So what do we do now? We have spent the past couple years working tirelessly to shift our practices and transition to new standards and now many school districts are asking teachers to go in a different direction or pilot curriculum. All of the work you have put in was not done in vain. We have grown tremendously in our knowledge of 3D learning, meeting performance expectations and we have acquired a a new lens in which we view science education. We have developed new systems for grading and providing feedback, became proficient with the science and engineering practices, and learned to use phenomenon to anchor a series of lessons and engage students in the learning process. All of this will help as you navigate this next phase of the learning journey. Remember that curriculum tells you the "what" to teach, not the "how" to teach. No matter what curriculum or resources you choose to use in the end, every teacher will implement it a bit differently according to their personality, interests, and beliefs. This is why good teaching is an art form.
This upcoming 2018-2019 school year is going to be filled with pilots and people asking questions about the newly released recommendations for adopted materials coming out November 2018 from the California Department of Education. (Click Here to view the list of materials reviewed with passwords to check them out yourself.) Please be cognizant of the fact that these are mostly publishing companies that are looking for a profit. I have been receiving endless marketing emails from several of these companies and I do already have my own opinions on which ones are better than others. But this year, even the CA NGSS Rollout #5 is focusing on preparing County Offices and regional partners to support districts with reviewing science instructional materials once the State Board of Education approves their list. (Click Here to read more about the CA Rollout #5 from CSTA California Classroom Science.)
I would like to take a moment to remind you of a few tools developed by Achieve to help you review materials during this pilot period including the EQuIP rubric or a much simpler version that may be best to start with called the NGSS Lesson Screener. Information and resources on both of these can be found here. Achieve has also partnered with BSCS, WestEd and Carnegie Corporation of New York to develop NextGen TIME, a suite of tools and processes for curriculum-based professional learning that supports educators to evaluate, elect, and implement instructional materials designed for next generation science.
Quality Examples of Science Lessons/Units
It is important for you all to recognize quality examples of science lessons and units before you begin any review process of your own. Here is the site where 8 units are provided that have received high ratings using the EQuIP rubric by the Science Peer Review Panel. Of these eight, only two received the highest honor Achieve badge for High Quality NGSS Design including the middle school unit "How Can We Sense So Many Different Sounds From A Distance" from Next Generation Storylines.
While over a hundred units have been reviewed by the Science Peer Review Panel, only eight units have been posted on this site thus far. And I do know that many other units, including one on my own for 8th grade, are currently in the pipeline. As a peer review panelist, I also know that the units being submitted are beginning to get better as everyone is gaining knowledge and deeper understandings of the vision presented in the K-12 Framework for Science Education.
I do think it is time to take a step back and examine the model that is presented in this exemplar unit from Next Generation Storylines. This is the leading model that has seemed to emerge over the past few years and is being used in many professional learning settings across the country. In the end, this will not be the only model developed. But I do think it is important to gain a deeper understanding of what the Science Peer Review Panel is looking for when they complete the EQuIP rubric.
Whether this is done in PLCs, as a lesson study, or as a pilot, there are some valuable resources offered by Next Generation Storylines website that can be useful in helping to shift your thinking once again of how to use phenomenon to anchor a series of learning experiences and motivate student learning through eliciting students questions and facilitating student sense making. (This will be the topic of my next blog post, Using Driving Question Boards and Sense Making Notebooks!)
I think it is worth your time before State testing scores really matter and before new adoptions are thrown at you by your districts to try out this exemplar unit using the Five Questions and Classroom Routines shown below. This routine uses several instructional practices to help you move more towards helping students figure out rather than teachers providing the next lesson for students to learn about. Ideally, pilot this unit with a group of teachers to collaboratively navigate the teachers guides and reflect on your experiences together as you implement the lessons.
Sometimes we need to take a step back before we can move forward. As an instructional coach we know that sometimes we need to go slow before we can go fast. Take the time you need now to figure things out and use the advice of the Science Peer Review Panelists to help direct your next moves.
