A Not-So Long Time Ago in A Galaxy Not-So Far Away
Perhaps “The Force Awakens” is a good way to think of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The historical phases of science education have been a struggle between the forces that believe science should be taught for the good of humanity and those that believe scientific knowledge should be reserved for an elite few (let’s call this saga the original Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith all rolled up into one over time). The relatively recent rise of science education for all in the public school system brought balance to these forces, and the development of science standards “A New Hope” for science. No Child Left Behind and the so-called accountability testing movement felt a bit like “The Empire Strikes Back”, and their destruction tantamount to the Death Star’s. The recent fall of the “Scientific Method” feels a bit like the return of the Jedi. Such were the misconceptions surrounding this method and how science is actually conducted. So, as we stand on the precipice of a new Star Wars trilogy, ahem, I mean an awakening in science education of epic proportions throughout our society… how do we approach this? People much smarter than me are still trying to figure that out. Which is why I bring you how the new saga of the Next Generation Science Standards is a lot like Star Wars. A subject for which I am infinitely more qualified.
NGSS: Science Educators Awaken and Take the Lead in Science Education
At this point, the idea of standards in education is nothing new. However, the approach provided by the Next Generation Science Standards is new. These standards were carefully crafted by teams of teachers and educators with an eye on everything from kindergarten to college, what educational shifts need to happen, and how can we use standards to help bridge the achievement gap. The new standards are composed of Performance Expectations which encompass what the NGSS refer to as three-dimensional learning: Disciplinary Core Ideas, Science and Engineering Practices, and Cross Cutting Concepts. Finally, and recently published, there are the Evidence Statements which help teachers see examples of what accomplished science learning looks like in students.
The NGSS Jedi Academy
The Performance Expectations encompass the three dimensions of the NGSS and bring them all together in one solid weave of knowledge. These are the basis and structure for the standards themselves. A deeper understanding of the NGSS starts with and grows out of the Performance Expectations as these are an amalgamation of the three dimensions and compose the detailed language that expands directly on the actual standards.
The Jedi Archives of the NGSS
The Disciplinary Core Ideas are the “what” and provide the basic factual points of scientific understanding from which all scientific thought grows. These are the basic core concepts that students should be learning at each grade level K-5, middle school, and high school.
The Yoda of the NGSS
The Science and Engineering Practices are the “how” and are wise in the ways of the NGSS. Do, or do not, there is no Scientific Method any longer. The eight practices highlight the different ways scientists work: These are in no particular order, are as often circular as they are repetitive, and do not function like a checklist to be done with every experiment. Yoda instructed Luke on how a Jedi is to use the force, and the science and engineering practices instruct young students on how to conduct science.
The NGSS Force
As the Force permeates the Star Wars Universe, so do the seven Cross Cutting Concepts (CCC) flow throughout the scientific universe. The CCC’s are consistent K-12 and cover the important, universal science concepts that permeate all areas and disciplines of science. Additionally, there is plenty of crossover into other subjects like math, reading, and writing.
The Jedi Trials
Just like the Jedi trials are evidence that a Padawan has arrived, so do the Evidence Statements provide examples of what student understanding looks like in the NGSS classroom. These statements are designed to provide teachers an idea of successful student understanding and application of the standards after instruction. The evidence statements are not the only way that this is supposed to look, but having endorsed examples available helps teachers envision one possible approach to implementation.
The Dark Side of the NGSS
Do not fear the NGSS, because fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate… and hate leads to suffering. Those that oppose a more integrated, hands-on, and application-based approach represent the antithesis of the NGSS. Or, at least those that would just read straight from a textbook followed closely by those that would only do experiments all day long. Both approaches miss the primary objective which is preparing all students to become scientifically literate citizens. This requires careful planning and integration from all angles and dimensions for effective science instruction. And, “no”, those of you that say, “Oh, I already do all of that,” do not, in fact, actually already do ALL of that. All science educators have room to grow and the NGSS provides a blueprint for improvement among both educators and students.
The NGSS Jedi
Who? That’s a good question. Rather than try to name names, I’m going to speak in general terms. These are of course the original educators dedicated to developing the new science standards, but more importantly these are today’s science teachers in the classrooms who are embracing the multi-dimensional force of the NGSS. Helping young science Padawan learners engage in a world of disciplinary core ideas in science through hands-on, minds-on learning via the science and engineering practices. All while weaving in cross-cutting concepts across the grades and subject areas.
Engineering the NGSS
Fear not, for I have not forgotten to address one of the greatest things that the NGSS has to offer, which is the incorporation of explicit engineering standards. In fact, this area is so vast and important that I have decided to dedicate a separate follow-up post to the topic! Coming soon… NGSS Episode V.
Some Interesting and Related Links
Previous article about NGSS that I wrote with Science Cat (above as Princess NGSS): http://corelaboratewa.org/the-three-dimensions-of-the-ngss-according-to-science-cat/
Hallie’s recent article on treats for teachers found in the NGSS: http://corelaboratewa.org/ngss_evidencestatements/
Tom’s recent vlog highlighting the important work of equity and closing the achievement gap: http://corelaboratewa.org/stick-around-for-equity/
Lindsey’s recent article on “NGSS for All Students” from a non-science teacher’s perspective: http://corelaboratewa.org/ngss-for-all-students-part-two/
The Next Generation Science Standards Website: http://www.nextgenscience.org/
The Performance Expectations: http://www.nextgenscience.org/search-performance-expectations
The Disciplinary Core Ideas: http://www.nextgenscience.org/sites/ngss/files/Appendix%20E%20-%20Progressions%20within%20NGSS%20-%20052213.pdf
The Science and Engineering Practices: http://www.nextgenscience.org/sites/ngss/files/Appendix%20F%20%20Science%20and%20Engineering%20Practices%20in%20the%20NGSS%20-%20FINAL%20060513.pdf
Evidence Statements: http://www.nextgenscience.org/k-5-evidence-statements
Edutopia (ironically founded by George Lucas) is dedicated to expanding student access to problem-based learning via STEM, the CCSS, and the NGSS: http://www.edutopia.org/
And Wookieepedia in case you didn’t get any of my force, or slightly forced, references: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page