At the K-12 level, the nature of science has historically received greater attention (Collins and Pinch, 1993; DeBoer, 1991; Petroski, 1996). Indeed, “The idea of science as a set of practices has emerged from the work of historians, philosophers, psychologists and sociologists over the past 60 years” (National Research Council, 2012, p. 43). More recently, A Framework for K-12 Science Education identifies core disciplinary ideas, practices, and cross-cutting concepts in the physical, life, and Earth sciences and engineering. That report’s conceptualization of practices is useful to consider here (National Research Council, 2012, pp. 44-45):

One helpful way of understanding the practices of scientists and engineers is to frame them as work that is done in three spheres of activity, as shown in Figure [7-1]. In one sphere, the dominant activity is investigation and empirical inquiry. In the second, the essence of work is the construction of explanations or designs using reasoning, creative thinking, and models. And in the third sphere, the ideas, such as the fit of models and explanations to evidence or the appropriateness of product designs, are analyzed, debated, and evaluated…. In all three spheres of activity, scientists and engineers try to use the best available tools to support the task at hand.

The framework goes on to identify eight specific science and engineering practices that advance an understanding of science among students.


FIGURE 7-1 The three spheres of activity for scientists and engineers.
SOURCE: National Research Council (2012, p. 45).

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