Essential Learning Event 1

Students experience phenomena, make observations, and collect data through investigations.

Students have an initial experience with a phenomenon and have the opportunity to share their wonderings and ask questions about their observations. Questions to be answered or the problem to be solved is identified. Students further observe, investigate, and explore the phenomena. In first-hand experiences, students might develop testable questions, plan an investigation, carry out the investigation, and record and observations and data. In some cases the teacher may already have an investigation they want students to conduct. In second-hand experiences, students analyze data that has already been collected from other scientists. In such a case, the context for where and how the data was collected is provided.

Foregrounded Practices of ELE1

SEP1: Asking questions and defining problems

SEP3: Planning and carrying out investigations

Student Use Continuum for ELE1

Foregrounded SEP Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
SEP1: Asking questions and defining problems Students do not ask questions. Students ask questions, but they are not typically scientific questions (i.e., not answerable through the gathering of evidence about the natural world. Students ask questions. Students’ questions are both scientific and nonscientific question. Students ask questions. Students’ questions are typically scientific (i.e., answerable through gathering evidence about the natural world.
SEP3: Planning and carrying out investigations Students do not design or conduct investigations. Students conduct investigations, but these opportunities are typically teacher-driven. Students do not make decisions about experimental variables or investigational methods (e.g., number of trials). Students design or conduct investigations to gather data. Students make decisions about experimental variables, controls or investigational methods (e.g., number of trials). Students design and conduct investigations to gather data. Students make decisions about experimental variables, controls, and investigational methods (e.g., number of trials).

Note: The levels reflect increasingly sophisticated engagement in the practices and are not grade-level specific. Appendix F in the NGSS provides significantly more detail for each practice that should be integrated as both students and teachers develop greater fluency with each practice.

Sample Student Actions for ELE1

SEP1: Asking questions and defining problems

Initial Ideas and Questions about a Phenomenon (SEP1)
  • Students make observations of a phenomenon.
  • Students ask questions based on observations of a phenomenon.
  • Students share initial ideas, perspectives, and previous experiences about the phenomenon.
  • Students decide how to represent the phenomenon through drawings, words, or sketches. (SEP2)
Identify Questions that can be Investigated (SEP1)
  • Students formulate specific questions based on examining models or theories. (SEP2)
  • Students evaluate a question about a phenomenon to determine if it is empirically testable.
  • Students ask questions that can be investigated within the scope of the classroom with available resources.
  • Students identify the variables in scientific questions. (SEP3)

SEP3: Planning and carrying out investigations

Plan an Investigation (SEP3)

If students are planning the investigation:

  • Students describe the phenomenon under investigation and question to be answered. (SEP1)
  • Students discuss and decide what to measure or observe and why.
  • Students identify independent and dependent variables and controls.
  • Students identify what tools are needed to collect data.
  • Students decide how data and observations will be reported. (SEP4)
  • Students decide how much data are needed to produce reliable measurements and consider any limitations on the precision of the data. (SEP4)
  • Students predict possible outcomes for the investigation.
  • Students write the procedure that will be followed in the investigation. (SEP8)
  • Students discuss and identify safety concerns and ethical considerations for the investigation being planned. (SEP8)

If students are planning for an investigation that is being provided:

  • Students describe the phenomenon under investigation and question to be answered. (SEP1)
  • Students ask clarifying questions about the written procedure. (SEP8)
  • Students identify and discuss what will be measured or observed and why. (SEP8)
  • Students identify independent and dependent variables and controls.
  • Students identify how tools will be used to collect data.
  • Students describe how data and observations will be reported. (SEP4)
  • Students decide how to produce reliable measurements and consider any limitations on the precision of the data. (SEP4)
  • Students predict possible outcomes for the investigation.
  • Students discuss and identify safety concerns and ethical considerations for the investigation being planned. (SEP8)
Carry Out an Investigation and Record Data/Observations (SEP3)
  • Students determine and agree on roles/jobs to support the investigation.
  • Students read and follow written procedures to carry out the investigation. (SEP8)
  • Students follow safety procedures and ethical protocols.
  • Students make observations and collect data.
  • Students record observations and data.
  • Students make drawings, label components, and describe what is happening before, during, and after an experiment. (SEP2)
  • Students organize data in charts, tables, and/or graphs to represent phenomena. (SEP4)
  • Students clearly describe what each data set represents. (SEP2)
  • Students ask questions about data that has been collected. (SEP1)
  • Students refine the investigation, if necessary, to produce more accurate and precise data (that might better explain the phenomenon).
  • Students discuss data and share observations with others. (SEP8)

