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Science and Engineering Practices

This module is divided into two parts.  The first focuses on the "science" side of the practices.  The second focuses on engineering design.

Part One: Understanding the Practices

The Next Generation Science Standards introduced eight Science and Engineering Practices.  These practices describe what scientists and engineers do as they seek to solve problems and understand the world around us.  The use of the term "practice" instead of "skill" is intentional -- it conveys a more robust understanding that these practices require both skill and disciplinary specific knowledge.

Practice 1 Asking Questions and Defining Problems

Practice 2 Developing and Using Models

Practice 3 Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

Practice 4 Analyzing and Interpreting Data

Practice 5 Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

Practice 6 Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Practice 7 Engaging in Argument from Evidence

Practice 8 Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

As you think about using the practices, it is also important to understand that we are not being asked to abandon inquiry.  Instead, we now have a set of clearly defined (and assessable) practices that students should engage with as they learn science in our classrooms.

Task One:

Read the first three pages of NGSS Appendix F and the NGSS Practices Summary.  As you read, identify the purpose of the practices and 2-3 "takeaways" of how the Science and Engineering Practices are intended to be used in the classroom.


Share your initial thoughts about the practices in the discussion forum.


Task Two:

In this task, you will work on identifying practices in an activity.  Review the "Now you Sea ice, Now you don't" activity.  The activity is the free sample chapter from NSTA's Climate Change from Pole to Pole: Biological Investigations book.  As you review this activity, identify which practices students will be using.

Briefly describe the practices used in this activity in the discussion forum.


Task Three

One major challenge of implementing the Practices in the classroom is that we have to get past the feeling that "we already do this."  If we stop at a quick overview of the standards, we should all find a lot of things that we are comfortable with.  The elements of the Practices are not new - they have emerged from previous incarnations of inquiry, process skills, etc.

However, each practice also clearly defines a rich set of capabilities that we should be developing with our students.  We should look at our understanding and use of these practices on a continuum -- all of us do at least some aspects of these practices, but we also all have room for improvement.

For this task, select ONE of the practices that you identified in Task Two.  Read more about that practice in NGSS Appendix F. If you really feel ambitious, watch the NSTA Webinar archive on that practice.

In the discussion forum, describe how you could strengthen the implementation of the Sea Ice activity to more explicitly focus on the practice you selected.


Part Two: Engineering Design

Engineering design is a "new animal" for many of us.  However, it provides an exciting way for our students to interact with science concepts.

Task One:

Read NGSS Appendix I (7 pages).  As you read this appendix, create a brief definition or summary of engineering design (I'll ask you to share this later).

NOTE:  I think the description of engineering design misses one very important characteristic.  As teachers of science, it is important that any design activity that we use is strongly connected to exploring or reinforcing the science concepts (DCI's) being studied.  A "content neutral" engineering design activity is not an effective use of science class time!

Task Two:

Review the "Get a Grip" activity.  This activity is the free chapter from NSTA's Integrating Engineering and Science in Your Classroom.

How well does this activity model engineering design?  What modifications could you make to the activity so that the engineering design process was more explicitly represented for your students?

Task Three:

Discuss your thoughts about engineering design in the forum.

How did you define it (task 1)?  How could you make it explicit for students (task 2)?

by Eric Brunsell last modified May 15, 2013 03:37 PM

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