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Dimension 1: Practices
Asking questions and defining problems
A practice of science is to ask and refine questions that lead to descriptions and explanations of how the natural and designed world works and which can be empirically tested
Scientific practice involves formulating questions about phenomena and testing possible explanations. When starting research on a subject, the scientist begins by asking questions and reviewing existing knowledge before attempting to come up with satisfactory answers. This is the process used in A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2012) which outlines the practices, concepts and core thought processes for science education at different grade levels.
The process of engineering starts with a problem that requires an engineering solution. Examples include the need to reduce dependency on fossil fuels, or developing more efficient transportation systems and alternative power sources like solar cells. Engineers use questions to help define the problem, specify the criteria for a successful outcome, and determine any restrictions. According to The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2012), K-12 science education should use this framework to explore scientific practices, crosscutting concepts and core ideas.
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) recognize and emphasize the importance of three main dimensions for learning science. These dimensions are essential components in forming each standard—or performance expectation. When taken together, they allow students a chance to gain a more cohesive understanding of science concepts as they progress through their courses.
Three Dimensions of Science Learning
It is important to understand how scientists work in order to make sense of the world around us. The scientific process is a methodical and logical approach to discovering how things in the universe work. It is the foundation upon which all scientific knowledge is built.
The scientific process begins with a question or problem that scientists want to solve. They then gather data and observations about the problem. This data is used to form a hypothesis, which is a proposed explanation for the problem. The hypothesis is then tested through experimentation. If the results of the experiment support the hypothesis, then it becomes a theory. If the results of the experiment do not support the hypothesis, then the hypothesis is rejected and a new hypothesis is formed. This process is repeated until a theory is supported by a large body of evidence.
The scientific process is not always linear. Scientists may go backand revise their understanding due to new evidence or data. The process generally starts with making an observation or asking a question, followed by formulating a hypothesis, conducting experiments and tests to collect data, analyzing the data, and then either accepting or rejecting the hypothesis. If the hypothesis is accepted, scientists create a conclusion. This conclusion is then put out for peer review or further discussion before it is accepted as scientific fact.