you will find the questions. Here is the link to the one for “patterns”: http://crosscutsymbols.weebly.com/patterns.html

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