Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI) describe the most essential ideas (content) in the major science disciplines. Disciplinary Core Ideas have the power to focus K–12 science curriculum, instruction, and assessments on the most important aspects of science. To be considered core, the ideas should meet at least two of the following criteria and ideally all four:
- Have broad importance across multiple sciences or engineering disciplines or be a key organizing concept of a single discipline.
- Provide a key tool for understanding or investigating more complex ideas and solving problems.
- Relate to the interests and life experiences of students or be connected to societal or personal concerns that require scientific or technological knowledge.
- Be teachable and learnable over multiple grades at increasing levels of depth and sophistication.
The continuing expansion of scientific knowledge makes it impossible to teach all the ideas related to a given discipline in exhaustive detail during the K-12 years. But given the cornucopia of information available today virtually at a touch – people live, after all, in an information age – an important role of science education is not to teach “all the fact” but rather prepare students with sufficient core knowledge so that they can later acquire additional information on their own. An education focused on a limited set of ideas and practices in science and engineering should enable students to evaluate and select reliable sources of scientific information, and allow them to continue their development well beyond their K-12 school years as science learners, users of scientific knowledge, and perhaps also as producers of such knowledge.
Rather than “learning” numerous disconnected ideas, three dimensional learning focuses on helping learners develop a useable understanding of fewer, powerful ideas that develop across K–12-science curriculum and can form conceptual tools that learners can use to make sense of the world. Disciplinary ideas are grouped in domains: the physical sciences; the life sciences; the earth and space sciences; engineering, and even the environmental sciences.
You cannot learn the ideas of science in isolation from the doing and you cannot learn the practices of science in isolation from the content of science.