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. Many have rushed to get their materials ready by the CA adoption window and none have recieved the "High Quality NGSS Design" rating as described below. 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 science 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, Facilitating Sense Making)
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 now 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 on this website about what I am learning. However, I will be shifting my focus this conference season to NGSS-aligned Makerspaces and robotics programs. 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. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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. 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 as a Professional Learning Facilitator for NSTA.