Phenomena Do Not Need to Be Phenomenal
Phenomena are occurrences in the natural and human-made world that can be observed and cause one to wonder and ask questions. Phenomena-based instruction is a focus of the NGSS and means that teachers present a phenomenon to students before they begin their learning journey on a topic or set of concepts. Ideally, teachers will return to this phenomena throughout the students' learning journey to help them become aware of and revise their thinking. Using phenomena in this way also allows the teacher to access students' prior knowledge, get a formative check for understanding, uncover misconceptions, and introduce questions to lead into lessons and activities. It also allows teachers to emphasize cross cutting concepts that may be a focus of that learning progression.
With the many shifts we are making as we transition to the NGSS, I have seen teachers struggle with knowing when it is the right time to revisit a phenomenon and finding good phenomenon that best fits the learning progression. However, the phenomena do not need to be phenomenal! Teachers should not worry if they have don't have the perfect phenomena, because we can always change what we present as the phenomena over the years. Just like we will continue to revise and improve the curriculum, we will continue to revise and improve the phenomena we present to students. So don't worry if your phenomenon is not phenomenal, just begin the shift to using phenomena-based instruction and we will all get better at this over the next several years!
Anchoring vs Investigative Phenomena
My biggest takeaway from day 1 of the CA NGSS Rollout #4 is the difference between anchoring and investigative phenomena. Below summarizes some of the information presented:
Anchoring Phenomenon Unit 1:
Investigative Phenomenon Assessment 1.1:
Revisions Coming Soon
Rebranding the Assessments into Learning Progressions
Learning Progression Research
Learning progressions are simply a path a learner takes when trying to reach a particular learning goal. We all take these paths whether we are learning to play guitar or how to play a sport. Achieve uses the "stones across a river analogy", to describe the stepping stones that exist between a student’s beginning learning state and desired learning goal. However, learning progressions are not a linear path and students will need extra stepping stones added for their personal journey. To read more about learning progression research by Achieve, please read "The Role of Learning Progressions in Competency Based Pathways".
What We Learned
- We need more stepping stones including direct instruction and reinforcement activities.
- We need to shorten the parts of the learning progressions so they seem more attainable.
- We need to add the dynamic personalities of the teacher back into the learning progressions. Many teachers seemed fade into the background to allow students to direct their learning. However, sometimes the stage show the teachers put on is what engages the students.
- We need to add a pre and post assessment to each learning progression to let us know what students actually learned and if the students are able to transfer their knowledge to a test similar to the CAST.
This year we have observed:
- A transition in students to a growth mindset through the use of mastery grading, feedback and revisions.
- A transition in teachers to more of a facilitator role while students drive a more personalized learning experience.
- Evidence of much deeper and complex scientific thinking.
- Evidence of students becoming proficient in the use of science and engineering practices.
We have much work still to do, but what an amazing start. I could not be more proud of the teachers who took such a huge risk to try and figure this out together. Although almost all felt like new teachers again and many had sleepless nights, the work that has been accomplished this year is nothing short of extraordinary. Your students are lucky to have you all as teachers who model risk taking and true passion for life-long learning! Bravo
We Are Transitioning in Different Ways, and that is OK!
Understanding the Basics- Let's Take a Step Back
- Teachers should work in their PLCs to go through the curriculum to help guide the planning of their instruction.
- Teachers should provide additional lessons, activities, demonstrations, experiments or inquiry investigations to supplement the curriculum and help students understand the concepts found within the NGSS assessments.
- Teachers should provide an integrated and connected storyline between the concepts found in the assessments through big ideas and overarching questions.
- Teachers should use formative assessments (exit tickets, surveys, student products) to help adjust their instruction and provide additional resources and supports for struggling learners.
- Teachers should work in their PLCs to modify any parts of the assessments, including rubrics, to best meet the needs of their school site, classrooms, and students.
- Teachers should be cognizant of the performance expectations they are trying to reach when designing supplemental lessons or redesigning assessments and spend very little time on concepts that do not support those performance expectations.
- Teachers should be cognizant of using three dimensional teaching practices and looking for evidence of three dimensional learning in student products.
