Lesson Planning for Three-Dimensional Learning: Elementary Teachers’ Successes and Challenges with the Crosscutting Concepts


Elementary and Early Childhood Education

Additional Department

Secondary and Middle Grades Education

Document Type


Publication Date



New reforms and the Next Generation Science Standards call for three-dimensional learning through the integration of the crosscutting concepts (CCCs) with the science and engineering practices (SEPs) and disciplinary core ideas (DCIs). However, teachers face challenges in knowing how and why to incorporate the CCCs in their planning and teaching, and more information is needed about the use of CCCs in three-dimensional learning and teaching. In this qualitative study, we consider how 31 elementary teachers use the CCCs in their planning for three-dimensional learning and how the teachers describe their successes, challenges, and use of the CCCs in their classrooms. The teachers engaged in a week-long professional development focused on writing three-dimensional lesson plans with an explicit focus on the use of the CCCs in elementary classrooms. Our analyses showed that all the lesson plans included use of the CCCs to support students’ 3D sensemaking. However, certain CCCs were used more than others and explicit use of the CCCs by students was uncommon. In addition, a mismatch existed between what CCCs the teachers claimed to use in their lesson plans and what was used in their lessons. In describing their successes and challenges with use of the CCCs in the classroom, the teachers typically discussed students’ experiences and knowledge with the CCCs. Implications for teacher educators and curriculum developers are discussed.

Journal Title

Journal of Science Teacher Education

Journal ISSN


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)