Grounding Practice in Research

The first set of common science standards in the United States is about 20 years old. Our understanding of the world around us has since changed, and so has our understanding of how children learn. A growing body of research is painting a very different picture of what today’s science education should look like.

Historically, K-12 instruction has encouraged students to master lots of facts that fall under “science” categories, but research shows that engaging in the practices used by scientists and engineers plays a critical role in comprehension. Teaching science as a process of inquiry and explanation helps students think past the subject matter and form a deeper understanding of how science applies broadly to everyday life.

Studies show that even young children are naturally inquisitive and much more capable of abstract reasoning than previously thought. This means we can introduce elements of inquiry and explanation much earlier in the curriculum to help them develop deeper understanding.

The Next Generation Science Standards support the research by emphasizing a smaller number of core ideas that students can build on from grade to grade. The more manageable scope allows teachers to weave in practices and concepts common to all scientific disciplines — which better reflects the way students learn.

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