Since there are a lot of teachers creating resources and redesigning lessons out there to support this curriculum, PLEASE SHARE YOUR WORK on the Padlets found within the Overview and Description documents! This will help us revise the curriculum and provide insight into the various needs of school sites. In addition, your voice and expertise will be shared with others and integrated into the curriculum!
Implementing the MS NGSS Curriculum
The idea of following a path comes from the book "Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard" by Chip and Dan Heath. In this book, the authors use the analogy of people or an organization going through change as a person riding an elephant. Riding an elephant can be difficult because most of the time the elephant seems to disagree with the rider, making it difficult for the rider to go in the correct path. This is a comparison to the disagreement between the heart and the mind when faced with change. In our minds we see the value of the NGSS and agree it is a good direction for science eduction, but we emotionally hold on to our traditional ways of teaching and our tested and true lessons and resources that we have seen work in the past. Publication companies who sell textbooks and science kits are working hard to also change to meet the requirements of the NGSS. However, it appears that many companies are also holding onto some old habits. A complete redesign of how we teach science is necessary to really make the intended shift to the NGSS. Switch is an incredible book, and I suggest anyone struggling with change themselves or within their PLCs should consider giving this a read.
The one idea I want to share from this book is that the first step of change requires providing a path for the elephant and the rider. The curriculum on this website is that path. It scripts the critical moves like what three dimensional learning looks like and shrinks the change into pieces that teachers can handle. It is much easier to redesign a lesson that already hits the requirements of a performance expectation than to create one from scratch. The curriculum is not intended to make you feel restricted, but to help you move forward on your journey to teaching the NGSS. The way you implement the curriculum is up to you!
Choosing How You Ride Down the Path
We may also have a few teachers that are continuing to teach the former CA '98 science standards and have not jumped on the path or want to create a path of their own. This is inevitable that a few teachers will want to see all this new curriculum and change in action before they will transition. We are all unique individuals with individual needs. Just know that the support is there when they are ready within our district wide and department PLCs.
Going Above and Beyond
Defining the Problem that Needs to be Addressed
This project can be used by all grade levels and is an ongoing throughout the year. Please let me know if you have any questions or would like a more detailed explanation.
Click Here for Extra Credit Science Project
Explaining Our Shift in Grading
We will now be measuring learning instead of completion of assignments.
4 Point Rubrics Simplified
Comparison of Traditional Grading vs. 4 Point Rubric Grading
Here is an example of a traditional rubric that would assess this assignment:
Traditional Rubric: Part 4 Slide Show
Using a 4 Point Rubric, we would only access the learning goal of the assignment which was how Newton's Third Law of Motion helped them develop their design solution to best meet the performance expectations of the NGSS standard. The NGSS combine the scientific concepts (DCIs) with the how students should "Do" science (SEPs). In this assignment, students are "doing" science through asking questions, data collection, modeling, carrying out an investigation, and constructing explanations and designing solutions. (Four point rubrics for each of these science and engineering practices are found in my last blog post.) As a professional learning community, teachers will decide which of these practices best meets the learning goal within the NGSS standard. In this case, many of us felt that the 4 Point SEP Rubric for Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions best fit the learning goal of the assignment to show how Newton's 3rd Law of Motion was applied to their design solution. The rest of the assignment was a part of the learning process to be able to construct a proper explanation. Although teachers will not grade until students have completed the process, the process is not graded. In turn, students have more choice in how they complete the process and demonstrate learning while teachers will only assess the learning.
The checklist rubrics are used by students to make sure they understand what needs to be done in order to reach the learning goal. Checklist rubrics will also be used for self and peer assessment.
Here is an example of a checklist rubric for this same assignment:
Checklist Rubric: Part 4 Slide Show (with 4 Point SEP Rubric linked to measure learning)
Less Chance of Failing and More Accurate Grades
The B range is the largest because it rewards students who get a majority of 3's. These students are able to get a few 2's and still get a B. In order to get an A, they must earn 4s at least half of the time. This scale comes from Marzano and is explained in more detail in STEP 5 of the last blog post.
Below you can see the comparison of the two grading scales side by side.
Making the Transition to 4 Point Rubrics
What if there is more than one learning goal?
Part 1: Students document the engineering design process as they build a balloon powered race car (or rocket).
- Learning Goals= Based on completion.
