A review of literature that uses the lens of the next generation science crosscutting concepts: 2012–2019

Sarah J. Fick, Washington State University Pullman
Anna Maria Arias, Kennesaw State University


New reforms in science education call for three-dimensional learning by integrating disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts (CCCs). These reforms defined the new term, crosscutting concept (CCC), as a lens that has explanatory power across disciplines. To describe how researchers are examining and using the CCCs related to science teaching and learning, a literature review was conducted to identify articles that included the term “crosscutting concept” since its introduction in 2012. The articles were narrowed to those that use the term CCC as a component of the framing, analysis, findings, or discussion of their empirical or nonempirical article. A subset of the identified papers elaborated on the CCCs beyond existing policy documents and references. These papers were open-coded to identify themes in how the CCCs were used. The identified themes suggest that the CCCs are useful for science teaching, learning, and research in terms of creating opportunities to learn, connecting to the big idea, linking to practice, drawing on funds of knowledge, and connecting across topics and disciplines. These themes were analyzed to identify areas of existing focus and those in need of additional research. This synthesis of the literature has implications for using and studying the CCCs within three-dimensional teaching and learning.