Building pre-service teachers' understanding of the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices through readings, reflections, and activities

Wednesday 1:45pm REC Center Medium Ice Overlook Room


Anne Egger, Central Washington University
The Science and Engineering Practices (SEP) dimension of the Next Generation Science Standards highlight several shifts from previous national and state science standards: they focus on pratices rather than a single "scientific method," include engineering as a similar, overlapping, and complementary pursuit to science, and make explicit connections to the Common Core State Standards in language arts and math. While most college-level science courses make use of the science and engineering practices described in the NGSS, few offer explicit instruction in them. To reach future teachers, therefore, that explicit instruction in the SEP should be incorporated into the curriculum for pre-service teachers.

I incorporated readings from Visionlearning's peer-reviewed, freely available, web-based Process of Science series ( into a required class for pre-service middle-level and secondary science teachers. Students reflected on each reading by describing what they learned and something they will use in their future teaching. In general, students with more science courses had a better initial understanding of the SEP and found the readings to be engaging stories that explained in more depth what they already knew. However, all students reported learning some fundamental aspects of the SEP. Most commonly, they learned scientific language, often words with both colloquial and scientific definitions: theory, hypothesis, law, uncertainty, error, confidence, model. Other learning gains were reported in defining the difference between scientific controversy and social controversy over science, how much scientists work in groups and interact at meetings, and the role that funding plays in guiding research. On their own, students struggled to describe explicit ways to incorporate these concepts into their teaching, though many felt it was very important to do so. In follow-up discussions and activities, we developed strategies to promote bringing the SEP explicitly into the middle-level and secondary science classroom.

Presentation Media

Slides for building pre-service teachers' understanding (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 19.5MB Jul14 15)