Work of Teaching Science (WOTS)

The science-specific teaching practices that are most critical for beginning elementary teachers are described in the ‘Work of Teaching Science’ framework (Mikeska et al., 2018). This framework focuses on the content challenges that novice elementary science teachers face and is organized by the instructional tools (e.g., scientific models and explanations) and practices that elementary science teachers use This framework defines the ‘knowledge in action’ that is leveraged by science teachers in their daily work and can be used to guide the development of CKT assessment instruments and tasks.

Instructional ToolsExamples of Instructional Practices
1. Scientific Instructional Goals, Big Ideas, and Topics1.1 Selecting or sequencing age appropriate, grade level instructional goals or big ideas for a topic
1.2 Identifying the big idea or instructional goal of an instructional activity
1.3 Linking science ideas to one another and to particular activities, models, and representations within and across lessons
1.4 Choosing which science ideas or instructional activities are most closely related to a particular instructional goal
2. Scientific Resources (texts, curriculum materials, etc.)2.1 Evaluating instructional materials and other resources for their ability to sufficiently address scientific concepts; engage students with relevant phenomena; develop and use scientific ideas; promote students’ thinking about phenomena, experiences and knowledge; provide a sense of purpose; take account of students’ ideas; and assess student progress
2.2 Choosing resources that support the selection of accurate, valid, and age appropriate goals for science learning
3. Scientific Models and Representations3.1 Evaluating or selecting scientific models and representations that predict or explain scientific phenomena or address instructional goals
3.2 Engaging students in using, modifying, creating, and critiquing scientific models and representations that are matched to instructional goals
3.3 Evaluating student models or representations for evidence of scientific understanding
3.4 Generating or selecting diagnostic questions to evaluate student understanding of specific models and representations
3.5 Evaluating student ideas about what makes for good scientific models and representations
4. Student Ideas4.1 Analyzing student ideas in relation to intended scientific learning
4.2 Selecting diagnostic items and eliciting student thinking about scientific ideas and practices to identify common student misconceptions and the basis for those misconceptions
4.3 Developing or selecting instructional moves, approaches, or representations that provide evidence about common student conceptions and help students move toward a better understanding of the idea, concept, or practice
5. Scientific Language, Discourse, and Vocabulary5.1 Identifying the connections between students’ talk and work and scientists’ talk and work
5.2 Selecting scientific language that is precise, accurate, and grade
5.3 Anticipating scientific language and vocabulary that may be difficult for students
5.4 Supporting and critiquing students’ participation in and use of verbal and written scientific discourse and argumentation
5.5 Modeling the use of appropriate verbal and written scientific language in critiquing arguments or explanations, in describing observations, or in using evidence to support a claim
6. Scientific Explanations6.1 Critiquing student generated explanations and descriptions for their generalizability, accuracy, precision, or consistency with scientific evidence
6.2 Selecting explanations of scientific phenomena that are accurate and accessible to students
7. Scientific Investigations and Demonstrations7.1 Selecting investigations or demonstrations that facilitate understanding of disciplinary core ideas, scientific practices, or crosscutting concepts
7.2 Evaluating investigation questions for quality
7.3 Determining the variables, techniques, or tools that are appropriate for use by students to address a specific investigation question
7.4 Critiquing scientific procedures, data, observations, or results for their quality, accuracy, or appropriateness
7.5 Evaluating and selecting media for engaging students in virtual investigations not possible in firsthand situations
7.6 Supporting students in generating questions for investigation or identifying patterns in data and observations


Mikeska, J.N., Kurzum, C., Steinberg, J., & Xu, J. (2018). Assessing elementary science teachers’ content knowledge for teaching science for the ETS Educator Series: Pilot results. (Research Report No. RR-18-20). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.