Looking Toward the Future
This is not the end of the story for the lessons and four-part learning progression model found on this website. I will be finishing up the revisions for all of units 1 and 2 and will be soon begin working on some mastery based PBL units for units 4 over the course of the next school year.
My work is continuing with NSTA as a Professional Learning Facilitator, as Science Review Panelist with Achieve, and I will continue to blog about what I am learning. However, I will be shifting my focus this conference season to NGSS-aligned Makerspaces and robotics programs as everyone begins to pilot the newly released materials come this November. If you are interested in accessing any of my resources, please visit my website cariwilliamz.weebly.com
Good luck with the next phase of your learning journey and please do not hesitate to contact me if you ever have questions or seek support.
And most important, take some time off to relax and rejuvenate this summer! You deserve it.
For the past two years, I have spent much of my free time writing curriculum found on this website to help support teachers who were beginning to transition to the NGSS. This journey began three years ago when I was an instructional coach supporting science and STEM teachers and we were told that our school district was adopting the integrated middle school model for the NGSS. This was not the decision all were hoping for, but many like myself were relieved to have a direction to begin moving forward.
Since not everyone was on board and since few to none of the teachers had actually read the K-12 Framework for Science Education, there was a lot of confusion as to what this shift to new standards entailed. As we have all seen over the years, the idea of change was met with some resistance. Mostly due to the fact that some teachers were not comfortable teaching new science domains and others were happy with the curriculum they were teaching. And then, the CA Framework for the NGSS was released.
The CA Framework did some of the heavy lifting for us by bundling the PEs. It also provided vignettes and examples of what this new style of teaching might look like in the classroom. But again, very few teachers actually read the CA Framework so I figured this was a good place to begin talking with teachers about the new standards.
I met with each middle school science department separately and we dissected one middle school instructional segment of the CA framework. We looked at the bundling of the PEs, began to brainstorm and share ideas for lessons that we already had that might be useful, and sequenced the DCIs to create a coherent storyline around the focus of the instructional segment provided in the CA Framework. In the end, the teachers saw the value of the integrated model and began to understand the idea of three dimensional learning once we looked at how the CCCs and SEPs might fit with the DCIs. It was a great starting place and we had moved in the right direction just before we reached our summer vacation of 2016.
Looking back, it is at this point in the journey where we should have sought professional learning opportunities from those who better understood the vision presented in the K-12 Framework for Science Education as offered by NGSX or NSTA. As the case in many other school districts across the nation, these types of professional learning opportunities were not provided or encouraged. Instead, a group of teachers were tasked with an intense week of writing NGSS-aligned curriculum that would be piloted during the 2016-2017 school year.
Anticipating the struggle these teachers would have, I digitized and edited the sequences they created to remind them of their learning and share their thinking with one another. I then dove in to try and write a couple lessons for the first instructional segments of the CA MS Integrated Framework. I used the evidence statements as a guide and found many NGSS resources online and curated them all into this document. The online resources were invaluable and the lessons were raw and unrevised. But, we at least had a starting point for teachers to begin planning their first few months of the school year.
The teachers did a great job using the 5E model to begin thinking about how they would implement these lessons, but did not get very far into curriculum planning past the first few PEs. They were provided a few more days of curriculum writing time throughout the year but many found the process frustrating with opposing views and work styles. I found that the teachers did a fantastic job using the online resources to find lessons, simulations, videos, and articles that aligned to the DCIs and some SEPs, but they did not have the time or capacity to write them up into NGSS aligned, three- dimensional lesson plans.
This is when I began to write up the lessons using the resources they found as well as new resources I had found into a logical 3D learning progression that built proficiency towards a PE or targeted set of PEs. Looking back, I can clearly see now that the focus of the learning progression was on the resources we found and not on the phenomenon the students were trying to figure out. Although we used phenomenon to anchor the series of learning experiences with students, the role phenomenon played in the classroom was not leveraged enough to elicit student questions and motivate student learning. It was used more as an exploratory or introduction activity. With all of my new learning acquired from working with the people associated with NSTA and Achieve, I have a much deeper understanding of the role phenomon plays in curriculum design and directing student learning. But, this is where we were at the time and as a coach, this is were I met my coachees.
