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Scientific Explanation – A Framework for Constructing Explanations in Science

Critical skills that all students should develop through their study of science are the ability to develop and critique a scientific explanation.

On almost a daily basis, there are articles in the news that seek to provide a scientific explanation for how or why a given natural phenomenon occurred. The topic may be climate change, nuclear energy, genetically modified food or any number of other topics that impact the everyday lives of individuals. Scientifically literate readers need to be able to evaluate the evidence and reasoning presented in the article or report. In addition, science students need to be able to explain the results of the investigations they conduct in science class.

The ability to write a well-developed scientific explanation is an important skill on which all science teachers should invest time in helping students develop. What teachers expect students to be able to produce should become more sophisticated as students have more experience with developing and critiquing scientific explanations.

This ability is supported by two of the practices identified as essential for all students in Next Generation Science Standards: 1) Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering). 2) Engaging in argument from evidence.

Download the full article to learn the key tenets for honing these skills and more.

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