What are Science and Engineering Practices?

Within the Next Generations Science Standards (NGSS) are science and engineering practices, sometimes called SEPs. Science and engineering practices are: 

  • Behaviors that scientists engage in as they investigate and build models and theories about the world around them
  • Includes skills to design and build models and systems


Students will engage in science and engineering practices as they dive deeper into science concepts and topics. 

What are the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices?

NGSS has outlined 8 science and engineering practices. They include: 

  1. Ask questions and define problems
  2. Developing and using models
  3. Planning and carrying out investigations
  4. Analyzing and interpreting data
  5. Using mathematics and computational thinking
  6. Constructing explanations and designing solutions
  7. Engaging in argument from evidence
  8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Explaining the SEPs

How to explain the NGSS science and engineering practices to your students: 

  1. Ask questions and define problems: Students should discern the difference between scientific and non-scientific questions. In addition, have them point out problems in design flaws. 
  2. Developing and using models: A model can be a simple illustration or sketch of something. Students should be able to create and read models. 
  3. Planning and carrying out investigations: Students should predict, collect data, and analyze scientific experiments. 
  4. Analyzing and interpreting data: After data is collected, students should look for patterns or relationships. 
  5. Using mathematical and computational thinking: Graphs and charts should show patterns and outcomes to demonstrate an understanding of concepts. 
  6. Constructing explanations and designing solutions: Using observations, students should explain what happened and use science to back up their findings. The CER method can help students strengthen their explanations. 
  7. Engaging in argument from evidence: Students should be able to debate and discuss findings. In addition, critical thinking skills and critiques can make students better scientists. 
  8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information: Share findings with other scientists to help learn more about the world and create better solutions. 

Why are the Science and Engineering Practices Important?

NGSS developed science and engineering practices to teach students how scientific knowledge is developed. Through these practices, students will understand the Crosscutting Concepts better and allow students to better understand the world around them. 

Whether teaching a STEM unit or one on another scientific concept such as the human body, students should participate in one or more of these practices to help them better understand the world around them. 

Integrating Science and Engineering Practices into Your Classroom

NGSS Science and engineering practices are designing to be used in science classrooms from grades K-12. Therefore, throughout the year, students should be engaging in the 8 different SEPs. 

In the beginning of the year, I introduce my students to each of the SEPs. This introduction will gear them up for different activities that are ahead of them this school year. 

This activity set includes

  • Classroom decor posters outlining each science practice
  • Eight posters that include explanations
  • Student reference sheet
  • Short activities to acclimate students to each practice
  • Print and digital options
  • Answer key


Other ways to integrate science and engineering practices:
  • Have students predict cause and effect relationships
  • Ask questions about changes in variables
  • Develop or revise models based on evidence
  • Create a model to convey a process, tool, or object
  • Evaluate different methods and tools to collect data
  • Test different models to determine their criteria for success
  • Compare and contrast data to find similarities and differences
  • Analyze and interpret data
  • Decide which type of data will meet the criteria for success
  • Organize data to show relationships
  • Find evidence to support an explanation
  • Apply scientific ideas to solve problems
  • Decide between fact and opinion to solve problems
  • Use data to make claims
  • Communicate information to others through presentations, media, or summaries
  • Combine texts and data to support science
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