With the end of the school year approaching, educators are not only developing their semester exams, they are preparing for the upcoming school year as well. Although each individual educator has their own approach to improving their curriculum, many will be spending their summer aligning their curriculum to the Next Generation Science Standards. Currently eighteen states have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, with additional states developing their own modified version. The idea of revising curriculum for each and every course can be daunting as educators try to identify a common theme that can be applied throughout the entire department. So where do we start? How do we thread a common theme for the professional development provided in our subject area?
As a chemistry educator I have spent the last year working with colleagues to align our chemistry standards with NGSS. After reviewing the standards it was apparent that our chemistry department would require a shift in our instructional approach but where do we begin?
A resource that I have found essential to developing our revised instructional approach is Brian J. Reiser’s “What Professional Development Strategies Are Needed for Successful Implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards?”. Reiser provides a thorough explanation of the interconnected goals of core ideas, practices, and coherence, and the resulting shifts in instructional strategy that should occur. In addition, he provides the reader with several challenges that educators may face when implementing the NGSS Framework such as; how to structure a lesson, how to develop explanatory models, developing an argument and reaching a consensus, and building classroom culture. This document provides justification for each instructional shift and provides ideas on how to develop curriculum in which students are continuously building on their explanatory model.
Although this document can be an excellent resource for any individual educator I suggest sharing it with your department. According to Reiser, “the application of these ideas need to be connected to particular subject matter contexts, such as helping teachers investigate how to help students develop explanatory accounts using the particle model of matter, or evidence based arguments” (p.13). If all professional learning communities, or departments, are on the same page then professional development can then be adapted from the ideas and standards for each curriculum. I strongly recommend implementing the ideas from this resource into your curriculum, whether or not your state has adopted the Next Generation Standards or not.