LINCS Online Course: Scientific Practices in Context: Curricular Planning and Lesson Development

The LINCS online course: Scientific Practices in Context: Curricular Planning and Lesson Development is now available in the LINCS Learning Portal!


LINCS is adding the opportunity for professional development for its members in the form of a series of optional online courses developed by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education’s Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS) Resource Collection initiative. These online courses are self-paced, freely available, and accessible 24 hours a day through the LINCS Learning Portal. The courses will enable users to work at their own pace, at a time that is most convenient to them.


Online Course: Scientific Practices in Context: Curricular Planning and Lesson Development

Building on the first LINCS online science course, Engaging Adult Learners in Science, which provided a rationale for teaching science in the adult basic education/adult secondary education (ABE/ASE) classroom, this course provides guidance on where to find credible science resources, and an introduction to teaching science in context. In addition, this course reviews the teaching and learning cycle, focusing on curriculum design including lesson planning and development within the context of an adult education science unit. The course is self-paced and features three modules: (1) Using Science for Contextualized Instruction; (2) Applying the Teaching and Learning Cycle Model; and (3) Planning a Science Unit. The modules link to this discussion thread (Title: LINCS Online Course: Scientific Practices in Context: Curricular Planning and Lesson Development) within the LINCS Community Science group to provide opportunities for you to discuss how to apply the course information in your teaching with your colleagues from around the country.

Use this discussion thread to post your responses to the questions below from the LINCS online course, Scientific Practices in Context: Curricular Planning and Lesson Develop. Please share your comments to any of the following questions, or post a general comment or feedback on the course.

  • Introduce yourself.
  • You’ve seen some examples of science as a context for instruction. How have you used science in your classroom as a context for instruction? What was the result?
  • Having explored the printable list of web-based resources for kitchen science activities, which pages, activities, or demonstrations were the most useful to you in your classroom? What other web-based resources have you found for kitchen science activities?
  • As you examine the Environmental Issues Unit, post your responses to the following questions: (1) How does the unit flow? Is there a progression of content? Skills? Would you order the lessons differently? (2) How does the teacher sequence the introduction of each of the scientific practices over the course of the unit? Does the sequence have a logic that you can follow? (3) Which of the scientific practices are revisited? Why would these seem to be high-yield practices that warrant more attention? (4) Do you believe that the unit as a whole will meet the goals of the teacher? Why or why not? (5) What additional topics would you include in a unit on environmental issues for adult learners?
  • Share your unit’s big vision and high-level learning objectives with the group.
  • Share your lesson plan with the group.
  • Return to this discussion in a couple of months and reflect on the effectiveness of your science lesson plan: What worked well? What could be improved?


This online course was developed under the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education’s Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS) Resource Collection initiative under Contract No. ED-VAE-11-C-0048.


The new LINCS Learning Portal offers adult educators free online professional development courses from a variety of OVAE initiatives. Join today at:


Hello.  I feel that I have a very good science background in biology and chemistry.  However, I have had to reteach myself earth science.  Fortunately, my employer has some decent resources for the science portion of the test although I do supplement iit with outside resoues.  

What I thought interesting was how careful I need to be with online resources.  I stay away from wikipedia.  However, I realize I have to be careful of what I bring into the classroom.  Good reminder for me to really check my resources.

Holly, you bring up great points about relying on online resources.  It is great to build into your instruction the opportunity for students to learn to evaluate resources, as this is a useful life skill outside the formal classroom.  For example, what does a domain name tell us?  What do we know about the sponsoring organization?  Does a mission statement appear anywhere on the site?  How often is the site updated?  Are there advertisements, and if so,  what might we learn about the information on the website. 

It would be helpful to hear from others of you who include exercises in evaluation of web-based resources in your instruction.  What works for you?


I am a retired elementary school teacher who is exploring the idea of adult ed.  I have never taught adults other than on a very informal basis such as tutoring.  I took this course to fulfill professional development hours and to explore and learn more about teaching adults.  Because I am retired, I have not been in a position to use the lesson plans.  I am renewing a soon to expire TX state elementary teaching certificate.

The links to lesson ideas were very good.  I liked those "Snacks" quite well.  I think that it is important to relate new information to prior knowledge and to arouse curiosity within the learner.

Dear Retiree,

Thanks for writing to introduce yourself!  It is good to hear that you are exploring opportunities in adult education.  (I have found that being an instructor in adult basic/secondary education to be the highlight of my teaching career)  Please keep us posted on your explorations.  As an experienced school teacher, you already have many of the skills important to adult education.


I am working through this online course and looking for ways to better incorporate science in my instruction.  Most of my students believe they have very little background in science study.  I believe we are all investigators in our daily lives.  We ask questions and seek valid results.  The challenge for my students is to refine their scientific practices.

I am a retired High School Teacher just starting with adult education.  My students have a large and varied background in Science.  I'm looking for ways to incorporate other disciplines like reading, math., and social studies into the lesson.

I am an adult education instructor and know that many of my students are concerned that they will have difficulty with science because they didn't understand it during their K-12 experience. One way to make them feel more comfortable is to show how science is a part of their everyday lives. If they are considering purchasing a different vehicle, we can discuss how the fuel that powers their car is made. This can then be connected to math topics and a discussion of gas mileage.

Hi!  I am currently teaching in the GED Program for students who wish to obtain their high school equivalency.  Because I have a teaching certificate and am also an LVN, I am assigned to teach the Science portion of the curriculum.  The idea of context in science is not new, it has merely changed names, as does so much in education.  The focus for the adult learner seems to have shifted from obtaining an education that will allow him/her to continue learning to an emphasis on immediately finding employment.  This concept is fine if the person desires only to work and not continue their education into the vocational/technical/college realm.  

