In the Classroom: NGSS Science and Engineering Practices
Product Content Specialist
Dimension 1 of the Next Generation Science Standards® (NGSS) is Science and Engineering Practices. The National Research Council (NRC) states that “…students cannot fully understand scientific and engineering ideas without engaging in the practices of inquiry and the discourses by which such ideas are developed and refined.” (NRC 2012) Scientific and engineering practices are identified by the NRC as the skills plus the content knowledge needed to engage in scientific investigation. The eight practices are tasks that working scientists, engineers, and our students engage in daily in the pursuit of science mastery.
While A Science Framework for K–12 Science Education lists the practices separately, they often overlap. For example, practice 4, “analyzing and interpreting data,” overlaps with practice 5, “using mathematics and computational thinking,” every time students compute averages or graph data. The table below lists the eight practices, summarizes some key points about each practice, and offers sample activities in which students may engage.
Science and Engineering Practices (skills + knowledge)
|Practice||Notes||What the Practice Looks Like in Classroom Activities|
|Asking questions||Questions may be driven by curiosity, result from predictions of a model, or spring from previous investigations. In the classroom and the real world, the answers to scientific questions should emerge from empirical evidence. Asking questions leads to other scientific practices. For students, the ability to ask clearly defined questions is essential.||
|Developing and using models||Models include diagrams, physical replicas, mathematical formulations, analogies, and computer simulations. Students should realize that good models emphasize certain characteristics or properties and may down-play others. All models have limitations and are based on assumptions. For students, models are representations and can aid in the development of questions and explanations, generate data that can be used to make predictions, and can be used to communicate. Models need to be evaluated and refined as evidence is added or changed.||
|Planning and carrying out investigations||Students should engage in the full spectrum of investigations, from teacher-structured to student-generated. Investigations may be conducted to describe a phenomenon, test a theory, test a model, or complete field observations. A well-planned investigation should state a goal, predict outcomes, have a course of action, and generate data or observations. Students should use reasoning, ideas, principles, and theories to demonstrate why data should be considered evidence.||
|Analyzing and interpreting data||Investigations, whether in the field or in the lab, produce data. Raw data by itself has little meaning for students. For data to reveal patterns and relationships, students must first organize data in tables or charts. Students should be able to visualize and analyze data using a variety of techniques and tools appropriate to their grade level. Written, oral, and visual communication of data should lead students toward data interpretation, which results in presenting data as evidence.||
|Using mathematics and computational thinking||Students are expected to use mathematics at the appropriate grade level to complete investigations. Typical applications of mathematics include logic, algebra, geometry, calculus, and data visualization. Computational thinking may take place with paper and pencil and with digital tools.||
|Constructing explanations||Students are taught about scientific theories from the beginning of their education, often without understanding exactly what a scientific theory is. A theory begins as a scientific claim supported by evidence. When the claim has been validated numerous times, through a variety of investigations, it becomes an accepted theory. Students need to engage in constructing their own explanations based on evidence and apply standard explanations provided in course content.||
|Engaging in argument from evidence||Argumentation is a way of reaching agreements about explanations and design solutions. Students should be able to argue for a position based on evidence, whether that evidence is student-generated or gathered from scientific literature. Students are expected to listen actively, compare competing lines of evidence, and evaluate competing ideas and methods.||
|Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information||Students should be able to read, comprehend, interpret, and compose scientific and technical texts. They should recognize main ideas, sources of error, inference, and evidence. Their writing should be clear and, when needed, persuasive. Students should prepare communications orally, in writing, graphically, and symbolically (mathematically).||
National Research Council. 2012.A science framework for K–12 science education: practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. Washington (DC): The National Academies Press. Chapter 9, Integrating the three dimensions; p. 217–240.
NGSS Lead States. 2013. Next Generation Science Standards: for states, by states. Washington (DC): The National Academies Press. Appendix F, Science and engineering practices in the Next Generation Science Standards; p. 382–412.
NGSS Lead States. 2013. Next Generation Science Standards: for states, by states. Washington (DC): The National Academies Press. Three Dimensional Learning [accessed 2017 March 24]. http://www.nextgenscience.org/three-dimensions.