The Framework for K-12 Science Education was developed by a multidisciplinary committee of educators, scientists, and engineers in response to the perceived shortcomings of American education in the areas of science and engineering. These shortcomings are appearing increasingly dire in light of the growing necessity of science literacy in the workforce and the contrasting illiteracy of many adult citizens. The Framework acknowledges that the current model of science education falls short in that it presents science as a vast, isolated body of facts and disregards engineering entirely, failing to communicate to students that science and engineering are actually dynamic fields of integrated theory and practice. In an effort to address these shortcomings, the Framework provides a model for developing curricula, standards, assessments, and instruction in science and engineering that consists of three interdependent dimensions. These three dimensions are practices of science and engineering, disciplinary core ideas, and cross-cutting concepts that span between the major branches of the natural sciences and engineering.
Practices addresses the parallels between science and engineering, and stresses the nature of both as an integration of skills and knowledge toward a particular goal. This dimension attempts to broaden the view of scientific practices beyond the commonly taught 'scientific method' by engaging students in the full spectrum of activities by which scientists and engineers practice their profession. The emphases here include, but are not limited to, asking questions and defining problems, developing and using models, and engaging in argument from evidence. These practices are presented as the means by which students will interact with the core ideas of science and engineering and come to understand the nature of a career in one of these fields. I found the section on modeling particularly interesting, as it pointed out that the models referred to by the Framework are more often of the external, representational type, rather than the internal, mental thought-model.
Disciplinary core ideas and cross-cutting concepts are covered in less depth in the chapters we read, but particular emphasis was placed in the summary on the need to orient science teaching and learning around a few deep 'wells' of core ideas in science and engineering, which will provide the material with which students can engage in scientific practices and come to see the interconnectedness of knowledge and practices in each field of science and engineering. This marks a distinct departure from the common 'coverage' teaching of science, and makes practical sense from both a pedagogical standpoint (i.e., because it presents knowledge in a more coherent and unified way) and a scientific one (because it is both informed by and adaptable to the constantly expanding nature of scientific knowledge).