The Pennsylvania Department of Education is in the process of adopting new science standards for grades K-12. The science standards are based on the National Research Council’s (NRC) Framework for science education. The NRC Framework includes three dimensions that are combined to form each science standard. The three dimensions are the science and engineering practices (SEPs), the crosscutting concepts (CCCs) and the disciplinary core ideas (DCIs).
Science and Engineering PracticesThese practices describe behaviors that scientists and engineers engage in as they investigate and build models and theories about the natural world and systems. The term “practices” is used to stress that engaging in scientific inquiry requires coordination of both skills and knowledge simultaneously.
Cross-Cutting ConceptsThe crosscutting concepts help provide students with an organizational framework for connecting knowledge from various science disciplines into a coherent and scientifically-based view of the world. Crosscutting concepts should not be taught in isolation from the disciplinary core ideas. Instead, students’ understanding of the crosscutting concepts should be reinforced by repeated use of them in the context of instruction in the disciplinary core ideas.
Disciplinary Core IdeasThere are four science disciplines; life science, physical science, earth and space science and engineering and technology, addressed in the NRC Framework. Within each of these disciplines, there are core and component ideas for grades K-12.
The new Pennsylvania standards include a fifth dimension of science, environmental literacy and sustainability. The science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts and disciplinary core ideas are the foundation of every science standard. The standards provide the structure for students to engage with the science and engineering practices and use the crosscutting concepts as a lens for learning the disciplinary core ideas. For more information on the three dimensions of science teaching and learning, please visit this website. For more information regarding the proposed Pennsylvania Science Standards, please visit this website.