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NGSS FAQ science standards

28 Dec NGSS Webinar: Demystifying the Next Generation Science Standards

By Helen Maltese, Rubicon International

Although the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are not new, there are still so many questions surrounding them. Our team walked away from the 2016 NSTA conferences in Nashville and Portland with a clearer understanding of how to approach curriculum work with the NGSS. Below, we address some frequently asked questions that can serve as an entry point for conversations with your team or colleagues who might have less experience working with these standards. Interested in watching the full webinar? Click here.

NGSS Frequently Asked Questions:

Where did these standards come from?

Before the NGSS, there was (and still is) the NRC Framework, which first introduced a new vision of science education that focused less on memorization of concepts and more on the actual doing of science. Within this framework are 3 dimensions of doing science – 1. the practices of science and engineers, 2. crosscutting concepts that connect all science disciplines, and 3. disciplinary core ideas, or the content within each discipline.

An education nonprofit called Achieve then took the foundation of science learning exemplified in the 3 dimensions and presented it as a Framework to create actual science standards, thus creating the NGSS.

Take-away: Achieve wrote the NGSS based off of the vision of science learning and the three dimensions presented in the NRC Framework.

Which part of the NGSS are the standards?

In order to be true to the vision presented in the Framework, the NGSS integrate the three dimension into statements of performance, called performance expectations. Each performance expectation is a three-part statement that combines (1) what students should be doing, (2) concepts that connects across all science disciplines, and (3) discipline-specific, fundamental ideas.

The performance expectations are presented via a standards sheet (example here), that lists the expectations at the top, and the related 3 dimensions underneath. The sheet also includes connections to the Common Core at the bottom. You can find an NGSS-created resource for unpacking the standards sheet here.

Take-away: NGSS is comprised of performance expectations, which are the actual “standards” of the NGSS.

How is the NGSS organized?

NGSS performance expectations are presented in two different arrangements: standards by DCI, and standards by topic. The DCI arrangement lists the performance expectations in numerical order, keeping the disciplines (life science, physical science, earth and space science, and engineering and technology design) separate. The topical arrangement groups the performance expectations by themes, intermixing the disciplines.

When implementing the NGSS, you can start grouping the performance expectations in your own arrangement according to your instructional units and the needs of your students. This grouping, or “bundling,” of the standards can be further explored here.

Take-away: The performance expectations are presented in two different ways – by topic (themes), and by DCI (codes and names). Bundling is a way to arrange PE’s in unit-level groups when designing curriculum.

How is the NGSS organized in Rubicon Atlas?

When NGSS is added to your school’s Atlas site, you’ll see 4 separate content areas (below): the performance expectations (organized by topic), and each of the three dimensions.

Within the Performance Expectations, all the information from the NGSS standards sheet is also available in the expanded details (below).

Take-away: In Rubicon Atlas we’ve chosen to arrange performance expectations by topic (themes), which is why they are not presented in numerical order. In addition to loading the performance expectations, each dimension of the NGSS is also loaded.

NGSS in the Classroom – Where do I start?

Wondering how to implement the NGSS into your classroom? Check out our tips below!

1. Start with the PEs – this is a statement of doing real science
2. Review the related DCIs from the  standard sheet; this is the science content that is at the heart (or core) of the PEs
3. Brainstorm related phenomena (the “question”) that students will be investigating. Keep in mind that the answer should be a DCI.
4. Create a student roadmap of investigation:

1. What answers are students seeking? (DCI)
2. How are students getting to the answers? (SEP)
3. Where else in science do we see these answers? (CCC)

Don’t forget to always bring learning back to the 3Ds!

Remember that the pedagogical foundation of the NGSS best lends itself to the 5E model of instruction. When designing a unit, focus on creating situations where students are sense-making. Create an environment where students can:

  1. Engage: this is when students begin to question the phenomena. This is the “wonder” stage.
  2. Explore: Students brainstorm and even begin investigation. Maybe they look at data or design an experiment. Here, you’ve brainstormed the practices they will be executing in order to answer their questions.
  3. Explain: As students encounter roadblocks or start needing vocabulary, this is where you might provide them with more data, more information, a vocabulary word, or prompt them with more learning.  Or, this may be the time when you introduce a slightly more advanced concept. Here, you’ve brainstormed the concepts from other areas of science that they may need to make sense of what they’re starting to see.  Encourage them to use words from the CCC’s to describe what they’re seeing (“patterns,” “systems,” etc.). Students may then re-embark on Engaging, Exploring and Explaining for a few more cycles!
  4. Elaborate: Students may understand the particular phenomena that you introduced to them in the “engage” phase.  Now, it may be time to build upon this phenomena, or for them to try to apply their new knowledge from the first session to a different, related phenomena. If you’re investigating natural selection within a certain species in the Yellowstone National Park, perhaps this is the point where you introduce a different phenomena in the Galapagos.
  5. Evaluate: Students are given a similar scenario to investigate and make sense of, and they are invited to show their thinking of how they would approach this problem: what questions would they ask, what more information would they seek, etc.

Take-away: Start with PE’s, and remember the 5E’s!

Watch the Curriculum Spark Webinar:

Interested in more NGSS resources? Check out all of our other NGSS-centric blog posts here! Questions or comments about the Next Generation Science Standards? Shoot us an email at pd@rubicon.com.

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