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Comparing Design Process with
the NGSS Framework/Standards

Compatible, with Added Value:  My model for Design Process is compatible with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) despite minor differences, but it has distinctive features that offer special added value.  This page supplements a quick overview of NGSS & Design Process` by exploring, in more detail, the major compatibilities between the NGSS Practices & Design Process (plus minor differences & added value), and why I think NGSS is a semi-model.




an overview:  Two essential characteristics of NGSS are shared by Design Process.  NGSS states that "the process of developing a design [with engineering] is iterative and systematic, as is the process of developing an explanation or a theory in science."  Design Process is a flexible-yet-systematic way to show how we use iterative cycles of creative Generation and critical Evaluation, in Design Cycles and Science Cycles.


Below is a comparison showing that in NGSS all of the Scientific & Engineering Practices (#1-8 below, as described in Appendix F, April 2013) also are in the 10 Modes of Thinking-and-Action used for Design Process:


#1 — ask questions [for science] and define problems [for engineering] — is Defining Objectives-and-Goals* for a design project in Science-Design and General Design.  {* in Modes 1A-1B}

#6 — construct explanations [for science] and design solutions [for engineering] — are what occurs during the overall process of an entire design project, when we use cycles to Generate-and-Evaluate in an "iterative and systematic" process.

 Design Process 
 NGSS Practices 
General Design
ask Questions
define Problems
 design Explanations 
 design Solutions 

#3 — plan and carry out investigations — is a cluster of related activities (to design and do and use Experiments)* that is very broad, so "planning and carrying out investigations may include elements of all of the other practices" (page 7 of Appendix F), with the NGSS definition of investigation being broad enough to encompass an entire design project. {* With thinking that involves all modes, we "design and do" in Modes 2C-2D-2E, then "use" in 3A-3B.}

#7 — engage in argument from evidence — this Argumentation combines social skills with a strategy for using Evaluation that is the central activity of Design Process (and Science Process).  {in Modes 3A/3B}

#2 — develop and use models — we develop explanatory theories by using a process of design (this is "construct explanations" in #6) that includes constructing theory-based models and using these models for understanding, and to make predictions that we use (in #7) for Evaluations.  {in Modes 2B & 3B}

#4, 5 — analyze & interpret data, use mathematics & computational thinking — this Analysis of Data is part of creative-and-critical productive thinking, and is examined below in minor DIFFERENCES.

#8 — obtain, evaluate, and communicate information — we obtain information that is old (already known) by Learning "in an effort to understand the problem-situation more accurately and thoroughly," and that is new during investigations in which we make predictions (#2) and observations (#3) so we can more effectively evaluate (#7) and achieve our objectives (#6);  usually, communication is part of a design-objective and part of the design-process.  {old and new information}  {we "obtain" old information in Mode 2A, produce new information in 2D-2E, "evaluate and communicate" throughout a process of design}


These comparisons show that Design Process and NGSS are compatible, with similar goals and views of process-practices.  Basically, most of the Practices are a part of Design Process.  By clicking the links, you can discover some of the many "distinctive benefits" of Design Process that offer "added value."



Part 1 describes the major compatibilities between NGSS and Design Process, but there are two minor differences and one major difference:

• Two of the NGSS Practices — #4 (analyze & interpret data) and #5 (use mathematics & computational thinking) — don't correspond directly to any specific Modes of Thinking-and-Action, but instead are part of the creative Analytical Thinking we can use for Productive Thinking.

• One term, experiment, is defined differently in Design Process and NGSS, although both terms have a Functional Equivalence for Education because they should produce educational results (for helping students understand experiments & experimental design) that are almost identical.   And two other terms that have the same basic meaning have a different emphasis, with observations & data being key terms in Design Process & NGSS, respectively.  These minor term-differences are explained in Terms in NGSS - A Glossary with Explanations.

• Although the overall views of process/practices are similar, Design Process describes the process in an organized verbal-and-visual framework — it's outlined in An Overview of Design Process & 10 Modes of Thinking-and-Action) — while NGSS doesn't attempt to do this, so I call NGSS a semi-model.



3. Distinctive BENEFITS — for Added Value

Major benefits are summarized in why we should teach Design Process.  Also, you can see comparison-sections for NGSS and Other Process-for-Process.

Also, there are Comparisons of Design Process with Other Models of Problem Solving.

