Science and Engineering Practices & The Inclusion of Engineering

Science and Engineering Practices
The Inclusion of Engineering
in the Framework
Philip Bell
Learning Sciences Graduate Program
Institute for Science & Math Education
University of Washington
Science education should focus more on the central practices associated
with multiple arenas of scientific work… including the activities, use of
tools, and forms of talk that support sense-making and knowledge work.
Students learn science best by engaging in the practices of science.
Classrooms can productively be considered scientific communities
writ small—where students engage in sustained investigations
involving a full set of coordinated practices.
Three Dimensions
• Scientific and engineering practices
• Crosscutting concepts
• Disciplinary core ideas
I think of practices as an 8 point
booster shot for inquiry!
Science and Engineering Practices
1. Asking questions (science)
and defining problems
2. Developing and using
3. Planning and carrying out
4. Analyzing and interpreting
5. Using mathematics and
computational thinking
6. Developing explanations
(science) and designing
solutions (engineering)
7. Engaging in argument
8. Obtaining, evaluating, and
• For each, the Framework includes a description of the
practice, the culminating 12th grade learning goals, and
what we know about how they can progress over time
Why Practices?
• ‘Practices’ highlight how scientists and engineers engage in
inquiry—how they do their work—through a coordination both
of knowledge and skills.
• Engaging students in these practices help them learn how
scientific knowledge is developed and applied.
• The practices in the Framework are considered to be central to
science and engineering.
• They engage students productively in inquiry, support
important learning processes, and help students understand
aspects of the science and engineering enterprises.
Background Research & Practitioner Guides
Practice 1: Asking Questions (Science) and Defining
Problems (Engineering)
Questions are the engine that drive science and engineering.
Asking scientific questions is essential to developing scientific
habits of mind. It is a basic element of scientific literacy.
Science education should develop students’ ability to ask wellformulated questions that can be investigated empirically.
SAMPLE RESEARCH QUESTIONS: Generated by a student group studying
infectious disease transmission using a computer model:
1) How does poverty affect the spread of disease?
2) How does changing the probability of antiviral treatment, the efficacy of
the antiviral, and the efficacy of vaccination affect the spread of disease?*
* We are making the assumption that countries with a high level of
poverty will have less access to antiviral treatment and vaccination, and
that these methods of treatment would have less potency compared to
wealthier countries.
Practice 2: Developing and Using Models
Scientists and engineers construct conceptual and mental
models of phenomena. Conceptual models are explicit
representations that are in some ways analogous to the
phenomena they represent. They include diagrams, physical
replicas, math representations, analogies, and computer
simulations / models.
Students should represent and explain phenomena using
multiple kinds of models, learn to use modeling tools, and
come to understand the limitations and level of precision of
particular models.
Practice 3: Planning and
Carrying Out Investigations
Scientists investigate to: (1) to systematically describe the
world, and (2) to develop and test theories and explanations
of how the world works. The latter requires investigations to
test explanatory models and their predictions and whether
inferences suggested by the models are supported by data.
Students should design and conduct different
kinds of investigations—laboratory experiments,
field investigations, and observational inquiries.
Practice 4: Analyzing and Interpreting Data
Collected data must be presented in a form that can reveal
patterns and relationships and that allows results to be
communicated to others.
Students need opportunities to analyze
both small and large data sets. They need
to be able to evaluate the strength of a
conclusion that can be inferred from any
data set.
Practice 5: Using Mathematics, Information
and Computer Technology, and
Computational Thinking
Mathematical and computational tools are central to science
and engineering. Math is one of the languages of science and
serves a major communicative function in science. Math also
allows ideas to be expressed in a precise form and enables the
identification of new ideas.
Mathematics (including statistics) and
computational tools are essential for
data analysis.
Practice 6: Constructing Explanations (Science) and
Designing Solutions (Engineering)
Scientific explanations are accounts that link scientific theory
with specific observations or phenomena. Scientific theories
are developed to provide explanations that illuminate
particular phenomena.
Students should be engaged with
standard scientific explanations,
and they should be asked to
demonstrate their developing
understanding by constructing
their own causal explanations
—which supports conceptual
Practice 7: Engaging in Argument from Evidence
The production of scientific knowledge depends on the
process of reasoning that requires a scientist to make a
justified claim about the world—to construct arguments from
evidence. Other scientists attempt to identify the claims
weaknesses and limitations.
Students should construct
scientific arguments showing
how data supports claims,
help identify possible
weaknesses in scientific
arguments, and refine their
arguments in response to
Practice 8: Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating
Being literate in science and engineering requires the ability to
read and understand their literatures. Reading, interpreting,
and producing text are fundamental practices of science.
Communicating in written or spoken form is another
fundamental practice of science.
