On the Nature and Utility of Crosscutting Concepts

Jeffrey Carl Nordine, Okhee Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The crosscutting concepts (CCCs) are a collection of ideas that span the science and engineering disciplines. While various standards documents have identified similar sets of ideas in the past, calls for their explicit inclusion into science and engineering instruction began in earnest only about a decade ago. When these calls began, the research base on the teaching and learning of the CCCs was limited; in the intervening years, educators have debated whether and how the CCCs are useful for supporting science and engineering learners. In this article, we summarize a recent scholarship that has clarified the role of CCCs in supporting science and engineering learning. Then, we highlight two exemplary curricular units (one elementary and one secondary) that showcase CCC-informed instruction. Based upon these research and development efforts, we identify three core messages: (1) CCCs provide learners with a set of complementary lenses on phenomena, (2) CCCs are powerful tools for broadening access to science and engineering, and (3) practitioner innovations play an especially important role in the time-sensitive work of establishing a more robust research base for how CCCs can strengthen science and engineering teaching and learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number640
JournalEducation Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • Next Generation Science Standards
  • crosscutting concepts
  • curriculum development
  • phenomenon-based instruction
  • three-dimensional science learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Education
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Public Administration
  • Computer Science Applications


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