BOX 2-1

Strands of Scientific Proficiency

Strand 1: Know, use, and interpret scientific explanations of the natural world.

This strand includes acquiring facts and the conceptual structures that incorporate those facts and using these ideas productively to understand many phenomena in the natural world. This includes using those ideas to construct and refine explanations, arguments, or models of particular phenomena.

Strand 2: Generate and evaluate scientific evidence and explanations.

This strand encompasses the knowledge and skills needed to build and refine models based on evidence. This includes designing and analyzing empirical investigations and using empirical evidence to construct and defend arguments.

Strand 3: Understand the nature and development of scientific knowledge.

This strand focuses on students’ understanding of science as a way of knowing. Scientific knowledge is a particular kind of knowledge with its own sources, justifications, and uncertainties. Students who understand scientific knowledge recognize that predictions or explanations can be revised on the basis of seeing new evidence or developing a new model.

Strand 4: Participate productively in scientific practices and discourse.

This strand includes students’ understanding of the norms of participating in science as well as their motivation and attitudes toward science. Students who see science as valuable and interesting tend to be good learners and participants in science. They believe that steady effort in understanding science pays off—not that some people understand science and other people never will. To engage productively in science, however, students need to understand how to participate in scientific debates, adopt a critical stance, and be willing to ask questions.

These strands of scientific proficiency represent learning goals for students as well as providing a broad framework for curriculum design. They address the knowledge and reasoning skills that students must eventually acquire to be considered fully proficient in science. They are also a means to that end: they are practices that students need to participate in and become fluent with in order to develop proficiency. Evidence to date indicates that in the process of achieving proficiency in science, the four strands are intertwined, so that advances in one strand support and advance those in another.

The committee thinks, and emerging evidence suggests, the development of proficiency is best supported when classrooms provide learning opportunities that interweave all four strands together in instruction.

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