1. Each of nine steps is documented completely and accurately in slide show.
2. Car/Rocket is completed by competition day.
- Number of Point Possible=20
- % of Points that equal a failing grade = 59%
- Learning Goals= Based on the engineering design process (multiple SEPs assessed).
1. Research to support the claim with proper citations.
2. Design Process Documentation: Brainstorm, Evaluate, and Prototype Solution
3. Data Collection (Investigating forces and mass)
4. Modeling Force Diagrams (Evidence from testing)
5. Final Reasoning Paragraph (Summarizes engineering design process and how Newton's Laws were applied in design challenge)
- Number of Points Possible= 4 (average of all parts)
- % of Points that equal a failing grade = 25%
- Learning Goals= Based on One SEP
1. Conduct an investigation and/or evaluate and/or revise the experimental design to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence that meet the goals of the investigation.
2. Collect data to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence to answer scientific questions or test design solutions under a range of conditions.
- Number of Points Possible= 4
- % of Points that equal a failing grade= 25%
- Learning Goals= Based on One SEP
1. Optimize performance of a design by prioritizing criteria, making tradeoffs, testing, revising, and retesting.
2. Construct a scientific explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from sources (including the students’ own experiments) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.
- Number of Points Possible= 4
- % of Points that equal a failing grade= 25%
SEP 4 Point Rubrics
Links to Guiding Principles and 4 Point SEP Rubrics:
Science and Engineering (SEP) Guiding Principles
SEP 4 Point Rubric: Asking Questions and Defining Problems
SEP 4 Point Rubric: Developing and Using Models
SEP 4 Point Rubric: Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
SEP 4 Point Rubric: Analyzing and Interpreting Data
SEP 4 Point Rubric: Using Mathematical and Computational Thinking
SEP 4 Point Rubric: Engaging in Argument From Evidence
SEP 4 Point Rubric: Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
SEP 4 Point Rubric: Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
Are you ready for a 4 Point Rubric Gradebook?
Here are a few questions to see if you are ready to transition:
- Are you willing to convert rubrics to the 4 point scale?
- Do you want to communicate progress by topics or skills?
- Are you willing to let go of grading everything?
If you are worried about converting to 4 point rubrics, my next blog post will help provide some information and resources to help with the process.
Follow the steps below to begin your new semester using 4 point rubric settings.
STEP 1: Add a New Gradebook
Configure by naming the class, checking the Spring term and select a section to be associated with the gradebook
STEP 2: OPTIONS
Check the following options.
#1 Gets rid of percentages and averages 4 point rubric scores instead.
#2 Allows the creation of categories.
#3 Helps communicate when scores are entered by automatically updating the grade, even when "grading complete" is not checked. Blank scores do not hurt grades until "grading complete" is checked.
#4 Shows overall grades associated with rubric scores.
#5 Optional: Assignments are grouped by category in menu.
STEP 3: Categories
Option 1: Two categories, NGSS Assessments worth 60% and Scientific Literacy worth 40%. This is used by teachers who are not ready for option 2. This option allows for flexibility in what you consider scientific literacy and helps teachers transition and as they begin to decide what should and should not be graded.
Add students as normal.
STEP 5: FINAL MARKS
Use the following grade scale to remove the percentages and adjust to 4 point scale. I found this grade scale recommended by Marzano as mentioned in Catlin Tucker's blog post Grading for Mastery and Redesigning My Gradebook.
STEP 6: Begin Adding Assignments
The assignment scores will be averaged and a final grade will be displayed. There are two options for entering grades for the NGSS Assessments. As done in traditional standards based grading, a grade is entered at the end of the assessment. This allows for revisions to be made and an overall grade is given on the level of mastery of the Performance Expectations within the assessment. If a student masters 3 parts of the assessment, they receive a 3 in the gradebook. This strategy eliminates the zeros in the gradebook if a student does not complete all four parts. It also promotes the growth mindset in that we are recognizing that mistakes are accepted and revised in order to learn. However, this method does create gaps of time where you may not be entering grades in the gradebook. The teachers who have piloted this method have only had to field a few emails from parents. We thought it would be more difficult to explain, but parents seem to get it pretty easily.
