Education in the United States is about to undergo significant change with the adoption of the next generation science standards. Rather than focus on specific content associated with each grade level, these standards address three things:

  • How scientists and engineers think and solve problems
  • Disciplinary core ideas, and,
  • Crosscutting concepts that link science and engineering to other disciplines including those addressed by the Common Core standards.

This transformation is important in my view because of floors and ceilings.

For too many years, we have been limiting the development of student knowledge by teaching in ways that revealed the answers to the kids. Every time you tell the student a solution to a problem, you have put a ceiling on this knowledge, and students have no incentive to go further. On the other hand, when subjects are approached through inquiry, we provide a floor for their learning and they can move up from there.

This is the core idea behind our Knights of Knowledge project (

Of course, this transition is not easy to make.  Teachers who would never give a child a book of crossword puzzles with the answers filled in, still give students textbooks with the “answers” to all the content area explored in a course.  While directed instruction will always have its place, it is important to know when to stop sharing information with students, and when to send them off on learning adventures of their own.