Practice Brief 3 -- Topics: Practices Instruction Background

Practices should not stand alone: How to sequence practices in a cascade to support student investigations

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Why It Matters To You
  • Teachers should intertwine and sequence multiple scientific practices in their teaching in ways that integrate the conceptual ideas of science.
  • District staff and PD providers should highlight to teachers that students’ productive engagement in scientific practices can overlap and seem messy.
  • School leaders should understand that a “cascade of practices” approach looks different from the “scientific method” instruction that administrators may be more familiar with.

What is the Issue?

Science and engineering practices should strongly shape instruction—and be integrated with disciplinary core ideas and cross-cutting concepts. Some people might treat the practices as “stand alone” activities to engage students, but research shows that it is more effective to think about designing instruction as a cascade of practices. Practices should be sequenced and intertwined in different ways to support students in unfolding investigations.



Things to Think About

  • How satisfied are you with your current way of teaching science and engineering? How well does it engage students in extended experiences where they learn and apply concepts while engaging in the science and engineering practices?
  • It is productive to take up a small manageable investigation “cascade style” that can be integrated, repeated and refined throughout your teaching. What practices and core ideas would you want to start with?

Things to Consider

Resist turning investigative sequences of science practices into new, fixed procedures that students are marched through—similar to how the scientific method has often been used instructionally.

Cascade of Practices PBL Sequence

(from Bell et al., 2011)

Attending to Equity

Recommended Actions You Can Take


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