The second option is to give a grade for each part of the assessment. This helps with communication, but will force zeros in the gradebook. This strategy works since there are four parts to each assessment and we are using a 4 point scale. For example, a student completes two parts with 4's and gets zeros on parts 3 and 4. This averages to a C as it would using strategy above. But 3's will lower a students grade significantly, so be careful when giving 3's using this method. This may also cause more parents to ask why there are zeros in the gradebook.
A gradebook using the first method can be seen below. Notice, there are no percentages and a single grade is entered at the end of the assessment. Also, all assignments are graded using a 4 point rubric.
However, the student products that are turned in will vary greatly in writing ability and demonstration of understanding. This is OK! A student can master the concepts with spelling errors in their writing just the same. Sometimes we need to interpret the student speak, but ask yourself, "What is the essential learning I expect from this task?". And that is what you look at most closely. You may even reduce the number of questions or elements required in a learning task for students who are struggling. When you introduce learning tasks aim for the top, but adjust for students who are struggling to make the task more manageable.
Providing Support- Especially with Direct Instruction
Teachers seem to be shying away from direct instruction as we shift to NGSS, but there is a need for it still in our curriculum. Instead of lecturing for an entire class period, use mini lessons to break up the assessments. For example, in 8th Grade we are having students build balloon powered race cars to demonstrate Newton's three laws of motion. This can be a difficult concept to understand and so a direct instruction lesson might be done at the start of the assessment to get them thinking about how this will influence their car builds. Another mini lesson might be added before part 2 when they begin modeling. And possibly a third mini lesson for those who need to revise part 2, with diagrams and word banks as scaffolds to help them revise models.
Providing other scaffolds like hands on inquiry investigations or mini modeling assignments may also helpful. To introduce Newton's 3rd law, teachers at Currie Middle School used a quick design challenge of making a parachute to help safely land the bear. They had to model Newton's 3rd law here first before modeling this in the assessment. They also collected data to make calculations that will also support the skills needed in the assessment. Ideally, these learning tasks will not appear in the grade book. We need to begin shifting students to realizing that these learning activities are done to help them build skills to complete the assessments rather than for points in a grade book. However, this is a topic for another day!
Common Theme at School Sites
A Few Ways of Providing Feedback Efficiently
Lynn Okenwa (6th Grade Science)- Clipboard and Oral Feedback
Lynn uses a clipboard as she walks around and meets with students on a daily basis. She opens up her class with less than 5 minutes of direction and then spends the rest of the time moving from group to group of students to offer oral feedback on the task in which they are working. She takes notes on her clipboard to keep record of the feedback she provides and writes in a rubric score if applicable. She has converted the rubrics to a 4 point scale, with 3's and 4's meeting mastery. She may also complete a paper rubric that is then given to students so they have a record of the feedback. Of course, there are days in which she provides mini lessons or other types of support when this does not happen. But during the student-directed portions of the NGSS assessments, she comes close to meeting with every student in a single day.
Amy Tubbs (6th Grade Science)- Comments in Google Docs via Google Classroom
Amy uses the comment feature within Google Docs to provide feedback on specific portions of student work. When the Google Doc is returned to students via Google Classroom, they unsubmit the Google Doc and then the comments are linked to the highlighted portions of the text. In order to keep a record of the feedback, she does not have students resolve the comments after they make the revisions. If a student does not reach mastery and needs to revise, Amy will place a comment in Google Classroom that says "needs to revise". This comment is then autmoatically emailed to the student. TIP: Have students write REVISED at the beginning of the Google document title to know that it has been revised when resubmitted to Google Classroom. It has also been reported that the unsubmit feature in Google Classroom is not working properly at the moment and the permissions are not being returned to the student for editing. Hopefully this is resovled by Google very soon. As a work around, have students attach the document but do not click submit or turn in. This allows teachers and students to still access, edit, and make comments but is organized through Google Classroom.
Jana Nisbet (7th & 8th Grade Science)- Doctopus and Goobric Rubrics
Jana has been using Doctopus and Goobric to attach rubrics to the top of Google Doc. There is an area for comments within the Goobric in the top right corner that she can also type in individual feedback beyond what has been written in the rubric. When students revise, they must either unsubmit the document in Google Classroom or the teacher can return all docuemnts on their side of Google Classroom. The nice thing about this add-on feaure is that the comments and scores are all collected and organized in a spreadsheet and the goobric scores and comments are automatically emailed to the student when the teacher clicks submit on the Goobric. For those of you interested in tyring this out, this document tutorial will help with the process and workflow. See Red Tip Above.
