The NSTA Quick-Reference Guide to the Three Dimensions

edited by: Ted Willard

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Since its release in 2014, the NSTA Quick-Reference Guide has become an essential tool for educators across the country to explore the complex structure of three-dimensional standards, including the performance expectations (PEs) that integrate particular elements of the three dimensions (the practices, core ideas, and crosscutting concepts) together. These elements are the bulleted statements that appear in the foundation box below the list of PEs, and the Quick-Reference Guide (aka the “purple book”) makes it so easy to refer to the elements that many educators use the book more often than the standards themselves as they do work in curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

The original version of the Quick-Reference Guide was designed specifically as a tool to support educators that had adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). But since the release of the Quick-Reference Guide, many states have developed their own standards based on A Framework for K–12 Science Education (the Framework). Whether adopting the NGSS or developing their own standards, nearly every state now has standards that use the three dimensions. This new version of the Quick-Reference Guide has been carefully revised to meet the needs of all educators who are engaged in three-dimensional teaching and learning. It retains the most useful features of the original and adds several new features that should make it even more helpful:

• Descriptions of the science and engineering practices and crosscutting concepts from the Framework

• K–12 progressions of the elements of all three dimensions, as well as the connections to the nature of science and the connections to engineering

• A unique code for every element (based on the codes in The NSTA Atlas of the Three Dimensions) that makes it much easier to reference a particular element

• Chapters devoted to elements of the three dimensions in each grade span

• A chapter on PEs that includes clarification statements and assessment boundaries and a table that identifies which elements of the three dimensions are integrated together for every PE

• Tools to help make sense of the standards, including questions for unpacking the standards; a Venn diagram of practices in science, mathematics, and English language arts; and a rubric for evaluating three-dimensional lessons and units

Whether you used the original “purple book” or this is your first time using the NSTA Quick-Reference Guide, this new version will likely become an indispensable tool in your work supporting three-dimensional teaching and learning.

Download a sample chapter


Type NSTA Press BookPub Date June 14, 2022ISBN 978-1-68140-965-8Stock # PB354X4

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