Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Editor's Corner

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Editor's Corner

Article excerpt

Crosscutting Patterns

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A Framework for K-12 Science Education (NRC 2012) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States 2013) recommend that science education be built around science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas. This issue focuses on one of the seven crosscutting concepts--"patterns"--as an example of how a major theme bridges the scientific disciplines and connects core ideas.

This may sound familiar. Crosscutting concepts have been prominent in reform documents for over two decades. As early as 1989, Science for All Americans (AAAS 1989) identified important overarching themes that "pervade science, mathematics, and technology and appear over and over again ... ideas that transcend disciplinary boundaries." These ideas were called "unifying principles" in the National Education Science Standards (NRC 1996) and "crosscutting ideas" in the National Science Teachers Association's Science Anchors Project (NSTA 2010). What is perhaps new in the Framework and NGSS is the elevation of crosscutting concepts by weaving them into the student performance expectations for all students, so that they will become an explicit part of science instruction beginning in the earliest years of schooling (NRC 2012, pp. 79-80).

Of the seven NGSS crosscutting concepts, recognizing patterns is arguably the most central to the scientific enterprise. Humans are good at noticing patterns, from the cycling of the seasons to the symmetry of a sunflower, starfish, or snowflake. Patterns exist everywhere, and "noticing patterns is often a first step to organizing phenomena and asking scientific questions about why and how the patterns occur" (NRC 2012, p. …

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