Disciplinary core idea(s) (DCIS)


The Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs) outlined in A Framework for K-12 Science Education are meant to include the key ideas in science that have broad importance within or across multiple science or engineering disciplines (NRC, 2012). These core ideas are grouped into four domains: Physical Science, Life Science, Earth and Space Science, and Engineering. Each of the core ideas outlined in these four domains build on each other as students progress through grade levels. These progressions of idea complexity across grade levels are described as learning progressions. In many cases, an individual lesson or unit alone does not provide sufficient instruction for students to be able to successfully and fully understand a DCI. However, all lessons and units should build toward students’ ability to meet the designated DCIs for the particular grade or grade band.

“the framework focuses on a limited number of core ideas in science and engineering both within and across the disciplines. The committee made this choice in order to avoid shallow coverage of a large number of topics and to allow more time for teachers and students to explore each idea in greater depth.” (NRC, 2012)

Instructions for 3D Map

List the DCI(s) and specific content bullet(s) to indicate the specific components on which your lesson or unit focuses developing student understanding.

ASET Tools to Guide your Thinking

The ASET Disciplinary Core Ideas Tool is designed to guide you to analyze: How are students engaged in the specific components of the DCIs that you have selected for your lesson or unit? Through the use of this tool, you will be guided through:

  • Evaluating how well you are including the DCI(s) for which you are designing instruction; and
  • Reflecting upon what areas need strengthening or have not been addressed in your instruction around your selected DCI(s).

This tool is continually evolving and may have changes or additions made as more input is provided.


Grade Band Language

ASET Earth Space Science DCI Descriptions

ASET Engineering Technology DCI Descriptions

ASET Life Science DCI Descriptions

ASET Physical Science DCI Descriptions



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.