I was excited to see a recent email from the National Science Teachers Association with the headline, “Congratulations New Mexico for Adopting the NGSS.” To date, 20 states, along with the District of Columbia, have officially adopted the Next Generation Science Standards. As an educator who holds science close to my heart, it is very exciting to know that almost half of the students in the United States will be learning science through the three-dimensional lens of the NGSS. I think one of the first tasks ahead of the teachers who are responsible for using the NGSS will be making the transition from a scientific inquiry method of teaching to a three-dimensional method of teaching.
A position paper written by the NSTA currently in draft form is available to help learn more about making the transition, as teaching students to learn science in a three-dimensional manner may be new to classroom teachers.
In the past, teachers have relied on scientific inquiry as a good method of teaching in science classrooms. This method also promoted what was sometimes referred to as “habits of mind.” The expectation with scientific inquiry was that students would interact with science and ask questions, enhancing students’ understanding of science.
Science teaching and learning was better defined with the introduction of A Framework for K-12 Science Education, published by the National Research Council in 2012. The publication explains what we now know about how students learn science and what conceptual shifts should happen for science teaching and learning to be current. These shifts include using science and engineering practices to actively engage students in science learning, along with the integration of the core science ideas and crosscutting concepts making up the three dimensions. In addition to learning science in three dimensions, the learning should be driven by students who feel compelled to find solutions to problems or to find answers explaining scientific phenomena.
As educators, we must ensure that students have opportunities to learn, make sense of, and apply their understanding of science. I would encourage you to embrace learning these pieces in order to teach science in three dimensions. We are all stakeholders in this way of thinking and teaching as explained by the Framework. Let’s investigate together.