Science and Engineering Practices
1. Asking questions (science)
and defining problems
2. Developing and using
3. Planning and carrying out
4. Analyzing and interpreting
5. Using mathematics and
computational thinking
6. Developing explanations
(science) and designing
solutions (engineering)
7. Engaging in argument
8. Obtaining, evaluating, and
Issues That Might Come Up
Around the Transition to Practices
• The term may be mistakenly conflated with the colloquial sense
of ‘practices’ as the ‘repetitive performance of activities or
• Where’s inquiry? The focus on practices is not a new idea—
although it may be a new term for many with this intent. In the
Framework, practices are a refinement of the previous accounts
of inquiry and investigations
– Takes into account the research literature on productive ways of
engaging learners in science learning
– The focus on ‘inquiry’ served an important purpose for the field, but
it came to mean too many different things in practice
Understanding the Science and
Engineering Enterprises
• Where’s the nature of science? This focus on practices
offers the opportunity for students to stand back & reflect
on how these practices contribute to the accumulation of
scientific knowledge and to engineered solutions.
• With support, they can develop an understanding of
epistemic knowledge of science—e.g., what is meant by
observation, hypothesis, theory, model, claim,
Equity, Practices & Inclusive Instruction
Equitable learning can be promoted with practices by leveraging the sensemaking practices students bring to the classroom—e.g., digital fluencies,
forms of argument and story-telling, mathematical practices, etc.
1. What are the implications of this set of scientific practices
for curriculum and instruction within your state context?
2. What are the implications for professional development,
assessment and science teacher education that you can
You can refer to a summary of the scientific practices with
the left-hand column of Table 32 (on page 3-29).
The Inclusion of Engineering in
the Framework
From a STEM learning perspective, the engineering
design pursuits of youth have had a problematic
relationship with the school curriculum
There is an increasing demand for citizens who are
technologically literate about the built world and who
• Everyday
& Technology Group and technology related
Engineering Highlights
• Engineering has long been part of science education, but
it has been made more visible in the Framework
• Framework outlines two core ideas related to
Engineering, Technology & Applications of Science
– Engineering material was trimmed back from July 2010 draft
– More of a focus on design (in Practices and a Core Idea) and on
the applications of science and interaction between
engineering, technology, and science
• Framework outlines a set of engineering practices—
many of which are parallel to the scientific practices
Why this focus on Engineering?
• “any [science] education that focuses predominantly on
the detailed products of scientific labor—the facts of
science—without developing an understanding of how
those facts were established or that ignores the many
important applications of science in the world
misrepresents science and marginalizes the importance
of engineering.” (NRC Framework, Ch. 3)
• Students should: (1) learn how science is utilized—esp.
in the context of engineering design—and (2) come to
appreciate the distinctions and relationships between
engineering, technology, and applications of science.
Disciplinary Core Ideas:
Engineering, Technology and Applications of Science
• ETS1 Engineering design
How do engineering solve problems?
– ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting an Engineering Problem
What is a design for? What are the criteria and constraints of
a successful solution?
– ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions
What is the process for developing potential design
– ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution
How can the various proposed design solutions be compared
and improved?
Disciplinary Core Ideas:
Engineering, Technology and Applications of Science
• ETS2 Links Among Engineering, Technology, Science, and
How are engineering, technology, science, and society
– ETS2.A: Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology
What are the relationships among science, engineering and
– ETS2.B: Influence of Engineering, Technology and Science on
Society and the Natural World
How do science, engineering, and the technologies that result from
them affect the ways in which people live? How do they affect the
natural world?
Engineering Practices (see Table 3-2 on p. 3-29)
1. A problem, need or desire defines a problem to be solved
2. Models and simulations are used to analyze systems—to look
for flaws or test possible solutions
3. Engineers conduct investigations and collect data to help specify
design criteria and to test their designs
4. Engineers analyze data collected to compare solutions under
specific constraints with respect to design criteria
5. Mathematical and computational representations of established
relationships / principles are integral to design
6. Engineers design solutions through a systematic process (where
scientists construct explanations)
7. Argumentation is essential to finding best possible solution by
comparing alternatives and evaluating multiple ideas
8. Engineers need to clearly and persuasively communicate their
work to produce technologies
Suggested Reading…
While scientific research can
lay the foundation for new
technology, it is engineering
development that allows
ideas to become reality.
“Science is about knowing; engineering about doing.”
It is the inherent practicality of engineering that makes it vital to addressing our
most urgent concerns, from dealing with climate change and natural disasters, to
the development of efficient automobiles and renewable energy sources.
• Given this increased emphasis on engineering in the
Framework, what issues do you anticipate coming up in your
state contexts? For example, what specific capacity concerns
might exist for the teaching of engineering?
• What partnerships already exist—or need to be developed—
with industry, higher education, or organizations to help with
the engineering layer? What are the issues there?
See Chapter 8 on Engineering Core Ideas and the right-hand
column of Box 3-2 (on page 3-29) to summarize engineering

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