What We Need in Curriculum Materials for the NRC Framework and

What We Need
in Curriculum Materials for the
NRC Framework and NGSS
Brian J. Reiser
Learning Sciences
Northwestern University
What Do We Need in Curriculum Materials
to Implement The Framework and NGSS?
What is new?
1. Central role of scientific
2. Organized around core
explanatory ideas
3. Coherence: building and
applying ideas across
Evolution from Inquiry to Scientific Practices
• Focus not just on “investigation of hypotheses” but
on building ideas -- making sense of findings, using
results to develop models, argue competing
explanations and reach consensus
• Includes collaboration and discourse elements of
working together to develop scientific knowledge
1. Asking questions and defining
5. Using mathematics and
computational thinking
2. Developing and using models
6. Developing explanations and
designing solutions
3. Planning and carrying out
4. Analyzing and interpreting data
7. Engaging in argument from
8. Obtaining, evaluating, and
communicating information
A Departure from Separate Content and
Inquiry Standards
Organized around core
explanatory ideas
• “The next generation of standards and curricula
… should be structured to identify a few core
ideas in a discipline and elaborate how those
ideas can be cumulatively developed over grades
K-8.” (Taking Science to School, 2007, Rec. 2)
Criteria for core ideas
Disciplinary significance
Generative for understanding and
Relevant to people’s interests, life experiences
Teachable and learnable from K to 12
Life Sciences Core Explanatory Ideas
• LS1: From molecules to organisms: Structures
and processes
– How do organisms live, grow, respond to their environment, and
• LS2 Ecosystems:
and dynamics
LS1.A: How do
the structures
of organisms
– How
and why
organisms interact with their environment? What
are the effects of these interactions?
LS1.B: How do organisms grow and develop?
• LS3 Heredity: Inheritance and variation of traits
LS1.C: How do organisms obtain and use the
– How are characteristics of one generation passed on? Why do
matter and
energy they need to live and grow?
LS1.D Howevolution:
do organisms
process, and
• LS4 Biological
and diversity
the environment?
– How
there be so many
among organisms yet so many
different kinds of plants, animals, and microorganisms?
Organized in learning progressions
Learning core explanatory ideas…
• …unfolds over time
• …requires revisiting ideas in new contexts that
force students to extend them
• …requires that students engage in tasks that
force them to synthesize and apply ideas
“Standards should be organized as progressions that support students’
learning over multiple grades. They should take into account how
students’ command of the concepts, core ideas, and practices becomes
more sophisticated over time with appropriate instructional
experiences.” (NRC 2011, Rec 7)
A Progression of Explanatory Ideas
Molecular model of biochemical reactions
for matter and energy in food.
Chemical reactions model for matter and
energy in food, drawing on particle model of
matter and energy transfer model.
Simple food model: food consumed or
produced is made of matter and provides
energy for organisms.
General needs model: Organisms get what
they need to survive from the environment.
Building Explanatory Ideas through
Scientific Practices
What do curriculum materials look like can
support the performances expectations of
NRC Framework and NGSS?
Creating performance expectations from
core idea + practice
argument from
Core idea: Matter and energy in organisms (grade 8): Plants, algae,
and many microorganisms use the energy from light to make sugars
(food) from carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and water through
the process of photosynthesis, which also releases oxygen. These
sugars can be used immediately or stored for growth or later use.
Animals obtain food from eating plants or eating other animals.
Within individual organisms, food moves through a series of chemical
reactions in which it is broken down and rearranged to form new
molecules, to support growth or to release energy. In most animals
and plants oxygen reacts with carbon-containing molecules (sugars)
to provide energy and produce waste carbon-dioxide…
Performance expectation: Students construct and defend an explanation for
why the air a human breathes out contains a lower proportion of oxygen than
the air he or she breathed in. The explanation needs to address where in the
body the oxygen was used, how it was used, and how it was transported there.
DQ: What is going on inside our bodies that
helps us do the things we do?
What is my body
made of?
We are made out of cells.
How do we get
energy out of food?
Graph of blood
sugar over a day
Food goes thru digestive system
into blood stream.
Where is blood
taking the food?
Trace digestive,
circ. systems
Blood stream takes food to cells
all over the body
Can food get into
the cells?
Onion cell, cell
model exps.
Both water and glucose can cross
membrane to get in
Can cells actually
use the glucose?
Use of glucose by
Cells use glucose, produce waste,
for growth and energy
Where is the oxygen
Inhale vs. exhale
O2, O2 in burning
Oxygen used in chemical reaction
to release energy from food
Core explanatory
Argument from
“Oxygen is used by our body. We know this because
when we burned the cashew, the water above it and the
cashew changed because of a chemical reaction. The
cashew turned tannish color to black, the water
temperature changed from 23° to 68°. When we
inhale oxygen, it travels through your epiglottis and
Argument from
trachea to the alveoli. Finally it gets into the blood
stream, where it gets taken to other parts of theexplanatory
You use the oxygen to burn the food into energy.
According to our scientific principles, you need
oxygen to convert the chemical energy to other
energies for our cells. Since we need oxygen Core
to burn
food to get energy, you need to (Source:
7 grade, suburban ideas
district, Apr 2010)
Example: Developing explanations by
investigating primary data
Scientists in the Galapagos were
surprised to see a large drop in the
population of finches during several
years of their study. From 1976
through 1977, a large majority of
finches died, while others survived.
• Why are so many finches dying?
• Why are some of the finches able to survive?
Developing explanations by investigating
primary data
Developing Explanations and Engaging in
Argument from Evidence
What have you all found out from the data so far?
Causal Explanation for population change
The finches with longer beaks had a better chance at survival than
those with shorter beak lengths.
All of the dry seasons had very little rain. However, all of the wet
Drought seasons have between 150 and 200 cm of rain except the wet
season of 1977. This proves that there was a drought.
There were the fewest number of seeds in the wet and dry seasons
of 1977. The wet season of 1977 had the fewest number of seeds
than any other wet season.
There were the fewest number of finches in the dry season of 1977.
This was because of the shortage of food in 1977.
The beak lengths for the finches that died in the wet season of
Differential 1977 ranged from 9.0 to 12.9. The beak lengths for the finches that
survived in the wet season of 1977 ranged from 10.5 to 13.9. This
shows that the finches that survived during the drought had longer
beaks than those who died in the drought.
There was a drought in the wet and dry seasons of
1977. Both seasons in 1977 had a shortage of rain.
Since there was less rain, there were fewer plants
that were growing. Since there were fewer plants,
there were fewer seeds and less food for the finches.
Since there was less food, the finches had to dig down
into the ground to find the food. Therefore, the longer
their beaks were, the better chance they had of
finding food in the ground. There were more deaths in
the wet season of 1977. The finches with the longer
beaks could crack open the few seeds left on the
From Specific Explanations
to General Models
Selection Model
Variation that can be inherited
Change in environment
Advantage: Some survive due to
the variation on the trait
Survivors have offspring
Next generation has increased
numbers with the advantaged trait.
Differences increase over
Summary: What We Need
in Curriculum Materials
• Organize curriculum materials around limited number of
core ideas: depth and coherence, not breadth of coverage.
• Core ideas should be revisited in increasing depth, and
sophistication across years. Focus on connections:
– Careful construction of a storyline – helping learners build
sophisticated ideas from simpler explanations, using evidence.
– Connections between scientific disciplines, using powerful ideas
(nature of matter, energy) across life, physical, and earth science
• Curriculum materials should involve learners in practices
that develop, use, and refine the scientific ideas, not
“explain” the science for students.

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