Hi everybody. I'm currently in my 3rd of Adult Education teaching GED prep courses at a maximum security prison. We do not give the actual GED test, but work with men who are wanting to reach that goal in the future. Science is not something we spend a lot of time on as my students are usually really low in levels and focus on basic math and reading. 

Hi Andrea, 

I understand the desire for learners to focus on the skills they believe they need to have. However, the skills that lead to effective reading (predicting, understanding cause and effect, understanding sequence, building vocabulary and background knowledge, and reading informational text) are also the skills needed for science. Perhaps reading Science articles at an appropriate literacy level would blend Science and Reading. 

Perhaps some resources that will connect the pieces can be found at


I have never taught science in the past, yet I appreciate receiving resources, i.e., websites, activity examples, vocabulary, explanations of  how to develop contextualized instruction for science lessons and I look forward to the challenge of developing science lessons, now.

I've used weather events in the local area to segue into lessons on science. The material seems more alive and relevant after having experienced weather events or seen the impact they can have on the world. It also allows them to interject with personal anecdotes.

In the past I have not used many web-based resources for science lessons. The only thing I can think of is using youtube videos to demonstrate concepts I've discussed like chemical reactions. After reading through this section I will be sure to use the vast amount of digital tools and resources available to me in my lessons.

How does the unit flow? Is there a progression of content? Skills? Would you order the lessons differently?

The unit flows well starting with a topic many students are vaguely familiar in with pollution and ending up at a concrete and goal oriented topic of conservation. Overall I think the progression is quite good in terms of both content and skills. The only change I might make is to put the local air and water  reports at the start of the pollution section to ground the material in the real life situation of the students but having the students start with something more engaging like building a model is still a valid start to the section.

How does the teacher sequence the introduction of each of the scientific practices over the course of the unit? Does the sequence have a logic that you can follow?

The teacher starts with Asking questions and ends with Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information but the rest of the scientific practices are scattered throughout the ten lessons. The fourth practice is even doubled up and is the primary focus in two separate lessons. That being said they do follow a logical sequence; however, it follows the material instead of merely going through each scientific practice by number.
For instance the 3rd scientific practice, Planning and carrying out investigations, is not the primary focus until the 6th lesson which is a part of the 3rd major category of the lesson Energy solutions. While the scientific practice applies to many of the previous lesson by saving it for Energy Solutions the instructor allows the material, which is now focused on investigating biofuel, to reinforce the scientific practice. Overall the unit followed a clear and useful logic when applying scientific practices.

Which of the scientific practices are revisited? Why would these seem to be high-yield practices that warrant more attention?

Analyzing and Interpreting data is revisited twice in the unit. This practice is high-yield because it applies to a wide range of areas from other academic fields to careers to the students’ daily lives. Thus being able to understand data and meaningfully interpret that data will have wide reaching benefits for the students both inside and outside of the classroom. It is also a skill that they might not have used often consciously but is one that does require focused practice to develop one’s abilities. Finally analyzing a block of data or arranging data into a clear and concise presentation of that data can be seem daunting at first and giving the student more opportunities to gain familiarity with those situations will only make them feel more comfortable.

Do you believe that the unit as a whole will meet the goals of the teacher? Why or why not?

Yes, because the unit is well structured around the material, uses a wide range of teaching methods, and focuses on reinforcing the scientific practices with the material.

What additional topics would you include in a unit on environmental issues for adult learners?

In the pollution section I would have also covered environmental disasters like oil spills or nuclear reactor malfunctions to show that environmental issues arise both from long term behaviors like littering but also short term catastrophes.

Unit: Microbial ecology

Lesson: Introduction to Microbial Ecology

Outcomes: Students begin to learn vocabulary related to Microbial Ecology and begin to become aware of the many microbial ecologies around and inside of them in their everyday life.

Goals: The GED has some questions relating to cells and microorganism and my students are interested in preparing for the exam. Additionally a local lake recently experience massive algae blooms of unicellular microorganism and made the water unsafe to drink for several days. The conversations around this and the material impact it had upon their lives makes the topic especially relevant to these students.

Scientific Practices: As an introductory unit the lesson will primarily focus on the scientific practice of asking questions though given that the algae bloom and its causes will be an overarching topic for the lesson it will also incorporate constructing explanations to a certain degree.

Time Frame: The lesson will most likely take one class session as it is merely an introduction to the unit.

Science Core/Component Ideas: Ecosystems, Diversity of Life, Cell Structures, Prokaryotic Cells/Eukaryotic Cells


Areas of Integration: Writing, and computer skills

Learner Prior Knowledge: All students have some knowledge of this topic because of recent news coverage of the local algae bloom. Overall knowledge is not high but some foundational knowledge is present for all students.

Activities: Fill out a know/don’t know worksheet, generate a list of questions about the material, and document the vocabulary words covered in the lesson. Additionally the students will be given a list of videos on youtube to watch  and write a brief essay about their reactions to it before the next class session. Finding the video on youtube and writing their response will be counted as components of this lesson.

Materials: Worksheets, computers, and access to the internet.

Formative/Summative Assessments: Seeing the results of the know/don’t know worksheets will be useful for formative assessment throughout the unit as will the question sheet. Likewise the vocabulary sheet will be a running summative assessment tool throughout the unit. Finally their essays will be used for summative assessment though largely for writing.

Technology Skills: Will let students use in class computers to reach youtube videos. Will see which students can perform this task unguided but will give a lesson for those who have trouble doing so. Will promote familiarity with the computer and finding specific websites on the internet.

Adaptions: For advanced students I may have them watch two of the videos and instead of writing about their initial reactions will have them compare and contrast the contents of the videos. For beginning students I will have them list bullet point reactions to the video rather than a fully formed essay.