There is no doubt that science—and, therefore, science education—is central to the lives of all Americans. Never before has our world been so complex and science knowledge so critical to making sense of it all. When comprehending current events, choosing and using technology, or making informed decisions about one’s healthcare, science understanding is key. Science is also at the heart of the United States’ ability to continue to innovate, lead, and create the jobs of the future. All students—whether they become technicians in a hospital, workers in a high-tech manufacturing facility, or Ph.D. researchers—must have a solid K–12 science education (Next Generation Science Standards, NGSS Lead States, 2013, Executive Summary).
HMH Science Dimensions® is a science curriculum designed specifically to address the Three Dimensions of Science Learning outlined in A Framework for K–12 Science Education and the Performance Expectations of Next Generation Science Standards* (NGSS). Through interactive online learning, this program provides an authentic approach to increasing student achievement in science and preparing teachers for engineering instruction. It offers a wide variety of hands-on activities and labs to address all learner types, and there is a generous amount of professional learning embedded within the program in the form of point-of-use videos and NGSS labeling.
Built on a foundation of science education research and authored by leaders in the field of science education, HMH Science Dimensions is proven to be effective in raising students’ achievement. The purpose of this document is to highlight the features of this cohesive, innovative solution while demonstrating explicitly the research upon which it is based.
*Next Generation Science Standards and logo are registered trademarks of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of this product, and they do not endorse it.
HMH Science Dimensions K–12 series is the first from a major education solutions provider to be designed for, not just aligned to, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). This dynamic series introduces a comprehensive solution to the market, giving students coherence and continuity in their science curriculum across the elementary, middle, and high school levels.
The HMH Science Dimensions program’s team of authors and advisors includes key members of the group that drafted the NGSS. Their critical work and feedback ensure that HMH Science Dimensions comprehensively meets the letter and the spirit of the NGSS. The organization of content within and across lessons is coherent and supports the development of deep conceptual understanding and mastery of the standards. HMH Science Dimensions uses consistent bundling of the performance expectations to deliver coherence across the grades. Each unit builds on the previous unit, and the sequence guides students to develop an increasingly complex understanding of the disciplinary core ideas. In support of the National Research Council’s Framework for K–12 Science Education, HMH Science Dimensions delivers a blend of Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) and Crosscutting Concepts (CCCs), woven through the Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs) in overlapping progressions. The authors have created lessons and activities that precisely display the presence and interaction of the three dimensions in and across the course, module, unit, and lesson levels.
Explanations of the integration of the three dimensions of learning are clear, concise, and direct in the Teacher Editions. Preceding each unit, an NGSS Across This Unit table shows the specific SEPs, CCCs, and DCIs woven throughout each lesson, activity, and task in the unit. Each unit opener also includes an NGSS Across the Grades table, which displays the connections among concepts from prior grades, the current grade range, and future grades. The correlated SEPs, CCCs, and DCIs also appear at the lesson level in the Integrating the Three Dimensions of Learning notes. At the lesson level, 3D Learning Objectives clearly explain the combination of the SEPs, CCCs, and DCIs in the instruction and activities in the form of a statement of what students will be able to do. The Teacher Editions and Student Editions contain full-text correlations and citations to the NGSS.
The online teacher resources include the powerful Standards Trace Tool, which gives teachers a user-friendly view of the NGSS, their correlations to the lessons and resources, and a view of their spiraling connections across the grade levels. The full-text standards and performance expectations appear along with correlations organized into the DCI, SEP, and CCC categories. A grade-level overview for the scope of the NGSS for the entire school year is also available from the Standards Trace Tool.
The strength of the HMH Science Dimensions program also shines through on the EQuIP rubrics, as independent third-party evaluators have given units an “E” rating—”Example of high-quality NGSS design.” The EQuIP rubrics indicate superior alignment to the NGSS through detailed evaluations of specific units.
Among advances featured in the Next Generation Science Standards is an integrative, three-dimensional framework for the teaching and learning of science, with each Performance Expectation supported by Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts. The integration of rigorous content and application reflects how science and engineering are practiced in the real world. Within each lesson, HMH Science Dimensions executes this integrative, real-world approach, while additionally utilizing the effective and widely practiced 5E Instructional Model that has students Engage, Explore, Explain, Extend, and Evaluate. An additional feature is discrepant events that spark students’ interest in learning science.
The learning of science cannot be separated from the doing of science (Duschl, 2012; National Research Council [NRC], 2007). The Next Generation Science Standards outline a vision for a three-dimensional integrated approach to instruction that research shows is necessary in order to provide students with high-quality science education for the 21st century. The three dimensions include Science and Engineering Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Disciplinary Core Ideas. These are accompanied by Performance Expectations, which are learning outcomes or goals, not instructional activities (Bybee, 2013; NGSS Lead States, 2013).
The integration of rigorous content and application reflects how science and engineering are practiced in the real world—and is how experts across related fields advocate for teaching science to better prepare students for college and careers (NRC, 2007, 2012a; NGSS Lead States, 2013; Sneider, 2012). Experts concede that the transition to a three-dimensional approach will be challenging for educators—but promises vital benefits (Bybee, 2011, 2013; NRC, 2015; O’Day, 2016; Pruitt, 2015). Krajcik (2015a) stresses that:
Persisting in this endeavor has its advantages. First, all students will develop deeper knowledge of the three dimensions, which will allow them to apply their knowledge to new and more challenging areas. Second, as all students engage in figuring out phenomena or solutions to problems, they will also develop problem-solving, critical-thinking, communication, and self-management skills. Third, and perhaps most importantly, three-dimensional learning will help foster all students’ sense of curiosity and wonder in science (p. 52).
The Guide to Implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NRC, 2015) clarifies that NGSS-aligned science instruction “does not mean the information that a teacher delivers to students; rather, we mean the set of activities and experiences that teachers organize in their classroom in order for students to learn what is expected of them” (p. 24).
In translating the NGSS into instruction and assessment, Bybee (2013) suggests that educators view the Science and Engineering Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Disciplinary Core Ideas within performance standards as a sequence of lessons (rather than as single lessons) and use them to guide planning and testing from a longer-range perspective and with an integrative approach that combines and overlaps the three dimensions within a given potential activity.
This integrative approach should impact all aspects of teaching science. “Engaging students in three-dimensional learning isn’t an item on a checklist; it is an orientation one takes to science teaching, and it should be used every day. Three-dimensional learning involves establishing a culture of figuring out phenomena or designs to problems” (Krajcik, 2015a, p. 50).
Within HMH Science Dimensions, Science and Engineering Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Disciplinary Core Ideas are not taught as discrete program components but in an integrated manner—the approach that is a core tenet of NGSS. In its alignment with NGSS, the program focuses on a deeper understanding of fewer science concepts.
HMH Science Dimensions authors took the Three Dimensions of Learning associated with Performance Expectations and created learning stepping-stones in the form of 3D Learning Objectives. These objectives show how the curriculum is designed to develop science understanding and engagement through an intertwined, three-dimensional approach, as NGSS require. Each lesson has its own 3D Learning Objective that pulls in components of all three dimensions and prepares learners to achieve in the Performance Expectations identified in each unit or chapter, helping learners advance toward achieving the Performance Expectations for their grade levelby end of course.
The NGSS labeling in the HMH Science Dimensions Teacher Edition clearly highlights how all the PEs, SEPs, DCIs, and CCCs of NGSS are intertwined and applied at point of use in any given lesson. Additionally, throughout the Teacher Edition are features providing orientation toward the critical dimensions of the EQuIP rubric. These features demonstrate the best practices of NGSS summarized by this evaluation instrument.
At the start of each unit of the HMH Science Dimensions grade-level Teacher Editions, teachers are reminded in several ways of how the learning experiences in the unit will be supporting the NGSS’s integrative three-dimensional approach.
The HMH Science Dimensions Trace Tool to the NGSS helps teachers make sense of the standards and the Three Dimensions of Learning, understand how they connect and spiral from one grade to another, and identify HMH resources to support NGSS-based instruction. The Trace Tool allows for standards to be traced by PEs, SEPs, CCCs, or DCIs; a simple click shows where in the program each standard is covered. More powerful than a typical correlation, the Trace Tool also shows how each standard and dimension spirals throughout the entire K–12 sequence—and what students should have mastered already and what teachers should prepare them to learn in future grades.
HMH Science Dimensions also provides assessment on all dimensions. Formal assessment items are aligned to multiple dimensions to provide a complete picture of student understanding. For open-ended constructed-response items, a unique 3D Evaluation Rubric aids evaluation, identifying the underlying cause of student misunderstanding, to allow for targeted remediation where most needed.
Science and Engineering Practices describe major activities that scientists employ in investigating and developing models and theories about the world and that engineers use to design and build systems. The Science and Engineering Practices promoted in the Framework and the NGSS elaborate on what it means to conceive and carry out authentic scientific inquiry and engineering design. Engagement in these practices helps students understand how scientific knowledge develops as well as fosters an appreciation of the wide range of approaches and activities used by professional scientists and engineers. These eight practices include the following: asking questions and defining problems; developing and using models; planning and carrying out investigations; analyzing and interpreting data; using mathematics and computational thinking; constructing explanations and designing solutions; engaging in argument from evidence; and obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information (NGSS Lead States, 2013; NRC, 2012a).
The National Research Council uses the term practices (instead of, for example, skills) to emphasize that engaging in scientific investigation requires not only skill, but also knowledge that is specific to each practice. The perception that science comprises a set of practices, rather than a process of following a series of ordered steps to “The Scientific Method,” has emerged from multiple fields over the past six decades. This research conclusively shows that theory development, reasoning, and testing are part of a large ensemble of activities across networks of participants and institutions, with specialized ways of working, communicating, using instruments, etc. (NRC, 2012a). The more recent shift to practice-based instruction within K–12 science education also stems from research on learning and instruction (Bybee, 2011; NRC, 2007, 2012a).
Additional benefits of the “actual doing of science or engineering” through involvement in practices as cited within the Framework include helping students ask better questions and improve how they define problems (Bybee, 2011), as well as piquing and capturing students’ interests and motivating students’ continued study of science (NRC, 2012a).
Science and Engineering Practices have an important place along the entirety of the K–12 spectrum, including the elementary years. Even young children engage with such practices in their observation and problem-solving during play, in nature, and with such toys as blocks—and such activities provide great opportunities for deeper, more focused learning (Bybee, 2011; NRC, 2007, 2012a).
It is essential to note that the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices constitute neither teaching strategies nor activities; they are instead indicators of achievement as well as important learning goals in their own right. To that end, the overarching 3D architecture of the Framework and NGSS also ensure that the practices are not treated as afterthoughts but are integral to all aspects of learning, from planning to instruction to assessment (Bybee, 2013; NGSS Lead States, 2013).
Within HMH Science Dimensions, Science and Engineering Practices are supported throughout the program. Of course, the program’s Hands-On Activities engage students in the practices of professional scientists and engineers as they carry out investigations and build content knowledge.
Along with the Hands-On Activities, the SEPs permeate each unit of learning. From the Unit Project at the start of each unit to the Performance Task challenge at the end, the practices are employed by students as they explore and solve problems and answer the big questions raised by the content. This approach is carried out at every part of every lesson within the units with individual items for students to work on, and discussion prompts for the teacher consistently require the use of the SEPs.
These are the practices scientists and engineers use most often in their work. Exploring the Science and Engineering Practices will help teachers understand the process of science, the methods used to conduct investigations and analyze data, and the path from evidence to conclusions. Some of them will be familiar to teachers and some will be quite different.The SEPs that are described in detail in this handbook are:
Additionally, the program includes Science and Engineering Handbooks to reinforce students’ learning and application of the practices.
Finally, within the series of professional learning videos for teachers online, a half dozen focus specifically on how to increase the prominence of specific Science and Engineering Practices in daily learning.
Crosscutting Concepts bridge disciplinary boundaries across scientific domains and have explanatory value and application throughout much of science and engineering. These seven concepts include the following: patterns; cause and effect; scale proportion and quantity; systems and system models; energy and matter; structure and function; and stability and change (NGSS Lead States, 2013; NRC, 2012a). Effective science instruction is coordinated around such generative conceptual ideas (Duschl, 2012). “This [second] dimension helps students connect what they learn to the world around them in a meaningful way” (Pruitt, 2015, p. 19).
