- The Science and Engineering Practices are what scientists/engineers DO.
- The Disciplinary Core Ideas are what scientists/engineers KNOW.
- The Crosscutting Concepts are HOW scientists/engineers THINK.
We want our students to know stuff just like real scientists, but real scientists don't gather knowledge for future Jeopardy events. They use what they know to help explain the world. Our students, then, should use disciplinary core ideas and the practices of science to explain their world, or to answer questions about it.
What about those crosscutting concepts? If we consider them to be ways of thinking, we can help our students start looking at the world through these lenses. When we are investigating thermal energy to explain why a thermos works, we can look at the world through the lens (crosscutting concept) of "flow of energy and matter." As with the other two dimensions, scientists don't just think about the flow of energy to think about it. They are using the energy lens combined with what they know and the practices to investigate and explain unknown natural phenomena.
Let me leave you with two questions you can ask to help align your instruction to the NGSS.
- In your science classroom, what are your students doing? If your answer doesn't contain the verbs from the science and engineering practices, then you can make a quick adjustment to move toward NGSS-aligned instruction.
- In your science classroom, why are the students doing what they are doing? If your answer isn't, "to explain their world or a phenomenon," then you probably aren't meeting the intention of the standards. But with a quick adjustment, you can ramp up your instruction to the next level.