Your Insider’s Guide to Understanding the Next Gen Science Standards

Your Insiders Guide to the Next Generation Science Standards

Back in my grade school days, math was where we worked through seemingly endless worksheet problems (remember times tables?), and in science, we read passages and memorized vocabulary from a book or a magazine. Fortunately for me, we had a science teacher who periodically came to our classroom to lead us through science demonstrations and activities. I was also a PBS kid, and I loved the show, “3-2-1 Contact,” which told stories about how science was being applied to the world. Having those extra experiences taught me that science is a process of solving real-world problems and understanding how the world works.

The National Research Council (NRC) recognized the disconnection between how science was taught in school, and what science actually is (hint: science is both a process of inquiry and an ever-growing and changing body of knowledge). As a result, the NRC assigned a committee made of 18 experts from various fields in science, engineering, and education to develop the K-12 Science Education Framework. This framework defined the vision of what it meant to be scientifically literate by the time a student exits the 12th grade. The framework, released in 2011, was the foundation for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which were later released in 2013. Since then, 19 states have adopted the NGSS, and 21 states have developed similar standards based on the K-12 Framework.

The NGSS are about having kids understand the important work that scientists and engineers do by being scientists and experiencing science as an active process of inquiry. In other words, the NGSS expect students to actively investigate and explain the results of their investigations. Doing science enables kids to practice  and hone the skills they need to be scientifically literate in our society. This is an upgrade to the old standards, which focused on factual knowledge; which, as educators realized, change over time (plus, the old standards were over 15 years old).

We learn science by doing science.

You can think of the NGSS as moving kids from learning passively to participating actively in on-the-job training as budding scientists. Unlike the standards we are used to, the NGSS include both pedagogical and content guidelines. Therefore, like occupational training (think about how teachers learn how to teach), the NGSS have performance expectations that describe what kids are expected to do and know. Consequently, each performance expectation has three dimensions: (a) what kids should do (a.k.a.the science and engineering practices); (b) what kids should know (a.k.a. The disciplinary core ideas); and (c) the big ideas (a.k.a. crosscutting concepts).

While these dimensions seem to make NGSS more complicated than past science standards, their interpretation, as we will talk about in our next few posts, is more aligned to how we naturally learn and explore our world.

What does this mean for you? You’ll get kids jumping up and down yelling, “Yay! We’re doing science, today!” (No, seriously, this happens all the time!)
Are you eager to get started? Check out these free NGSS lesson plans from Better Lesson, and join our group if you have any questions!

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