The Crosscutting Concepts within the Framework echo many of the unifying concepts and processes in the National Science Education Standards, the common themes in the Benchmarks for Science Literacy, and the unifying concepts in the Science College Board Standards for College Success. They also provide one way of linking across the domains referred to in the Core Disciplinary Ideas (Duschl, 2012; NGSS Lead States, 2013; NRC, 2012a). “The Crosscutting Concepts are best thought of as the learning goals for science literacy” (Duschl, 2012, p. 60).
Crosscutting concepts are fundamental to understanding science and engineering and provide a common vocabulary across fields. “These concepts should become common and familiar touchstones across the disciplines and grade levels. Explicit reference to the concepts, as well as their emergence in multiple disciplinary contexts, can help students develop a cumulative, coherent, and usable understanding of science and engineering” (NRC, 2012a, p. 83).
Crosscutting Concepts should be embedded in the science curriculum beginning in the earliest years of schooling, with repetition in different contexts necessary for building familiarity. Yet repetition alone is insufficient. The progression of Crosscutting Concepts across the grades demonstrates the increasing complexity suggested by the Framework. The grade band description of the progression of Crosscutting Concepts is representative, not fixed or required; concepts may be introduced or reinforced according to the development, experiences, and understandings of the students within a class or school—but complexity and sophistication of concepts should increase along grade band progressions (Duschl, 2012; NRC, 2012a).
“Crosscutting concepts are still the hardest dimension to implement but also incredibly powerful. This dimension helps students connect what they learn to the world around them in a meaningful way. It’s hard, but clear instruction about how crosscutting concepts fit with the other dimensions will change science education” (Pruitt, 2015, p. 19).
Within HMH Science Dimensions, students build their understanding of Crosscutting Concepts using a similar approach to that described for Science & Engineering Practices, from the start of the unit with the Unit Project to the end of the unit with the Unit Performance Task, and throughout the lessons in between. Methods and tips teachers can use to highlight the Crosscutting Concepts are identified at point of use in the teacher margin for all of these items.
Homework or Practice: Each lesson includes homework/practice opportunities for students to practice the concepts just introduced.
Additionally, the program includes Crosscutting Concepts Handbooks to reinforce students’ learning and application of the concepts.
Once more, within the online professional learning video series, a half dozen are focused on supporting teachers in maximizing effectiveness in developing students’ understanding of specific Crosscutting Concepts.
Disciplinary Core Ideas reflect how scientific knowledge has expanded greatly over the past century and will continue, likely at a faster pace; it’s impossible to teach all the facts and ideas in a given discipline during the K–12 years of schooling. Therefore, science education instead must prepare students with sufficient core knowledge so they can later acquire reliable information as lifelong learners and informed citizens—and perhaps even as producers of new findings in the sciences. Core ideas within NGSS are organized into progressions according to grade band endpoints grouped into four domains: life sciences; physical sciences; earth and space sciences; and engineering, technology, and application of sciences (NGSS Lead States, 2013; NRC, 2012a).
As pointed out by Sneider (2012), a fundamental, monumental shift in the core ideas presented within the Framework (NRC, 2012a) is the emphasis on engineering and technology as co-equal in importance to, rather than separate from, the core science content cited in prior standards documents. No longer is engineering to be considered as merely a small branch of “applied science” and only allotted attention as an extension activity if time allows.
The Framework describes the progression of Disciplinary Core Ideas in the grade band endpoints but stresses that, as with the other dimensions of science learning, the progressions are provided by way of suggestion; these should be viewed as flexible and overlapping, and instruction should integrate the Disciplinary Core Ideas with Science and Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts (NRC, 2012a). The NGSS also focus on a smaller set of Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI) than prior standards sets. The notion is that students should master this smaller set by the time they graduate from high school, allowing for a deeper understanding and application of content (NGSS Lead States, 2013).
In teaching Disciplinary Core Ideas, it is important to continue to focus on the application of concepts within real world contexts, as Sneider (2012) explains:
No matter how carefully new curriculum materials are designed, however, some additional time will be needed for students to apply what they are learning to the real world. Today’s science curriculum is so packed that it is difficult to imagine how to add yet another set of ideas on top of what we have now. . . . [T]he challenge will be how to make the difficult choices about what can safely be left out of the curriculum, so that we can do a better job of teaching core ideas and helping our students understand why they are important and how to apply them to real problems (p. 51).
HMH Science Dimensions develops students’ knowledge and skills related to Disciplinary Core Ideas through multiple program features discussed previously in this document.
HMH Science Dimensions professional development videos by program authors—including Dr. Cary Sneider, who is cited in this paper and has advised program development—unpack for teachers the dimensions of NGSS. Dr. Sneider focuses on helping teachers become more effective in teaching DCIs.
The sustained use of an effective, research-based instructional model, particularly when implemented consistently, has been shown to help students learn fundamental concepts in science and other domains (NRC, 2000, 2005; Bybee et al., 2006).
The 5E Instructional Model is a well-researched and widely used approach backed by a significant research base attesting to its effectiveness. The model itself grew out of established principles in the field of education as well as proven use of the constructivist “learning cycle” approach. The approach consists of five stages of teaching and learning: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate (or Extend), and Evaluate. Each stage serves a specific function and together they frame a sequential organization of lessons, units, and programs that contributes to coherent instruction and increased understanding of scientific and technological knowledge, attitudes, and skills. Once internalized, this instructional approach can inform the many ongoing decisions that science teachers must make in classroom situations (Bybee, 2013, 2015; Bybee,et al., 2006).
“[The] 5E Instructional Model is effective, or in some cases, comparatively more effective, than alternative teaching methods in helping students reach important learning outcomes in science” (Bybee et al., 2006, p. 29).
The initial phase of engagement within the 5E approach receives distinct emphasis within HMH Science Dimensions. Teachable moments are marked by puzzlement, questioning, and curiosity as well as motivation to learn; they occur when someone experiences something recognizable and meaningful but elusive of explanation for the phenomena or event—i.e., the experience is within cognitive grasp but beyond full understanding. The program engages students with discrepant phenomena and events, hands-on activities or demonstrations recommended by expert science educators and researchers (such as Krajcik & Czerniak, 2014) to grab students’ attention and tap into their curiosity. The efficacy of discrepant events as teaching strategies is described in the following section of this report.
The remaining phases of the HMH Science Dimensions 5E approach support the principles that effective science instruction provides ongoing opportunities for students to construct their own knowledge and understanding (Yager, 2000) and that the use of learning cycles in the classroom supports a constructivist approach and aids in connecting learning to real-life situations (Blank, 2000; Lawson, 2001). The program’s learning cycle also encourages students to examine the adequacy of the prior conceptions they bring with them to the classroom, and then requires testing and arguing about those beliefs; when predictions based on prior beliefs are contradicted, students also have an opportunity to construct more adequate concepts and gain skills in reasoning patterns (Lawson, 2001).
Each lesson within HMH Science Dimensions begins with a discrepant phenomenon or event or problem to solve to engage students and provides context for the three-dimensional learning to follow.
HMH Science Dimensions also provides opportunities for students to explore via Hands-On Activities integrated throughout many lessons. These features use easily sourced materials to engage students in “doing science”; they think critically about their observations, practice gathering evidence, and defend their claims. Students explore the phenomenon or problem and gather evidence to explain it.
HMH Science Dimensions also has students evaluate their learning through reflection. At the end of a lesson, students reflect on the evidence they gathered throughout the lesson and use it as the basis for a more detailed explanation or solution. They have another chance to respond to the discrepant phenomenon or problem of the lesson via open-ended questions.
HMH Science Dimensions provides opportunities for students to elaborate or extend their science learning. Take It Further in Grades K–8 and Continue Your Exploration in Grades 9–12 features information about career paths and related topics.
Discrepant phenomena or events are hands-on activities or demonstrations with counterintuitive or surprising outcomes that create temporary cognitive disequilibrium within students and motivate them to reconsider prior conceptions (O’Brien, 2010). “[A] discrepant event consists of a grabber—an event that goes against what students expect and thus sparks an open-ended question to stimulate student thought” and can be used to stimulate curiosity and interest, provide focus on central concepts, or contextualize a project (Krajcik & Czerniak, 2014, p. 197).
Discrepant phenomena or events are rooted in Piagetian theory. Research has long established that discrepant phenomena are an effective part of the learning cycle approach to teaching science concepts and its reliance on a constructive framework of modifying existing knowledge through the learning of new knowledge (Gabel, 2003; Longfield, 2009; Misiti, 2000; O’Brien, 2010; Wright & Govindarajan, 1995). How Students Learn Science in the Classroom (NRC, 2005) cites discrepant events as a key recommendation for instruction.
“Whenever teachers get the attention of their students, they hold the potential to initiate learning. Introducing discrepancies can be a powerful way to begin the thinking and learning process“ (Chiappetta, 1997, p. 25). Indeed, igniting student interest is a critical aspect of discrepant events—but they must go beyond mere entertainment and serve the central purpose of generating cognitive dissonance by requiring students to determine whether discrepant events are congruent with their existing conceptions (Kang, Scharmann, & Noh, 2004; Misiti, 2000; Wright & Govindarajan, 1995). “Curiosity can be a powerful influence on motivation. The cognitive conflict produced by a discrepant event causes observers to realize that their prior experience or existing beliefs are inadequate to explain the new situation. The inherent need to make sense out of a puzzling phenomenon can motivate observers to attempt to reduce the cognitive dissonance” (Misiti, 2000, p. 34).
Acknowledging the need to reduce conflict as a powerful human motivation and an indispensable part of learning, Kang and colleagues (2004) set out to study whether cognitive conflict is a necessary condition for conceptual change in learning science concepts, as other researchers claim; results on measures of students’ logical thinking ability and field dependence/independence revealed statistically significant differences in the degree of cognitive conflict, indicating correlation between cognitive conflict and conceptual change.
Gabel (1993) recommends that demonstrations of discrepant phenomena begin with students making predictions about what they expect to happen and why; then after observation of the event, students should modify their previous explanation. This process fits within the learning cycle approach.
For the concrete experiences of discrepant events to facilitate deep and meaningful understanding of underlying abstract science concepts causing the events, lessons beginning with such demonstrations should be accompanied by inquiry that yield new observations and inferences supported by those observations or other data (Longfield, 2009; Misiti, 2000; Wright & Govindarajan, 1995).
The initial phase of engagement within the 5E approach receives distinct emphasis within HMH Science Dimensions. Teachable moments are marked by puzzlement, questioning, and curiosity as well as motivation to learn; they occur when someone experiences something recognizable and meaningful but elusive of explanation for the phenomena or event—i.e., the experience is within cognitive grasp but beyond full understanding. Discrepant events are a key feature of the program and central to its aim of sparking curiosity.
Each lesson begins with an overarching activity called “Can You Explain It?” or “Can You Solve It?”; these activities anchor the lesson and drive student inquiry and the Claims-Evidence-Reasoning cycle of the NGSS. The “Can You Explain It?” or “Can You Solve It?” introductions begin every lesson with either a problem to solve or a phenomenon or discrepant event to explain. This engages learners in authentic scientific inquiry rather than merely having them follow a fixed set of procedures that lead to a single correct answer, without requiring them to engage the process of developing the answers. This approach also motivates learners to think critically and construct explanations of how and why. By beginning with specifics, students abstract the core ideas and principles of science, a motivating approach. These also provide the context of and premise for the entire lesson, thus supporting a comprehensive learning activity. After frequent prompts referring to the phenomena or problem from the start of the lesson, and encouraging students to reflect on how the learning experience they’ve just explored might provide evidence they can use, the end of the lesson returns to the “Can You Explain It?” or “Can You Solve It?”
Researchers, standards, and policy reports call for reforms in science education that emphasize the importance of having students construct evidence-based scientific explanations and arguments. The CER Framework is now a well-established process for helping students develop their ability to construct explanations of scientific phenomena and support their claims with evidence. Through the Claims, Evidence, and Reasoning features within HMH Science Dimensions, students learn to conduct investigations, define questions and objectives, make claims, identify evidence, and apply reasoning to the evidence to support their claims.
