Learning Progressions

Main Findings in the Chapter:

  • Many standards and curricula contain too many disconnected topics that are given equal priority. Too little attention is given to how students’ understanding of a topic can be supported and enhanced from grade to grade. As a result, topics receive repeated, shallow coverage with little consistency, which provides a fragile foundation for further knowledge growth.

  • Findings from research about children’s learning and development can be used to map learning progressions in science. That is, one can describe the successively more sophisticated ways of thinking about a topic that can follow and build on one another as children learn about and investigate a topic over a broad span of time (e.g., 6 to 8 years).

  • Steps in these progressions are constrained by children’s knowledge and skill with respect to each of the four strands. Reaching the hypothetical steps described in the progressions is also dependent on teachers’ knowledge and the effectiveness of their instructional practices.

  • Learning progressions are a promising direction for organizing science instruction and curricula across grades K-8. However, further research and development is needed to identify and elaborate the progressions of learning and instruction that can support students’ understanding of these core ideas across the disciplines of science.

Science learning presents a special challenge to educators because of both the diversity and the complexity of mature scientific knowledge and the fact that it rests on organized conceptual frameworks and sophisticated

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