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Coherent Science Learning for Future Elementary Teachers: Crosscutting Concepts in Earth Science

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Frederick Nelson

on 9 January 2015

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Transcript of Coherent Science Learning for Future Elementary Teachers: Crosscutting Concepts in Earth Science

Coherent Science Learning for Future Elementary Teachers:
CrossCutting Concepts in Earth Science

Frederick L. Nelson, Mara Brady,
Carol Fry Bohlin, & Fariborz Tehrani
California State University, Fresno
ASTE 2015

Improving Science Learning for
Future Elementary Teachers
Liberal Studies STEM Concentration
Four upper division courses:
Environmental Earth and Life Sciences
Physics Pedagogy and Outreach
Energy, Technology, & Society
Engineering Literacy

Common Course Goals
Increasing interest in and generating excitement for teaching and learning science
Providing coherent and connected 
science learning opportunities
Modeling research-based and inquiry-oriented science pedagogy
Facilitating awareness of the science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts,  and disciplinary core ideas of the NGSS

Maker workshop
Propeller car
Project-based learning
NGSS foundations
Syllabus sharing
Ongoing faculty seminars
Faculty Collaboration
Environmental Earth & Life Science
Explores environmental issues, sustainability, and interactions among earth’s systems

GE course, taken by all Liberal Studies majors

Two 75-minute lecture meetings per week

High enrollment course (~50 students)

Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation
Scale, proportion, and quantity
Systems and system models
Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation
Structure and function
Stability and change

NGSS Crosscutting Concepts
Course Redesign
Introduction to Earth Science: emphasizing K-6 teacher preparation, application of NGSS--lower division GE course

Environmental Earth & Life Science (& Sustainable Solutions): upper division General Education requirement. Explicit integration of Crosscutting concepts as an organizing framework for the course

Ranking Task Participants (n=57)
Overall Rankings (10 items)
Students in the upper division course, which has an explicit interdisciplinary focus, were more likely to select the more complex CCs, such as Stability and Change.

“I picked pattern because there is a relationship of some kind happening in this picture. Why are the mushrooms only arraigned in a circle and not any other shapes or sporadically?”

“Structure and function is the way in which an object or living thing is shaped and its substructure determine many of its properties and functions."

Explain your reasoning for selecting the CrossCutting Concept as Most Useful
We constructed a series of Ranking Task Exercises (O'Kuma, et al, 2000).

Students are presented with a natural or designed phenomenon, and asked to select which Crosscutting Concept is MOST USEFUL in understanding the phenomenon. They also are asked for a justification for their ranking.

Ten different phenomena were presented.

Ranking Task Exercises
After completing the ranking tasks, students were presented with each CC and asked to (1) describe a natural or designed phenomenon for which learners could use that specific CC to understand, and (2) provide a reason why that specific CC is highly relevant.

Open-ended Responses
“The globe: This CC is relevant to the phenomenon because the Earth is actually pretty humongous. To create a globe, they needed to scale it the earth down so that we may be able to look at the entire Earth.”

“The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere: The specific amount of CO2 in the atmosphere helps us determine how much global temperature may rise or fall from the addition or subtraction of the greenhouse gas. If the amount in the atmosphere rises almost exponentially, humans can intervene to get the quantity of CO2 to be reduced.”

“Trying to put the universe into perspective or any object that varies by considerable orders of magnitude: Students have a hard time imagining what very large or very small object look like in comparison to the objects they observe everyday."
Student-generated examples: Scale, proportion, & quantity
Common themes included phases of matter, feedbacks, ecosystem changes

Some responses were outside of science, which may reflect responders lack of comfort with a concept (e.g. “Don’t really know this concept yet”)

Different concepts of “stability” among the responses: e.g. feeling safe or stable, not running out of an unlimited resource, economic stability

Patterns and Cause & Effect are integrated into all CCs (NGSS Framework). Responders often listed those as the most useful, possibly because they are the easiest with which to identify connections with many different scenarios

Responders don’t often identify Scale, Proportion, and Quantity as the most useful but are able to come up with examples of the importance of this concept

Explicit integration of ‘systems thinking’ into instruction may be most useful for developing an understanding of CCs #3-7.

Initial Conclusions
Future Directions
A scoring rubric could be developed to assess concept understanding and different levels of understanding

Reducing the number of options to select may be more useful for assessing deeper understanding (avoid selection of most obvious concepts like patterns and cause and effect)

Future work will investigate whether an interdisciplinary or integrated instructional approach may improve understanding of CCs versus traditional courses that are taught within a single discipline

Ranking Task Exercise Link:


Please feel free to review the ranking task items and provide feedback to us

Thanks for your interest

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