A Strategy to Help Students Support their Arguments with Cross-Cutting Concepts and Core Ideas

text: Using CCCs & Core Ideas as Evidence

Writing explanations of phenomena and conclusions that are well grounded in facts is an important part of science. The writers of NGSS have organized key concepts into the cross-cutting concepts (CCCs) and the disciplinary core ideas. Students can and should use these concepts and ideas to support and back up their arguments (see figure 1 and my previous post, “”). Unfortunately, NGSS doesn’t include a list of core ideas that cover the content of a traditional Chemistry course. I developed a list of core ideas that could be used for Chemistry, which has been shared here previously (see my previous post, “”).

Figure 1: Students use core ideas and CCCs as evidence

In order for students to be fluent enough with the CCCs and core ideas to use them to support their arguments, we teachers need a way to help students become familiar with them. While there are many possible strategies to familiarize students with the CCCs and core ideas, I have opted to provide students with a list of the CCCs and a blank tracker for the core ideas that would serve as a running list we will build as we cover each core idea during the school year (log in to your ChemEd X account to find the document in the Supporting Information). In my mind, this tracker would go in student binders next to their periodic tables and other reference tables. The idea is that students will go back to this core idea tracker and enter each core idea after it has been established in class. That is...they will do that after it has been taught and after students have written an argument utilizing the core idea. The tracker would be filled in with the core ideas that I shared in my previous post on Chemistry core ideas mentioned above. I prefer this build-as-we-go approach for several reasons:

  • Having students fill in each core idea after it is learned is a built-in way to get students to refer to the CCCs and core ideas list throughout the year.
  • If students have the list of all the core ideas, they may simply pick one “off the menu” without thinking much about it as they write their argument, which could short-circuit the thinking process.
  • Students may read the core ideas ahead of time, which may give away the result of upcoming demos, experiments or discrepant events.
  • Students are more likely to remember the concept as a core idea and may be more likely to use it to support future arguments if they write it on the page themselves.

In upcoming arguments, students will be able to use any of the cross-cutting concepts and previously established core ideas to support their statements. Of course, simply listing a CCC or core idea in their statement would not be enough to backup their argument. The burden would still lie with the students to describe how the core idea is connected to the phenomeon or conclusion and describe this connection in a way that convinces the reader to believe the core idea or CCC is relevant to their argument. This is all part of the reasoning process.

As a disclaimer, I haven’t actually used this strategy yet in my classes, but I thought I would share the idea as I am planning on using it this year. If you have other ideas or strategies to help students use the CCCs and core ideas to help support their arguments, please leave a comment and share your thoughts!

Supporting Information: 
Community: 

NGSS

Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to explanations and designs that are supported by multiple and independent student-generated sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories.

Summary:

Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to explanations and designs that are supported by multiple and independent student-generated sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories. Construct and revise an explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from a variety of sources (including students’ own investigations, models, theories, simulations, peer review) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

Assessment Boundary:
Clarification:

Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to explanations and designs that are supported by multiple and independent student-generated sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories.

Summary:

Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to explanations and designs that are supported by multiple and independent student-generated sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories. Construct and revise an explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from a variety of sources (including students’ own investigations, models, theories, simulations, peer review) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

Assessment Boundary:
Clarification:

Engaging in argument from evidence in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to using appropriate and sufficient evidence and scientific reasoning to defend and critique claims and explanations about natural and designed worlds. Arguments may also come from current scientific or historical episodes in science.

Summary:

Engaging in argument from evidence in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to using appropriate and sufficient evidence and scientific reasoning to defend and critique claims and explanations about natural and designed worlds. Arguments may also come from current scientific or historical episodes in science.
Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning behind currently accepted explanations or solutions to determine the merits of arguments.

Assessment Boundary:
Clarification: