In 2012 the National Academies of Science was commissioned by the National Research Council to develop a framework that includes the practices, concepts, and core ideas that students should recognize by the end of high school. While avoiding the standards-level detail, the framework includes descriptions of learning sequences.
The authors’ vision for K-12 science and engineering education is presented: to educate all students in science and engineering and to provide foundational knowledge for students who pursue careers in science, engineering, and technology. In addition, the chapter describes the limitations as they relate to social, behavioral, and economic sciences as well as computer science and statistics education.
The assumptions that underlie the document and an outline of the framework structure are provided. The authors describe the earlier work upon which the framework is built.
The structure of the framework is described, including these guiding principles: .
- Children are born investigators
- Focus on core ideas and practices
- Understanding develops over time
- Science and engineering require both knowledge and practice
- Connect to students’ interests and experiences
- Promote equity
The structure of the framework consists of three dimensions: (1) Practices, (2) Crosscutting Concepts, and (3) Disciplinary Core Ideas. It also includes descriptions of learning progressions across K-12 for each.
This chapter focuses on Dimension 1: The scientific and engineering practices that enable students to use the disciplinary content to understand how science and engineering are used to achieve goals. It describes:
- Why learning science and engineering practices is important for K-12 students
- Eight practices considered essential for learning science and engineering
- The importance of skill acquisition in understanding how scientific knowledge is produced and how engineering solutions are developed
The eight practices are:
- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
- Developing and using models
- Planning and carrying out investigations
- Analyzing and interpreting data
- Using mathematics and computational thinking
- Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
- Engaging in argument from evidence
- Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information
The chapter also includes a description of how each practice differs between science and engineering.
An overview of each practice is provided and a description of why it is important, when it is used, the goals that students should be able to achieve by 12th grade related to the practice and the expected progression from K-12 for students as they advance their proficiency in the practice.
Dimension 2, the crosscutting concepts that connect the disciplines that comprise science and engineering, are described. :
- Causes and effect
- Scale, proportion, and quantity,
- Systems and system models
- Energy and matter
- Structure and function
- Stability and change
These cross-cutting concepts rest on the fundamental concepts that: 1) observed patterns can be explained and that science investigates the cause-and-effect relationship by seeking the mechanisms that underlie them; and 2) scale, proportion, and quantity concern the sizes of things and the mathematical relationships among disparate elements.
Each concept description includes a rough progression that students should take in K-12
Chapters 5-8 center on Dimension 3, Disciplinary Core Ideas.. Each core idea explanation includes guiding questions, a description of the scientific idea and discoveries related to the questions and core idea and the grade band endpoints that detail what students should understand by the end of grades 2, 5, 8, and 12.
The first set of core ideas focuses on the physical sciences (PS). They are: PS1: Matter and Interactions, PS2: Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions, PS3: Energy, and PS4: Waves and their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer. The ideas were developed to answer these fundamental questions: “What is everything made of?” and “Why do things happen?” and to shed light on how physical science advances have laid the foundation for new technology.
This chapter looks at life sciences (LS) and the patterns, processes, and relationships of living organisms. The life science core ideas are divided into: LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes, LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics, LS3: Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits, and LS4: Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity.
The next set of core ideas is space sciences (ESS) and the processes that operate on earth and provide insight into its place in the solar system and galaxy. The chapter describes the relationship between earth and space and the other branches of science. The three core ideas for earth and space science include: ESS1: Earth’s Place in the Universe, ESS2: Earth’s Systems, and ESS3: Earth and Human Activity.
This chapter focuses on providing an understanding of how scientific knowledge is applied through engineering and technology design. The engineering, technology and applications of science (ETS) core ideas focus on engineering design and connections between engineering, technology, science, society: ETS1: Engineering Design and ETS2: Links Among Engineering, Technology, Science, and Society. The definitions of technology, engineering, and the application of science are included.
With the three dimensions, scientific and engineering practices, cross-cutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas, clearly articulated, this chapter provides examples of how the dimensions can be integrated and notes that this is an area worthy of further research. Also included is an example demonstrating the organization of the dimensions of one life science core idea (LS1.C) and one physical science core idea (PS1.A) and a description of how the tasks, criteria, disciplinary ideas, practices, and cross cutting concepts are integrated for instruction in grades 2, 5, 8, and 12. A section on integrating the dimensions into curriculum and instruction in a manner that aligns with the described endpoints and progressions is provided.
This chapter begins with a description of the “system” in which the framework would be implemented. The authors note the major components of the K-12 science education system as (1) curriculum and instructional materials, (2) learning and instruction, (3) teacher development, and (4) assessment. There are no formal recommendations for the implementation process. Instead, the authors describe each system component in the context of the framework and describe how the implementation is affected by different parts of the K-12 science education system – leading to effective science education.
This chapter focuses on equity and diversity as they relate to science and engineering education. The chapter includes a definition of equity in terms of social enlightenment and social justice as the basis for advocating for investments in science and engineering education to support underserved students and their schools. The remainder of the chapter provides background and context for science and engineering education efforts as they relate diversity, inclusion, and culture.
Thirteen recommendations provide a set of guidelines that will promote the development of standards that can implement the core disciplinary ideas, crosscutting concepts, and scientific and engineering practices. The recommendations include a focus on performance expectations, clarity of standards, promoting student learning, and considering diversity and equity when designing performance expectations.
The final chapter includes an outlook for the future of K-12 science education. The authors include a research agenda including questions that could be investigated and list five recommended areas for future research.
The National Academies of Sciences, The Committee on a Conceptual Framework for the New K-12 Science Education Standards