At a fundamental level, science is about explaining the world around us—using evidence to construct explanations for the causes of phenomena (McNeill & Krajcik, 2012; NGSS Lead States, 2013). As explained within A Framework for K-12 Science Education, “[t]he goal of science is the construction of theories that provide explanatory accounts of the world. A theory becomes accepted when it has multiple lines of empirical evidence and greater explanatory power of phenomena than previous theories” (NRC, 2012a, p. 52). Just as scientists try to understand how and why different phenomena occur and then develop and critique related explanations, effective instruction must feature similar processes (NRC, 2000, 2008, 2012a).
Engaging students in scientific explanation and argument with the aid of scaffolding can help students view science as a dynamic and social process in which knowledge is constructed (McNeill, Lizotte, Krajcik & Marx, 2006; McNeill & Krajcik, 2008) as well as motivate them to want to study science (McNeil & Kracik, 2012).
From the research and work with science teachers, McNeill and Krajcik (2012) developed the Claim-Evidence-Reasoning Framework to support students in developing scientific explanations and arguments; provide explicit guidance for what to include in science writing, oral presentations, and classroom discussions; and encourage students in using evidence from investigation to answer questions or solve problems independently.
Following are the sequential components of the CER Framework (McNeill & Krajcik, 2012):
A well-established process within science classrooms, CER begins with students being asked questions that require them to think deeply about what they have observed, experienced, or read first-hand and then integrate findings into an explanation for a specific purpose or audience (McNeill & Krajcik, 2012). The CER Framework also serves the purpose of simplifying for students how to communicate their explanations and engage in argumentation (McNeill & Martin, 2011).
As explained in the Framework, scientists must make critical judgment about their own work and that of their peers. Citizens, as well as scientists, must evaluate the validity of science-related media reports and their implications for individuals and society. “The knowledge and ability to detect ‘bad science’ are requirements for both the scientist and the citizen” (NRC, 2012a, p. 71).
HMH Science Dimensions supports the NGSS approach to Claims, Evidence, and Reasoning—one in which students are in control of their learning. Through this approach, students learn to conduct investigations, define questions and objectives, make claims, identify evidence, and apply reasoning to the evidence to support their claims.
The Claims-Evidence-Reasoning cycle of the NGSS is driven within HMH Science Dimensions by an overarching activity that opens each lesson. Called “Can You Explain It?” or “Can You Solve It?,” these activities also anchor the lesson—after they open a lesson, they are referred to repeatedly throughout the lesson as students engage in inquiry learning experiences that provide the clues to the evidence students will need. Then, the Evaluate section of the lesson returns to the original scenario for students to fully apply the Claims-Evidence-Reasoning model with all they’ve learned.
Additional Teacher Edition features support CER approaches to instruction.
The Claims-Evidence-Reasoning practice is embedded in other parts of the program. In particular, the “You Solve It!” interactive simulations provide an open-ended experience in which students use the CER practice as a way to organize their results. In addition, science notebooking prompts throughout each lesson encourage students to record evidence to which they can later apply their reasoning in order to support or refute a claim.
Argument drives and defines much of the work of scientists and engineers; from investigating phenomena, testing design solutions, resolving questions about data, developing models, and using evidence to evaluate claims, argument is a process based on evidence and reasoning that leads to explanations acceptable by the scientific community and design solutions acceptable by the engineering community (NGSS Lead States, 2013; NRC, 2012a)
Both research findings and science standards have called for giving argumentation prominence within science instruction (Grooms, Enderle & Sampson, 2015; Kuhn, 2010; NGSS Lead States, 2013; NRC, 2007, 2012a; Sampson & Blanchard, 2012; Sampson, Enderle, & Grooms, 2013). “Argumentation is a central goal of science education because it engages students in a complex scientiﬁc practice in which they construct and justify knowledge claims” (Berland & McNeill, 2010). Engagement in scientific argumentation is critical if students are to understand the culture in which scientists live, and how to apply science and engineering for the benefit of society (NGSS Lead States, 2013; NRC, 2012a).
Research has also shown that engagement in scientific argumentation improves the teaching and learning of science (Duschl & Osborne, 2002; NRC, 2012a; Sampson & Blanchard, 2012). When students argue for their explanations of phenomena or experiences, their explanations are strengthened, and a consensus explanation can be developed (Reiser, Berland, & Kenyon, 2012). However, to teach science as a process of inquiry without giving students opportunities to construct explanations, evaluate evidence, and engage in argumentation is to fail to represent a core component of the nature of science and to establish an effective means for developing student understanding (Duschl & Osborne, 2002).
Students’ views on the dynamic nature of science align with the quality of their arguments (Bell & Linn, 2000). When students develop and critique explanations, it boosts their learning of science content and concepts as well as their ability to reason logically; further, participation in the explanation and argument process can additionally motivate students to want to study science (McNeill & Krajcik, 2012).
Argumentation also provides rich assessment opportunity. “When students justify their claims with evidence and reasoning, [teachers] gain insight into students’ thinking and understanding. You can see how students understand the science concepts and how students apply those science concepts to make sense of the world around them” (McNeill & Krajcik, 2012, p. 11).
HMH Science Dimensions also develops students’ argumentation skills as part of a Claims-Evidence-Reasoning framework. Students are guided in applying their scientific findings to support their claims and bolster reasoning. The program’s argumentation process additionally fosters writing proficiency and critical thinking.
Scientific literacy entails knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes and—especially in the 21st century, with fast-paced discoveries and advances in our natural and technological realms—is essential to citizenship and economic security. A scientifically literate person can ask questions, pursue curiosities, and make predictions about everyday and extraordinary phenomena as well as comprehend and communicate complex ideas and evaluate information and evidence. The process of learning science is enhanced when accompanied by writing, and evidence notebooking specifically has been shown to support inquiry and aid thinking, understanding, literacy, and collaboration.
Citing the rapid expansion of scientific knowledge and technological developments impacting life in the 21st century, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA®) deems science literacy an imperative (NSTA, 2003). “The term scientific literacy expresses the major goal of science education—advancing individual development and satisfying society’s aspirations through science education” (Bybee, 2010, p. 4).
The National Science Education Standards define scientific literacy as “the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity.” Though it can encompass specific abilities, it is not the same as science standards or other expressly stated instructional goals in the field—nor is it confined to K–12 instruction, but rather it is an aspect of lifelong learning: “the attitudes and values established toward science in the early years will shape a person’s development of scientific literacy as an adult” (NRC, 1996, p. 22).
Scientific literacy allows a person to ask, find, or determine answers to questions derived from curiosity about everyday experiences; describe, explain, and predict natural phenomena; read with understanding articles about science in the popular press and to engage in social conversation about the validity of the conclusions; identify scientific issues underlying national and local decisions and express positions that are scientifically and technologically informed; evaluate the quality of scientific information on the basis of its source and the methods used to generate it; and, finally, pose and evaluate arguments based on evidence and apply conclusions from such arguments appropriately (NSTA, 2003; NRC, 1996).
Globally, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) expands the concept of scientific literacy beyond scientific knowledge and thinking to encompass understanding of the characteristic features of science as a form of human knowledge and inquiry; awareness of how science and technology shape humanity’s material, intellectual, and cultural environments; and willingness to engage in the ideas of science and in science-related issues as a constructive, concerned, and reflective citizen (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2006).
Effective ways to develop students’ scientific literacy reflect the connections to Common Core Math and English Language Arts stressed within the Next Generation Science Standards as a means of supporting learners in establishing a relevant and strong STEM foundation (NGSS Lead States, 2013). The very practice of engaging students in scientific processes—including talk and argument, modeling and representation, and learning from investigations—builds scientific proficiency (NRC, 2007, 2012a). “Direct participation in scientific and engineering work will support students’ science learning and the scientific literacy goals of the Framework” (Bell, Bricker, Tzou, Lee, & Van Horne,2012, p. 18).
“Scientific literacy for a global society in the 21st century is built on understanding science concepts and principles, as well as on engaging in the literacy practices that make investigation, comprehension, and communication of ideas possible. . . . Although most students will not pursue careers in scientific fields, most will probably read science-related materials throughout their lives. For today’s students to participate effectively in tomorrow’s decision-making as consumers, members of the electorate, and members of society, it is imperative that educators support students in reading, writing, and communicating in science” (Krajcik & Sutherland, 2010, p. 459).
HMH Science Dimensions supports students’ development of scientific literacy through program features that make scientific concepts accessible and easy to understand in various ways, including nonlinguistic and visual representations. The program also makes connections to the Common Core English Language Arts and Mathematics Standards, as called for by the NGSS. Embedded throughout HMH Science Dimensions, via multiple program components, is comprehensive support in helping students develop scientific literacy for the 21st century.
Krajcik and Sutherland (2010) suggest the following instructional and curricular features for promoting scientific literacy—and, embedded within student and teacher program components, HMH Science Dimensions delivers on each:
HMH Science Dimensions features handbooks dedicated to Math and ELA.
Explicit citations of the Common Core ELA and Math standards are embedded in the lesson interleaf pages within the program’s grade-level Teacher Editions.
Performance tasks incorporate interdisciplinary connections, such as ELA literacy and communication skills combined with science content mastery.
Evidence notebooks, a form of science journaling, are tools for supporting inquiry and aiding understanding of content. They foster literacy generally and science literacy specifically. These notebooks encourage students to make record of their thinking about and experiences with science, and the process can effectively imitate the journaling professional scientists do when carrying out investigations (Hargrove & Nesbit, 2003). “Notebooks support effective science instruction in a multitude of ways” (Marcarelli, 2010, p. 5).
The notebooking practice encourages the student ownership of learning and self-reflection that is key to both engagement and to deeper understandings rather than superficial fact-based knowledge—in other words, the very approaches advocated by A Framework for K–12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards.
Note-taking has been shown to improve students’ writing (Buczynski & Fontichiaro, 2009) and to improve student thinking, literacy skills, and collaboration (Gilbert & Kotelman, 2005; Lee, Lan, Hamman, & Hendricks, 2007; Sherer, Gomez, Herman, Gomez, White, & Williams, 2008). Annotating, or taking notes while reading, helps students become more active and engaged readers (Zywica & Gomez, 2008). Exploratory writing—writing with the aim of investigation and discovery—encourages students to make sense of new ideas for which they do not yet have a solid understanding (Lance & Lance, 2006).
Science journaling is recommended for phases of science instruction; it is where students should respond to initial overarching questions, plan, explore ideas to form hypotheses, record observations and data during investigative labs and collaboration with peers, construct meaning and draw conclusions out of collected information, and reflect on discussions and results (Klentschy, 2008, 2005; Marcarelli, 2010).
Interactive science notebooks foster identification of preexisting ideas, enrichment and refinement of their understandings, and reflection on learning. Other benefits include connecting students’ thinking and experiences with science concepts; engaging students in collaborative inquiry as a way of learning science content; providing opportunity for all students to create concrete records of their metacognitive processes, ideas, and reflections that can be viewed, evaluated, and discussed; developing academic language; and providing students with opportunities to think critically and make informed decisions (Marcarelli, 2010).
Studies conducted to examine the impact of science notebooks “revealed positive results—particularly that providing a ‘voice’ for students through their science notebooks has led to increased student achievement in science and in reading and writing as well” (Klentchy, 2005, p. 27). They also encourage active learning and opportunities for students to pursue their own interests (Hargrove & Nesbit, 2003; Gilbert & Kotelman, 2005). Finally, notebooks enhance literacy generally, providing abundant opportunity for students to construct meaning from their experiences with science (Klentschy & Molina-De La Torre, 2004) and develop writing skills in science and beyond (Gilbert & Kotelman, 2005; Young, 2003). When students use an interactive notebook, they engage in writing practice, thereby improving their ability to write coherently (Buczynski & Fontichiaro, 2009) and forging connections to the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts, as called for by the Frameworks (NRC, 2012a).
Evidence notebooks can also provide additional support of effective instructional practices when students use them to go beyond notetaking, to develop narrative statements and nonverbal representations (e.g., drawings and diagrams) of their observations and understandings (Hargrove & Nesbit, 2003; Marcarelli, 2010; Marzano, Pickering, & Pollack, 2001).
Science notebooks can reveal students’ metacognitive thought processes and thinking about concepts and skills; these in turn can provide teachers with vital insights into individual students’ learning as well as tools for formative assessment (Buczynski & Fontichiaro, 2009; Hargrove & Nesbit, 2003; Marcarelli, 2010). Science notebooking, then, can yield improved thinking and teaching (Gilbert & Kotelman, 2005). “[A]n interactive notebook can be a powerful instructional tool, allowing students to take control of their learning while processing information and engaging in self-reflection” (Waldman & Crippen, 2009, p. 51).
