What is Three-Dimensional Learning?

Why do we need 3-D science standards?

The fundamental aim of the introduction of 3-D science standards was to change science teaching as we knew it. The way that we used to, and many people still do, 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. With the help of the new standards, teachers will be able to make science more approachable, more engaging, and more reflective of our current society. 

Instead of focusing on rote memorization, 3-D science standards highlights important skills such as research, communication, and analytical thinking. While content knowledge is still a part of the standards, the focus is on teaching students how to engage with new knowledge, answer questions and solve problems, and make connections between the different scientific disciplines, as well as relating science to the real world. This is where three-dimensional learning comes into play.

Three-Dimensional Learning

At the base of 3-D science standards are three “dimensions” of science learning:

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

Every standard, or performance expectation, is supported by these dimensions. SEPs and CCCs are designed to be taught in context, while a focus on a small number of DCIs help students gain a thorough understanding of the science disciplines. Together, the three dimensions reflect far more accurately how science and engineering is practiced in the real world.

Science and Engineering Practices highlight methods that scientists and engineers actually use as part of their work, such as modeling, developing explanations, and engaging in critique and evaluation. The SEPs require students to learn by doing, thus acquiring skills that can be applied to problems across all STEM disciplines. The eight SEPs are:

  1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
  2. Developing and using models
  3. Planning and carrying out investigations
  4. Analyzing and interpreting data
  5. Using mathematics and computational thinking
  6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
  7. Engaging in argument from evidence
  8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Learn more about the SEPs

Crosscutting Concepts are ideas that appear across several areas of STEM. They give students “an organizational framework for connecting knowledge from the various disciplines” and include concepts such as cause and effect, energy and matter, and stability and change. 

  1. Patterns
  2. Cause and effect
  3. Scale, Proportion, and Quantity
  4. Systems and System Models
  5. Energy and Matter
  6. Structure and Function
  7. Stability and Change

Learn more about the CCCs

Disciplinary Core Ideas can be simply defined as “content knowledge.” They are those ideas that are crucial to understanding the science disciplines, and can either be a key concept to a specific discipline or relevant to more than one discipline. They are divided into four content domains: 

  1. Life Sciences
  2. Earth and Space Sciences
  3. Physical Sciences
  4. Engineering, Technology, and the Application of Science

Learn more about the DCIs.

Together, the three dimensions create opportunities for learning how to think and act like scientists and engineers, while covering necessary content knowledge. Three-dimensional learning helps maximize student engagement and improve learning outcomes. 

Need a genuine 3-D science program? Check out Twig Science

The Importance of the NGSS

Why is a good STEM education important?

In today’s rapidly changing society, STEM careers are in increasingly high demand. These jobs are crucial to continued development and innovation—whether it’s developing new medicines or finding solutions to tackling climate change. As a result, if we are to prepare today’s students to lead the global economy and pursue the diverse employment opportunities out there, we must equip them with a good K–12 science education.

How has science education in the US changed?

Over the last decade, science education in the US has undergone a transformation. Until the introduction of the NGSS in the 2010s, American schools followed the National Science Education Standards from the National Research Council (NRC) and Benchmarks for Science Literacy from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to teach science in the classroom. 

Both of these frameworks were formulated in the early 1990s and quickly became outdated. Students were learning theory without understanding the underlying principles that make that theory work. But to succeed in both STEM fields and other modern careers, the next generation needs to learn important 21st-century skills such as research, communication, and evidence-based critical thinking. 

How were the Next Generation Science Standards developed? How are they different from older standards?

To reflect the new demands of a rapidly changing world, the National Research Council released the report “A Framework for K–12 Science Education” in 2011. This framework details what K–12 students should learn throughout their science education, with a focus on scientific skills and methods and the understanding of processes.

The framework then formed the basis of the development of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). A consortium of 26 states as well as the NRC, the AAAS, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), and the nonprofit organization Achieve worked together to develop the standards. Teachers, science and policy staff, higher education faculty, business leaders, and expert STEM professionals were also involved in the development of the standards. 

