Series The Three Dimensions of the NGSS: NGSS: Crosscutting Concepts

NGSS: Crosscutting Concepts

Lesson Objective: Learn about the Crosscutting Concepts in the Next Generation Science Standards
All Grades / Science / 3 Dimensions


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. How do students benefit from understanding the Crosscutting Concepts?
  2. How do the NGSS use Crosscutting Concepts in a new way?
  3. How did the task prompt participants to use the Crosscutting Concepts?


  • Private message to Krystal Melendez
  1. The students benefit from understanding the Crosscutting Concepts because they can understand how to apply the skills/knowledge they learn in science in other aspects of their lives. 
  2. The NGSS uses Crosscutting Concepts in a new way by making those connections for the students so they can see how skills/knowledge can be applied across a wide range of activities. 
  3. The task required them to pull from their previous knowledge regardless of the subject (ex: math, nature, art, etc.) to explain what was going on with the flag. 
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  • Private message to Gretchen Vierstra
Melissa, thanks for letting us know about the closed captioning issue. It should be all fixed now!
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  • Private message to Melissa Renko
The closed captioning for this video is actually with the DCI video and the closed captioning for the DCI video is actually for the Crosscutting concepts video.
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  • Private message to Chris Howen
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  • Private message to Kathleen Mockus
Please add closed captions or subtitles to these videos for the Deaf and hard of hearing.
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  • NGSS: Crosscutting Concepts Transcript

    Speaker 1: As we think about science and the nature of science it would be great to

    NGSS: Crosscutting Concepts Transcript

    Speaker 1: As we think about science and the nature of science it would be great to start thinking about what are in fact those underlying concepts that we can teach, thinking about how that concept works and having that as a takeaway, conceptual understanding. Today we're going to talk about cross-cutting concepts.

    Speaker 2: We need to describe the pattern.

    Speaker 1: We had the opportunity to work with teachers to model student science performances and then to deconstruct that in conversations around how the framework and next generation science standards play out in classroom instruction.

    Speaker 3: It points in the direction that the wind is blowing. That's a pattern.

    Speaker 1: Cross-cutting concepts are for the students. You help them organize and make sense of the science. The way we've organized them is around causality, structure and functions, systems, scale and proportion, change and stability, matter and energy, and then the last thing patterns. Cross-cutting concepts have been around a long time. What is a new innovation is the fact that they appear in the performance expectation in the standards which they'll be assessed with two other dimensions, sciences and engineering practices and disciplinary core ideas. That's really what's new. When we engage you in a performance we're going to be using three dimensions but we're going to focus today on cross-cutting concepts.

    Speaker 4: In the past, teachers are familiar with the concepts and they've learned them through their schooling but they're not always translating those to the students, make sure the students are understanding them. And so we need to shift those from being a tool for teachers to a tool for students to help build their understanding.

    Speaker 5: We want to engage you in a performance with a flag.

    Speaker 6: Tear some of it off maybe.

    Speaker 1: In the performance we engage them in a phenomenon of flags waving in the wind.

    Speaker 7: You can construct it how you want. We can go outside. We can do it in here.

    Speaker 4: Doing the activity, the question was one does a flag wave in the wind. What questions would help us explain what was going on? We needed to develop some questions about that and research some information.

    Speaker 1: For those students, when they encounter new phenomena they begin by saying what is the system I'm studying?

    Speaker 8: I would say the flag itself is our model.

    Speaker 1: What is the scale of the system? What is changing in the system.

    Speaker 9: So basically you have these two triangles, the wave generates along that hypotenuse -

    Speaker 10: You have this line.

    Speaker 9: - right.

    Speaker 1: What is causing that change to occur?

    Speaker 11: A lot of that back and forth pattern.

    Speaker 1: Are there patterns that make sense in this phenomena that I'm studying and have them construct an explanation.

    Speaker 12: It flaps back and forth because it's like the Bernoulli Principle.

    Speaker 13: Any other information -

    Speaker 14: Here's the thing. You were saying something about gravity.

    Speaker 1: They went on the Web for part of it. They went outside with the model. They investigated it.

    Speaker 15: What if you're right behind her, over her head?

    Speaker 16: You get a consist force acting on it.

    Speaker 4: The task that Brett provided prompted us to think about cross-cutting concepts and so we talked about things like how the wind was causing the flag to move, so cause and effect, how it related to energy because of the energy in the wind being transferred to the flag.

    Speaker 17: When you have it vertical it acted as if it was, which it wasn't, but it acted like it was in a vacuum.

    Speaker 4: We talked about what pattern can we observe in this system that we've seen before? How could we use a model to understand the system in a similar way that we've done. So if students are doing that throughout their science education experience then they will internalize those tools and be able to apply them in the future.

    Speaker 18: It's more stable here and you get gravity exerting a lot of force on it.

    Speaker 4: So that activity helped me think about making the cross-cutting concepts more explicit. The biggest way is just Brett's approach to questioning.

    Speaker 19: The less wind, the less flutter.

    Speaker 1: More flap.

    Speaker 19: Uh-huh.

    Speaker 1: So we're looking at patterns here aren't we.

    Speaker 19: Right.

    Speaker 1: And what causes the patterns to change? What if instead of a flag I gave you a sheet of steel plate? Would it wave?

    Speaker 20: You need to have significantly more energy for that to take place.

    Speaker 1: What do you need more energy?

    Speaker 4: We talked in the large group about what are some other examples where it does apply? I think that's what exactly the cross-cutting concepts are is like where you can take something you learned in one setting and then connect it to other areas of that discipline or cross disciplines.

    Speaker 1: This is a scale question. One of the cross-cutting concepts. If this is my air particle, how large does that pole have to be? I saw the ah ha moments today among teachers. They begin seeing how important it is to frame their questions, to use question stems that come right out of the cross-cutting concepts. I want you to think about the cross-cutting concepts in light of instruction. How do I get the cross-cutting concepts to be featured in my classroom? Yes?

    Speaker 21: You taught systems rather than dividing it into Earth and physical and I see that as being a lot better for the kids because you're picking up on waves, you're taking it through every discipline in science.

    Speaker 1: Our systems in every discipline in science?

    Speaker 21: Yes.

    Speaker 1: They are if you help students understand these cross-cutting concepts.

    Speaker 4: One thing that we talk about recently in education is that when students leave school we don't know really what lays ahead for them in terms of jobs or in terms of if they go into science. And so I think if students have this connected network of knowledge they realize that this concept that I learned, maybe in biology class, I can apply it other places. It's not limited to biology and so therefore when they go out into the workforce, doing research in whatever setting that they can apply concept learned in this setting to some setting that initially may seem totally different but it really can be related.

    Speaker 1: We must become familiar touchstones. There's something that is brought up every day that the students use to support the understanding of science.


Brett Moulding
Jeremy Peacock


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