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IQWST is unique as the only curriculum that fully operationalizes the research-based vision of A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2012) and the NGSS by building students’ experiences with and understanding of crosscutting concepts, science and engineering practices, and science content over time. The preferred sequence is not recommended because developers wrote the curriculum that way, but developers wrote IQWST in a particular sequence because research shows that it is the optimum way to support student learning.
The Framework calls for a significant shift in how science is taught not only within a grade, but also across grades and grade bands. This shift was motivated by “a growing national consensus around the need for greater coherence—that is, a sense of unity—in K-12 science education” (NRC, p. 10), as well as a significant body of research on how people learn and how students learn science, in particular. That is, the learning of both science content and scientific practices should build over time in increasingly complex and connected ways. IQWST carefully scaffolds student engagement with scientific practices and their learning of science content over time. Ideas about the particle nature of matter and the concept of energy, first explored first in 6th grade, then become the prior knowledge of each unit that follows in 6th grade, are are leveraged in 7th and 8th grades as students continue to deepen their understanding as they apply “what they know so far” to new contexts. Simultaneously, the 6th grade units introduce students to the practice of modeling and to metamodeling knowledge, to explaining and arguing from evidence, to designing investigations, to analyzing and interpreting data, and to systems thinking (a crucial Crosscutting Concept). They apply their understanding of crosscutting concepts across disciplines and perform increasingly rigorous aspects of the practices, such as expanding the reasoning used in their scientific explanations to include rebuttals. This inter-unit coherence across units in a grade level, and across grades 6-8, reflects the vision of the Framework and the NGSS. Research also suggests that it enables students “to develop a broader and deeper understanding of crosscutting concepts, by providing repeated, coordinated exposure to these concepts over years rather than weeks” (Fortus, Sutherland, Krajcik & Reiser, 2015, p. 1422).
For these reasons, we strongly recommend the suggested sequence. We can recommend alternative sequences that still ensure that key units are taught before others. However, many schools successfully use IQWST in a sequence adapted to their district standards. Even when units are not taught in the recommended sequence, student achievement soars because of the pedagogies and practices of IQWST, the strong literacy component (reading, writing, and oral discourse), and the experiences students have as young scientists that enable them to engage with and apply science content and scientific practices to new contexts and to science in their everyday worlds.
The vision forged in the equity and diversity chapter in the Framework shaped the core of IQWST’s development to “grow out of lived experiences” (NRC, p.284). Students’ funds of knowledge--their interests, language, identity, and prior knowledge--should be leveraged as the entry point into science and science learning in order to fluidly move between “everyday” and scientific ways to think about, talk about, and understand the world around us. This crucial principle guided the development of the Driving Question Board (DQB) in each IQWST unit. Along with discussion, the DQB is the tool by which teachers leverage students’ funds of knowledge around a complex and puzzling phenomenon. Students ask questions about the phenomenon - questions that reflect their interests and identity and are given a voice and a public stage through using the DQB. For instance, in the context of a weather phenomenon-based unit, one emerging bilingual student asked, “Why did air pullution only happens at China?” The DQB provided this student the opportunity to share his unique experiences in an area of the world where people go indoors for fresh air, rather than outdoors as many of his peers indicated is common cultural practice in the US. By sharing this question and experience aloud, this student is able to practice discipline-specific language while also constructing his identity as a science “knower.” Of course, the “need to know more” based on unanswered or partially answered questions motivates student engagement with the practices in order to figure out answers to their questions. When the curriculum doesn’t directly answer certain questions, these become opportunities for differentiation - for students to investigate or research. Moreover, the DQB and accompanying discussion is the primary tool for teachers to attend and respond to students’ funds of knowledge and keep their interests driving (and sustaining) their investigations in science