Science and Engineering Practices

The goal of the Science and Engineering Practices is that "In the future, science assessments will not assess students’ understanding of core ideas separately from their abilities to use the practices of science and engineering. They will be assessed together, showing students not only “know” science concepts; but also, students can use their understanding to investigate the natural world through the practices of science inquiry, or solve meaningful problems through the practices of engineering design."

 

The Practices are things that students should be able to understand that are found in all scientific investigations and engineering problems. These are behaviors and skills that real-world scientists and engineers use to create models, investigate concepts, and develop solutions.

 

This section from Appendix F explains why they are called Practices and is important to understand how to teach these to stuents.

"We use the term “practices” instead of a term such as “skills” to emphasize that engaging in scientific investigation requires not only skill but also knowledge that is specific to each practice. (NRC Framework, 2012, p. 30)"

 

The Science and Engineering Practices are listed below. These practices should be included in almost every content progression and should be emphasized so students will understand why they are important.

 

The page numbers following each Practice refer to the actual standards found in Appendix F

1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering) - Page 4, 17

Asking questions is important to both science and engineering. Scientists develop questions based on observations and curiosity. Engineers use questions to define what problem they are facing; such as, what makes the solution successful, what are the pros and cons of our solutions, and what evidence should we collect.

 

Students must be able to ask good questions and clearly define problems. THis includes questions on the data, the claim, and proposed courses of action.

 

This is a wordle of the 9-12 Standards for Practice 1.

 

2. Developing and using models - Page 6, 19

"Models include diagrams, physical replicas, mathematical representations, analogies, and computer simulations." Models are ways to represent a concept or phenomenon for analysis. Models make many approximations and are not exact, but they work to gain an understanding of what is happening.

 

Students need to be able to construct models based on their understanding of the concept and to test if their solution will work. Models have limitations that the stuents must understand but they are great tools to use.

 

This is a wordle of the 9-12 Standards for Practice 2.

 

3. Planning and carrying out investigations - Page 7, 21

Students need to have experience planning and executing investigations and experiments. They should be able to state the goal, predict the outcomes, and develop a plan to complete these investigations.

 

With more experience students become more systematic and careful with the investigations. Scaffolding the students until they can start with a question and develop their own investigation is a great way to practice this.

 

This is a wordle of the 9-12 Standards for Practice 3.

4. Analyzing and interpreting data - Page 9, 23

Students need to use data as evidence to support their claims. This means that they must first understand and analyze the data. There are many ways to complete this, including digital and graphical analysis, but the best way is with practice. The more students do this, the better they will be.

 

This is a wordle of the 9-12 Standards for Practice 4.

5. Using mathematics and computational thinking -Page 10, 25

"Mathematics is a tool that is key to understanding science. As such, classroom instruction must include critical skills of mathematics."

 

Students need to have practice with math skills that represent relationships and analyze data. In some course this will include advanced Calculus while in others geometry and algebra will suffice. Digital tools can aid in this as well as in collecting, observing, measuring, and recording data.

 

This is a wordle of the 9-12 Standards for Practice 5.

6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering) - Page 11, 27

To put it simply, the goal of science is to create explanations for observed phenomenon. Engineering designs solutions to observed problems. To be a student in the ciences, they must be able to complete this practice. It is central to what science is, and with practice students can excel at this.

 

This is a wordle of the 9-12 Standards for Practice 6.

7. Engaging in argument from evidence - Page 13, 29

Argumentation is essential for collaboration and the deelopment of a solution or explanation. Scientists and Engineers use argumentation to defend their platform and convince others of their ideas. The key to arguemntation is that it is EVIDENCE-BASED and not opinionated. Students need to be able to take their data and evidence to argue a postion.

 

This is a wordle of the 9-12 Standards for Practice 7.

8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information -Page 15, 31

The final step of any science investigation or research is to communicate the results. For this to happen, students need to be able to analyze and evaluate their data to make a concise claim. That claim then needs to be communicated in some form, whether it be a orla presentation or a research paper.

 

Even if a student will not pursue a career in science this is an important skill to have. "Being a critical consumer of information about science and engineering requires the ability to read or view reports of scientific or technological advances or applications (whether found in the press, the Internet, or in a town meeting) and to recognize the salient ideas, identify sources of error and methodological flaws, distinguish observations from inferences, arguments from explanations, and claims from evidence." Being skeptical of scienctific reports and claims is an important skill that everyone should have.

 

This is a wordle of the 9-12 Standards for Practice 8.