Crosscutting concepts as language for reasoning and sensemaking in high school earth science

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


The Disciplinary Core Ideas for High School Earth Science are filled with information relevant to many challenges humans are facing across the globe. To benefit from this growing body of knowledge, it is increasingly important that we support students in improving reasoning and communication as part of scientific literacy. This research explored the impact direct instruction of Crosscutting Concepts had on recognition of the CCC's across content, detail and specificity of reasoning, and self-efficacy related to science communication in high school Earth Science students. Students were divided into two groups one receiving direct instruction related to Crosscutting Concepts through mini lessons and specific classroom tools and templates. The non-treatment group experienced the same content and general references to Crosscutting Concepts but did not receive direct instruction. Mixed methodology was used to collect quantitative and qualitative data using surveys, formative assessment through Interactive Science Notebooks and Misconception Probes and summative assessments through content specific unit tests. Students in both groups made progress in recognition of Crosscutting Concepts with students in the treatment group reporting more confidence in this skill. Interviews, and observation showed students in the treatment group were more likely to see connections to Crosscutting Concepts across topic areas and use the CCC's in discussion. Survey results showed direct instruction increased students' perception of value in applying Crosscutting Concepts in their reasoning. There was not a significant difference in the specificity and detail of reasoning between treatment and non-treatment groups. Results suggest that these same methods can improve recognition of Crosscutting Concepts across content, increase self-efficacy related to communicating science ideas and contribute to a common language in the classroom that can be used by students to support each other's thinking and focus discussion and exploration of phenomenon.




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