Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Exploring the Science Framework: Engaging Learners in Scientific Practices Related to Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Exploring the Science Framework: Engaging Learners in Scientific Practices Related to Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Article excerpt

The National Research Council's recent publication A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (NRC 2011), which is the foundation for the Next Generation Science Standards now being developed, places unprecedented focus on the practices involved in doing scientific and engineering work. In an effort to lend specificity to the broad notion of "inquiry," the intent behind the practices outlined in the Framework is for students to engage in sensible versions of the actual cognitive, social, and material work that scientists do. This article focuses on one of those practices.

Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Reading and writing comprise over half of the work of scientists and engineers (NRC 2011; Tenopir and King 2004). This includes the production of various scientific representations--such as tables, graphs, and diagrams--as well as other forms of communication such as giving conference presentations and speaking to the public and other stakeholders. The reading and writing that scientists do help them better understand scientific ideas and communicate their research to their colleagues and to the public. Thus, K-12 students of science should have substantial and varied experiences with reading, analyzing, writing, and otherwise communicating science so that they too can deeply engage with disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts while exploring practices associated with scientific reading and writing. This is why the "obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information" practice was included in the Framework.

K-12 students should learn how to conceptualize, compose, and refine different types of scientific writing from detailed scientific research abstracts to articles for a lay audience on current issues related to topics such as health and the environment to elaborate evidence-based arguments and even to proposals for funding. They should also learn how to find and understand everything from science-related newspaper articles to peer-reviewed journal articles--at reading levels that are developmentally appropriate and with use of relevant disciplinary criteria to select pieces and judge their quality. K-12 students also need practice obtaining information and evaluating it (to make personal health decisions or take informed action on environmental issues, for example). Students should learn to search and browse scientific and library databases, the internet, and print and digital media outlets (newspapers, magazines, blogs, Twitter, RSS feeds) for information they can use to inform their research and learning of science. They need to practice evaluating the information they find, learning how to judge whether information is credible and by whose criteria, as well as learning which information is necessary and useful for any given purpose.


In articulating the related learning goals, the Framework (NRC 2011, pp. 75-76) specifies that all students should be able to:

* Use words, tables, diagrams, and graphs, as well as mathematical expressions, to communicate their understanding or to ask questions about a system under study.

* Read scientific and engineering text, including tables, diagrams, and graphs, commensurate with their scientific knowledge and explain the key ideas being communicated.

* Recognize the major features of scientific and engineering writing and speaking and be able to produce written and illustrated text and oral presentations that communicate their own ideas and accomplishments.

* Engage in a critical reading of primary scientific literature (adapted for classroom use as appropriate) and of media reports of science and discuss the validity and reliability of associated data, hypotheses, and conclusions.

Instruction as a "Cascade of Practices"

The Framework calls for students to routinely participate in extended science and engineering investigations that engage them in authentic practices while learning about disciplinary core ideas and making connections to the crosscutting concepts. …

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