Matt Ireland (7th Grade) - Google Classroom Comments
Matt has been using the Google Classroom comment feature to keep a record of the feedback he has provided to students. Students also use the comment feature to respond to his comments and a record of the converstation is archived. He uses this in combination with the comments in Google Docs when specifics are needed for students who did not master the learning goal and need to revise. However, he has found it efficient to give the majority of comments through Google Classroom and this is how students know if mastery has been reached. See Red Tip Above.
Valerie Hutchins (8th Grade)- Paper Rubrics
Valerie has been using paper rubrics to grade each part of the assessment and has been really utlizing peer revision as a part of the learning process. Many teachers are struggling with this and I think we need to create a greater focus on teaching students how to peer reivew and self assess. I will save this for a later blog post. Peer revision not only benefits the person recieving the feedback, but also benefits the person providing the feedback. When students provide feedback to others, their work also improves. When students do need to revise, they return their original paper rubric to notify her that a reivsed version was turned into Google Classroom. If a student has a hard time hanging on to the paper rubrics, she then uses Google Classroom comments instead to keep a record.
All five of these strategies are currently working and I am sure more methods will be devloped over the next several years. Our goal at this time is to figure out ways to become more efficient. Eventually, I imagine that all of these strategies will be used by an individual teacher depending on the type of learning activity that is taking place. For example, during a modeling activity, oral feedback might be more effective when walking around the room while a paper or digital rubric would lend itself better to assessing a CER conclusion paragraph.
Types of Rubrics
There are three main rubrics teachers have been creating this year. Each are described below with examples.
Additive Rubrics- these are traditional rubrics that add up points to be used in a traditional grade book using percentages. These are what I am currently adding into our assessments since they are the most commonly used. However, my goal is to provide you an idea of what we might be looking for as the learning goal. Please edit as needed to meet the needs of your site and PLC. An example would be: 6th Grade 1.3 Assessment Part 3 :Sphere Interactions Rubric
Checklist Rubrics- these are lists that help students peer review other student's work. A grade is not needed since it does not count towards the grade, it is only used to guide revisions. It is also extremely helpful when teachers assess the final product! It is essential that a place for feedback is provided and it really helps if students are able to orally present their fiindings to one another. An example would be: 6th Grade 1.1 Assessment Part 1: Organelle Videos
4 Point Mastery Rubrics- these are used by those who are transitioning to a more standards based approach to grading for mastery and allowing for revisions. A 3 and 4 are considered mastery and students then move onto the next part of the assessment once this score is attained. A 1 and 2 means that students need to revise before moving on. Oral and written feedback using one of the other rubrics is used to help students know what is needed to improve. An example would be this rubric developed by the Utt Science Department to assess conclusion paragraphs. If more than one category is being assessed, then the scores are averaged for the gradebook. Or, you can choose to focus on just one row to really focus the learning goal of the assignement. Utt's 6th, 7th, 8th, Grade Scientific Conclusion Writing Rubric
Don't Give Up!
Engaging in Argument from Evidence
Bozeman Explains SEP Practice 7
Using the CER- Claims, Evidence, Reasoning Format
Claim- a statement of a student’s understanding about a scientific concept; it answers the original question.
Evidence- all of the scientific evidence that supports the claim; can be taken from labs, articles, class notes, ect.
Reasoning-is the explanation that connects your claim to the evidence that supports it.
Below you will find links to three resources to help introduce and provide scaffolds for implementing the CER format with your students.
Cari Williams has over 16 years of experience designing curriculum and teaching middle school science and STEM courses. After receiving her MS in Instructional Design and Technology from Cal State Fullerton in 2006, she has been focused on integrating transformative educational technologies and next generation teaching into science and STEM classrooms. She currently works as a Digital Learning Coach for middle school science and STEM in the Tustin Unified School District. She also serves as a member of the Science EQuIP Review Panel for Achieve in order to help identify lessons that best illustrate the cognitive demands of the NGSS. She is the lead STEAM curriculum writer for TPSF Summer Academy and leads the TUSD Robotics program servicing over 400 students in grades 4-12 and growing. To learn more about this program, go to www.tusdrobotics.com/