In 2013, the final draft of the standards was published. The standards highlight the importance of students thinking and acting like scientists and engineers—instead of just learning content, students are expected to understand and apply methods that scientists and engineers use in their daily work.

How many states have adopted the NGSS?

Today, 20 states have adopted the NGSS and an additional 24 states have developed their own standards based on the NRC Framework and the NGSS. As a result, 71% of students in the US receive a science education that follows the NRC Framework. (1)

What are the three dimensions of the NGSS?

The NGSS fills in a demand in education that had previously been left unaddressed, prioritizing methodology and blending content with practice. The framework is based on three overlapping dimensions of science learning, all of which weld practice to theory: Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs), Crosscutting Concepts (CCCs), and Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs).

Learn more about the three dimensions of the NGSS.

In short, the NGSS focuses on developing the habits and skills that scientists and engineers use in day-to-day life. The standards are formulated to help students learn how to think rather than telling them what to think. Teachers are there to guide students to draw their own conclusions based on evidence and reasoning. The standards provide students with the space and encouragement to question, investigate, and draw their own inferences based on evidence. Through the NGSS, we are preparing future generations to be independent, responsible, and proactive before they go out into the world. 

Twig Science: a genuine NGSS program

Twig Science is a complete PK/TK–8 program built for the NGSS that connects real-world phenomena with 3-D learning. Twig Science is designed to make delivering the NGSS straightforward even for nonspecialist science teachers and includes comprehensive resources in print and digital for flexible lesson planning, a state-of-the-art 3-D Performance Assessment suite, and an innovative, easy-to-use digital platform. Find out more.

  1. https://ngss.nsta.org/About.aspx

What is Three-Dimensional Learning? | NGSS

Why do we need NGSS?

The fundamental aim of the introduction of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) was to change science teaching as we knew it. The way that we used to, and many people still do, 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. With the help of the new standards, teachers will be able to make science more approachable, more engaging, and more reflective of our current society. 

Instead of focusing on rote memorization, the NGSS highlights important skills such as research, communication, and analytical thinking. While content knowledge is still a part of the standards, the focus is on teaching students how to engage with new knowledge, answer questions and solve problems, and make connections between the different scientific disciplines, as well as relating science to the real world. This is where three-dimensional learning comes into play.

Three-Dimensional Learning

At the base of the NGSS are three “dimensions” of science learning:

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

Every standard, or performance expectation, is supported by these dimensions. SEPs and CCCs are designed to be taught in context, while a focus on a small number of DCIs help students gain a thorough understanding of the science disciplines. Together, the three dimensions reflect far more accurately how science and engineering is practiced in the real world.

Science and Engineering Practices highlight methods that scientists and engineers actually use as part of their work, such as modeling, developing explanations, and engaging in critique and evaluation. The SEPs require students to learn by doing, thus acquiring skills that can be applied to problems across all STEM disciplines. The eight SEPs are:

  1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
  2. Developing and using models
  3. Planning and carrying out investigations
  4. Analyzing and interpreting data
  5. Using mathematics and computational thinking
  6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
  7. Engaging in argument from evidence
  8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Learn more about the SEPs

Crosscutting Concepts are ideas that appear across several areas of STEM. They give students “an organizational framework for connecting knowledge from the various disciplines” and include concepts such as cause and effect, energy and matter, and stability and change. 

  1. Patterns
  2. Cause and effect
  3. Scale, Proportion, and Quantity
  4. Systems and System Models
  5. Energy and Matter
  6. Structure and Function
  7. Stability and Change

Learn more about the CCCs

Disciplinary Core Ideas can be simply defined as “content knowledge.” They are those ideas that are crucial to understanding the science disciplines, and can either be a key concept to a specific discipline or relevant to more than one discipline. They are divided into four content domains: 

  1. Life Sciences
  2. Earth and Space Sciences
  3. Physical Sciences
  4. Engineering, Technology, and the Application of Science

Learn more about the DCIs.

Together, the three dimensions create opportunities for learning how to think and act like scientists and engineers, while covering necessary content knowledge. Three-dimensional learning helps maximize student engagement and improve learning outcomes. 

Need a genuine, three-dimensional NGSS program? Check out Twig Science