The disciplinary core ideas are
central to earth, life, and physical
science and explain a host of phenomena in the natural and designed
The crosscutting concepts (such as
patterns and cause and effect) serve
as intellectual tools for connecting
important ideas across all science disciplines. For example, finding patterns
in data enables us to make predictions
about new phenomena.
The science and engineering practices
build on what earlier science standards
called inquiry or science process skills
to engage students in asking questions
or refining problems; investigating and
analyzing data; developing and using
models; constructing evidence-based
explanations and arguments; and
obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information.
Research shows that learning
improves when science content
learning and science inquiry work
together, rather than being separated, as is common in classrooms
and curriculums today (National
Research Council [NRC], 2007, 2012).
Engaging in science and engineering
practices helps students learn science
content, and learning the content
helps students engage in the practices.
Leave one out, and students may not
develop proficiency in the other.
The new standards also challenge
educators to integrate these three
dimensions of learning coherently.
Core ideas, crosscutting concepts,
and science and engineering practices
must build on one another within and
across lessons and units and across
grade bands. Coherence requires that
materials take into account essential
science ideas, common student misconceptions, and basic ideas to build
on (Roseman, Linn, & Koppal, 2008).
As a starting point for thinking
about coherence, educators and publishers can look to the standards themselves, which provide sample learning
progressions at each grade band, as
well as a matrix illustrating the practices students are expected to master.
Another important resource is the
AAAS Atlas of Science Literacy (www
which maps the development of nearly
100 big ideas and skills in science,
mathematics, and technology from
kindergarten through high school and
summarizes the research on students’
conceptual difficulties for each.
These can be useful tools, but
curriculum developers will need
classroom data to select phenomena-based activities for students, refine
the sequencing of student experiences
into a coherent content storyline,
and provide the instructional scaffolding necessary for ensuring student
To support three-dimensional
learning, the standards are structured
will have to do much
more than simply
cover a set of specified
ideas and skills.