By Rebecca McLelland-Crawley
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) bring a new level of rigor and scientific problem solving to our classrooms. The final, revised version of the NGSS was released just over a year ago after incorporating the contributions from 26 lead states and public comments spanning multiple drafts. In that time, 11 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the new standards. Many teachers and administrators, however, remain unclear about what these changes might mean for their schools. . Use the power of your network to gain a deeper understanding of the changes, to carefully plan and collaboratively brainstorm how to incorporate the new standards, and to share resources. Here are a few strategies to try as your school moves toward implementation.
- Start with a professional learning community (PLC) and a framework for K–12 science education. Teachers need time to read and reflect on how the changes will affect their classroom practice. Building and district leaders also need to support this process. One major shift will place students in the driver’s seat when creating programs. For example, we have primarily used models in science to help explain concepts. With the NGSS, your students should be the ones developing models to explain phenomena. Instead of reading about an investigation, students should be developing their own authentic investigations and generating their own data to analyze. Teachers could easily spend a school year discussing the framework in a study group and tweaking inquiry labs as needed.
- Seek out partnerships for support. How does your science program compare? In New Jersey, a unique support system was born out of Rider University’s Science Education and Literacy Center (SELECT) in partnership with Princeton University’s Teacher Preparation Program and the Science Education Institute at Raritan Valley Community College. The partnership brought together 13 New Jersey district teachers from each grade-level band to reflect on their own district curriculum documents and unit lesson plans with other science teachers. Teachers and administrators received in-depth training on the science and engineering practices and built collaborative networks with other school district teams. Together, the groups identified gaps and developed action plans to support the transition. After creating resources, they shared their findings among all participating districts. Those resources are available upon request.
- Be a connected and resourceful educator. Use professional organization listservs and social media exchanges to gather resources. Connect with state NGSS leaders in states who have already adopted for advice. The National Science Teachers Association has several amazing resources for educators to access. Paul Anderson of Bozeman Science has created video podcasts highlighting the science and engineering practices, the cross-cutting concepts, and the disciplinary core ideas inherent in the NGSS. Check out the curated science and engineering resources listed on Jerry Blumengarten’s Cybraryman site for even more ideas.
Even if your state adopts the NGSS today, it takes time to phase in implementation. Do not rush out and purchase new materials or reinvent lab spaces. Take time to slowly investigate what the changes mean. Share ideas, lessons, and investigations with your colleagues across the country and help all of our students become more scientifically literate citizens.