The Understanding Science website was built around a conceptual framework that aims to help instructors identify a sequence of age-appropriate learning goals (K-16) to guide their teaching. This framework was developed by an expert group of scientific and teacher advisors at the site’s inception.
The Understanding Science framework preceded the development of both the 2012 Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which emphasize how science works and identify eight primary practices of science. Nevertheless, there is a direct correlation between Understanding Science and the practices included within the national framework. Both stress that there is no single “scientific method,” that science considers alternative explanations, and that ideas need to be tested against evidence from the natural world. Both discuss the importance of scientific argumentation and the communication of scientific ideas with others. The How Science Works Flowchart incorporates the eight recommended practices, provides an accurate portrayal of the process of science, and serves as an effective tool for reflection and to make that process explicit. The Understanding Science conceptual framework also aligns well with the eight practices, as well as with learning outcomes outlined in NGSS’s Understandings about the Nature of Science.
Because the Understanding Science website focuses exclusively on an in-depth presentation on the nature and process of science and addresses how to engage students in authentic scientific inquiry, our conceptual framework identifies more detailed learning goals for students than do the national documents. The Understanding Science conceptual framework also aims to help instructors understand how concepts taught at one grade level lay the groundwork for more sophisticated concepts later on, while the national documents do not focus on this progression.
The teaching resources included within Understanding Science’s Teaching Resource Database have all been vetted and aligned with our conceptual framework and with the NGSS (where appropriate). These resources will be useful in fostering student understanding of and engagement with the nature and process of science as required by the NGSS.