Teacher Use Continuum for ELE1

Foregrounded SEP Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
SEP1: Asking questions and defining problems Teacher does not provide opportunities for students to ask questions. Teacher provides opportunities for students to ask questions. Students’ questions are not typically scientific questions (i.e., not answerable through the gathering of evidence or about the natural world). Teacher provides opportunities for students to ask questions. Students’ questions are both scientific and non-scientific questions. Teacher provides opportunities for students to ask questions. Students’ questions are typically scientific (i.e., answerable through gathering evidence about the natural world.
SEP3: Planning and carrying out investigations Teacher does not provide opportunities for students to design or conduct investigations. Teacher provides opportunities for students to conduct investigations, but these opportunities are typically teacher-driven. Students do not make decisions about experimental variables or investigational methods (e.g., number of trials). Teacher provides opportunities for students to design or conduct investigations to gather data. These opportunities enable students to make decisions about experimental variables, controls or investigational methods (e.g., number of trials). Teacher provides opportunities for students to design and conduct investigations to gather data. These opportunities enable students to make decisions about experimental variables, controls, and investigational methods (e.g., number of trials).

Note: The levels reflect increasingly sophisticated engagement in the practices and are not grade-level specific. Appendix F in the NGSS provides significantly more detail for each practice that should be integrated as both students and teachers develop greater fluency with each practice.

Sample Teacher Actions and Instructional Strategies for ELE1

SEP1: Asking questions and defining problems

Initial Ideas and Questions about a Phenomenon (SEP1)
  • Create curiosity and wonder in students. Carefully construct the initial exposure to the phenomenon in such a way to peak student interest in such a way that they begin asking questions.
  • Ask students to carefully observe the phenomenon. Have them talk with a partner and share their observations.
  • Have students individually, with a partner, or in a group generate a list of questions that come to mind as they observe the phenomenon.
  • Have students observe the phenomenon several times. The first time, have them only observe. The second time have students observe and record or talk with a partner about what they are observing. The third time, have them generate wonderings or questions.
  • When possible, have students physically observe the phenomenon through a hands-on experience or teacher demonstration. If this is not possible, use media (video or audio) to allow students to carefully make observations and identify questions.
  • Have students share their previous experiences or initial perspectives with the phenomenon.
Identify Questions that can be Investigated (SEP1)
  • Ask students to share ideas of scientific questions about the phenomena they have observed. Emphasize that scientific questions should be questions that can be answered using observations and data from investigations.1
  • Provide examples and nonexamples of scientific questions. Ask students to work in groups to sort the questions.1
  • Model the writing of scientific questions. Demonstrate that since scientific questions can be answered using data from investigations the question should contain two variables.1
  • Have students identify the variables in scientific questions (i.e. underline the independent variable, circle the dependent variable). Scaffold if necessary by doing several as a whole class and then having students practice with their own (or peers’) scientific questions.1
  • Provide opportunities for students to work together to write scientific questions that will be used for in-class investigations. Encourage students to critique each other’s ideas and pose questions to each other as part of the discussion.1

