Science is a social enterprise governed by a core set of values and norms for participation. Proficiency in science entails skillful participation in a scientific community in the classroom and mastery of productive ways of representing ideas, using scientific tools, and interacting with peers about science. This strand calls for students to understand the appropriate norms for presenting scientific arguments and evidence and to practice productive social interactions with peers in the context of classroom science investigations. It also includes the motivation and attitudes that provide a foundation for students to be actively and productively involved in science classrooms. Strand 4 puts science in motion and in social context, emphasizing the importance of doing science and doing it together in groups. Like scientists, science students benefit from sharing ideas with peers, building interpretive accounts of data, and working together to discern which accounts are most persuasive.
Strand 4 is often completely overlooked by educators, yet research indicates that it is a critical component of science learning, particularly for students from populations that are underrepresented in 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.
The best way to begin thinking about the four strands of scientific proficiency and their interconnections is to see them at work in a classroom, as demonstrated in the following case study.