I also took this opportunity to begin raising awareness of some of the shifts that were starting to trend in education as many of us educators were beginning to reflect on our teaching and grading practices, finding ways to provide more student-centered learning experiences, and leveraging the transformative power of techonology within our classrooms. The development of the four-part learning progression model and publishing the curriculum on this website has allowed me to provide a launching pad for teachers to begin shifting and reflecting on these types of instructional practices, even if they did not have the luxury of meeting and working with an instructional coach. The goal of all of this was not to claim best practices, but to provide context for reflection and discussion around these extremely important topics in education. The conversations teachers were having with me and in their professional learning communities provided strong evidence that this was working. Teachers were taking risks, reflecting on student learning, and growing by leaps and bounds. The systematic approach used through the implementation of the four-part learning progression encouraged, supported and helped to promote the following shifts in instruction:
As with any new model, there are revisions and changes that need to be made and every teacher will implement the lessons found on this website in a different way. Some teachers have found the grading of four products per learning progression to be difficult, others have found students to take advantage of the self-directed differentiation, and some have found the learning progressions to take too long to implement. These are all rich discussion topics that need to be had with your colleagues. Through these discussions, some teachers have realized the need for hard deadlines, others realized the need to explicitly teach students how to peer assess and provide constructive feedback, some edited and shortened the learning progressions, while others realized that there were still opportunities within student-directed differentiation to provide some whole class, direct instruction mini-lessons to help support the concepts taught within the learning progressions.
As a coach, these learnings are considered a huge success as teachers have begun to reflect and grow on their own. Many other success stories were seen immediately including teachers explicitly using the three dimensions within their instruction, eliminating zeros from their grade books, using phenomenon to anchor a series of learning experiences, finding differentiated strategies to support struggling students, and developing efficient practices to provide timely feedback and assess student learning during class time. I could not be more proud of the risks so many of you are taking during this phase of change we are experiencing.
The quote below from The Innovators Mindset by @GeorgeCouros below has helped to inspire me to do something big as we transition to the NGSS. I wanted teachers to take this opportunity of change to really think about some of the practices we have used in our classrooms for decades and in some cases, centuries.
In the end, I have realized that we are missing some vital instructional shifts that need to be adjusted in order to better align our practices to the vision presented in the K-12 Science Education Framework which will be the topic of the next blog post. However, before the "next phase" of learning begins, I think it is very important to acknowledge how hard all of you teachers have been working to make shifts in your practices. Even the smallest shift should be celebrated!
And if you are not ready for the "next phase", then by all means, allow yourself the freedom to figure out these shifts at your own pace. Just like we need to allow for differences among the students in our classrooms, we also need to allow for differences among the community of educators that works tirelessly become better at our jobs. Thank you for all you do.
As a curriculum writer and educator who is trying to innovate how we teach science as we shift to the NGSS, I am often reminded that not everybody has an innovator's mindset. Many of us fall somewhere on the spectrum between having an innovator's mindset and blocking the innovation process as we all have individual personalities and we all deal with change differently. But this is a crucial time in education to reflect on where we fall on this spectrum.
I am obviously a huge fan of George Couros and his network of innovative educators who are making major shifts in education by supporting so many of us who are taking risks and trying new things. If you have yet to read the book The Innovators Mindset, take some time to read it this summer. But please, take a moment to think about how you respond when dealing with innovative ideas or colleagues who do have an innovator's mindset.
Realize that innovation is not easy or there would be a quick fix to all of our education problems. It is important that we try new things, have real conversations about pedagogy, and most of all base our decisions on what is best for students. If you are struggling with people who do not understand the great things you are doing and trying in your classroom, here are a few things you can do to help:
Keep up the great work and together we will make a difference in helping to develop future leaders in science and innovation!
