Helping Students Learn the Thinking Skills in the NGSS Crosscutting Themes

Join the presenters of this session as they consider ways to support deep learning of the NGSS crosscutting themes, starting with examples from EcoXPT, followed by group discussion and sharing of artifacts.


The crosscutting themes in the NGSS call for forms of thinking that often are contrary to everyday forms of thinking and are not familiar to most students, especially students from underrepresented populations. Within each theme, there are supporting skills and understandings that students must have in order to understand the broader theme. For example, to reason well about cause and effect, students need to know when to attempt to isolate and control for variables and when to look for interactions, multiple contributing causes, and indirect causes. There are also themes that one must understand in order to know how the themes come together (e.g., what one can learn from correlation under the theme of patterns and how that differs from causation under cause and effect).

This session includes a dispositional approach that includes the sensitivities, abilities, and inclinations that students need to enact the skills. For the first 15 minutes, the facilitator shares examples from the EcoXPT project, including a set of Thinking Moves posters and accompanying videos as well as illustrations from the virtual world in EcoXPT. Technological innovations make it possible to reveal the epistemological assumptions that scientists make and to offer a window into scientists’ thinking for students from underserved populations who may otherwise not have such models; EcoXPT offers examples of how technology can be recruited to do so.