SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING
FOR GRADES 6–12
Design at the Center
Brett Moulding, Nancy Songer, and Kerry Brenner, Editors
Committee on Science Investigations and Engineering
Design Experiences in Grades 6—12
Board on Science Education
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
National Academy of Engineering
A Consensus Study Report of
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This activity was supported by contracts between the National Academy of Sciences and Carnegie Corporation of New York (#G-16-53835) and Amgen Foundation (#204944891). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-48260-8
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-48260-7
Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.17226/25216
Library of Congress Control Number: 2019931123
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Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2019). Science and Engineering for Grades 6–12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.17226/25216.
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COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE INVESTIGATIONS AND ENGINEERING DESIGN EXPERIENCES IN GRADES 6–12
Brett Moulding (Cochair), Partnership for Effective Science Teaching and Learning
Nancy Songer (Cochair), School of Education, Drexel University
Juan-Carlos Aguilar, Innovated Programs and Research, Georgia Department of Education
Anne E. Egger, Departments of Geological Sciences and Science Education, Central Washington University
Erin Marie Furtak, School of Education, University of Colorado Boulder
Kenneth L. Huff, Mill Middle School, Williamsville Central School District, NY
Joseph Krajcik, College of Education, Michigan State University
Michael Lach, UChicago STEM Education, University of Chicago
Ronald Latanision, Exponent, Inc.
Mitchell Nathan, School of Education, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Eileen Parsons, School of Education, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Cynthia Passmore, School of Education, University of California, Davis
Helen Quinn, Particle Physics and Astrophysics, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford University (emerita)
Andrea Tracy, Lawton High School, OK
Kerry Brenner, Study Director
Greg Pearson, Scholar
Amy Stephens, Program Officer
Tiffany Taylor, Research Associate
Anne Simonis, Mirzayan Program Fellow (January–April 2018)
Jessica Covington, Senior Program Assistant (since January 2018)
Coreetha Entzminger, Program Assistant (until November 2017)
Heidi Schweingruber, Director, Board on Science Education
BOARD ON SCIENCE EDUCATION
Adam Gamoran (Chair), William T. Grant Foundation
Megan Bang, School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University; Spencer Foundation
Sunita V. Cooke, Office of the President, MiraCosta College
Melanie Cooper, Department of Chemistry, Michigan State University
Rush D. Holt, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Matthew Krehbiel, Achieve, Inc.
Lynn Liben, Department of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University
Cathryn (Cathy) Manduca, Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College
John Mather, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Tonya M. Matthews, Michigan Science Center
William Penuel, Center for Assessment, Design, Research and Evaluation, University of Colorado Boulder
Stephen L. Pruitt, Southern Regional Education Board
Kendra Renae Pullen, Caddo Parish Public Schools, LA
Marshall “Mike” Smith, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
Roberta Tanner, Thompson School District (retired), Loveland, CO
Heidi Schweingruber, Director
Students learn by doing. Science investigation and engineering design provide an opportunity for students to do. When students engage in science investigation and engineering design, they are able to engage deeply with phenomena as they ask questions, collect and analyze data, generate and utilize evidence, and develop models to support explanations and solutions. Research studies demonstrate that deeper engagement leads to stronger conceptual understandings of science content than what is demonstrated through more traditional, memorization-intensive approaches. Investigations provide the evidence that students need to construct explanations for the causes of phenomena. Constructing understanding by actively engaging in investigation and design also creates meaningful and memorable learning experiences for all students. These experiences pique students’ curiosity and lead to greater interest and identity in science.
Science is a way of knowing based on the collection and analysis of empirical data in relation to a scientific question. The growing inclusion of engineering design in K–12 classrooms presents an opportunity for students to learn yet another way of interacting with the natural and designed world around them. When investigation and design are at the center of learning, students can gather evidence and take ownership of the evidence they have gathered. This process contributes to student agency as they make sense of phenomena and designs and extend their understanding of the natural and designed world.
Learning is more meaningful when investigation and design are relevant to student lives. Investigation and design that are connected to students’
culture and place tend to increase student interest in learning. Culturally responsive teaching requires teachers to understand the students’ culture and place, use inclusive pedagogies to meet the needs of all their students, and adapt instruction by using phenomena and challenges that are linked to students’ place and culture.
The introduction of A Framework for K–12 Science Education, the Next Generation Science Standards, and state standards consistent with the Framework provide a structure for rethinking how students engage in science and engineering and how they can use investigation/design to gather and analyze data to support explanations of the causes of phenomena and to design solutions. They focus on three-dimensional learning (via performances that integrate crosscutting concepts, scientific and engineering practices, and core disciplinary ideas) and provide a new ambitious vision for the classroom, in which students engage in meaningful learning. The new approaches provide an opportunity for teaching and learning to improve via the use of new instructional strategies and resources that foster, guide, and evaluate teaching and learning. They create an impetus for professional learning in which educators experience, practice, and reflect upon the new approaches as they prepare to engage students in science investigation and engineering design.
To reiterate, the goal of education reform is to improve student learning. Student learning occurs as teachers work day by day to help students learn to engage in doing science and engineering. Science investigation and engineering design provide a structure and a vision for meaningful student learning. This report describes ways teaching and learning can shift toward investigation/design that builds from current research in how students learn toward the realization of the new vision in the classroom.