Great news! Units 2 for both 6th and 7th grade are revised and complete. You will find that the Overview and Description Documents and unit sequences have also been updated. Both units have a newly created learning progression to culminate the unit. Below are summaries of the key revisions made to each unit.
Grade 6 Unit 2: Overview and Description Doc
Grade 7 Unit 2: Overview and Description Doc
Please provide feedback!
If you use any of the lessons provided in these units, please add what worked and what did not work to the Padlet boards found in the overview and description document.
Hang tight 8th grade teachers, Unit 2 of 8th grade is next on the agenda!
The vision presented in The Framework for K-12 Science Education requires educators to shift their thinking and practices as we transition to the NGSS. To me, two of the biggest shifts are using phenomenon to drive student learning and intentionally designing learning opportunities that are three dimensional. I am hearing that some teachers are finding it difficult to return to the phenomenon between learning activities, either because their learning activities are not well connected to the phenomenon or because it is hard to redirect the focus of the classroom when students may be in different phases of the learning process. Some teachers feel that student sense making around phenomena is just one more thing that they will need to grade. In this blog post, I hope to share some insights on why phenomena should drive the learning and how to refocus the classroom using tools to promote student dialogue. I also want share this very important idea: It is not necessary that you grade the sense making process surrounding phenomena! It is much more important that you listen and look for evidence of sense making and do your best to promote the sense making process with students.
The EQuIP Rubric
Facilitating Student Dialogue
The best way to figure out what students are thinking, is to listen to them talk! Revisiting phenomenon does not need to be a chore or one more thing on the TO DO list for students. It should be organic and interesting as they are trying to make sense of the world around them. It may help to have white boards or butcher paper on a table to help students express their ideas, but this should not be a requirement. Try and mix up the learning strategies to keep the sense making process fun and interesting.
If you are struggling to find the time to revisit phenomenon, consider using a system like "Phenomenal Fridays" where you spend the first half or more of the class discussing and asking questions about the phenomenon. Here are some strategies that can be used when revisiting phenomenon to help promote student dialogue and sense-making:
No matter the strategy used, students should be engaged in the sense making process. We are no longer explaining the science to students, we are facilitating the sense making process. It is fine if some students are further along in their sense making than others. Those who are further along find ways to clearly express their ideas and those who are struggling benefit from hearing these ideas from other students. It is a win-win!
I hope you find some of the resources provided useful and wish you the best as we all continue on our NGSS learning journey!
A Look Back
As we move into the second half of the 2017-2018 school year, I want to take a moment to reflect on how far we have come. The average science teacher only began learning about the NGSS just a few years ago and school districts have been slow to figure out how to train and support science teachers during this transition. I began writing curriculum and supporting teachers with this website out of necessity. There were very few examples online of high quality NGSS-aligned curriculum and teachers were anxious about being asked to align their curriculum without the proper training. They were also frustrated that they were being asked to become curriculum writers on top of their very full time job.
As a digital learning coach, my job was to help teachers innovate their curriculum using technology and to help develop skills in providing engaging instructional strategies. However, I have always been an advocate for the student who is different and differentiation has always been at the forefront of my work. So, I developed a model for differentiating that also helped teachers make other pedagogical shifts to a more mastery-based approach to learning. The four-part learning progression model has worked well in providing systems to introduce and revisit phenomenon, use self and peer assessment to revise and improve student work, and building skills in empowering students and valuing student choice. The lessons on this website have helped many teachers transition to the NGSS and you all have done an amazing job with also transitioning to new student-centered instructional practices at the same time.
I will be finishing up the Unit 2 lessons and sharing this model and learning journey one more time at the NSTA National Conference in Atlanta on Friday, March 16th at 3:30 pm (Georgia World Congress Center, A303). I will also be video taping the session and adding it to this website for those who can not make the conference. However, when I return from Atlanta, I want to begin adjusting Units 3 and 4 to incorporate all of the new things I am learning as I have taken on some new roles with National Science Teachers Association (NSTA).
