Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Framework...

Building upon previous research and frameworks, the Conceptual Framework for New K-12 Science Education Standards is a new framework focused on improving science education, striving to create an educated and active generation of individuals.  This framework emphasizes continuous and systematic instruction in the sciences, delving deeper into a limited set of conceptual topics, and providing opportunities for students to apply the concepts learned inside the classroom to the world around them, a concept touched upon earlier by researcher, Reiser, when he discussed this framework.  The framework is composed of three dimensions: scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas in the areas of physical sciences, life sciences, earth and space sciences.

Major Themes:
·      Science is NOT a static subject but an activity-focused endeavor: 
              Science requires continual, active investigation and revision and building off of previous            knowledge
              Understanding how science forms requires practice 
·      Making science meaningful and applicable is critical for student success, understanding, participation, and interest in the sciences
·      Using scientific and engineering practices is essential to understand cross-cutting concepts

Several of our past readings have touched upon this theme of science as an engaging and active process that requires constant investigation and revision.  The framework focused on the processes of modeling, explaining, critique, and argumentation to come to new knowledge and understanding, a concept that we are all very familiar with.  Sampson and Gleim, in their article on ADI focused on this process, pointing out that by collaborating and making each other’s explanations and argumentations explicit, students look at their own reasoning and way of thinking to revise their argument and come to a greater consensus.  This was greatly seen in the similarities and differences regarding science and engineering practices, which I thought was interesting.  I had always considered engineering a science and therefore made little distinction between the two.  However, I did always view engineering research as a more “hands-on” science, or, as the framework puts it, one that has “immediate practical application” (47).  Thus, what would an engineering classroom look like?  How would it differ from a science classroom?  Furthermore, I liked how the reading talked about the two varying purposes of argumentation.  While science argumentation focuses on coming up with a simple, single coherent theory for a wide range of phenomena, engineering argumentation focuses on coming up with the best productive designs tailored to certain specifications and choosing among them based on other reasons.  The framework mentions using “models” in both science and engineering classrooms, but what are some specific models for each?  How much “practical application” would students be able to achieve in an engineering classroom?  What would these practices look like in the younger grades?  

One issue that was briefly touched upon that we have not discussed was equity-giving students the materials and support they need to succeed.  With a diverse student body of various cultures and communities, providing equity to all students is essential as well as utilizing the unique and diverse experiences each student brings to the classroom.  Specifically, the framework provided specific examples of the contributions students bring, such those in rural areas who interact daily with plants and animals may have a greater grasp of biological processes than other students.  I really liked how they included an example because oftentimes the “benefits of diversity” are just left up to the imagination and examples are never provided.  Continuing off of this example, I would like to see how different cultures could also be brought into the practice and learning of science.   


  1. You bring up an interesting question about what models would look like in a science classroom compared to an engineering classroom. After thinking about it I realize that yes of course there can be differences, but I guess I never thought of how there could be such overlap or similarity. For example, in a science (chemistry) classroom I would picture something like students exploring with different chemicals or materials and coming up with a few different compounds. (Obviously dealing with different bonding or elements or whatever the teacher was focusing the lesson on). In an engineering classroom, I immediately picture students building multiple bridges out of like 20 popsicle sticks per structure and testing to see which design is the strongest and works best for holding up the most weight without being crushed. At first I see how these both seem separate and potentially useless for a student without a practical application (I don’t have access to these chemicals, but if I did why would I make this? Or a sarcastic, this is pretty cool because there are so many Popsicle bridges in the real world…). However, I think it could be super cool and exciting for some students if of the three or however many different compounds can be made from the given chemicals you tell them they have to try find the best compound to make the strongest bridge and then they have different scenarios (like okay that’s a cool bridge you made, but what if it was a bridge over water and not just over a train track (on land). Would your compound still be the best option or would a different one work better?). Of course this would be a very long process and take weeks to get through (and I’m leaving out a million other steps, potential problems, and factors), but theoretically it could work and be pretty cool and applicable to real world situations.
    I also liked your comment about utilizing the unique and diverse experiences each student brings to the classroom. I feel often times that things are just taught with one perspective or lens that the teacher focuses the material on, but I agree looking at information from different perspectives can have an extremely positive effect for the classroom community. By integrating unique and diverse experiences or views into the classroom a teacher can not only avoid alienating someone, but also help more sheltered students get a handle on listening to differing ideas and or viewpoints and communicating better with other students.

  2. I'm also interested in responding to your thoughts about modeling in an engineering classroom, and what the practices might look like day to day. I was recently introduced to an elementary-level engineering curriculum called Engineering is Elementary, which uses storytelling/reading and personal experience to introduce students to an engineering problem, which they then solve via the engineering design process. Along the way, they learn the math and science they need to effectively model their designs, test their prototypes, and interpret these results. I was struck by something about this framework: as the person explaining it to me said, engineering, though distinct from science, math, and technology, has the potential to be the thing on which each of those 'hang their hats'. What she meant by that was that engineering design problems provide a workable overarching framework for students to make sense of and use science knowledge, the language of mathematics, and to actually understand the role of technology and how it is developed.
    Before you pure science folks let yourselves get irked by this, I think that a) she's got a point and b) science can also be positioned in such a way, because there is so much crossover between science and engineering practices. Since scientists do so much engineering in their day to day practice, and engineers do so much science, it's actually kind of difficult to decide which is better for students to learn to do (or to use to organize their learning) in any given instructional unit. I suppose it depends on the learning objective, which I'm starting to see might be analogous to the research quadrant to which the Framework alluded when it mentioned Pasteur's applied basic research work. The idea is that science research typically occupies the realm of 'pure' or 'basic' research, which is intended to construct explanations and increase knowledge. Most engineering research, on the other hand, falls into 'applied' research, which, as you mention, has 'immediate practical application' and is intended to find a solution or improvement to a concrete, real-world problem. Then there's the grey area, which they call 'Pasteur's Quadrant' after Louis Pasteur's 'applied basic research'. These are the projects that venture into uncharted scientific territory for the sake of solving a problem -- think, for a modern day equivalent, of the emDrive, which we're not sure how it works but we're pretty sure could be a revolutionary way to move around in space. I'm thinking the Framework leaves enough wiggle room when it talks about practices for standards developers and classroom teachers to be able to engage students in a discussion of the goals of scientific and engineering research, and then to actually engage in those same practices themselves.


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