6- How to Make Sense of the Science and Engineering Practices

July 3, 2020

Nicole and Erin discuss the Science and Engineering Practices and their significance in your NGSS aligned classroom.

What are Science and Engineering Practices? (1:12)

The Science and Engineering Practices are a great way to start when you are planning your activities. Use the Science and Engineering Practices as tools to lead your students to discover the content.

There are certain practices that are best to use to help students discover the content. Also, there are other practices that are good at helping students to make sense of the content. Finally, the third set of practices help students deepen their understanding of the content.

The practices are often used for more than one purpose. For example, the practice of modeling can be used for sense-making or as an investigative practice.

Investigating Science and Engineering Practices

Some practices lend themselves to helping students discover the content. These may include:

  • Asking Questions and Defining Problems
  • Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
  • Developing and Using Models.

Nicole also states that she uses Mathematics and Computational thinking in this way. However, Erin says that she uses it mostly for sense making.

Sense-Making Science and Engineering Practices

Use the sense-making practices after students have done some initial investigation. These practices include:

  • Developing and Using Models
  • Mathematics and Computational Thinking
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • Constructing Explanations

Science and Engineering Practices for Critiquing and Deeping Understanding

The critiquing requires that students take what they have learned to the next level. The practices include

  • Engaging in an Argument from Evidence
  • Obtaining, Evaluating and Communicating Information

Step Outside of the Performance Expectation (5:02)

When teachers are starting out with the NGSS, they tend to focus on the practice that is listed in the performance expectation. The performance expectation explains how students should be evaluated.

However, the performance expectation does not dictate how students should learn the content. While students are discovering the content any practice may be used.

For example, students will be asking questions throughout your lesson sequence. Also, even if you don’t have students plan an entire investigation, you can include an aspect of Planning and Carrying Out Investigations in your lesson sequence.

When you are designing your lesson sequences, decide which practices you will use to guide students in discovering the content.

What are some quick ways that we can integrate the Science and Engineering Practices? (8:25)

Incorporate the practice of Asking Questions by introducing a phenomenon and asking students what they notice and wonder. You can provide your students with some parameters to help them target your questions.

Next, exit tickets are a great way to incorporate a component of a Science and Engineering Practice. For example, Erin mentions asking students to identify variables in a given graph or investigation. This is a quick way to incorporate the practice of Planning and Carrying Out Investigations.

Also, provide students with a claim. Then, ask them to provide two pieces of evidence to support the claim. This short activity brings in the practice of Engaging in an Argument Using Evidence.

Nicole suggests ending your class by giving your students a few minutes to create a model. Have students create a model that shows their current understanding of a phenomenon.

If time allows, have students share their models with each other. Then, you can bring in argumentation by having students discuss the differences in their models and explanations.

Graph annotations are a great way to incorporate the practice of Analyzing and Interpreting Data. Nicole discusses her TPT Freebie “What I See, What it Means”, linked below.

Above all, it is important that you refer to the Matrix of the Science and Engineering Practices linked below.

Incorporating the Practices Shouldn’t Feel Random

Nicole points out that the practices that are used are always tied to the content. It isn’t useful to incorporate the practices using activities that are unrelated.

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