I am in week 2 of the 2nd quarter and the weight of conferences is over...for this semester. Last Thursday (11/6/14) I attended a workshop on NGSS through our local RESA (essentially an ISD for the county/region). I’d like to touch on some of the things I took away from this workshop and will post again after the next follow-up workshops in December and March.
One of the key take aways from the workshop was learning that NGSS is a set of guidelines, NOT a curriculum. As teachers and districts, our role is to take these guidelines or standards and figure out how to best approach them while ensuring that our students continue to receive a quality education. This is similar to each time our respective states adopt new or revised science standards. Word has it that Michigan’s state board of education may finally be voting to approve NGSS before the year is up. Then again, a colleague at my school heard the same news a couple of years ago at a similar NGSS workshop.
According to the workshop, there are a few primary goals and/or means for meeting the standards set forth by NGSS.
The NGSS are designed to encourage greater communication, critical thinking, and problem solving skills among our students while minimizing the all-to-common plug and chug, sit and get learning dynamics that they’re accustomed to.
There is a need to incorporate the engineering focus within STEM, that is in all science classes (biology, chemistry, physics, etc.). This can be done via the Disciplinary Core Idea (DCI) Arrangement for Engineering Design. However, it remains somewhat confusing in how to realistically incorporate this into our lesson and/or unit plans. More training and guidance is needed in this area.
A lot of what the standards entail will involve an increased use of modeling and simulations in your curriculum. Some of you already utilize modeling so this shouldn’t be a difficult transition.
The workshop presenter mentioned “inquiry” quite a bit. He also related how many science teachers define “inquiry” differently. Remember: the three general types of scientific inquiry are structured, guided, and open (https://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/wings/Doc/WINGS_scientific_inquiry.pdf). I think the emphasis with NGSS is to perhaps gradually move from structured inquiry to open inquiry as students progress from elementary school to high school. This is also dependent on the clientele in our classes and how their abilities add to or limit what we can do.
At the beginning of this school year my primary goal in my Chem 1/Honors Chem 1 courses was to increase the number of lab experiences for my students. While this seems to be a good goal, NGSS seems to present a need for increasing the quality of the labs themselves to elicit greater critical thinking and problem solving. One way is to modify labs so that they encompass more higher order Bloom’s type questioning. Another way is to change the type of inquiry that our students are exposed to within the laboratory experience. This is something I am interested in doing. What are some ways that you incorporate this framework for a non-AP/non-IB classroom? Do you find that you are sacrificing time and/or content being covered? Incorporating NGSS standards with a modeling/engineering focus is new to me. I am welcome to suggestions and ideas.
If you are interested in resources for NGSS, check out the following links. In the meantime, I will be choosing an experiment for my Honors Chem 2 class next semester that I want to modify to fit within the parameters of NGSS for the December workshop. I will test it out and report the results at the March workshop.
http://www.nap.edu/NGSS/ (online copy of NGSS)
http://www.resa.net/downloads/science__pd/finalk12framework_20120319_145450_2.pdf (FREE Online Copy of “A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas”)