STEP 4: SPECIFY THE BIG PICTURE LEARNING GOALS
Once again, we can rely on the National Research Council to do the heavy lifting for us. The newly published science education standards (NRC, 2012) focus on elements within three dimensions. The first dimension, Scientific and Engineering Practices, includes authentic science process skills, with additional specification for science versus engineering contexts. For example, “asking questions” (in science) and “defining problems” (in engineering) are the first skills listed. The other domain-general skills are used across disciplines (e.g., conducting investigations, interpreting data, using evidence, constructing explanations (science), or designing solutions (engineering). Many of the practices listed here overlap with the specific set of cognitive and metacognitive skills studied by developmental psychologists of science, and thus, we already know a great deal about them (see step 5).
The second dimension includes Crosscutting Concepts, such as cause and effect, systems and system models, patterns, and stability and change (NRC, 2012). The third dimension, Disciplinary Core Ideas, specifies core ideas in four disciplinary areas (i.e., physical sciences, life sciences, Earth and space science, and engineering, technology, and the applications of science). For example, molecules, organisms, ecosystems, heredity, and evolution are some of the core ideas included within life sciences. Learning the wide range of discipline-specific content may be difficult to adapt to game play: Roth (2008) points out that there are thousands of possible science concepts that can be taught. Prensky (2011) notes that “building a game for every topic is probably not necessary” (p. 268). However, big-picture crosscutting concepts, such as systems, patterns, and causality, are perfect for simulation and games.