ENSI NOS Lessons: Meeting the New Science Standards

Science Education Standards.
The new national Framework for K-12 Science Education (NRC 2012) reinforces and extends the national science standards established in 1996. For example, "there is a strong consensus about characteristics of the scientific enterprise that should be understood by an educated citizen." However, the treatment of these NOS characteristics in most science textbooks and state science standards are seldom specified. Most textbooks focus primarily on the mythical “Scientific Method,” as do some of the lessons they provide. The 2012 Framework points out that “the notion that there is a single scientific method of observation, hypothesis, deduction, and conclusion, a myth perpetuated to this day by many textbooks, is fundamentally wrong.” The NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards), (NRC 2013), clearly reflects this. We’ve actually known this for a long time, but do your state standards point this out? Or do they still require your students to "know" the steps in "The Scientific Method?"

ENSI’s NOS lessons reflect virtually every Learning Outcome listed in the two matrices in Appendix H of the NGSS on how the NOS is handled in the NGSS (pages 5 and 6). Our NOS lessons even address a few goals in the 2012 national Science Framework that were OVERLOOKED by the NGSS. Some of those Learning Outcomes are not as clear as they could be, and a few important elements are missing. But the new NGSS is certainly much better than any earlier set of national standards. If your state has not yet developed new science standards, you might want to point out those few suggested changes to your state standards committee if you have the chance. Perhaps you could work with your state science teacher's association in doing this. If you like, you can contact ENSI webmaster Larry Flammer for a copy of the NOS suggestions he sent to his state (CA) committee.

Scientific Argumentation: This is another major goal of both the NGSS and the Common Core Standards. It appears in the new Framework for K-12 Science Education (2012) nearly 100 times. Several of ENSI's interactive NOS lessons already provide opportunity to practice this skill. See links to resources and ENSI lessons referenced below under Scientific Argumentation.

Critical thinking has also been a stated goal in past science frameworks, and the latest one (NRC 2012) expresses this as engaging in “critical and evidence-based argumentation.” But this, too, requires that certain strategies be actively and explicitly modeled and practiced. Even if a textbook were to describe those strategies, it’s the teacher who must do the modeling and guide the practicing students. Critical thinking should be an important part of your introductory unit on the NOS.

Studies have pointed out that students will not learn or acquire understanding of the many important elements of the NOS simply by doing investigative studies (Khishfe & Abd-El-Khalick 2002; Schwartz, et al 2004). Specific elements of the NOS must be pointed out explicitly, and students must engage with them in interactive lessons.

STEM and Common Core Standards
There are several STEM-satisfying lessons and Common Core-related elements incorporated there. STEM standards are clearly embedded in those lessons involving scientific creativity, including Magic Hooey Stick, Perception Not Always Reality, Great Volume Exchanger, Mystery Boxes, and the Checks Lab. They all involve practice in hypothesizing reasonable testable explanations, and designing tests for those hypotheses. Three of them also provide a basis for reverse engineering (Magic Hooey Stick, Great Volume Exchanger, and Mystery Boxes).

There are at least three of ENSI’s NOS lessons that use and apply math in science (meeting both STEM and Common Core goals): The Oat Seed Lab (teaches statistical analysis, growth measurements, graphing and their analyses). The Perception Not Always Reality lesson involves measuring percent differences between estimated and measured degrees of difference. How’s Your Horoscope involves calculating likely results due to chance.

Common Core related lessons in the ENSI NOS collection that require reading and interpreting scientific material (besides the math-using and argumentation lessons mentioned):
Flat Earth, CONPTT, Women's Brains, and Contrivances: Orchids & Panda's Thumb


Index to Useful Overviews of ENSI NOS Lessons
(includes NGSS-CCS-STEM targeted lessons)

Importance of Teaching the Nature of Science

The Nature of Modern Science, by Dr. Martin Nickels

Unit Plan: A Sample Plan for Teaching the Nature of Science in High School

Teaching the Nature of Science

Scientific Argumentation

Khishfe, R., and F. Abd-El-Khalick. 2002. Influence of explicit and reflective versus implicit inquiry-oriented instruction on sixth graders' views of nature of science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 39(7):551-578. Click Here for Abstract.

NRC (National Research Council). 2013. NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards),
_____. 2012. A Framework for K-12 Science Education.
_____. 1995. National Science Education Standards, Grades 9-12 Content Standard G, Nature of Scientific Knowledge, page 201. National Academy Press.

Understanding Science: Research showing why it’s important to actively teach the nature and processes of science.