SEP3: Planning and carrying out investigations

Plan an Investigation (SEP3)
  • Decide whether the investigation will be conducted individually, collaboratively, or as a whole class.
  • Identify what tools are available for students.
  • If different groups of students have developed investigation plans, facilitate a class discussion argument to choose one investigation to conduct.
  • Provide students with a graphic organizer to record the variables (independent, dependent, constants), procedure, materials, and data table.
  • Show students several procedures for investigations that have varying numbers of trials, materials, or types of data tables. Ask students to critique the procedures based on the scientific question being explored.
  • Show students several procedures for investigations in which only one variable changes while the others alter multiple variables at the same time. Ask students to critique the procedures to discuss the idea of a fair test and only changing one variable at a time.
  • Provide a choice of 3-4 scientific questions to explore about a specific topic. Have small groups of students select their question and design an investigation to answer that question.
  • Provide a general experimental procedure but allow student choice in terms of variables to be manipulated (e.g. materials to test, length of time).
  • Have students vote on their prediction for the outcome of an experiment. Record predictions on the board. Ask students to revisit their predictions after they have gathered data.
Carry Out an Investigation and Record Data/Observations (SEP3)
  • Assign students in small groups to complete investigations. Consider student needs, backgrounds, and language when configuring student groups.
  • Assign each student a job to do during the investigation or have students self-select roles. Model the job responsibilities before beginning the investigation so students understand what is expected of them while performing the investigation.
  • Assign groups to specific spaces in the classroom to conduct their investigations. This helps ensure each group has sufficient space to conduct their investigation and that the groups will not disturb each other.
  • When appropriate, have students post their data on a class data chart.
  • Demonstrate the appropriate use of laboratory tools and safety procedures.
  • Share any modifications to the written procedure, if necessary.
  • Check in with student groups often to monitor progress, probe student thinking, and formatively assess student learning.
  • Scaffold support for students in collecting data and following experimental procedures. Partner groups with another group to share and discuss data collection methods.
  • Have groups of students compare and contrast their data tables. If differences exist in the data, ask student hypothesize about why these differences exist. Have students make a plan to reduce sources of error in future iterations of the investigation (i.e.dropping a ball from the same height, having the same students operate a stopwatch through the investigation, etc.).
  • Provide written steps for students to follow to scaffold analyzing complex data tables. For example, students might be asked to first state how many trials were conducted, then asked what pattern they see in the first column of the data table. As student’s capability with finding the patterns in data improves through the school year, slowly remove the scaffold.

Questions to Promote the Use of the SEP and CCC in ELE1

SEP 1: Asking questions and defining problems

Initial Ideas and Questions about a Phenomenon (SEP1)
  • How would you describe what you are observing?
  • How might you sketch or draw what you are observing?
  • What experience have you had with this phenomenon?
  • What do you wonder about as you observe this phenomenon?
  • What questions come to mind as you observe this phenomenon?
Identify Questions that can be Investigated (SEP1)
  • Provide fill-in-the-blank questions for students. (Example: How does the ___________ affect __________?)1
  • What questions can we ask about this phenomenon?
  • How would you go about answering a scientific question?1
  • What variables might we investigate to learn more about this phenomenon?
  • How might we test a question about a phenomenon?

SEP3: Planning and carrying out investigations

Plan an Investigation (SEP3)
  • What question are you trying to answer? What problem are you trying to solve?
  • How will the investigation you are planning answer your question about the phenomenon?
  • What data will you be collecting? How will it be collected?
  • How will you report that data?
  • Describe the experimental procedure you will follow.
  • How will the procedure help to collect reliable data?
  • What safety considerations have you considered?
  • What possible outcomes might you predict for this experiment? Why do you think this?
  • What questions do you have about the experimental procedure?
Carry Out an Investigation and Record Data/Observations (SEP3)
  • What changes are you having to make to the procedure as you are working and why?
  • How might we translate our observations into a data table or other organizational structure?
  • What data have you collected?
  • How are you organizing the data? Is this organizational structure working and if not, what might you consider?
  • What patterns does the data you have organized show? (CCC Patterns)
  • Why did you organize the data the way you did?
  • How might you modify the experiment to produce more accurate and precise data?
  • What new questions are you thinking about as you are conducting this experiment? (SEP1)
  • How do the data and observations help you think about the phenomena we are studying?

Assessment Task Formats for ELE1

Potential Task Formats: Asking Questions (SEP1)

Note: A set of task formats for “defining problems” is available at http://researchandpractice.org/NGSSTaskFormats

1

Present students with a scientific phenomenon and questions related to that phenomenon, then

  • Ask students to identify which questions are testable scientific questions.