Notebooks help teachers differentiate instruction and meet the needs of all learners (Amaral, Garrison, & Klentschy, 2002; Gilbert & Kotelman, 2005). Notebooks are particularly beneficial to English learners and students with special needs. “The notebook provides a safe place to practice writing and express prior knowledge and newly acquired language” and can also be used as evidence to inform meetings and devise intervention strategies with specialists and other professionals supporting particular populations of students (Marcarelli, 2010, p. 4).
Finally, science notebooks involve students in authentic scientific processes, such as recording observations and data; conducting research; collaborating with peers; and analyzing results—allowing students to engage in science as professionals in related fields do (Hargrove & Nesbit, 2003; Marcarelli, 2010; Young, 2003).
guide the gathering of evidence and information that can be used to support an explanation or a solution to a problem. However, the program does not impose a fixed structure on students’ notebooking experiences; individual classrooms and even individual learners may adopt practices utilizing this feature that best serve their own needs.
HMH Science Dimensions Evidence Notebooks also support the development of students’ writing and reasoning skills.
It is estimated that reading and writing comprise over half the work of scientists and engineers (Bell et al., 2012): “Thus, K–12 students of science should have substantial and varied experiences with reading, analyzing, writing, and otherwise communicating science so that they too can deeply engage with disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts while exploring practices associated with scientific reading and writing” (p. 17).
General literacy skills of reading, writing, and speaking are essential to science literacy across K–12 (Pearson, Moje, & Greenleaf, 2010; Wellington & Osborne, 2001). Sustained reading, writing, and communication activity should be embedded in students’ science and engineering investigations; such interdisciplinary work supports vital cognitive and social learning processes and helps accomplish ambitious STEM learning goals called for in A Framework for K–12 Science Education as well as those in the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics and English Language Arts (Bell et al., 2012; NGSS Lead States, 2013). Engagement in the eight science and engineering practices called for in the NGSS “is language intensive and requires students to participate in classroom science discourse. The practices offer rich opportunities and demands for language learning while advancing science learning for all students” (NGSS Lead States, 2013, p. 3).
Communication is a fundamental practice of science (NRC, 2012a). “Inquiry science is not only about engaging students in conducting investigations—it also involves students in making sense of those investigations through the process of constructing explanations. The depth of students’ ability to learn science depends on this meaning making process” (McNeill & Krajcik, 2012, p. 4). As stated within the Framework, “[f]rom the very start of their science education, students should be asked to engage in the communication of science, especially regarding the investigations they are conducting and the observations they are making” (NRC, 2012a, p. 77).
In order to understand and communicate scientific ideas, students must know the language of the discipline and understand how content-area vocabulary differs from the everyday use of words (Michaels, Shouse, & Schweingruber, 2008). For many students one of the greatest obstacles in learning and succeeding in science is to learn its language, as one of the most important features of science is the richness of the words and terms it uses (Wellington & Osborne, 2001). Therefore, students need regular opportunities to consider and apply those terms in meaningful language and literacy activities.
Research has long established that writing plays a vital role within effective science instruction and aids improvement in specific science skills (Prain, 2006). “[W]riting in science is essential to developing scientific literacy—how to read science, how to write science and the content of science itself” (Wellington & Osborne, 2001, p. 81). Writing has been found to improve students’ organization and application of science concepts (Rivard & Straw, 2000); help students process new information, make sense of complex ideas, and connect to their prior knowledge and experiences (Knipper & Duggan, 2006); and boost students’ scientific reasoning, text processing, and ability to draw conclusions and formulate models (Keys, 1999). The more opportunities students have to write during science instruction, the more they learn (Hand, Hohenshell, & Prain, 2007), and these effects are enhanced when students complete writing tasks with the purpose of learning (Gunel, Hand, & Prain, 2007). Increased writing opportunities have been shown to result in significantly higher test scores (Braun, Coley, Jia, & Trapani, 2009).
At Grades K–5, Science & Engineering Leveled Readers help students engage with the engineering process and other topics through a nonfiction literary approach involving a text genre different from typical textbook writing.
HMH Science Dimensions encourages writing in science through multiple features. They include Read, Write, Share! in Grades K–2, Language SmArts activities in Grades 3–8, and Language Connection activities in Grades 9–12 which fosters science literacy and forges explicit Common Core ELA connections relevant to lesson content.
It is imperative that students in the 21st century understand the interconnectedness and mutually supportive links among science, engineering, technology, and society and how these relationships evolve over time in response to need and impact (NGSS Lead States, 2013). “Science, engineering, and technology permeate nearly every facet of modern life, and they also hold the key to meeting many of humanity’s most pressing current and future challenges. Yet too few U.S. workers have strong backgrounds in these fields, and many people lack even fundamental knowledge of them. This national trend has created a widespread call for a new approach to K–12 science education in the United States” (NRC, 2012a, p. 1).
“Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workers drive our nation’s innovation and competitiveness by generating new ideas, new companies, and new industries. . . . Science, technology, engineering and mathematics workers play a key role in the sustained growth and stability of the U.S. economy and are a critical component to helping the U.S. win the future” (Langdon, McKittrick, Beede, Khan, & Doms, 2011, p. 1).
The Framework for K–12 Science Education provides a vision in which technology and engineering are integrated in students’ learning and in which “students, over multiple years, actively engage in science and engineering practices and apply crosscutting concepts to deepen their understanding of the core ideas in these fields” (NRC, 2012a, pp. 1–2).
Research has identified a number of beneficial impacts of an integrated approach to STEM instruction at K–12. Students master the individual facts of science content knowledge better when they have a purpose for learning the material. Connections among science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are particularly important for raising achievement as students approach the secondary level (Russo, Hecht, Burghardt, Hacker, & Saxman, 2011).
According to Cary Sneider (2012)—contributor to A Framework for K–12 Science Education, leader of the Next Generation Science Standards Engineering writing team, and Consulting Author of HMH Science Dimensions—the elevation and integration of engineering among the natural sciences within NGSS will likely result in engaging students in engineering practices throughout their K–12 schooling; this will allow students to see how engineering is instrumental in solving many challenges confronting the world today as well as to better understand the dynamic interplay among science, engineering, and technology.
Benefits of integrating STEM and engineering instruction at K–12 include: improved achievement in science and mathematics, with effects potentially more significant for underrepresented minority groups; increased awareness of engineering and the work of engineers; understanding of and ability to engage in engineering design; interest in pursuing engineering as a career; and increased technological literacy (Katehi, Pearson, & Feder, 2009; Turner, Kirby, & Bober, 2016).
Sneider and others see increased prominence of engineering instruction at the elementary level as a possible remedy against the disconcerting trend consistently documented in the research literature of declining interest in science among most populations of middle school students; promising findings suggest that specifically girls and some minority ethnic groups, historically unrepresented in STEM, are more inclined to respond positively to fields, such as medical and environmental engineering, that have relevance and direct beneficial application to people’s lives (Cunningham & Lachappelle, 2011; Katehi et al., 2009; Sneider, 2015).
Additionally, since engineering involves students working together in teams, design challenges foster collaboration, and the open-ended nature of engineering design encourages creativity and engagement (Cunningham & Lachappelle, 2011).
An emphasis on all aspects of STEM is embedded throughout all HMH Science Dimensions units. STEM is not treated as an ancillary; rather, STEM is integrated within and across the entire program.
In the lesson interleaf pages within the program’s grade-level Teacher Editions, there are explicit connections to supporting Common Core Math standards embedded within each lesson.
The Do the Math® feature throughout HMH Science Dimensions offers explicit ties to math activities relevant to the lesson.
HMH Science Dimensions features Math handbooks.
HMH Science Dimensions engages students in engineering and the engineering design process. It addresses engineering and STEM by integrating “Engineer It!” performance-task, challenge-based activities throughout the curriculum, one per unit.
In addition, individual prompts and activities within lessons marked with the “Engineer It!” logo also highlight situations in which students can apply all or part of the engineering design process.
Video-based projects, including some by author and television host Michael DiSpezio, provide practice in engineering.
HMH Science Dimensions embeds technology use and supports students’ development of technological skills throughout the program. The curriculum leverages the advantages of technology while prioritizing a student-centered learning model.
Successful K–12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (NRC, 2011) outlines the following goals for STEM instruction: expand the numbers of students who ultimately pursue advanced degrees and careers in STEM fields and broaden the participating of women and minorities in those fields; expand the STEM-capable workforce and broaden the participation of women and minorities in the workforce; and increase STEM literacy for all students, including those who do not pursue STEM-related careers or additional study in the STEM disciplines.
Other research findings show what makes for effective STEM education and programs: capitalize on students’ interests and experiences; identify and build on what students know; and provide experiences to actively engage students in STEM-related practices and sustain their interest (NRC, 2011).
Real-world contexts for STEM learning are also essential. In industry and research, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are interconnected; in education, these subjects should be taught as they are practiced outside school settings, in real-life contexts in which the world’s issues and economies depend upon them (NRC, 2012a). Tapping knowledge to analyze and propose solutions for problems in society requires both that students apply higher-order thinking skills to this knowledge, and also that the knowledge be thoroughly grounded in a framework of scientific thinking within the students’ own minds. The practice of discussing scientific aspects of societal issues and attempting to solve problems with science gives students experience in applying science process skills. Finally, emphasis on the human side of science and real-world problems can improve students’ interest and motivation (Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning [McREL], 2010).
The Framework for K–12 Science Education calls for technology and engineering to be integrated in students’ science learning; to be successful in the science classroom, students must utilize and integrate skills from across STEM areas (NRC, 2012a). The Framework emphasizes students’ abilities with data analysis, including observation, collection, and measurement as a key expectation, stating that “as students progress through various science classes in high school and their investigations become more complex, they need to develop skill in additional techniques for displaying and analyzing data” (NRC, 2012a, pp. 3–12).
Also key to success in science is an understanding of mathematics. Mathematics is the natural language of science. “Mathematics is essential in scientific inquiry. Mathematical tools and models guide and improve the posing of questions, gathering data, constructing explanations, and communicating results” (NRC, 1996).
HMH Science Dimensions consulting author Dr. Cary I. Sneider played a significant role in the development of the engineering standards for NGSS before working on the design and content of HMH Science Dimensions. His involvement has ensured that the program properly embeds engineering throughout.
HMH Science Dimensions engages students in engineering and the engineering design processes with integrated STEM activities. These include “Engineer It!” performance-tasks, challenge-based activities throughout the curriculum, one per unit.
Each unit within the program includes a Performance Task that elevates engineering design to the same level as scientific literacy and offers students multiple opportunities to apply the engineering design process by defining a problem and designing a solution.
HMH Science Dimensions engineering challenges are similar to problems students may face in college courses or future careers. But the challenges are provided with scaffolds and supports that break each problem to be solved into smaller, manageable pieces. Engineering is incorporated to allow students to learn the way scientists and engineers learn.
A Framework for K–12 Science Education calls for rigorous standards for all students as well as accounting for diversity and equality in teaching all students (NRC, 2012a). To successfully implement the Next Generation Science Standards, teachers must transform their classrooms from places where they present information about science to students into places where they work together with students, actively and collaboratively, to construct scientific explanations, argue from evidence, and develop models to understand the natural world, while at every step engaging in the same practices as professional scientists and engineers (Krist & Reiser, 2014).
Connecting instruction to students’ interests and experiences as well as to the diverse backgrounds that students bring to a classroom is particularly important for broadening participation in science (NRC, 2012a).
“A rich science education has the potential to capture students’ sense of wonder about the world and to spark their desire to continue learning about science throughout their lives. Research suggests that personal interest, experience, and enthusiasm—critical to children’s learning of science at school or in other settings—may also be linked to later educational and career choices. Thus, in order for students to develop a sustained attraction to science and for them to appreciate the many ways in which it is pertinent to their daily lives, classroom learning experiences in science need to connect with their own interests and experiences” (NRC, 2012a, p. 28).
Engagement leads to motivation leads to learning. As a result, effective teachers know that students must be engaged by content to be motivated to persist (Eccles, Wigfield, & Schiefele, 1998; Guthrie & Humenick, 2004; Hidi & Boscolo, 2006).
