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March 17, 2021

Shifting From “Learning About” To “Figuring It Out” For The NGSS

As I shift my instruction to meet the requirements of the Next Generation Science Standards, I often ask myself: How can I make science a phenomenal experience for my students? I think the key to unlocking the answer to this question lies in discovery — in my willingness to figure out what the NGSS asks of me, as an educator.

As part of Teaching Channel’s Next Generation Science Squad, I spent a weekend in Washington D.C. working with the Squad to develop my understanding of the NGSS and was fortunate to attend a training on the latest EQuIP (Educators Evaluating Quality Instructional Products) rubric by Achieve.

As I approached the workshop, I wondered why I needed a rubric to ensure that my instruction is NGSS aligned. I didn’t see the logic. Wouldn’t that take substantially more time when I’m already working hard to incorporate the new standards without a rubric? Aren’t we professionals who know our craft and what we’re expected to do? Aren’t we well versed in pedagogical approaches and strong teaching methodologies? I felt I was doing a pretty good job with this “NGSS thing.” Why fix something that isn’t broken, right?

After spending some time with Craig Gabler, a member of the team that created the NGSS, it was clear I still had a few things to learn. Now I’d like to share some of my takeaways with you.

Tools vs. Product

The NGSS don’t imply that our standard tools of practice (KWL charts, Venn Diagrams, etc.) are bad; but they do suggest that we need to revisit what we’re trying to build with our tools. We need to transition our model from a pretty picture into something that represents the components (relevant parts), the relationships (interactions), and the connections that can be made (relating observations to science concepts, theories, or laws).

The Rubric

The rubric isn’t suggested for a single activity and isn’t in a lesson plan format. Instead, it’s a way to ensure lessons reflect NGSS’ 3-dimensional learning (Cross Cutting Concepts, Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas). It suggests we, as educators, should be designing our instruction using frameworks like the Five Tools & Processes and starting with phenomena. We must point to evidence for how the 3Ds are being incorporated and have the authentic reasoning for their placement embedded within our unit. The rubric is not a checklist; it’s a way to help us inform our practice.

After a day of training, the Squad met together and wrestled with how to best adapt our strategies to move towards NGSS alignment and how we can help you do the same.

If you didn’t have a chance to join in our #TchLIVE chat, check out the archive to follow the discussion.


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