NGSS: Science and Engineering Practices

At TCI, we are driven to helping teachers and school administrators develop classroom environments, curriculum, and methods to help their students succeed. We want all students to not only learn new things about each area of study, but also enjoy exploring new concepts and applying new skills.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were created to help bring the National Research Council’s (NRC) Framework vision to life. The NGSS is considered “three dimensional learning,” as it emphasizes three core standards: Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts.

TCI implements the NGSS directly into all of the lessons and content available to teachers enrolled in our programs. We ensure that students have the skills necessary to “do” science, the opportunity to dive deep into the core ideas and the ability to analyze the various systems and concepts utilized in each topic.

Today we’ll talk about the Science and Engineering Practices.

What Exactly Is a “Practice”?

The practices for the NGSS focus on the behaviors that scientists engage in as they investigate questions and curiosities, and build models (and theories) about the world around them. Engineers also use a set of behaviors in order to come to solutions and develop models and systems to improve their world.

The NRC prefers to use “practices” rather than “skills” to emphasize that it requires more than specific skills to embark on a scientific investigation. The NRC wants to provide a better explanation of what an “inquiry” in science is. They also emphasize the range of cognitive, social, and physical practices that scientific inquiries and investigations require.

For example, in unit 1 of our upcoming middle school program, Bring Science Alive! Waves, students are challenged to design, build, and test structures to prevent beach erosion along the California coast, to prevent Highway 1 from collapsing. They begin by researching a variety of existing erosion prevention structures, and evaluating the situations where each is most effective. Then, they design their own structures inspired by the designs they researched, and test models of them in a miniature wave pool to see how effective they are in preventing the collapse of the highway.

The Difference Between Science and Engineering

Science and engineering go hand-in-hand when it comes to the practices within the NGSS. However, despite the similarities between the processes and behaviors of scientists and engineers, there are substantial differences between the two.

Scientific inquiries focus on formulating questions that could potentially be answered through a scientific investigation. On the other hand, engineering design focuses on identifying problems that could potentially be solved through design.

In Lesson 4 of our Bring Science Alive! Waves program, students will plan an investigation to determine how changes in speed can cause a moving object to change direction. This phenomenon causes waves to refract, or bend, when they travel from one medium to another. They roll toy cars down ramps, and use materials such as tape and sandpaper to change the speed of the car at certain points on the ramp. They record the path that the car takes down the ramp, and aim to determine the “rules of refraction” by recording how the car changes direction as it changes speed.

Clarifying these differences and introducing students to both science and engineering will help them understand the relevance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematic (STEM) fields in everyday life.

The 8 Science and Engineering Practices

The fundamental Science and Engineering Practices listed below are essential within the K-12 science and engineering curriculum. Students are encouraged to use these practices during their scientific investigations, either individually or in combination. It is important to emphasize to students that each practice fits different scenarios, and no practice is better than another.

  • Asking questions and defining problems.
  • Developing and using models.
  • Planning and carrying out investigations.
  • Analyzing and interpreting data.
  • Using mathematics and computational thinking.
  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions.
  • Engaging in argument from evidence.
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information.

When students engage in these practices, they get to experience how scientists and engineers work on a regular basis.

What Is TCI?

TCI aims at equipping teachers and administrators with the tools necessary to help students succeed in their studies while providing them with scientific experiences that mirror careers in the real world. You can try TCI with our free 30-day trial. Discover how our lesson plans and curriculum allows your students to experience science and engineering in a way that will inspire innovative thinking and problem-solving throughout their lives.