NGSS Science & Engineering Practices

Instructor: Carrie Soucy
The Next Generation Science Standards highlight the importance of science and engineering practices for all grades. Read on to learn about these practices and why they are critical to science education.

Practices of Science and Engineering Within NGSS

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) include the practices used to apply scientific knowledge as a critical dimension of learning science. Alongside core academic knowledge and crosscutting concepts, these eight science and engineering practices are included in all Next Generation Science Standards performance expectations for students at every grade level. These practices are:

  • Obtaining, evaluating and communicating information
  • Using mathematics and computational thinking
  • Developing and using models
  • Engaging in argument from evidence
  • Planning and carrying out investigations
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions
  • Asking questions and defining problems

Why These Practices Are Important

The development of the Next Generation Science Standards was inspired, in large part, by research indicating that students in the United States are lagging behind their peers around the world in the study and understanding of science. At the same time, scientific and technological skills are increasingly valued in the workplace. The Next Generation Science Standards, therefore, incorporate science and engineering practices in all aspects of K-12 scientific learning to nurture an understanding of, appreciation for, and interest in the fields of science and engineering.

How These Practices Are Applied

Per the NGSS, students should begin forming an understanding of science and engineering practices in kindergarten. Their understanding of those practices grows throughout elementary, middle and high school, and is applied to their learning of increasingly complex core science topics.

While the idea of teaching engineering practices to young children may be a daunting new concept to many elementary school educators, Next Generation Science Standards detail the applicability of these practices within the performance expectations for each grade level.

Example of the Progressive Application of Practices

An NGSS life science performance expectation for kindergartners is to illustrate an understanding of ecosystems by creating models that represent how plants and animals rely on their environment. The applicable engineering and science practice is developing and using models and, at the kindergarten level, this may be fulfilled by students creating dioramas or drawings of deer living in forests because they survive by eating leaves. By the time those kindergartners have reached high school, they will have progressively advanced their understanding of both life science and this engineering practice, so they are able to meet the NGSS high school performance expectation to create sophisticated models demonstrating how food and oxygen are broken down and transfer energy.

Science and Engineering Principles Resources for Educators's many science courses at the elementary, middle, and high school levels include multiple chapters and lessons that demonstrate the NGSS science and engineering principles. These online courses feature short lessons that serve as excellent resources to help educators understand and develop lessons that incorporate the engineering principles and core science disciplines outlined in the Next Generation Science Standards. See, for example:

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