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Dimension 1: Practices

Constructing explanations and designing solutions

The products of science are explanations and the products of engineering are solutions.

Students should aim to develop logically sound explanations for phenomena involving their current comprehension of scientific theory and available evidence. An accepted theory is one that successfully explains a broad range of occurrences in a self-consistent and concise manner. Explications of theory from the viewpoint of certain scenarios or details are referred to as scientific explanations. Constructing theories that accurately explain the world around us is a crucial goal for scientists.



Engineering design involves problem-solving through the application of scientific knowledge and models. Each potential solution must be considered against competing criteria such as desired functions, technological feasibility, cost, safety, esthetics and legal requirements to determine which one is best. The optimal choice may vary depending on these criteria.

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.

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