Work of Teaching Science (WOTS)

Earlier efforts detailed a set of science-specific teaching practices that are most critical for beginning elementary teachers, which resulted in the development of 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 TopicsChoosing which science ideas or instructional activities are most closely related to a particular instructional goal
2. Scientific Resources (texts, curriculum materials, etc.)Evaluating instructional materials for their ability to address scientific concepts; engage students with relevant phenomena; promote students’ scientific thinking; and assess student progress
3. Scientific Models and RepresentationsEvaluating or selecting scientific models and representations that predict or explain scientific phenomena or address instructional goals
4. Student IdeasAnalyzing student ideas in relation to intended scientific learning
5. Scientific Language, Discourse, and VocabularyAnticipating scientific language, discourse and vocabulary that may be difficult for students
6. Scientific ExplanationsCritiquing student-generated explanations or descriptions for their accuracy, precision, or consistency with scientific evidence
7. Scientific Investigations and Demonstrations
Selecting investigations or demonstrations that facilitate understanding of disciplinary core ideas, scientific practice, or cross-cutting concepts


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.