Obtaining, Evaluating & Communicating



Science cannot advance if scientists are 
unable to communicate their findings clearly and persuasively or to learn about the findings of others. A major practice of science is thus 
the communication of ideas and the results of inquiry—orally, in writing, with the use of tables, diagrams, graphs, and equations, and by engaging in extended discussions with scientific peers. Science requires the ability to derive meaning from scientific texts (such as papers, the Internet, symposia, and lectures), to evaluate the scientific validity of the information thus acquired, and to integrate that information.


Engineers cannot produce new or improved technologies if the advantages of their designs are not communicated clearly and persuasively. Engineers need to be able to express their ideas, orally and in writing, with the use of tables, graphs, drawings, or models and by engaging in extended discussions with peers. Moreover, as with scientists, they need to be able to derive meaning from colleagues’ texts, evaluate the information, and apply it usefully. In engineering and science alike, new technologies are now routinely available that extend the possibilities for collaboration and communication.

See A Framework for K-12 Science Education, 2011, p. 74 for entire text.

1. From the background information, what new awareness do you have about obtaining, evaluating & communicating?
2. In a 3-Dimensional classroom, who do you think needs to be obtaining, evaluating & communicating?
3. What questions did the background raise for you?

4.  Unpack this Practice by identifying the verbs and nouns in the description.  Is your list similar to this?


Obtaining, Evaluating & Communicating podcast

Podcast #2

Science Notebooks podcast

Science Notebooks Prezi

Literacy in Physics:  Reading  a Primary Source https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/ccss-literacy-science-classroom



1. What are your current beliefs about this practice?
2. In what ways do you think you are using this practice?

3. What challenges do you see to using this practice?


Obtaining, Evaluating & Communicating Activities:

Activity #1:  Using Primary Source Material
Activity #2:  Using Graphics as a Source
Activity #3:  Evaluating Resources

Activity #4: Communicating Observations of an Object


Developing Conceptual Understanding of the Obtaining, Evaluating & Communicating Activities


The purpose of the following activities is to engage teachers in the practice of obtaining, evaluating & communicating.  The emphasis in NOT on the activity itself, but rather the conceptual change related to the practice.  Consumers of the Toolkit are reminded to not get wrapped up in the activity, but rather continually reflect on the conceptual nature of the practice to gain deeper understanding.



Now is the time to engage in a phenomenon that focuses on the practice.  Facilitators provide an opportunity for learners to obtain, evaluate, and communicate.


Obtaining, Evaluating & Communicating Activity #1:  Using Primary Source Material


Using the model of instruction shown in the Literacy in Physics:  Reading  a Primary Source referenced above, provide learners one of the following primary source articles:  Changes in Lake Trout Growth Associated with Mysis relicta Establishment:  A Retrospective Analysis Using Otholiths, Mountain Pine Beetle, or Gold Mining.


Introduce learners to the article.  Lead a discussion about the differences between primary and secondary/tertiary sources.  Ask learners to read/skim the article and identify 5-10 vocabulary words they are not familiar with and define the words for themselves.  Ask learners to identify the problem presented in the article, the steps undertaken to understand the problem and the conclusion.  Encourage learners to ask additional questions.  Invite learners into a discussion about the article.


Obtaining, Evaluating & Communicating Activity #2:  Using Graphics as a Source


Using the information from the site, Where We Came From, have learners choose a state, study the graphic and prepare a short presentation sharing the results.  

Obtaining, Evaluating & Communicating Activity #3:  Evaluating Resources


Using a site like one of these, help learners evaluate websites:  A Middle School Plan, Inquiry on the Internet, or Evaluating Credibility of Resources.



Obtaining, Evaluating & Communicating Activity #4:  Communicate Observations of an Object


A scientist needs to obtain, evaluate and communicate their findings effectively.  One of the most meaningful ways to do this is through science notebooking.  It is critical that this skill be taught early on to students.  Specifically, students need to understand how to create drawings and use expository text features (bold, color, labels, captions, heading, diagrams, charts, tables, etc.) to communicate their thinking through written words and illustrations. Additionally, this is a great place for them to practice the skill of asking questions.  Once taught, science notebooking should be applied consistently through all lessons.  A great activity for introducing science notebooking is “Find an Object.”


