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Major Features of the 2009 Science Curriculum Framework - Conceptual Strands and Guiding Questions

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Article Index
Major Features of the 2009 Science Curriculum Framework
Conceptual Strands and Guiding Questions
Grade Level and Course Expectations
Checks for Understanding
State Performance Indicators
Unique Identifiers
Standards Titles, Numbers, Topic Area Emphasis
Embedded Inquiry, Engineering and Technology, Mathematics
Learning Progressions

These are new features of the revised Framework. Every content standard area in each grade level or course includes a Conceptual Strand and Guiding Question. These statements are consistently applied across all K-8 grade levels and in high school courses such as Physical Science and Biology.


Conceptual Strands are statements that express the unifying, "big ideas of science." The implicit goal of the Science Curriculum Framework is for all students to gain a thorough grasp of these fundamental concepts after completing their K-12 science program.

Guiding Questions are the focusing elements of the Science Curriculum Framework. Their major purpose is to give teachers and administrators clearly defined targets that they can use to sharpen and inform instructional articulation across the K-12 science curriculum sequence. It is expected that every high school graduates’ cumulative science experiences will prepare them to thoughtfully demonstrate an accurate understanding of the concepts embedded in every Guiding Question when they exit from any Tennessee K-12 science program.

Implications for Science Teaching and Learning

Although Conceptual Strands cut across all grade levels, their implementation will naturally vary according to students' age, developmental readiness, and complexity of the ideas embedded within a standard. For example, the Conceptual Strand for Standard 4 – Heredity: "Plants and animals reproduce and transmit hereditary information between generations," has significantly different learning implications for students in grade seven as compared with those enrolled in a high school Biology course.

To illustrate how a Guiding Question might be applied to inform instruction, return to Standard 4 – Heredity. The Guiding Question for this standard, "What are the principal mechanisms by which living things reproduce and transmit information between parents and offspring?" This Guiding Question would be consistently referenced as teams of teachers map an appropriate K-12 learning progression and plan their corresponding instructional programs.