When students are actively engaged in the process of observing, reasoning, and making connections through experimentation and hands-on study, they acquire necessary skills and ways of thinking (Stewart, Cartier, & Passmore, 2005).
Using real-world problems engages students and helps them see learning as relevant; “When instruction is anchored in the context of each learner’s world, students are more likely to take ownership for . . . their own learning” (McREL, 2010, p. 7). For students to truly understand science, they must participate in the same activities that real scientists perform on a daily basis: “. . . there is compelling evidence that when classrooms function to support real scientific practice, students’ understandings of science can flourish” (Michaels, Shouse, & Schweingruber, 2008, p. 127). The Framework promotes the development of curriculum around sets of questions to generate interest and communicate relevance to students (NRC, 2012a).
Interdisciplinary connections among STEM topics can boost achievement (Russo et al., 2011). Such connections build students’ knowledge and increase their perception of the content as interesting and useful—thereby increasing their motivation to learn (Czerniak, Weber, Sandmann, & Ahem, 1999).
“Engaging in the practices of science helps students understand how scientific knowledge develops; such direct involvement gives them an appreciation of the wide range of approaches that are used to investigate, model, and explain the world. . . . The actual doing of science or engineering can also pique students’ curiosity, capture their interest, and motivate their continued study; the insights gained help them recognize that the work of scientists and engineers is a creative endeavor—one that has deeply affected the world they live in” (NRC, 2012a, pp. 42–43).
HMH Science Dimensions appeals to students’ personal interests and motivates them to want to learn more about science in school and beyond. The program utilizes creative and stimulating hands-on approaches and sensory aids to spark curiosity and develop conceptual understanding.
Program features such as Take It Further in Grades K–8 and Continue Your Exploration in Grades 9–12 provide opportunities for enrichment and learning more about topics of interest while videos and other components allow for exploration of careers in science and engineering.
Learning is an active process of engagement. If students are interested in what they are learning, they will persist in spending the time and energy needed for learning to occur (Eccles, et al., 1998; Guthrie & Humenick, 2004; Hidi & Boscolo, 2006).
A large body of evidence on engagement in science education indicates that recent curriculum reforms are unlikely to be successful without significant shifts in classrooms from places where teachers present ideas to places where teachers and students work together to build those ideas through scientific practices. “Meaningful engagement in scientific practices, then, requires the careful design of sustained sequences of inquiry activities around rich, appropriate content learning goals that are enacted in ways that offer appropriate social supports. Guided by these social supports, students can become active participants in a community that builds knowledge using the tools, social interactions, constructs, epistemological criteria, and discourses of disciplinary science” (Krist & Reiser, 2014, p. 2).
The first guiding principle cited in the Framework is that “children are born investigators” (NRC, 2012a, p. 24). As early as kindergarten, students are able to engage in meaningful, authentic scientific and engineering practices (NSTA, 2014; NRC, 2007, 2012a).
Science is learned through doing and active participation in productive scientific practices and discourse (Krajcik, McNeill, & Reiser, 2008; NRC, 2007). The National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996), the National Research Council (NRC, 1996, 2005, 2007), and the National Science Foundation (NSF, 2000) all emphasize that science educators should support students’ natural, interactive inquiries and engage them in meaningful and authentic investigative processes.
Helping students actively engage in authentic investigative practices, particularly in collaborative formats that entail seeking evidence and reasons for the ideas or knowledge behind claims, allows students to develop deeper understanding of content (Krajcik & Blumenfeld, 2006) and fosters a view of science away from a static set of facts toward recognizing science as a constructive, social process (McNeill & Krajcik, 2008). “Students cannot comprehend scientific practices, nor fully appreciate the nature of scientific knowledge itself, without directly experiencing those practices themselves” (NRC, 2012a, p. 30). Further, research has yielded compelling evidence that when classrooms function to support real scientific practice, students’ understandings of science flourish (Michaels, Shouse, & Schweingruber, 2008).
The most effective instructional approach to support the three-dimensional learning called for by the Next Generation Science Standards is the kind of hands-on investigation focused on driving questions that contribute meaning and authenticity as well as organize goals and tasks and encourage both autonomy and collaboration among students (Krajcik, 2015b; Krajcik & Czerniak, 2014; NRC, 2012a; Schwartz, 2018).
Investigations aligned with NGSS may be undertaken to explore a phenomenon, test a theory, model how the world works, find out how to fix or improve the functioning of a technological system, or compare different solutions to see which best solves a problem. It is essential for students to state the goal of an investigation, predict outcomes, and plan a course of action that will yield the best evidence to support their claims. Investigations should be designed to generate data that provide evidence to support claims made about phenomena. Students should use reasoning and scientific ideas, principles, and theories to demonstrate why data can be considered evidence (NGSS Lead States, 2013).
HMH Science Dimensions is an active learning program and not just a learning program with lots of activities. HMH Science Dimensions extends the active learning approach beyond labs only. The entirety of a lesson is treated as a multiphase experience instead of having a few discrete activities loosely connected to a lesson. This ensures that HMH Science Dimensions remains true to the pedagogical approach espoused by NGSS.
HMH Science Dimensions features a wide variety of activity types to maximize students’ active engagement with and experiences in science learning. These include hands-on activities and explorations, engineering projects, modeling, visual learning and tools, dynamic and interactive print and online resources including videos and simulations, collaborations, and extended study into related careers and topics.
Models are used in science to represent a system (or parts of a system) under study, to identify and aid in the formation of questions, to generate data that can be used to make predictions, to develop explanations, and to communicate ideas to others. In engineering, models are used to analyze a system to determine where or under what conditions flaws might develop, or to test possible solutions to a problem. Models can also be used to visualize and refine a design, as prototypes for testing design performance, and to communicate a design’s features to others (NGSS Lead States, 2013).
Developing and Using Models is the second science and engineering practice identified within the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013). The models referred to and advocated for within the field of science education are external representations of mental concepts that provide tools for thinking, to visualize and make sense of phenomena or experiences or to develop solutions to design problems. Models include diagrams, three-dimensional physical replicas, mathematical formulations, analogies, and computer simulations (Krajcik & Merritt, 2012; NRC, 2012a). Models can be particularly valuable in providing the symbolic representations that students need to visualize and grasp microscopic or abstract phenomena or matter (Wu, Krajcik, & Soloway, 2001).
Modeling engages students in what it means to do science, as it is a major activity that drives scientific thinking (Krajcik & Merritt, 2012). Research has found that through peer collaboration during the making and discussing of models, students’ model use underwent a transformative process of first allowing thinking to become visible, and then serving as a source of comparison to prior knowledge and new ideas to generate new ideas and questions—while offering students a powerful tool for thinking and sense making along the way. “These shifts suggest that modeling activities in this classroom were developing as instantiations of a meaningful, purposeful scientific practice” (Krist & Reiser, 2014, p. 7).
Per the Guide to Implementing the Next Generation Science Standards, “[i]n a classroom that is consistent with the Framework and the NGSS, students develop models of the phenomenon being studied that make explicit their understanding of both visible and invisible aspects of what is occurring. . . . Students apply and improve their understanding of science core ideas and crosscutting concepts as they develop and refine these models” (NRC, 2015, pp. 26–27).
Students should be expected to evaluate and refine models through an iterative cycle of comparing their predictions with the real world and then adjusting them to gain insights into the phenomenon being modeled. When new evidence is uncovered that the models can’t explain or account for, models must be modified or abandoned (NGSS Lead States, 2013; Schwarz et al., 2009).
“Modeling can begin in the earliest grades, with students’ models progressing from concrete ‘pictures’ and/or physical scale models (e.g., a toy car) to more abstract representations of relevant relationships in later grades, such as a diagram representing forces on a particular object in a system” (NRC, 2012a, p. 58).
HMH Science Dimensions emphasis on modeling helps students explain the relationships between components in the context of natural systems and empowers them to explain or predict nature. Each lesson’s Teacher Edition also begins with a teacher-facing question-generating strategy that provides tips for teachers to use to encourage students frame their own learning through integrated question formation techniques, modeling for them what it means to think and question like a scientist. Videos and animations in the Student Online Edition bring science to life for all students, along with bold visual images and graphs in the print Student Edition, creating experiences that students might otherwise not have.
A central goal of the Framework and NGSS is ensuring equitable science education for students of all backgrounds:
Equity in science education requires that all students are provided with equitable opportunities to learn science and become engaged in science and engineering practices; with access to quality space, equipment, and teachers to support and motivate that learning and engagement; and adequate time spent on science. In addition, the issue of connecting to students’ interests and experiences is particularly important for broadening participation in science. There is increasing recognition that the diverse customs and orientations that members of different cultural communities bring both to formal and to informal science learning contexts are assets on which to build—both for the benefit of the student and ultimately of science itself. For example, researchers have documented that children reared in rural agricultural communities, who experience intense and regular interactions with plants and animals, develop more sophisticated understanding of ecology and biological species than do urban and suburban children of the same age (NRC, 2012a, p. 28).
To make the NGSS accessible to all students, particularly those from historically disadvantaged groups, educators must implement effective strategies that maximize learning opportunities while at the same time reflect awareness of the demands of the standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013). The following strategies are recommended for making learning opportunities more equitable: value and respect the experiences and perspectives that all students bring to school from their backgrounds; articulate students’ cultural and linguistic knowledge with disciplinary knowledge; and offer sufficient and effective resources to support students (Lee & Buxton, 2010).
Meaningful engagement in scientific practices requires a careful design of sustained inquiry around content learning goals that are enacted in ways that offer appropriate social supports. “Guided by these social supports, students can become active participants in a community that builds knowledge using the tools, social interactions, constructs, epistemological criteria, and discourses of disciplinary science . . . viewing science learning as participation in a classroom community of practice offers a useful analytical framework for understanding how teachers and students develop knowledge-building goals and learn to engage in meaningful scientific practices” (Krist & Reiser, 2014, p. 2).
Each unit includes guidance for the teacher in how to integrate diverse cultures and customs as assets in their classroom. A key place this occurs is the “Making Connections” page, which includes ways to connect the learning in the unit to students’ homes and communities.
Hands-on activities are particularly useful for students with language challenges or who lack interest in science content because kinetic activities are not only more engaging but also less language intensive. HMH Science Dimensions offers numerous opportunities for hands-on activities. Indeed, much of the program is driven by hands-on learning that helps strengthen the core activity upon which every lesson is based. This helps support authentic scientific inquiry and leverage psychomotor learning strategies.
HMH Science Dimensions provides profiles of historical and working scientists that reflect ethnic and gender diversity.
Teachers must meet wide-ranging needs of all learners. A typical classroom may include students who struggle with the rigorous content within the Next Generation Science Standards, as well as reading, writing, and math skills. A typical classroom may also include advanced students ready for additional challenges as well as English learners and below-level students in need of support. To accommodate individuals, “teachers need to understand how students think, what they are capable of doing, and what they could reasonably be expected to do under supportive instructional conditions, and how to make science more accessible and relevant to them” (NRC, 2007, p. 345).
Research has consistently demonstrated that when provided with equitable educational opportunities and appropriately supported, students from diverse backgrounds, including those historically considered disadvantaged, are capable of constructing meaning, engaging in practices, and achieving in science (NRC, 2007, 2012a; NGSS Lead States, 2013).
The NGSS outline research-based strategies for increasing equity in science instruction and meeting the needs of non-dominant student groups, historically underrepresented within science. Information below comes from NGSS Appendix D, “All Standards, All Students” (NGSS Lead States, 2013):
Economically disadvantaged students. Strategies to support economically disadvantaged students include connecting science education to students’ own physical, historical, and sociocultural dimensions and applying to instruction and the construction of meaning students’ background knowledge and cultural practices. Project-based science learning is an effective form of “connected science.”
Students from major racial and ethnic groups. Students from major racial and ethnic groups benefit from strategies from the following categories: culturally relevant pedagogy; community involvement and social activism; multiple representation and multimodal experiences; and support systems that feature role models and mentors of similar racial or ethnic backgrounds.
Students with limited English proficiency. Both science and language learning for English language learners (ELLs) are best supported by the following strategies, according to the research literature: literacy strategies proven effective for all students; language support strategies effective specifically for ELLs; discourse strategies for ELLs; home language support; and home culture connections.