While prepraing for my presentation at the CSTA California Science Conference, I updated the teacher and student workflow infographic to more clearly show how the 4-part learning progression promotes student-directed learning through the release of responsibility to students.
The infographic can be found here. Notice the role of the teacher follows the blue arrows.
The role of the teacher is to jump back and forth between struggling students who are needing additional supports and those who are more self-directed. Most teachers find that flexible seating groups are a great help in managing this type of learning environment. As students progress through the parts of the learning progression, they sit with others who are also working on the same part. This allows 1:1 conferencing to become small group conferencing, saving time and energy for the teacher.
Although some students may feel as if they are being punished to be assigned a front of the room seat, it is important that the teacher builds realtionships with these kids and conveys the message that they just want to help the student find success. As soon as they have figured out some strategies to help them become more self-directed, they will have more choices in where they sit. It is also important that the teacher does not make a big deal about where groups are seated to avoid embarressing anyone who is moving more slowly through the curriculum. The idea is to respect that we all learn at different paces and in different ways and provide student choice in where they sit.
Shifts Made by Teachers
Strategies That Work
In the video below, teachers provide a few strategies they used to help with their mastery grading practices and providing feedback. When you hear the word "Classroom", teachers are referring to "Google Classroom".
5E Instructional Model
For further explanation, please read the NSTA Article: BSCS 5E Instructional Model.
To see how the 5 E model is evolving, please read Expanding the 5E Model.
5E is Good Teaching
One misconception that may occur when using the 4-part learning progression model is that student-directed means that teachers are not helping students progress through the learning tasks. The opposite is true. Teachers need to provide differentiated support through one-on-one and small group discussions and feedback as well as providing some whole class direct instruction and discussions. This is the struggle many of us are in at the moment. Some common questions are:
- How much support or direct instruction do I offer?
- When do I stop the student-directed work to teach the whole class?
- How do we have class discussions if students are not all working on the same thing?
Where are the 5Es?
Hope your year is off to a great start!
Make Reflection a Priority
Reflection is a powerful learning tool to use with students in your classroom as they try and make sense of phenomena and scientific concepts. It is also a powerful learning tool for teachers to use as we shift our teaching practices and transition to the NGSS. Here are a few articles from MindShift to deepen your understanding of reflection in the classroom:
Reflection: What Makes Learning Stick
What Meaningful Reflection Can Do For Student Learning
Don't Leave Learning Up to Chance: Framing and Reflection
A few strategies to help students reflect on learning are:
Reflecting on Your Teaching Practice
Set a Schedule
Join the MS NGSS Blog Team!
Please email me your gmail address and grade level(s) you teach and I will add you as a co-blogger. It will then appear on your Blogger app as seen below. Take a risk and share your journey! Please email me at: email@example.com
Cari WIlliams is a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) for the Tustin Unified School District in Southern California. She holds a MS in Instructional Design and Technology from Cal State Fullerton and works on the side as a consultant writing science and STEAM curriculum and training teachers. After working for 12 years in the classroom as a middle school science and STEAM teacher, she transitioned into the role of Digital Learning Coach in 2013. In this role, Cari helped teachers innovate curriculum and shift pedagogies through the integration of educational technologies and practices found within the NGSS. Her most current work as a TOSA is focused on engineering design in robotics, computer science, and makerspaces. She is an official VEX Robotics event partner hosting tournaments for teams from around Southern California as well as leading 28 robotics programs servicing over 100 teams in the Tustin Unified School District. Although her expertise has taken her deep into STEAM education, she remains passionate and engaged in helping teachers transition to the NGSS through participating as a Science Peer Review Panelist for Achieve and acting as a Professional Learning Facilitator and Instructional Coach in-training for NSTA.