“Find an Object” involves having the students find an object to observe and draw.  This might involve the teacher bringing in an object for the whole class to observe, the class going outside to make an observation, the class bringing an object from home, or the class going outside to obtain and bring back an object from outside.  Once the object is obtained, the student is required to make observations and draw what they see.  They should include the text features listed above to clarify their drawing.  They should be encouraged to write additional comment with regard to what they are observing with their other senses, such as smell, sound, etc.


Please note that as students develop their skills they should be encouraged to include drawings from many different perspectives.  Additionally, as the need for data tables and graphs arises, these organizational tools need to be explicitly taught.


This activity addresses the COMMUNICATING concept of the practice.  Be sure to tie in both the OBTAINING and EVALUATING components.  These include the use of tables, diagrams, graphs, and equations.  Meaning needs to be able to be derived from scientific texts including papers, the Internet, symposia, and lectures.


This is also a great opportunity for English Language Arts Common Core in the content area tie-in.



1.  In what ways did this activity change your beliefs about obtaining, evaluating and communicating?

2.  How can you foster the understanding of obtaining, evaluating and communicating for your students?

3.  What can you do to make this practice a part of every learner’s repertoire?



1.  How do you currently help students apply this practice in your classroom?

2.  Review a recent lesson you taught and evaluate the effectiveness of obtaining, evaluating and communicating.



1. Ask a colleague to observe one of your lessons OR video yourself teaching and provide feedback on how you implement obtaining, evaluating and communicating in your classroom.

2. Use the EQuiP Rubric for Lessons & Units: Science to evaluate a recent lesson you taught.

Learning Progress for obtaining, evaluating and communicating


Elementary:  Students should be encouraged to write in ALL areas of science, using journals and notebooks to record their observations, data collection, reflections and more.  The creation of diagrams, tables, charts and graphs is essential.  Learning to read primary sources to gather information is critical and should not be limited to written text only, but should include images, graphs, illustrations, etc.  

Middle School:  Students continue to read primary sources and write in science at levels advanced from elementary.  Use of the spoken language should be included as students share ideas, findings and reflections through speeches, presentations using multiple media outlets.


High School:  Students should be proficient at using primary sources, reading more complex texts, including technical reports and scientific literature.  At this level, students should develop a critical eye for information.  They should be able to share their findings, ideas, and reflections through both written and spoken media.   (Framework, p. 77).


See p. 15  Appendix F Science and Engineering Practices in the NGSS for a more thorough grade band progression.

Additional Resources


Classification:  Dichotomous Key Activity

Students create a dichotomous key of sturgeon (Author:  Rob Yeomans)


Genetics & Environmental Science Activity

Toothpick Fish Genetics Activity



Encyclopedia of Life  http://eol.org/

Frog Guts (virtual frog dissection)  http://www.froguts.com/demo/

Science World Magazine’s online resources  http://scienceworld.scholastic.com/

Student Science News for Students  https://student.societyforscience.org/sciencenews-students


TED Videos:

“The Wacky History of Cell Theory”   http://ed.ted.com/lessons/the-wacky-history-of-cell-theory

“The ABC’s of Gas:  Avogadro, Boyle, Charles  - Brian Bennett  http://ed.ted.com/lessons/1207-1-a-bennet-brianh264

“How to Think About Gravity”  http://ed.ted.com/lessons/jon-bergmann-how-to-think-about-gravity

“The Simple Story of Photosynthesis  http://ed.ted.com/lessons/the-simple-but-fascinating-story-of-photosynthesis-and-food-amanda-ooten

“Wonderopolis”  http://wonderopolis.org/  (A great site for explanations of wonderings.  Can search by subject and grade level.  Would be a great prompt for science notebooking and predictions with diagrams and labeling.  Research the “wonder” and evaluate findings via notebooks, discussions…)


Conceptual Change and NGSS

Asking Questions in Science & Defining Problems in Engineering

Developing and Using Models

Planning & Carrying Out Investigations

Analyzing & Interpreting Data

Using Mathematics & Computational Thinking

Constructing Explanations & Designing Solutions

Engaging in Argument

Obtaining, Evaluating & Communicating


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The Toolkit was developed through the Montana Partnership with Regions for Excellence in STEM Grant.  The contents of this version of the Toolkit have been modified from the original.