Students with disabilities. Students with disabilities have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that mandate the accommodations and modifications teachers must provide to support student learning in the regular education classrooms and means of accommodations allowing students to overcome or work around their disabilities with the same performance expectations of their peers, whereas modifications generally change the curriculum or performance expectations for a specific student. Performance expectations within the NGSS were intentionally designed for flexible use to accommodate the developing knowledge and skills of specific students or groups of students. Two approaches in wide use by general education teachers in their classrooms include differentiated instruction and Universal Design for Learning.
Girls. Research suggests three main areas in which schools can positively impact girls’ achievement, confidence, and interest in science and engineering. These include utilizing instructional strategies to increase girls’ science achievement and their intentions to continue studies in science; promoting images of successful women in science as part of science curricula; and implementing organizational structure within classrooms and schools that benefits girls in science, such as science clubs and mentoring programs.
Advanced learners require differentiation in the form of extension or acceleration activities. They need daily challenge, opportunities to work with peers, opportunities for independent learning, and varied instructional delivery (Rogers, 2007). Providing real-world, issue-based or problem-based learning activities will boost motivation and engagement of advanced learners (VanTassel-Baska & Brown, 2007). Per the NGSS, advanced learners and gifted and talented students may have such characteristics as intense interests, rapid learning, motivation and commitment, curiosity, and questioning skills. NGSS recommend that teachers additionally employ these differentiation strategies to promote science learning for advanced learners: fast pacing; level of challenge (including differentiated content); opportunities for self-direction; and strategic grouping.
NGSS place strong emphasis on teaching all standards to all students. One of the challenges of teaching using NGSS pedagogy is reteaching. The very approach of the standards in general, and HMH Science Dimensions in particular, involves consistent reteaching of two of the three dimensions within NGSS. Both the Science and Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts are revisited throughout the year. Multiple exposures to a concept in different contexts have been shown to be an effective form of reteaching CCCs and SEPs. Strategies for teaching these are included within the Teacher Edition margin materials.
Reteaching DCIs is also covered within the program. Key science concepts are recontextualized in the Science and Engineering Readers. These readers present the same concepts at two different levels and provide additional concepts and advanced reading for children who are easily mastering the concepts.
The Interactive Worktext and the Interactive Online Student Edition present the same content in different ways. The Interactive Online Student Edition provides additional interactions and voice-over to reinforce and reteach the content in ways that enable children with reading deficits to learn the core science concepts. It also provides childrenwith immediate feedback on many interactivities to reinforce learning.
Where additional support is needed in adopting an NGSS curriculum, HMH Science Dimensions includes supplemental ancillaries (student online handbooks) to further support students as they adapt to the NGSS.
English Learner Development handbooks are also included within the program.
Differentiated Instruction suggestions are provided throughout to help educators better address the needs of students who may be struggling with the curriculum, as well as those who would benefit from the extra challenge of extension opportunities.
The Take It Further in Grades K–8 and Continue Your Exploration in Grades 9–12 feature at the end of each unit maximizes the opportunity for students to elaborate further on what they have learned so far as well as extend their interests on a topic above and beyond the core lesson. This feature also includes information about the contribution of famous scientists to their fields, and opportunities to explore careers in science. By leveraging the power of technology, students can continue to go in-depth on topics of their choice, to learn more and create stronger, emotional links to their learning. HMH Science Dimensions provides multiple paths through the Elaborate step Take It Further / Continue Your Exploration so students can choose their own path, increasing student engagement by making the program more student-centric.
Teacher Guides include extension activities and suggestions for applying knowledge in ways that support standards. They will be available as part of the teacher resources for the applicable programs.
A student-centered environment aligning with the principles and practices called for in A Framework for K–12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards requires multifaceted approaches toward teaching and learning.
HMH Science Dimensions encourages students to take charge of their own learning. The program provides learning experiences, instructional approaches, and academic-support strategies to address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students and student populations to help each learner meet the rigorous performance expectations set forth by the NGSS.
HMH Science Dimensions is an active learning program and not just a learning program with lots of activities. HMH Science Dimensions extends the active learning approach beyond labs only, engaging students through meaningful, authentic, hands-on investigative inquiry through a wide range of learning experiences. Each entire lesson is a cohesive instructional event, rather than inclusive of a series of a few discrete activities loosely connected to a lesson. Teachers can pick and choose these lessons in a customized sequence to maximize flexibility and best meet specific needs. This ensures that HMH Science Dimensions remains true to the pedagogical approach espoused by NGSS.
Each lesson begins with an overarching activity called “Can You Explain It?” or “Can You Solve It?”; these activities anchor the lesson and drive student inquiry and the Claims-Evidence-Reasoning cycle of the NGSS. The “Can You Explain It?” or “Can You Solve It?” introductions begin every lesson with either a problem to solve or a phenomenon or discrepant event to explain. This engages learners in authentic scientific inquiry rather than merely having them follow a fixed set of procedures that lead only to a single correct answer that does not require them to engage in the process of developing the answers. This more authentic approach also motivates learners to think critically and construct explanations of how and why. By beginning with specifics, students abstract the core ideas and principles of science, a motivating approach. These also provide the context of and premise for the entire lesson, thus supporting a comprehensive learning activity. After frequent prompts referring to the phenomenon or problem from the start of the lesson, and encouraging students to reflect on how the learning experience they’ve just explored might provide evidence they can use, the end of the lesson returns to the “Can You Explain It?” or “Can You Solve It?”
“Planning, evaluating, and improving the quality of science instruction is contingent on accurately assessing students’ knowledge and skills and how these develop over time” (NRC, 2007, p. 344). As reported in Developing Assessments for the Next Generation Science Standards (NRC, 2014), the Committee on Developing Assessments of Science Proficiency in K–12 recommended a wide-ranging assessment system to provide all stakeholders—students, parents, teachers, administrators, policy makers, and the public—with the complete and complementary information each needs about progress in measuring NGSS performance expectations. The committee further concluded that this new vision of science learning, while challenging, provides unique and valuable opportunities for assessment with new approaches designed to capture three-dimensional learning—an integrative approach toward teaching and testing embraced within HMH Science Dimensions.
The phrase formative assessment encompasses the wide variety of activities—formal and informal—that teachers employ throughout the learning process to gather this kind of instructional data to assess student understanding and to make and adjust instructional decisions. Formative assessment moves testing from the end into the middle of instruction, to guide teaching and learning as it occurs (Heritage, 2007). Effective teachers use formal tools (such as quizzes or homework assignments) and informal tools (such as discussion and observation) to regularly monitor student learning and check student progress (Cotton, 1995; Christenson, Ysseldyke, & Thurlow, 1989).
The Committee on Defining Deeper Learning and 21st Century Skills identified formative assessment as the central instructional approach needed to ensure that students achieve 21st-century competencies (NRC, 2012b). As reported in Education for Life and Work, curriculum designed and developed for 21st-century learning should use formative assessment to “(a) make learning goals clear to students; (b) continuously monitor, provide feedback, and respond to students’ learning progress; and (c) involve students in self- and peer assessment” (NRC, 2012b, p. 182).
Educators agree on the benefits of ongoing assessment in the classroom. “Well-designed assessment can have tremendous impact on students’ learning . . . if conducted regularly and used by teachers to alter and improve instruction” (NRC, 2007, p. 344). Researchers found that students who took a practice test after studying multimedia material outperformed students who studied the material again without the assessment (Johnson & Mayer, 2009). In a study of curriculum-based measurement, when teachers administered outcome-based assessments regularly to monitor student progress and used data to make appropriate adjustments to instruction, students showed significant gains (Stecker, Fuchs, & Fuchs, 2005). Use of these assessments produced significant gains—when teachers used the data to make appropriate adjustments to instruction. Research also shows that regularly assessing and providing feedback to students on their performance is a highly effective tool for teachers to produce significant—and often substantial—gains in student learning and performance (Black & Wiliam, 1998a, 1998b).
Formative assessment is especially beneficial for lower-performing students, and, as a result, helps close achievement gaps and improve overall achievement (Black & Wiliam, 1998b). After reviewing the body of research on strategies most effective with students with mild learning disabilities, researchers found regular formative assessment to be a shared element of effective interventions with this population (Christenson et al., 1989).
As recommended by the authors of NGSS, HMH Science Dimensions bundles the treatment of Performance Expectations across lessons, units, and chapters. Learners can be exposed to multiple PEs in a single lesson, but a longer trajectory across an entire unit or even the entire school year is likely to be necessary for full mastery of all aspects of any given PE.
HMH Science Dimensions intentionally aligns questions, prompts, and performance tasks to multiple dimensions in order to assess more authentically and to provide a more complete picture of student achievement.
HMH Science Dimensions assessment builds in complexity. It starts with a pretest to assess the learner’s readiness for the lesson. Then, formative assessments and frequent question prompts appear throughout the Teacher Edition at the point of use within the learning experiences of the lesson. Lesson Quizzes and Unit Tests provide a check on understanding of the Three Dimensions of Learning. Mid- and End-of-Year benchmark tests provide educators valuable information about learner’s progress toward the Performance Expectations. Lastly, the Performance Tasks at the end of the unit and the Performance-Based Assessments in the assessment package provide culminating authentic assessments that emphasize the application of the science and engineering practices from NGSS. Finally, the open-ended “You Solve It!” interactive simulations provide yet another way to assess student performance authentically within the context of a specific challenge.
Lesson Checks and Lesson Summaries provide educators with the information needed to determine how successful their students are at understanding the key three-dimensional points of the lesson. This is usually accomplished by asking them to state the claims, evidence, and reasoning that are required to address the discrepant event or problem presented at the beginning of the lesson. These checks and summaries will prepare them for tests based on the
Performance-based assessments connect to the important content and process skills emphasized in instruction and offer the opportunity for students to show how well they can use what they know to classify, compare, analyze, or evaluate (Hibbard, 1996) and create a response or product. Performance-based tasks may take different forms, require different types of performances, and be used for different purposes (formative or summative), but they are typically couched in an authentic or real-life scenario and require high-level thinking.
Assessment systems in high-performing nations “emphasize deep knowledge of core concepts within and across the disciplines, problem solving, collaboration, analysis, synthesis, and critical thinking. As a large and increasing part of their examination systems, high-achieving nations use open-ended performance tasks . . . to give students opportunities to develop and demonstrate higher order thinking skills” (Darling-Hammond, 2010, p. 3).
Research has established the benefits of performance-based assessment. A review of classroom assessment practices in an age of high-stakes testing led Schneider, Egan, and Julian (2013) to conclude that “the value of high-quality performance tasks should not be diminished and should be encouraged as an important tool” (p. 66).
Performance-based assessments look like what we want students to do in the classroom and, as a result, can inform classroom practice in positive ways. Performance tasks allow teachers to engage students in real-world activities; they “emulate the context or conditions in which the intended knowledge or skills are actually applied” (American Educational Research Association [AERA], American Psychological Association [APA], and National Council on Measurement in Education [NCME], 1999, p. 137). They model “what is important to teach and . . .what is important to learn” (Lane, 2013, p. 313).
Performance-based assessment also better aligns with most standards—including and especially the Next Generation Science Standards. In defining the elements of an effective student assessment system, Darling-Hammond (2010) said such a system must “address the depth and breadth of standards as well as all areas of the curriculum, not just those that are easy to measure” (p. 1). This calls for performance on challenging tasks.
HMH Science Dimensions provides an assessment solution that scaffolds toward true performance tasks called for in NGSS, while also preparing students for a more advanced and challenging assessment environment, including for high-stakes science assessments, with technology-enhanced items. Performance-based assessment is a key program feature within HMH Science Dimensions, and both formative and summative assessment are integrated within instruction.
A digital curriculum offers an enhanced instructional experience to students. A great deal of research attests to the effectiveness of technology to facilitate learning and increase achievement in the classroom when used purposefully and aligned with sound educational design principles. “Technology can be a powerful tool for transforming learning. It can help affirm and advance relationships between educators and students, reinvent our approaches to learning and collaboration, shrink long-standing equity and accessibility gaps, and adapt learning experiences to meet the needs of all learners” (U.S. Department of Education [USDOE], Office of Educational Technology, 2016, p. 1).
