Thinking the NGSS Way

Are you making the transition to using Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) as the guiding document in your science classroom? Making the transition to thinking the NGSS way may definitely be a change. The document asks educators to engage students in rigorous thinking enabling them to share arguable evidence while engaged in the science and engineering practices. Perhaps it is a new thought process for your teaching practices, but if you are a self contained elementary teacher, then you are very used to teaching this way in English Language Arts and Mathematics. The standards in those disciplines have been asking teachers to challenge students by engaging them in rigorous thinking and having them share evidence of their findings. To learn more about “how to” read the document, use this link.

I really enjoy how the NGSS document has been constructed. The Performance Expectations state the goals of the standards by embedding the Crosscutting Concepts, Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI), and the Science and Engineering Practices within them. An additional tool educators can rely on are the evidence statements found in the NGSS document.

These evidence statements might be described as the “unpacking” of the Performance Expectations (PEs), which describe what students should know and be able to do at the end of an area of instruction. Because the goal of instruction is not to “teach” the PEs, but rather to give students rich experiences that would allow them to meet or exceed what is written in the PEs after classroom experiences. Most importantly, tasks should focus on developing students’ three-dimensional understanding and practice in meaningful ways. In assessment and especially in instruction, varied and rich experiences should be developed that may differ from the exact performance expectations, but remain congruent with the intent and expectations of the NGSS.

Evidence statements were not intended to be used as a sequential list. They give educators information about what to look for in student performance at the end of instruction. Students might demonstrate the ‘last’ piece of an evidence statement (e.g., the ‘connections’ of a model, ‘reasoning and synthesis’ of an argument) as their primary communication. Teachers can then look for other parts of the evidence statements in what students do. For example, if students provide an argument with reasoning and synthesis, the claim, evidence, and evaluation may be embedded in the reasoning and synthesis, rather than being called out separately.

I like the Next Generation Science Standards document. Becoming more familiar with it and learning how to use it, is a process. I’m up for the challenge of adding it to my learning curve. I bet you are too!!

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