Brett Moulding and Nancy Songer, Cochairs
Committee on Science Investigations and Engineering Design Experiences in Grades 6–12
This Consensus Study Report reflects the invaluable contributions of many individuals, including those who served on the committee, the staff of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and many other experts.
This report was made possible by sponsorships from the Amgen Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. We first thank both Scott Heimlich, vice president at Amgen Foundation, and Jim Short, Carnegie Corporation’s program director of leadership and teaching to advance learning, for requesting the study and providing insight to the committee.
Over the course of the study, the committee held public fact-finding meetings, including a public workshop, and members of the committee greatly benefited from presentations by, and discussions with, the many individuals who participated in these meetings: Megan Bang, University of Washington, Seattle; Lizette Burks, Kansas State Department of Education; Al Byers, National Science Teachers Association; Ravit Golan Duncan, Rutgers University; Richard Duschl, Pennsylvania State University; Rowhea Elmesky, Washington University in St. Louis; Susan Gomez-Zwiep, California State University, Long Beach; John Kamal, Science Leadership Academy @ Center City; Matthew Kloser, University of Notre Dame; Scott McDonald, Pennsylvania State University; Tamara Moore, Purdue University; Tiffany Neill, Council of State Science Supervisors and Oklahoma State Department of Education; Christian Schunn, University of Pittsburgh; Kimberly Scott, Arizona State University; Stacey van der Veen, NGSSPD Consultants; Wil van der Veen, Raritan Valley Community College; Donna
Williams-Barrett, Georgia Science Teachers Association and Fulton County Schools; and Christopher Wright, Drexel University.
The committee is also grateful for the efforts of the following authors who prepared background papers for the committee’s use in drafting the report:
- Matthew Kloser, on the nature of the teacher’s role in supporting student investigation;
- Joseph Michaelis, on the role of interest and motivation in the learning of science and engineering;
- Felicia Moore Mensah and Kristen Larson, on inclusive pedagogies for science investigation and engineering design;
- William Penuel and Brian Reiser, on designing science curriculum materials for three-dimensional learning;
- Senay Purzer, on epistemic, disciplinary practices in engineering and the integration of engineering and science in secondary classrooms;
- Victor Lee and Michelle Wilkerson, on the state of data and technology use to support learning for middle and high school students; and
- Dan Aladjem and Alisha Butler (Policy Studies Associates) who prepared a literature review to inform the study.
This Consensus Study Report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to make certain that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
We thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Mary M. Atwater, Department of Mathematics and Science Education, University of Georgia; Brenda L. Bass, University of Utah School of Medicine; Monica E. Cardella, Engineering Education, Purdue University; Dianne Chong, Assembly, Factory & Support Technology (retired), Boeing Research and Technology; Edith M. Flanigen (retired), Union Carbide Corporation, Honeywell UOP; Amelia Wenk Gotwals, Department of Teacher Education, Michigan State University; Carolyn Higgins, Warwick Public Schools, Warwick, Rhode Island; Adam Johnston, Department of Physics, Weber State University; Lauren J. Kaupp, Office of Curriculum, Instructional Design, State of Hawaii; Catherine Mackey, Science Program, Dawson Education Cooperative, Arkansas Department of Education; Scott McDonald, Krause Innovation Studio, Pennsylvania State University; Stephen L. Pruitt,
President’s Office, Southern Region Education Board; Bruce Wellman, Olathe Northwest High School, Olathe, Kansas; Mark Windschitl, College of Education, University of Washington; Susan Gomez-Zweip, Department of Science Education, California State University, Long Beach.
Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the content of the report nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Melanie Cooper, Colleges of Education and Natural Science, Michigan State University and Paul R. Gray, executive vice chancellor and provost (emeritus), University of California, Berkeley. They were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with the standards of the National Academies and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Academies.
Thanks are also due to the project staff. Kerry Brenner of the Board on Science Education (BOSE) directed the study and played a key role in the report drafting and review process. Amy Stephens (program officer, BOSE) and Tiffany Taylor (Christine Mirzayan science and technology policy fellow  and research associate, BOSE) provided critical assistance in project direction, organizing the report, and revising the writing. Greg Pearson (scholar, National Academy of Engineering) contributed thoughtful insight and suggestions for the coverage of engineering within the report. Heidi Schweingruber (director, BOSE) provided infinite wisdom and oversight throughout the entire study. We are also extremely grateful to Natalie Nielson (consultant) who contributed to the writing of the report. We also thank Anne Simonis (Christine Mirzayan science and technology policy fellow ) who assisted with information gathering during the report writing process. Coreetha Entzminger (former program assistant, BOSE) managed the first three meeting’s logistical and administrative needs. Erik Saari (administrative assistant, Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences) stepped in to help with the administrative and logistical needs of the fourth committee meeting, and Jessica Covington (senior program assistant, BOSE) managed the rest of the study’s logistical and administrative needs, along with manuscript preparation.
Finally, we thank Paula Whitacre (independent consultant) who provided invaluable editorial direction and Kirsten Sampson Snyder (Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education) who expertly guided us through the National Academies review process. The committee also wishes to express its sincere appreciation to the National Academies Research Center staff for their assistance with fact checking the report.
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