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What does it mean to know or to understand? The PEs form standards by blending

science and engineering practices, DCIs and crosscutting concepts; they clearly

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specify how students should make use of science content knowledge. The PEs call,

not for memorizing isolated terms, but for focus on students applying ideas to

explain phenomena, solve problems, and make decisions.

Let’s examine how the three dimensions—DCIs, science and engineering

practices, and crosscutting concepts—are blended together in the NGSS to develop

PEs. Returning to our example above, MS PS1-5 1 —a middle school performance

expectation in the Chemical Reactions topic states ‘‘Develop and use a model to

describe how the total number of atoms does not change in a chemical reaction and

thus mass is conserved.’’ Notice how only a portion or element of the DCI PS1

Matter and Its Interactions relates to the PE. This element is part of

PS1.B: Chemical Reactions – Substances react chemically in characteristic

ways. In a chemical process, the atoms that make up the original substances

are regrouped into different molecules, and these new substances have

different properties from those of the reactants. The total number of each type

of atom is conserved, and thus the mass does not change.

A full discussion of this DCI is included in the Framework for K-12 Science

Education. This element of the DCI is blended with the practice element ‘‘Develop a

model to describe unobservable mechanisms’’ and with the Energy and Matter

crosscutting concept element ‘‘Matter is conserved because atoms are conserved in

physical and chemical processes.’’

Student Learning

Professional development


Instruction Assessment


Standards specified as Performance Expectations

Scientific Practices

Core Ideas

Crosscutting Concepts

Fig. 1 Standards’ impact on the educational system (Figure modified from Wilson & Berenthal (2006)

1 MS-PS1-5, refers to middle school, physical science Disciplinary Core Idea 1 (Matter and Its

Interactions) and the fifth Performance Expectation associated with this DCI (MS-PS1-5 is one of 3 PEs

in the Topic Chemical Reactions).

Next Generation Science Standards 161




Table 1 shows a graphic representation of how PE MS-PS1-5 was built from the

three dimensions.

Designing Instruction to Build Understanding of Performance Expectation(s)

A standard expressed as a performance expectation specifies what students are

expected to know and do for assessment purposes at the end of instruction. PEs

provide guidance for designing instruction and curriculum materials. Teachers and

curriculum designers need to plan instruction to provide learning opportunities for

all students to meet the PEs. Developing the proficiency described in a PE, students

will need to experience the DCIs through a number of science and engineering

practices and crosscutting concepts. Similarly for students to gain proficiency in the

use of science and engineering practices, they need to use the practices with a

variety of DCIs and crosscutting concepts. In this way students will build useable,

integrated understanding of the DCIs and crosscutting concepts and proficiency in

using the practices. To ensure these experiences, we define ‘‘lesson level PEs’’ to

guide instruction toward meeting the PEs as specified in NGSS. Teachers design

lessons that call for students to meet the lesson level PEs using combinations of

practices and DCIs beyond those specified in individual PEs.

Although one lesson will begin to help students build understanding, one lesson will

not build the depth and integration of usable understanding required to achieve the

performance expectation. In other words, we need to scaffold the development of

understanding expressed in the PEs. The ideas expressed in a bundle of PEs (several

related PEs) need to be carefully developed in multiple lessons over time. At Michigan

State University, along with colleagues from the Michigan Department of Education,

and members of Michigan’s NGSS Lead State Internal Review Team (see section

‘‘Appendix’’ for a list of individuals contributing to the ideas described below), we

Table 1 Blending the dimensions to form performance expectations (MS-PS1-5)

Practice crossed with element of DCI and crosscutting concept gives performance expectations

Practice DCI Crosscutting concept PE


and using


PS1.B: chemical

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