Digital learning with multimedia holds promise for greatly improving educational experiences and achievement for diverse groups of students (Abdoolatiff & Narod, 2009; Patrick & Powell, 2009; USDOE, 2016, 2010). Increases in student-centered, cooperative, and higher-order learning as well as problem solving and writing skills have been found within computer-intensive classroom settings (Ross, Morrison, & Lowther, 2010). Blended learning utilizes both device-driven instruction and technology and face-to-face instruction in a conventional classroom context, with the objective to maximize the advantages of each. Research findings on the effects of blended learning are strikingly positive (Delgado, Wardlow, McKnight, & O’Malley, 2015; Osguthorpe & Graham, 2003; Tamim, Bernard, Borokhovski, Abrami, & Schmid, 2011).
In a meta-analysis examining online and traditional face-to-face instruction with mixes of both, blended instruction emerged as the most effective of the three approaches (USDOE, 2010). Likely because blended learning teaches students through engaging media and modes that fit with their daily practices and experiences, students tend to view blended learning favorably (Ugur, Akkoyunlu, & Kurbanoglu, 2011). “[B]lended learning that combines digital instruction with live, accountable teachers holds unique promise to improve student outcomes dramatically” (Public Impact, 2013, p. 1).
The U.S. Department of Education (2016) reports that technology-intensive instruction can make education more equitable by closing the digital-use divide and making transformative learning opportunities available to all students. Blended learning opportunities specifically expand the possibility of growth for all students while affording historically disadvantaged students greater equity of access to high-quality education, in the form of both enhanced, instructionally effective content and more personalized learning (Molnar, 2014).
An established body of evidence supports the idea that effective technology use in the classroom, through web-based and multimedia learning, increases student engagement and motivation (Abdoolatiff & Narod, 2009; Chen, Lambert, & Guidry, 2010; Reinking, 2001; Tucker, 2012). In their synthesis of research on improving student engagement, Taylor and Parsons (2011) found multimedia and technology use to be a key, shared element in engaging classroom environments. Using technology can impact student engagement and motivation in the science classroom specifically. Ke (2008) found computer-based instruction in the science classroom correlated to increased student self-confidence and overall enjoyment.
Visuals are vital for science learning as many of the processes and concepts essential to scientific study are not linear by nature, and, thus, an image, visual depiction, or animation may be able to provide a more appropriate or effective description for students than a verbal one, aiding their comprehension of content. Practicing scientists use models—which might include diagrams, replicas, mathematical representations, and computer simulations—to visualize and represent phenomena or systems (NRC, 2012a). “Advances in computer and communication technologies now allow instructors to supplement verbal modes of instruction with visual modes of instruction, including dazzling graphics that students can interact with. Research on multimedia learning provides encouraging evidence that under appropriate circumstances, students learn better from words and pictures than from words alone” (Mayer, 2013, p. 396).
Games, simulations, and virtual worlds have a positive effective on improving learning outcome gains (Henderson, Klemes, & Eshet, 2000; Merchant et al., 2012; Reinking, 2001).
Increased digital programming offers an additional benefit of increased automation, which can significantly simplify educators’ lives by eliminating low-value manual tasks such as attendance records and student assessment data entry. The further impact then is a freeing up of resources so educators can “take advantage of the things that leading brick-and-mortar schools do well, such as creating a strong, supportive culture that promotes rigor and high expectations for all students, as well as providing healthy, supportive relationships and mentorship” (Horn & Staker, 2011, p. 7).
HMH Science Dimensions delivers content via both print and digital formats, maximizing options for educators and optimizing student learning. The program’s digital-first curriculum provides a richer, deeper, and more interactive experience than the corresponding print materials. With detailed feedback and customized content, the digital approach can support a variety of learning environments to maximize mobile learning.
HMH Science Dimensions contains both print and digital resources that support different student learning modalities. The K–8 print resource is a consumable Student Edition crafted in a magazine-style format that encourages students to engage with the content. The 9–12 print resources are available as a hardcover text for Biology and Earth & Space Science while Chemistry and Physics are available as either a consumable or hardcover text. The print resources reflect the same content available in the online electronic Student Edition, but the online SE adds additional interactive features and customized content.
HMH Science Dimensions features a wide variety of activity types to maximize students’ active engagement with and experiences in science learning. These include hands-on activities and explorations, engineering projects, modeling, visual learning and tools, dynamic and interactive print and online resources, including videos and simulations, collaborations, and extended study into related careers and topics.
High level of interactivity is a key feature of effective digital learning programs. Reinking (2001) looked at the connection between multimedia learning and increased engagement and found that among the reasons for the effectiveness of multimedia learning environments were both the interactive nature of the medium and its social learning aspects.
As concluded by Sims, Dobbs, and Hand (2002), “[t]he capacity of computer-based technology to display combinations of media elements and respond meaningfully to user actions and manipulations has been established for many years” (p. 146). Zhang (2005) adds, “[l]ack of sufficient control over instructional content can diminish potential learning benefits” (p. 149).
In the conclusion of two experimental studies to assess effectiveness of interactive e-learning, Zhang (2005) found students in a full interactive multimedia-based e-learning environment achieved better performance and higher levels of satisfaction than those in a traditional classroom and those in a less interactive e-learning environment. “This study implies that to create effective learning, e-learning environments should provide interactive instructional content that learners can view on a personalized self-directed basis” (p. 160).
Simulations are virtual environments that enable dynamic representations of phenomena or processes; in a simulation, students can interact with the technology and may be able to input data, construct an object, or modify content. Both animations and simulations are useful tools for teachers wanting to present complex scientific phenomenaor processes.
Simulations are learning environments that imitate real-life processes or situations, which allow learners to test effects of their hypotheses on intended outcomes (Merchant et al., 2012). Virtual worlds are open-ended environments in which users design and create their own objects, and may contain the illusions of a 3D space, digital representation of learners in the form of avatars, and the ability to communicate with other participants. “Technology can help learning move beyond the classroom and take advantage of learning opportunities available in museums, libraries, and other out-of-school settings” (USDOE, 2016, p. 12).
Dani and Koenig (2008) present an overview of research-based ways to integrate technology effectively into the science classroom—and the benefits of doing so. Among other suggestions, they propose that teachers employ technology-based simulations to represent complex scientific phenomena or processes. And they report that students reach higher performance levels on achievement tests when they use interactive and simulation-based instruction via computer than when they learn from more traditional instruction.
Digital learning also has great potential for increasing beneficial social interactivity through collaborative tools that foster a community of learners. Tucker (2012) found that blended learning fostered students’ communication and collaboration skills. “What makes blended learning particularly effective is its ability to facilitate a community of inquiry” (Garrison & Kanuka, 2004, p. 97).
HMH Science Dimensions delivers content via both print and digital formats, maximizing options for educators and optimizing student learning. The program’s digital-first curriculum provides a richer, deeper, and more interactive experience than the corresponding print materials. With detailed feedback and customized content, the digital approach can support a variety of learning environments to maximize mobile learning.
The HMH Science Dimensions approach leverages digital interactivity as an integral part of curriculum design pedagogy, resulting in engaging and thought-provoking learning experiences that teach students for life, not just until the next test. It is also “device agnostic,” adjusting on the fly for screens from interactive whiteboards to even some larger smartphones, both online and offline (including Ed: Your Friend in Learning® and Common Cartridge® solutions).
The “You Solve It!” interactive simulations offer the kind of open-ended, student-centered digital experiences that have proven effective in research studies.
HMH Field Trips Powered by Google® Expeditions allow students to visit locations that would normally be inaccessible to them, by taking virtual field trips. These 3-D, 360-degree experiences are led by a teacher and can accommodate a classroom of students using mobile phones and cardboard or plastic viewers. HMH is a Google Content Partner, working with Google and other developers to build exciting and educational virtual field trips. HMH’s programs include Teacher Guides that integrate Google Expeditions directly into the curriculum. Teacher Guides provide guidance and commentary keyed to specific lessons in HMH programs.
Digital learning has the capacity to transform schools into new models for education that are student-centric, highly personalized for each learner, and more productive, even as it delivers dramatically better results at the same or lower cost (Horn & Staker, 2011).
Technology is increasingly being used in the United States to personalize learning and give students more choice over what and how they learn, and at what pace; this will better prepare students to organize and direct their learning in their lives even after formal schooling (USDOE, 2016). The more personalized learning afforded by blended learning opportunities is especially beneficial to historically disadvantaged learners (Molnar, 2014).
“Online learning has the potential to transform teaching and learning by redesigning traditional classroom instructional approaches, personalizing instruction, and enhancing the quality of learning experiences. The preliminary research shows promise for online learning as an effective alternative for improving student performance across diverse groups of students” (Patrick & Powell,2009, p. 9).
Digital learning is enhanced when students are given more control over their interaction with media (USDOE, 2010; Patrick & Powell, 2009). Blended learning allows for a personalized learning experience for students (Imbriale, 2013; Tucker, 2012), allowing them to drive the path and pace of their own learning (Public Impact, 2013). Digital learning tools can provide more flexibility and support for individual students by modifying content and complexity (USDOE 2016). Additionally, advances in software technology have increased adaptive learning and improved feedback (USDOE, 2016).
By providing a diverse array of online and other digital resources, technology supports learning drawn from real-world challenges and students’ personal interests and passions while also aiding the organization of a project-based curriculum. “Technology can enable personalized learning or experiences that are more engaging and relevant” (USDOE, 2016, p. 10).
Other researchers have indicated that multimedia learning leads to increased student motivation because of the student control these environments allow, and the engagement in active learning (Schunk, Pintrich, & Meece, 2008). In comparing the performance of students who completed a computer-based science lab to that of students taught the same material in a traditional learning environment, Abdoolatiff and Narod (2009) discovered that students in the former group understood the material better and reported greater interest and motivation to learn. Castaneda (2008) conducted a study in which students were taught under three different conditions: control group students were taught using more traditional methods for instruction, a second group was taught under experimental conditions of a guided simulation, and the third group was able to move freely through an independent simulation. Both experimental groups outperformed the control group.
“Leveraging technology, blended-learning programs can let students learn at their own pace, use preferred learning modalities, and receive frequent and timely feedback on their performance for a far higher quality learning experience. As online programs capture student achievement data in real-time across the school, teachers can spend more time helping personalize learning for students” (Horn & Staker, 2011, p. 6).
HMH Science Dimensions delivers content via both print and digital formats, maximizing options for educators and optimizing student learning. The program’s digital-first curriculum provides a richer, deeper, and more interactive experience than the corresponding print materials. With detailed feedback and customized content, the digital approach can support a variety of learning environments to maximize mobile learning.
Educators are increasingly seeing a digital curriculum as a means of offering an enhanced instructional experience to students. Past digital curriculum solutions had previously been developed to merely mimic print, and most lacked the richness of online interactivity and learning management support that educators are increasingly seeking.
The ability of students to pick alternative paths through the Elaborate step of each HMH Science Dimensions digital lesson leverages technology to maximize student choice as well as reap the benefits of the technology and reinforce the student-centered nature of NGSS.
As students progress through the digital lessons of HMH Science Dimensions, they answer questions and receive immediate feedback, again leveraging the technology and improving student outcomes.
Another key benefit of digital is found in the “You Solve It!” interactive simulations—because they do not rely on a “single correct answer,” students are tasked with finding one or more of the many possible workable solutions to the problem, which provides flexibility to support and celebrate individual differences among students as they reach different valid solutions.
HMH Science Dimensions features effective approaches to professional learning that support teachers in becoming developers of high-impact educational experiences for their students. Comprehensive blended professional learning solutions are data and evidence driven, mapped to instructional goals, and centered on students—and they build educators’ collective capacity. HMH allows teachers to achieve agency in their professional growth with purposeful, embedded, ongoing professional learning and effective instructional strategies relevant to everyday teaching.
Teachers’ professional learning should be high quality, ongoing, and accessible to help all students develop mathematical proficiency. Research on teacher learning shows that one core feature of effective professional learning is that it must be ongoing and based on a clear framework. Student learning goals should be clear; teachers should observe what is happening in the classroom, assess how teaching has impacted students, and then modify and improve teaching (Hiebert et al., 2007). Effective professional learning is embedded and ongoing as part of a wider reform effort, rather than an isolated activity or initiative (Darling-Hammond, Wei, Andree, Richardson, & Orphanos, 2009; Garet et al., 1999). “The duration of professional learning must be significant and ongoing to allow time for teachers to learn a new strategy and grapple with the implementation problem” (Gulamhussein, 2013, p. 3).
