Introduction to Essential Learning Events

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) ask students to think and behave like scientists and engineers. When students understand how scientists and engineers do their work, and have opportunities to explore, investigate, and explain phenomena, they become more engaged in learning and increase their comprehension. The experience students have in the science classroom is directly impacted by the instruction provided by the teacher and culture and environment built by both teachers and students.

The NGSS were developed with three dimensions in mind, where by students use Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs), Crosscutting Concepts (CCCs), and Disciplinary Core ideas (DCIs) to explain how and why phenomena occur. The Crosscutting Concepts can be thought of as the habits of thinking of scientists. The Science and Engineering Practices are ways that students work to make sense of natural and human-made phenomena. It is important that teachers recognize that “students cannot fully understand scientific and engineering ideas without engaging in the practices of inquiry and the discourses by which such ideas are developed and refined. At the same time, they cannot learn or show competence in practices except in the context of specific content.” (NRC Framework, 2012, p.218)

Quality learning experiences in science happen as teachers plan activities and tasks that require high cognitive demands from students. These activities and tasks are organized into lessons or learning sequences, often happening over the course of several days or weeks. The Science and Engineering Practices of NGSS support teacher planning and student learning through the consideration of student actions that demand student discourse, are cognitively challenging, and promote collaboration among peers.

High quality learning experiences can be grouped into four events, called Essential Learning Events in Science. Although they generally happen sequentially, it is common for a learning sequence to move back and forth between these events as ideas are built, data is collected, evidence is considered, and models and explanations are refined and revised.

 

Essential Learning Events in Science

Learning Event 1 Learning Event 2 Learning Event 3 Learning Event 4
Students experience phenomena, make observations, and collect data through investigations. Students make sense of patterns and relationships in observations and data through representation, analysis, and interpretation. Students construct models and causal explanations of phenomenon using evidence and reasoning. Students revise ideas, models, and explanations through critique and argumentation.

Foregrounded SEPs

SEP1: Asking questions and defining problems

SEP3: Planning and carrying out investigations

Foregrounded SEPs

SEP4: Analyzing and interpreting data

SEP5: Using mathematics and computational thinking

Foregrounded SEPs

SEP2: Developing and using models

SEP6: Constructing explanations and designing solutions

SEP8: Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Foregrounded SEPs

SEP2: Developing and using models

SEP6: Constructing explanations and designing solutions

SEP7: Engaging in argument from evidence

 

 

This document contains resources to assist teachers as the seek ways of planning for student learning with the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) in mind. Several of the SEPs are foregrounded in each of the four Essential Learning Events in Science. The resources provided in this document include: 

  • A description of the Essential Learning Event,
  • A Student Use Continuum which can be used to assess a whole class’s ability to engage in the foreground SEPs,
  • Sample Student Actions which describe specific actions of students using a particular SEP,
  • A Teacher Use Continuum which helps identify a teacher’s ability to use a foregrounded SEP,
  • Sample Teacher Actions and Instructional Strategies which a teacher can used to help students move toward greater proficiency in the use of an SEP,
  • Questions to Promote the Use of the SEPs and CCCs are sample prompts a teacher may ask to guide and assess student learning and understanding,

Assessment Task Formats are sample assessment frames which can be designed into a lesson or developed as a summative assessment at the end of a learning sequence.