What is Three Dimensional Learning?

Why do we need NGSS?

The fundamental aim of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is to change science teaching as we know it. The way that we currently teach science is not a reflection of how science is being used in the real world: the scientists and engineers of today approach science in a practical, proactive way on a day-to-day basis. This means that the theory-based concepts students learn about in school are a bit dated, and even the best teachers can only do so much without a proper framework in place to support them.


NGSS was initially conceived in an effort to improve what the results of the 2012 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) scores showed: the US was ranked 27th in science. Recent years, and indeed the latest PISA results, have only intensified the need for a change in science teaching.


So how does NGSS affect the classroom?


With the help of the new standards, teachers will be able to make science more approachable, more practical and definitely more hands-on. The aim is to encourage students to think like scientists. This means a shift in the role of the teachers as well – from a sage on the stage to a guiding presence.


Three Dimensional Learning

You might be familiar with this increasingly popular term. In fact, if you visit the NGSS page, you can’t miss seeing this symbol, which illustrates the aforementioned three dimensions.


Three-dimensional learning forms the basis of NGSS, with each standard encompassing the following:

  1. Science and Engineering Practices (SEP)
  2. Crosscutting Concepts (CC)
  3. Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI)

Scientific and Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts are designed to be taught in context, while a focus on a small number of Disciplinary Core Ideas help high school students gain a thorough understanding. Together, these three aspects of the programme far more accurately reflect how science and engineering is practised in the real world.

Here’s a short summary of each dimension:

Scientific and Engineering Practices describe the practices that scientists and engineers employ within their industries: scientists build theories, investigating them by using models; engineers have specific practices in use to design and build effective, efficient systems. The practices are designed to work with the Crosscutting Concepts in order for students to understand the relation between different areas of scientific enquiry – students are encouraged to form their own understanding of scientific concepts.

Crosscutting Concepts are designed to help students understand and explore the interconnections between various disciplines in science and engineering. Echoing many of the unifying concepts and processes in the National Science Education Standards , the common themes in the Benchmarks for Science Literacy , and the unifying concepts in the Science College Board Standards for College Success the framework’s structure also reflects discussions related to the NSTA Science Anchors project. In short, the NGSS is an amalgamation of the best ideas on teaching science.

Disciplinary Core Ideas were formed in response to the simple fact that the continuous expansion of scientific knowledge makes it impossible to teach everything related to a given discipline during the K–12 years. With information now available at the click of a button, science education needs to prepare students with sufficient core knowledge so that they are well prepared to acquire additional information on their own, at a later stage. Disciplinary Core Ideas are a set of ideas and practices in science and engineering that enable students to select and evaluate reliable sources of scientific information in order for them to continue their development well beyond their school years as science learners, users of scientific knowledge, and perhaps even producers of such knowledge.

Want to more know how video helps combine 3D learning?

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