Making Explicit Connections:
DCIs and CCCs


An important feature of lessons and units that align with the vision of three-dimensional science teaching, is that explicit and meaningful connections are made among the three dimensions.

“A coherent and consistent approach throughout grades K-12 is key to realizing the vision for science and engineering education embodied in the framework: that students, over multiple years of school, actively engage in science and engineering practices and apply crosscutting concepts to deepen their understanding of each field’s disciplinary core ideas.” (NRC, 2012, p. 2, emphasis added)

In the case of linking Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs) with Crosscutting Concepts (CCCs), the larger question to be asked is: How is your lesson or unit making explicit connections between the DCIs and CCCs targeted in instruction?

Instructions for the 3D Map

  • List specific examples from your lesson or unit where students are making explicit connections between particular components of DCIs and particular components of CCCs.
  • Describe your reasoning for how the DCI and CCC are linked in each example.

Guiding Questions

In identifying explicit connections between DCIs and CCCs in your lesson or unit, you should ask yourself:

  • How is student engagement with the particular component of the chosen DCI helping to deepen their knowledge of a particular component of the selected CCC?
    • Example: Students may compare observed patterns (CCC #1) in one investigation to the patterns that they observe in a different investigation in order to deepen their understanding of the DCIs underlying both investigations.
    • Example: As students learn about the macroscopic features of embryos of different organisms, they are comparing patters of similarities in the embryological development across difference specifies.
  • How is students’ application of particular components of CCCs helping to deepen their understanding of particular DCIs?
    • Example: Students may describe the structure and function (CCC #6) of the different components of a cell to explain how they come together to contribute to the overall functioning of a cell (DCI LS1.A).
    • Example: As students understand cause and effect (e.g., multiple cause and effect relationships in a system), they are identifying the various causes and effects across different scientific phenomena (e.g., the role of natural selection in prevalence of certain traits, human impact and climate change).
  • Are the connections between DCIs and CCCs made explicit to the students through instruction?


National Research Council. (2012). A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Committee on a Conceptual Framework for New K-12 Science Education Standards. Board on Science Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.