I.O.U. - Currently the rest of this section is a mess that you should ignore.  I'll revise it late today, November 29.

Building Bridges between Engineering and Science
to Improve NGSS Practices
 [+ transfers, motivation]

The wide scope of Design Thinking[1] — used for Engineering (broadly defined)[1] and Science, whenever critical evaluation guides creativity in iterative problem-solving Cycles of Design[1] — lets us build two useful educational bridges (engineering/science,[2] life/school[3]), helping students improve their Engineering-and-Science Practices,2 transfers of learning,[2] motivations to learn.[3]





• SIMILARITIES — NGSS Framework and Design Process

There are important similarities between the "engineering design process" described in A Framework for K-12 Science Education and [in my bracketed comments] the Modes of Action (mental and/or physical) used for Design Process:

    Like scientific investigations, engineering design is both iterative and systematic.*  It is iterative [in Design Cycles of Generation-and-Evaluation] in that each new version of the design is tested and then modified [with revision based on feedback from Mental Experimenting or Physical Experimenting], based on what has been learned up to that point [in previous Design Cycles].  It is systematic [is there a method for design? - No & Yes] in that a number of characteristic steps must be undertaken.  One step is identifying the problem [you Choose an Objective] and defining specifications and constraints [Define Goals for a satisfactory Problem-Solution].  Another step is generating ideas for how to solve the problem [Generate Options by Finding Old Options & Inventing New Options];  engineers often use research and group sessions (e.g., “brainstorming”) [in creative Free Generation of Options] to come up with a range of solutions and design alternatives for further development.  Yet another step is the testing of potential solutions [after you make Predictions with Mental Experiments, and choose promising options that are worth testing] through the building and testing of physical or mathematical models and [so you can make Observations with Physical Experiments] prototypes, all of which provide valuable data that cannot be obtained in any other way.  With data in hand, the engineer can analyze how well the various solutions meet the given specifications and constraints [by Comparing Predictions & Observations with Goals using multiple Quality Checks for Evaluation, based on evidence-and-logic, to construct Arguments] and then [with Guided Generation in which creative Generation is stimulated-and-guided by critical Evaluation] evaluate what is needed to improve the leading design or devise a better one.  /   [*engineering design is "like" scientific investigations because each uses a similar Process of Design that is "iterative and systematic"]




Why NGSS is a Semi-Model

Other Strategies for Teaching Inquiry describes three general teaching strategies: using a model, or semi-model, or no model.  This section explains, in more detail, why I think the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is a semi-model.

NGSS builds on the foundation of a Framework-book that includes a model, shown visually in Figure 3-1.  But when the Framework was converted into Standards, a decision was made to exclude this model-framework.  Instead, NGSS is a semi-model that includes the "practices" of science & engineering, but these practices are not organized into a model that shows their inter-relationships.

Pages 44-46 of the Framework explains, using text and Figure 3-1, "How the Practices Are Integrated into Both Inquiry and Design."  This is followed by "How Engineering and Science Differ" which describes the flexibility of "scientific investigation" and "engineering design process" and how, "like scientific investigations, engineering design is both iterative and systematic."

Figure 3-1 (copied below, ©2012 by NAS) shows Three Spheres of Activity Investigating, Evaluating, Developing Explanations and Solutions — for scientists and engineers.  In the Framework's model, Evaluating is a hub of action (4 arrows connect it with the left & right sides) and this also occurs in Design Process with Many Responses to Evaluation.  The left side of their diagram, Investigations, is mainly to design-and-do Experiments which is a major cluster of related activities in Design Process.  Developing Explanations [in science] and Solutions [in engineering] describes the overall process of design in the 10 Modes of Thinking-and-Action used for Design Process.   /   Basically, the left side (Investigating) is about designing-and-doing Physical Experiments, and the right side (Developing) is about Mental Experiments and Generating Options for Explanations or Solutions.  The left & right sides are connected by Evaluating.

Model of Science/Engineering Process in Framework-Book

Why is this model-for-process (from the Framework) not in the NGS-Standards?  I'm assuming that, during the time between Framework and NGSS, the writers of NGSS decided to exclude this model so a “free marketplace of ideas” could freely decide which model(s) to consider for inclusion in our curriculum & instruction, and whether to use "a model, or semi-model, or no model."  If this was what happened, it seems like a wise decision.