2a

Present students with an observable scientific phenomenon to be explained, then

  • Ask students to formulate descriptive questions about the phenomenon they observed.

2b

Present students with a scientific phenomenon to be explained, then

  • Ask students to formulate a scientific question to investigate the phenomenon.

2c

Present students with a scientific phenomenon to be explained, then

  • Ask students to generate a scientific question relevant to investigating that phenomenon, and
  • Ask students to describe what evidence is needed to answer the question they generated.

3a

Present students with a scientific phenomenon to be explained and a scientific question, then

  • Ask students what questions we need to answer along the way to answer the scientific question, and
  • Ask students to describe what evidence is needed to answer those questions might and how they help build toward an explanation of the phenomenon.

3b

Present students with a scientific phenomenon to be explained and a scientific question, then

  • Ask students to evaluate whether or not the question is relevant to explaining the phenomenon.
  • If the question is relevant, ask students to describe what evidence is needed to answer that question.

4

Present students with a textual description of an investigation of an observable phenomenon, a scientific question, and a set of data and findings, then

  • Ask students to formulate a follow-up question to extend the investigation.

5

Present students with a scenario of a scientific argument in the context of an investigation, then

  • Ask students to generate questions they would ask to clarify the argument or to ask for elaboration of the ideas presented in the argument.

6

Present students with a scientific phenomenon to be explained and a scientific question, then

  • Ask students to revise the question to make it investigable with available resources in the classroom.

7

Present students with a scientific phenomenon to be explained and with a question or a set of questions, then

  • Ask students to evaluate and explain whether or not the question(s) is empirically testable.

Potential Task Formats: Planning and Carrying Out Investigations (SEP3)

Relevant definitions:

  • An investigation plan encompasses a description of data sources and measures to be used, procedures for observing and recording data, and, where relevant, a plan for how observations will be sampled.
  • A data source refers to a type of data only (“We would need data on the size of the white-colored moth population” or “We would need data comparing the color of tail feathers in birds in the mountains and in the city”)

1

Present students with a scientific phenomenon to be explained, then

  • Ask students to identify questions to ask, and
  • Ask students to evaluate different ways of observing and/or measuring to answer those questions, and
  • Ask students to conduct the investigation by observing and/or measuring and then making comparisons between data collected.

2

Present students with a scientific phenomenon to be explained, a scientific question, and an investigation plan, then

  • Ask students to perform the investigation plan and collect and record data.

3

Present students with a scientific phenomenon (or scientific model) to be explained and a scientific question, then

  • Ask students to create an investigation plan to investigate the scientific phenomenon (or model), and
  • Ask students to describe how the investigation will generate relevant patterns of evidence for answering the scientific question or for supporting the model.

4

Present students with a scientific phenomenon (or a scientific model) to be explained, then

  • Ask students to generate a scientific question to investigate the phenomenon (or model) with resources available in the classroom (or with a given list of resources), and
  • Ask students to identify the variables needed in the investigation to explain the phenomenon (or model), and
  • Ask students to characterize each variable as dependent or independent and to explain any variables to be controlled and why.

5

Present students with a scientific phenomenon to be explained, a scientific question, and an investigation plan, then

  • Ask students to describe how the data will be collected precisely, and
  • Ask students to how much data is needed to be reliable.

6

Present students with a scientific phenomenon to be explained, a scientific question, and a description of the type of investigation to be conducted, then

  • Ask students to describe the possible confounding variables, and
  • Ask students to write an investigation plan that addresses the confounding variables.

7

Present students with a scientific phenomenon to be explained, a scientific question, and investigation plan, and data collected from the investigation, then

  • Ask students analyze how well the data collected generated relevant evidence to answer the scientific question, and
  • Ask students to revise the investigation plan to be more relevant and to generate more accurate and precise data.

8

Present students with a scientific question, then

  • Ask students to generate ideas about data sources they would need to answer the question, and
  • Ask students to say how the data sources are relevant to answering the question.

9

Present students with a scientific question and a list of data sources they could gather to answer the question, then

  • Ask students to select which data sources are most relevant to answering the question, and
  • Ask students to say how the data are relevant to answering the question.