in the scientific community, learning how to produce scientific texts is as essential to developing an understanding of science as learning how to draw is to appreciating the skill of the visual artist. Indeed, the new Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects [39] recognize that reading and writing skills are essential to science; the formal inclusion in this framework of this science practice reinforces and expands on that view. Science simply cannot advance if scientists are unable to communicate their findings clearly and persuasively. Communication occurs in a variety of formal venues, including peer-reviewed journals, books, conference presentations, and carefully constructed websites; it occurs as well through informal means, such as discussions, email messages, phone calls, and blogs. New technologies have extended communicative practices, enabling multidisciplinary collaborations across the globe that place even more emphasis on reading and writing. Increasingly, too, scientists are required to engage in dialogues with lay audiences about their work, which requires especially good communication skills.

Being a critical consumer of science and the products of engineering, whether as a lay citizen or a practicing scientist or an engineer, also requires the ability to read or view reports about science in the press or on the Internet and to recognize the salient science, identify sources of error and methodological flaws, and distinguish observations from inferences, arguments from explanations, and claims from evidence. All of these are constructs learned from engaging in a critical discourse around texts.

Engineering proceeds in a similar manner because engineers need to communicate ideas and find and exchange information—for example, about new techniques or new uses of existing tools and materials. As in science, engineering communication involves not just written and spoken language; many engineering ideas are best communicated through sketches, diagrams, graphs, models, and products. Also in wide use are handbooks, specific to particular engineering fields, that provide detailed information, often in tabular form, on how best to formulate design solutions to commonly encountered engineering tasks. Knowing how to seek and use such informational resources is an important part of the engineer’s skill set.


By grade 12, students should be able to

•     Use words, tables, diagrams, and graphs (whether in hard copy or electronically), as well as mathematical expressions, to communicate their understanding or to ask questions about a system under study.

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