During my 2nd week into summer “vacation” I met with nine other secondary science teachers from my district. We set forth on a week-long curriculum design journey that involved the new Michigan Science Standards (basically NGSS).
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 time off 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?
Instead of focusing on an instructional label, why don’t we focus on what we are trying to accomplish with our students? Our classrooms should be a platform for students to actively explain science practices using evidence and no matter how you define your instruction, we cannot deny our students this opportunity. With the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards, our students will be assessed based on performance expectations that not only link disciplinary knowledge, but scientific practice, and crosscutting concepts as well. “These performance expectations guide the development of assessments: when a standard encompasses all three strands, then so must the assessment. It will no longer be possible to meet a standard solely by recall of factual knowledge.” (Cooper, 2013).
As school districts across the country approach the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards, students will be required to develop models to illustrate what occurs at an atomic level as well as apply various mathematical representations in order to explain a science-based concept. However, what opportunities are we providing our students to allow them to explain what they know about a concept? Students should be provided with regular opportunities to develop and explain concepts, which in turn will allow teachers to formatively assess and address misconceptions.
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.
At NSTA (in beautiful San Antonio, Texas), this past week, I shared activities designed to explore three levels of representation AND provide formative assessment techniques to reveal student misconceptions. All of the activities shared have been featured in the Journal of Chemical Education or have been linked to research articles in JCE as supporting information.