Teachers’ professional knowledge and capacities develop throughout their careers as they interact with more students, participate in professional learning opportunities, and make use of research-based, educative print and online resources. One way of thinking about this growth is movement from being a novice teacher toward one who demonstrates mastery (Snow, Griffin, & Burns, 2005). Novices depend almost entirely on declarative knowledge—what they learned in their teacher education program. The process of working toward professional mastery increases stores of what have been called “expert/adaptive” knowledge and “reflective” knowledge. Master teachers have the procedural knowledge—strategies and practices—to deal successfully with a full array of instructional challenges and to then evaluate, analyze, and reflect upon their effectiveness (Snow et al., 2005).
In addition to teachers’ own tendencies to evaluate and analyze their practice, many external factors and experiences contribute to their development as professionals. Feedback from principals, colleagues, coaches, parents, and students contribute significantly to an individual teacher’s professional growth (Hattie & Timperley, 2007). Like student learning, teacher learning is part of a long and complex process, too. In fact, as noted in an article on teacher learning, “Some schools have begun to create new models of induction . . . and ongoing professional learning for teachers and principals” (Garet et al., 1999, p. 921). Providing teachers the opportunity to learn—sustained over time—allows for in-depth discussion and study, as well as the chance to try out new strategies and approaches. In their research, Garet and colleagues (1999) looked at the impact of duration on teacher learning and found it has a substantial positive impact on opportunities for active learning and has a moderately positive influence on content knowledge.
Research indicates that an approach consisting of a single-session workshop independent from job-embedded learning will likely have minimal impact (Ball & Cohen, 1999; Gulamhussein, 2013). In a 2002 meta-analysis of research on teacher training, Joyce and Showers (2002) found that when professional learning consisted of only theory and discussion of a targeted practice—such as through a workshop session—gains in knowledge and ability to demonstrate the new skills were modest in the transfer to actual classroom situations; however, demonstration, practice, and feedback—such as through follow-up and coaching—combined with theory and discussion yielded more substantial gains. Joyce and Showers (2002) also emphasized that on average, teachers may make 20 or more attempts to implement a new instructional practice before it becomes effective, and this number is likely higher when the skill is exceptionally complex. This means that teachers must see enough value in the content of their professional learning sessions to put them to use in their classrooms and work toward mastery; this process is the same one students use when learning new, challenging strategies, skills, and concepts. Fortunately, the transfer rate of learning for teachers is much higher when instruction and practice are coupled with coaching. In Visible Learning (2009), John Hattie summarizes and explains the findings of his meta-study and notes that microteaching has a strong influence on student achievement. Hattie describes microteaching as a practice that typically involves teachers conducting short, or micro, lessons to a small group of students and then engaging in a discussion about the lessons, with the goal being to improve teaching methods.
HMH helps schools and districts achieve measurable gains with a person-to-person approach to professional learning centered on student outcomes. HMH’s blended professional learning model moves beyond the one-size-fits-all approach to include in-person and online consulting, courses, and coaching that are flexible, collaborative, and personalized to meet the needs of each district, school, and classroom. One of the hallmarks of HMH’s offerings is a willingness to tailor the structure of programs and services to best meet the needs of each customer.
An extension of the educational team, HMH consultants provide needs assessments, strategic plans, technical services, and executive leadership support to ensure goals are met. HMH consultants will meet in person to conduct a needs assessment, perform a proprietary inventory of instructional practices, collect baseline data, and deliver a customized plan. On an ongoing basis, the HMH team collaborates and strategizes plans for continued growth, offering guidance through best practices, and helps measure gains along the way to ensure sustained performance.
Learning courses offered by HMH are data and evidence driven, goal oriented, centered on students, and delivered by master educators. Teachers and leaders can take courses to reinforce a skill or refresh best practices. Program-specific courses ensure fidelity of implementation. There are courses to help educators at all levels of experience navigate assessments, analyze data, use reporting tools, and apply digital tools to maximize instructional time. Getting Started courses give teachers the know-how to maximize every instructional program. There are also follow-up courses to ensure smooth, sustainable implementation success.
GETTING STARTED WITH HMH SCIENCE DIMENSIONS
This course provides an overview of the program from the teacher and student perspective. Participants will become familiar withe program components, resources, planning, differentiation, and ways to engage students with technology.
As research has shown for years, traditional forms of professional learning, like one-day workshops, are not effective, usually resulting in minimal impact (Bush, 1984). However, with continued interest in improving teaching and learning, there is strong awareness surrounding teachers’ professional learning. Hattie’s work in Visible Learning (2009) revealed a core set of instructional methods that have a high impact on student achievement. It is important that teachers are clear about what they want their students to learn; adopt evidence-based teaching strategies; monitor their impact on students’ learning and adjust their approaches accordingly; and actively seek to improve their own teaching.
“Educators have known for decades that modeling is an important component of learning, and numerous research studies have demonstrated the power of modeling” (Knight et al., 2015, p. 110). Effective modeling of targeted instructional practices is purposeful and deliberate and is based on research (Taylor & Chanter, 2016). Gulamhussein (2013) reports that “Modeling has been shown to be particularly successful in helping teachers understand and apply a concept and remain open to adopting it” (p. 17).
According to a large-scale survey commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (2014), teachers seek more opportunities to be coached in learning new practices and instructional techniques, believing these professional learning efforts are more valuable. And what does Knight’s research reveal about how teachers respond to modeling efforts? “At the Center for Research on Learning, we have completed two studies to capture teachers’ perceptions of the value of model lessons. The results of both studies strongly support . . . [that] modeling is where the rubber meets the road” (Knight, 2009, p. 116).
The most effective professional learning affirms what the Center for Public Education refers to as the “dual roles teachers play”: teachers as technicians and teachers as intellectuals (Gulamhussein, 2013, p. 20). Teachers who are strong technically can draw on reserves of procedural knowledge to tailor instruction to their students’ needs. As intellectuals, teachers are empowered to reflect on theory, research, and their practice to innovate and implement new instructional strategies and approaches. This process of reflection can lead to teachers turning to their colleagues for advice and clarification—a process sometimes called “collective sense-making” (Coburn, 2005). Research shows that collective sense-making, often in the form of professional learning communities, can be a powerful motivator forschool improvement.
Teachers who seek to improve their practice and student outcomes can also turn to print, online, and in-person resources to help them continue successfully on their path toward professional mastery; this process represents blended learning, which has the advantage of allowing teachers to control the place, pace, and path of learning. Individually and collaboratively, they engage in a process sometimes called “self-coaching that addresses the common question: ‘The professional development is over, so now what?’” (Wood, Kissel, & Haag, 2014). There are five steps to self-coaching, and they represent high-quality teaching. They include:
HMH works with individual school districts to craft plans for professional development over the life of an adoption to match each district’s goals for implementation with HMH’s expertise, best supporting teachers—and, ultimately, students.
MODEL INSTRUCTION AT THE PROGRAM’S CORE
Getting Started courses for HMH Science Dimensions can be delivered as full-day (six-hour) sessions or half-day (three-hour) sessions. HMH recommends six-hour sessions to best equip teachers for a successful program launch. Sessions are staffed with experienced and certified onsite consultant(s). These consultants have participated in robust certification pathways to ensure the best possible experience for teachers.
In Getting Started courses, participants have meaningful hands-on or virtual modeling experiences to learn about their program’s organization, design, and support resources, which are essential to implementing the program and its related technology. The learning outcomes for the Getting Started courses are as follows:
Professional learning videos are also provided to enhance instructional delivery and student learning using HMH technology, modeling what instruction should look likewhen implemented.
THE HMH COACHING MODEL
Student data and evidence drive the focus and goals for our instructional and leadership coaching. Our coaching model focuses 80% on student learning and 20% on instructional design. Therefore, student learning changes are the key indicators of success.
Student-centered: By focusing on students first, our coaches can successfully collaborate with teachers to design and support changes in practice that lead to improvement in student outcomes. Teachers are provided practical support for classroom application, including lesson modeling, in order to help all students achieve.
Data-driven: Our coaches monitor progress through an accountability system for both instructional and leadership coaching to track results. Growing accustomed to this ongoing progress monitoring framework enables educators to implement data-driven instruction.
Professional coaches from HMH are available onsite and online to help teachers and leaders integrate new skills and strategies for real impact. The expertise of the HMH team includes former and current teachers, coaches, administrators, district leaders, curriculum specialists, subject area experts, and ed tech leaders. HMH brings together influential thinkers and researchers, including leaders from the International Center for Leadership in Education® (ICLE) and Math Solutions®.
HMH’s Coaching Studio, a web- and mobile-based platform, provides high-level, online opportunities for collaboration. Teachers and leaders will be empowered to make continued progress on goals, reflect on learning, and set objectives for the next in-person and/or online coaching session. Educators can also participate in professional learning conferences, webinars, social media, and more to share ideas and learn together.
A critical component to teachers’ professional services and learning is that they have on-demand access. Early research has shown that online, sustained professional learning can have a positive impact on teaching and learning (Bahr, Shaha, Farnsworth, Lewis, & Benson, 2004; Benson, Farnsworth, Bahr, Lewis, & Shaha, 2004; Magidin, Masters, O’Dwyer, Dash, & Russell, 2012; Rienties, Brouwer, & Lygo-Baker, 2013; Cho & Rathbun, 2013). The positive impact continues as learners become decision makers about their path, place, and pace. Providing teachers with professional learning opportunities that are readily and easily available allows for flexibility in time and need—again, supporting learners to control path, place, and pace. Teachers can access the resources they need based on their own schedules, and they can determine which resources best suit their needs.
A study of the effects of on-demand, online professional learning conducted by Shaha and Ellsworth (2013) found that higher levels of teacher engagement (e.g., quantity and quality of utilization and participation) correlates with higher student achievement and successes for educators and schools (e.g., teacher retention, student discipline).
One specific type of online, on-demand resource that has shown benefits is the use of videos or clips for professional learning. Viewing video clips allows teachers the opportunity to reflect on instructional practices and content (Marzano et al., 2012). As noted by Hiebert et al. (2003), using video clips or recordings can also reinforce the message that teaching mathematics is not just an isolated practice—reflecting on instruction is an opportunity to improve professionally. Further, a study conducted by the Harvard University Center for Education Policy (2012) revealed that the use of video technology can help teachers engage in the process of opening instruction to observation and feedback to improve instruction.
Researchers who study professional learning that supports teachers in effective improvement of practice remind professional learning developers and providers that teachers’ active involvement may make them feel vulnerable because they are being asked to take the stance of “learner.” As Bryk, Gomez, Grunnow, and LeMahieu (2015) noted in a study of reform efforts that included professional learning, positive changes happen in the presence of teachers’ “good will and engagement,” which is often rooted in teachers having choice and autonomy in their own learning. These qualities are essential whether teachers meet for large group professional learning, attend professional learning communities within their schools, or work on their own to find experts to guide them through self-study with print or online resources.
Professional learning is also embedded in the program in the form of point-of-use videos and NGSS labeling.
HMH Science Dimensions provides an array of Professional Learning videos to help teachers adapt to, take advantage of, and fully enjoy the NGSS approach to science education well after the implementation phase. They include the following:
In this paper, we have demonstrated how HMH Science Dimensions aligns with research-based principles and practices for high-quality, highly effective science instruction. With its flexible design, including expanded access to rich and varied digital resources, support of productive perseverance and a growth mindset, and engaging and rigorous texts throughout, HMH Science Dimensions provides a cohesive, innovative solution that builds intellectual stamina and tenacity while developing scientific thinkers, problem solvers, and communicators.
HMH Science Dimensions features student-centered learning that encompasses and integrates inquiry and conceptual understanding, tasks that require high cognitive demand, argumentation, and more. The solution is also data driven, providing a comprehensive, balanced assessment system to ensure teachers help students meet targeted learning goals. Finally, the solution is supported by ongoing professional learning for teachers, including modeling and coaching to maximize educator agency and accommodate individual students.
HMH Science Dimensions addresses the needs of today’s classrooms and the requirements of tomorrow’s world to better prepare students for college, career, and citizenship.
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