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BEST: Using Energy as a Cross-Cutting Concept to Teach More Effectively


Boston Energy in Science Teaching, the Boston Science Partnerships Phase II project, is anchored in using energy as a cross-cutting concept. BEST defines effective teaching in science as facilitating opportunities for learners to explore concepts and connections across science disciplines. Our projects strategy is to use the cross-cutting concept of energy to facilitate these opportunities.

To achieve our goal, we have adapted our Phase I BSP professional development strategies (Vertical Teaming, Contextualized Content Courses, and Collaborative Coaching and Learning in Science) from being discipline-based to concept-based [energy]. Our project will be comparing participants who participated in BSP PD (discipline based), BEST PD (concept based), and both BSP and BEST PD to see if one type of PD has a greater impact on teaching and student achievement than another. Based on Year 1 data, we have seen BEST teachers improve in areas related to impressions of how curriculum connects to energy, use of energy as a lens, and energy conceptual knowledge.

Thus far, the project has learned lessons that may benefit others. These lessons include (1) teaching through a cross-cutting concept, such as energy, is difficult; (2) we are thinking about energy in a very different way than others because we are focusing on it across silos and not alternative energy or the like; (3)communication is very important to convey exactly what we mean to teachers, faculty, and the science education community; (4) observable change at this point is slow and discrete; (5) and the lack of current assessments that match project objectives has made it difficult to measure changes in content knowledge.