What do scientists and engineers do? Practices can be an effective starting point for implementation.
The Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) of the Wisconsin Standards for Science provide a useful starting point to reflect on improving instruction. Students should be doing the work of scientists and engineers, not just learning about science and engineering. The practices are also not meant to be a new "scientific method" or to be done in order. As noted in this AIR report, scientific inquiry looks different in the WSS/NGSS, moving beyond simplified notions of a scientific method. The NRC Framework for K-12 Science provides an overview of these practices, as does this NSTA article by Rodger Bybee. The list of practices below links to further resources to build understanding and support implementation.
- Ask Questions
- Develop and Use Models
- Plan and Carry out Investigations
- Analyze and Interpret Data
- Use Mathematics and Computational Thinking
- Construct Explanations
- Engage in Argument from Evidence - including dialogue
- Obtain, Evaluate, and Communicate Information
- Define Problems and Design Solutions (Engineering)
Students should have opportunities to ask their own questions about phenomena and then design investigations and do research to begin to find the answers.
- Question Formulation Technique - provides a protocol for supporting students in asking good questions
- NSTA webinar on asking questions (and defining problems) - by national expert Brian Reiser, 90 min
- Brief overview video on asking questions (and defining problems) - from Paul Andersen, 8 min
- Crosscutting concepts (CCCs) - Students could use the CCCs as excellent question starters.
Like scientists, students should develop models that represent their thinking about a particular phenomenon. These models typically simplify (put boundaries around) a particular system to aid in making sense of it. The models could be mental models or might include drawings, diagrams, photos, graphical displays, formulas, computer simulations, etc. It's essential to note that models are not just recreated versions of provided information (like organelles of a cell), but a living tool for explaining, predicting, and comparing phenomena that is revised as new information is learned.
- Helping Students Make Sense of the World Using Next Generation Science and Engineering Practices - useful NSTA book to understand all the practices, with a free sample chapter (6) about modeling, by Cynthia Passmore et al.
- NSTA Blog on Modeling - by Cynthia Passmore et al.
- NSTA webinar on modeling - by Cynthia Passmore and Jennifer Horton, 90 min.
- Brief overview video on modeling - by Paul Andersen, Bozeman Science, 8 min.
- American Modeling Teachers Association - There are free online resources, though becoming a members allows access to instructional resources and much more.
- Model-Based Biology - some free resources, or a cheap subscription to get biology instructional materials based around modeling, from Cynthia Passmore
- NSTA article on modeling the water cycle in 5th grade
- NSTA article on modeling - by Joe Krajcik and Joi Merritt
Starting in kindergarten students should have opportunities to carry out investigations. Their control over planning them will grow over time, perhaps beginning with choosing the variable to test in kindergarten. Cookbook labs should not be the norm; instead, students should be collaboratively determining what data and variables are important in understanding a phenomenon, how they'll collect relevant data, and whether their investigation will accurately provide the information they seek.
- Storylines webinar from NSTA - discusses how students engage with phenomena and move through a series of investigations, 90 min.
- Brief overview video on planning and carrying out investigations - by Paul Andersen, Bozeman Science, 8 min.
- NSTA webinar on planning and carrying out investigations - by Rick Duschl, 90 min. (part of a series)
- It's not all about hypothesis testing - scientific processes are more complex than that
Across all subject areas, students should be using evidence to support their arguments. They need practice in figuring out how to design experiments and research to gather the data that they need and to analyze that data. It's important they also have opportunities to critique of the quality of that data and whether it's sufficient to answer the questions under study.
- NSTA introductory webinar on analyzing and interpreting data - by Ann Rivet, 90 min.
- Brief overview video on analyzing and interpreting data - by Paul Andersen, Bozeman Science, 8 min.
- Data Nuggets - details actual data and experiments for students to make sense of (only life science though)
- NSTA resource page on analyzing and interpreting data - all practices have a page like this
- Science Practices Leadership - they have practices rubrics for instruction and observation, as well as video case studies
Students should not just be following a protocol or plugging numbers into formulas; they should be thinking mathematically, as laid out in the Standards for Mathematical Practice of the Common Core. Students should build up a conceptual understanding of how and why the math is used. One way that is sometimes done is for them to experience the phenomenon and model how that phenomenon works through mathematics - building up the necessary variables and relationships within those formulas. Computational thinking relates to mathematical thinking, requiring a logical sequence of steps to figure out and evaluate ideas.
