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Criteria 1 - Authentic Learning Experiences


Students engage in the process of science as it is practiced in the authentic scientific community. Therefore, students should be working to “figure out” a scientific phenomenon or engineering problem and investigations should be focused on scientific phenomena that are relevant and important to their community and/or to them personally.


Students will engage in science in an authentic manner through the use of relevant phenomena.

Feature Expanding Implementation Implementation Beginning Implementation No Implementation
1A Learning experience are organized around students experiencing and investigating meaningful phenomena and/or designing solutions to problems and include intentional access points and supports so all students can use targeted SEPs, CCCs and DCIs as the central component of learning. Learning experiences provide opportunities for students to experience phenomena directly or through rich multimedia or to design solutions to problems. However, students may not receive the supports necessary for them to use targeted SEPs, CCCs, and DCIs to build their understanding. Learning experiences use scientific phenomena as an engagement strategy or lesson “hook” but students are not engaged with using their conceptual understanding in figuring out the scientific phenomenon. Students receive minimal support in the application of targeted SEPs, CCCs and DCIs. Learning experiences are isolated topic-based lessons where students read about science concepts or follow a step-by-step procedure to ensure they learn the science content (DCI) and vocabulary.
1B Learning experiences are designed around phenomena, scenarios, and/or problems that are relevant to a wide range of student abilities, backgrounds, and interests. When appropriate, local opportunities are utilized to foster authenticity during the sense-making of phenomena. Students make the authentic connections in collaboration with their peers. Learning experiences are organized around phenomenon/problems that are interesting/relevant to students with the goal of making sense of the world (not just covering content). The phenomenon/problem appears loosely connected to the students’ cultural, community or personal identities/interests. The teacher makes the authentic connections for the students. Learning experiences are organized by ‘big ideas” but have limited explicit connection to students’ day-to-day lives. Any authentic connections are by chance instead of by design and while learning may be difficult, it is not conceptually rigorous. Learning experiences are not organized around big ideas or meaningful phenomena. or the phenomenon/problem are likely of interest to a select group of students (i.e - just of interest to males, high SES, native speakers). 
1C Students examine and experience science content in authentic ways that encourage greater depth of knowledge and build towards answering essential questions. When appropriate, students use science concepts from different domains (Earth/space, life, physical) to construct explanations. Students interact with science content within one domain (Earth/space, life, physical) by figuring out phenomena. Any connections to prior learning or across science domains is loose or requires teacher prompting for students to see the connections. Students interact with science content in some ways that encourage greater depth of knowledge (i.e. students read about a phenomenon or talk about how scientists/engineers engage with a related phenomenon or problem) but do not apply the content to real-world situations or phenomena. Students interact with the science content mostly through reading a text, answering teacher-developed questions, or completing worksheets.
1D Students use information from previous investigations to revise their understanding of the phenomena/problem/design and to initiate their next steps/next investigations. Students design their own investigations/next steps to build evidence for their claims and to deepen their understanding of the phenomenon/design. Student conduct investigations that are designed to confirm what was previously learned or students follow a teacher-provided procedure that has a clear, pre-determined conclusion. Students do not engage in scientific investigations.

Feature 1A Resources

Achieve has a panel of experts who are using the EQuIP - science rubric to analyze a variety of instructional units. Items identified as Quality Examples of Science Lessons and Units are included on the NGSS website.

Classroom Resources at the NGSS Hub at NSTA provides detailed classroom resources with over 100 titles in the four disciplinary domains (life, earth, physical, engineering).

Teachers Try Science provides lessons that have been reviewed through the EQuIP rubric. These are individual lessons; not complete units. The site also identifies instructional best practices and has associated videos.

BetterLesson provides a variety of teacher-developed lessons from Kindergarten through high school. The lessons are organized by standard. The lessons have not been reviewed with a formal tool such as the NGSS lesson screener or EQuIP but could be used as a starting point.

Feature 1B Resources

Using Phenomena in NGSS-Designed Instruction includes an interview with Brian Reiser about using Phenomenon in instruction, a written resource describing how and why to use Phenomena and another resource describing the Qualities of Good Anchoring Phenomena.

Phenomena for NGSS  provides a searchable bank of phenomena that have the potential to be instructionally productive. The site also provides reasons for using phenomenon in science instruction.

Georgia Science Teachers’ Association Phenomenon Bank provides a searchable bank of phenomenon along with potential essential questions and instructional uses for each phenomenon.

#Project Phenomena was developed by the San Diego County Office of Education and includes criteria for selecting phenomena and a phenomenon database.

The Blank Park Zoo invites educators to professional development opportunities held at Blank Park Zoo on specific dates listed on the site. Workshops are good for one hour of license-renewal credit.

Feature 1C Resources

Achieve has developed a set of Evidence Statements associated with each standard. Evidence statements describe potential ways students could demonstrate proficiency on the standard. Evidence statements are examples and are not mandated as the only way students can demonstrate proficiency on a standard.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) provide an important opportunity to improve not only science education but also student achievement. Based on the Framework for K–12 Science Education, the NGSS are intended to reflect a new vision for American science education. These changes in how science educators should view learning can be found in the Conceptual Shifts in the Iowa Science Standards.

Feature 1D Resources

Supporting Scientific Thinking and Inquiry of Toddlers and Preschoolers through Play

Practices Resource In Science and Math (PRISM) provides descriptions, videos and strategies associated with each science and engineering practice and each mathematical practice. The faculty, staff and students from the University of California, Davis and teachers from Dixon Unified School District and Davis Joint Unified School District who developed this site also provide a framework and shifts that incorporate both the SEPs and mathematical practices.

Bozeman Science Videos includes information on and practical strategies for incorporating the practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas in classroom instruction.

Successful STEM Education is a National Science Foundation initiative focused on providing information, events (with links to session materials), and resources to support effective STEM teaching and learning.

Understanding Science Teaching Resources includes a variety of resources developed by the University of California Museum of Paleontology through an NSF grant to support understanding how science works.

Project WILD and Aquatic WILD provide K-12 activity guides that include field investigations, STEM extensions, career information, and correlations to standards. Guides are available through training, available in different formats: workshop, on-site/school-based, individual mentoring, plus occasional on-line and summer professional development through AEA Learning.


Created 2018 through the work of M. Sanderman, P. Christensen, K. Kilibarda; Updated 2020 through the work of E. Hall, M. Sanderman, T. Jarrett, S. Nelson, K. Schmidt