Several CORElaborate posts have addressed aspects of the dimensional nature of the Next Generation Science Standards:
- What Happened to the Scientific Method? (Hallie Mills – Science & Engineering Practices)
- The Reasoning Problem: NGSS Can Help! (Tom Hathorn – Crosscutting Concepts)
- The Three Dimensions of the NGSS (Doug Ferguson & Science Cat)
- A Post about the NGSS for Not Science Teachers (Lindsey Stevens)
“OK, I GET IT,” you say. “The NGSS are unique in having three dimensions…But, now what? I’m not sure if those dimensions are supposed to work together or separately. Maybe I don’t really need to do anything different if they’re already happening in my curriculum.”
The 2-fer: 3D Understanding + Identifying Adjustments
This year groups of science teachers in my district have been aligning existing science assessments, and they are getting two benefits (at least) for this one activity. (1) They are getting a big “Aha!” — jumping to a new level of understanding the NGSS three dimensions, together and separately. (2) They are identifying where they want to make adjustments in their assessments…which in turn is helping them to visualize how instruction can/should also become 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional.
These breakthroughs have encouraged me to advocate for aligning assessments before analyzing lesson plans and units. Why? Assessment items are smaller, more specific objects, compared to the complexity of lesson plans and the many variables of classroom action. Studying different types of assessment items in the same science assessment scenario quickly illustrates “3-dimensional” by providing contrast between multiple choice items (often fact-based, 1 or 2-dimensional) and constructed response items (often explanatory, 2 or 3-dimensional).
Teacher reflections after aligning assessments reveal many ways that people are getting a deeper understanding of the three-dimensional NGSS.
- “I’m so much more comfortable navigating the NGSS now.”
- “I’m getting faster at identifying the Crosscutting Concepts and the Science & Engineering Practices…starting to remember without looking it up each time.”
- “I’m finally starting to understand how the Crosscutting Concepts work with the science content (Disciplinary Core Ideas).”
- “I can see that we are not always ‘analyzing data’ at the right grade level.”
- “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that multiple choice items are mainly assessing the science content.”
- “Now I can see how our instruction needs to change…Students need other kinds of experiences.”
Process & Tools
Before asking teachers to align a science assessment scenario, we do a couple of things. First, we clarify that for us, “aligning” means identifying how an existing assessment item explicitly engages students in each of the three NGSS dimensions–which component (if any) at which grade level? Aligning does NOT include “adjusting” the item, but I do encourage folks to make notes to record their ideas about possible modifications.
Second, we look at a science assessment scenario that someone has already aligned. A scenario is a science or engineering situation, often with data, followed by a number of multiple choice and constructed response items — about 6-10 items in all. On the scenario are handwritten notes (see image) for each item, describing which Science & Engineering Practice (SEP), which Crosscutting Concept (CCC), and which Disciplinary Core Idea (DCI) each item most strongly engages (if any).
Third, we look at the overall alignment of the scenario in an “alignment grid” (see image), which often reveals interesting patterns: gaps and clusters of which dimensions have been targeted by the scenario.
After discussing these clarifications, models, and tools, we tackle an alignment of a different scenario, and teachers align each item, making notes on the test form and recording their ideas in a blank alignment grid. If they don’t have a physical copy of NGSS, they use speedy NGSS tools like the app (iTunes or Google play) or the new, clean NGSS matrices at NSTA (check it out: DCI, SEP, CCC).
Debriefing the alignment experience has been so helpful. Teachers can hear the many observations and reflections of their colleagues, and teacher leaders can gain important understanding of where teachers are in their NGSS implementation process — important input for planning future NGSS activity.
Existing assessments to align:
- OSPI 2014 Assessment Updates for MSP(5th), MSP (8th), Biology-EOC;
- Biology Collection-of-Evidence sample tasks (OSPI, Bethel SD, Kennewick SD);
- Bethel SD Practice Scenarios (grades 5-10).
NGSS-style assessments available right now:
- NGSS “Classroom Sample Assessment Tasks” (Achieve);
- Example unit assessment (AMNH session at NSTA);
- Concord Consortium’s NGSS Assessment Project;
- Bethel SD Fossil Unit assessment.
Have you done similar alignment work for NGSS and/or CCSS? Share a nugget from your own experience, won’t you?