- Wisconsin DPI math literacy website
- Illustrative Mathematics - videos and other math practices resources
- Inside Mathematics - series of videos related to the math practices
- Dan Meyer 3 Act Math - phenomenon-based mathematics tasks (nice connection to a quality science instructional approach)
- NSTA webinar on mathematics and computational thinking - led by Robert Mayes and Brian Shader, 90 min.
- Brief overview video on mathematics and computational thinking - Paul Andersen, Bozeman Science, 8 min.
- Computational Thinking in a High School Science Classroom - NSTA article by Cary Sneider et al.
- Northwestern University computational thinking resources - overview and lesson plans, high school focused
What is good evidence? What is sufficient evidence? One structure for this practice is to have students support claims (answers to questions) with evidence, using scientific reasoning and understanding to detail why the evidence supports the claim. This CER approach (claim, evidence, reasoning) is applicable across subject areas and connect well to ELA standards.
- Inquiry and Scientific Explanations: Helping Students Use Evidence and Reasoning - the original claims, evidence, and reasoning (CER) article from Joe Krajcik and Kate McNeill
- Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning (CER) template for students
- Going beyond the CER to Support Argumentative Talk - a resource from stemteachingtools.com
- NSTA article on explanations and argumentation - by Brian Reiser et al.
- NSTA webinar on constructing explanations (and designing solutions) - by Kate McNeill and Leema Berland, 90 min.
- Brief overview video on constructing explanations (and designing solutions) - by Paul Andersen, Bozeman Science, 8 min.
- Claims, evidence, reasoning (CER) in high school chemistry - article by Ben Meacham
Students should be talking about science - making sense of phenomena together. Based on research, teacher talk should be less than 30% of class time (even including whole-group conversations). In argumentation, students should be sharing their explanations and evidence, comparing ideas, and revising ideas through dialogue.
- Doing and Talking Math and Science - while focused on English Learners, this resource from UW-Madison on effective student and class dialogue is excellent for any classroom - video examples are at the upper elementary level
- Talk Science from TERC - the Inquiry Project provides videos and resources to support student talk, relevant at all grades though it narrows in on grades 3-5
- Scientific argumentation overview and resources - from the University of Indiana
- Discourse webinar from NSTA - excellent ideas from Kate McNeill and Eric Meuse, 90 min.
- Introductory NSTA webinar on engaging in argument from evidence - by Joe Krajcik, 90 min.
- Brief overview video on engaging in argument - by Paul Andersen, Bozeman Science, 8 min.
Students have access to lots of quality information and lots of misleading information. They need to be able to think scientifically as they obtain and evaluate this information overload. Engineers and scientists also repeatedly say that one of the most (if not the most) important skill in their work is effectively communicating.
- Disciplinary literacy in science - lots of resources created and curated by Wisconsin educators, including text complexity and audio clips of scientists and engineers describing how they use literacy skills in their work
- Scientific notebooking resources - all scientists and engineers keep a notebook, do your students?
- NSTA article on obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information - by Phil Bell et al.
- NSTA webinar on obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information - by Phil Bell et al.
- Brief overview video on obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information - by Paul Andersen, Bozeman Science, 8 min.
Engineering and the impacts of technology on society are part of the science standards. They're intended to connect to and extend science learning, not be taught solely for the sake of engineering. Engineering questions will be part of the new Forward Exam in science, particularly with requiring students to consider criteria and constraints of designs.
- NSTA webinar on engineering connections - by Cary Sneider, 90 min
- Engineering is Elementary videos - have a range of videos from professional learning to engineering design in action in the classroom
- Engineering Go For It - resource from the American Society of Engineering Education, lots of lesson plans K-12
- TeachEngineering - curated K-12 lessons from the University of Colorado
- Link Engineering - a variety of resources on engineering. They also have a blog that highlights videos of K-12 engineering classes.
- DPI STEM website - resources for STEM including a vision, qualities of a STEM literate student, grants, and business partnership suggestions
- California Academy of Sciences - engineering resources page with modules
- Core Ideas of Engineering and Technology - NSTA article by Cary Sneider detailing foundation ideas of engineering in the NGSS