Year 2 Begins
It was one year ago that I began writing the lessons found on this website using the sequences and evidence statements as my guide. I have learned so much over the past year about NGSS implementation and am beginning to revise the lessons to include these learnings within the curriculum. My greatest learning has come from participating on the science peer review panel for Achieve and using the EQuIP rubric to evaluate NGSS lessons. This has led to the new format of rubrics that will be used in Year 2 to help students and teachers provide feedback and reflect on three dimensional learning. Piloting the curriculum in Year 1 with the many dedicated teachers in Tustin Unified School District is where the rest of my NGSS learning took place. As we move into Year 2, I have begun to integrate these learnings into the updated sequences and curriculum.
I had lofty goals of revising all of the learning progressions in Units 1 and 2 for each grade level over the course of the summer. Unfortunately, my summer job of running the robotics and STEAM courses for the Tustin Public Schools Foundation Summer Academy took an unexpected turn and took up the majority of my summer writing curriculum and organizing materials. So, once again I find myself in a position of just trying to stay one step ahead of the teachers while writing the NGSS curriculum for the 17-18 school year. For those of you who may not know, I write this curriculum on my own time. This is not a part of my role in the Tustin Unified School District, but something I found necessary as I coached middle school science teachers during the 16-17 school year. The curriculum helped me to shift teachers into using three dimensional teaching practices and a more student-centered approach to learning. The results were outstanding and I am honored to work with such an amazing group of educators who took the risk to follow me on this journey.
As we head into Year 2, my role is changing in TUSD. I will be focussing on growing programs related to robotics, coding, engineering, design and innovation in TUSD. However, I will continue to write and revise the curriculum throughout the school year on my own time. An indicator if a lesson has been revised will be in the title and copyright symbol in the footer of the teacher directions documents. Bear with me as I try and get the revisions done as quickly as I can.
I will now be moving my work outside of TUSD as other teachers from around the country are beginning to follow along. The theme for the direction of our journey in Year 2 of this curriculum is REVISE, REFLECT, and RISK. I will explain each below.
REVISE- reconsider and alter (something) in the light of further evidence.
Student Revisions: At the end of last school year, I surveyed the participating teachers and students and allowing for student revisions was the shift that was appreciated the most. In interviews, teachers could not imagine going back to the "old way" where they did not allow students to improve their work. Over 70% of students (out of 1,944) appreciated the second chance to get something right. Some of the complaints were that the students felt they did not get enough feedback to help them revise. Hopefully the new rubrics will help with this process. Teachers learned the best way to give feedback to every student was to have a paper copy of the checklist rubric that students kept on the corner of their desk while working on the learning progressions. Teachers walked around and used the paper checklist rubric as a formative check to help them assess the needs of each student or group of students. Teachers then provided oral feedback through one-on-one or small group conferencing that was recorded by teachers and/or students on their paper rubric. Flexible seating arrangements with students grouped by the task they were working on was key to making this an efficient practice. I will explain this system in more detail in an upcoming blog post.
Teacher Revisions: It is just as important that we revise our work in order to improve as well. To do this, it is imperative that teachers communicate what worked and what did not work for each learning progression on the Padlet boards. This helps us document our needs and aids in revisions for next year. I can not stress how important this is to contribute to our PLN (Professional Learning Community). The more brains we have collaborating on this curriculum, the better!
REFLECT- think deeply or carefully about.
Student Reflection: The EQuIP rubric has made me become aware of the importance of student reflection on 3D learning as well as the importance of using student questions to drive learning. I have two new reflection documents and new standards based rubrics that could be used to help meet these needs. Each are described and linked below and can also be found within each teacher directions documents.
Middle School NGSS Standards Checklist- to keep a record of the DCIs and PEs that have been mastered by each student and the number of times a student has demonstrated SEPs and CCCs throughout the year.
Reflection Journal- to help students make sense of phenomena, reflect on learning, and set goals. This could be used strictly to make sense of phenomena and as a formative check for understanding by removing the goal setting and reflection of learning if using the tracking and monitoring sheet for parent communication. Or, a system could be setup to communicate with parents through the use of the journal.
Example of Standards Based Rubric: Although this example rubric is complete, these take a very long time to think through and complete. I will be setting up the template for each standards based rubric this year, including the appropriate bullet point descriptions of CCC and SEPs found in Appendix F and Appendix G of the NGSS Framework. They can still be used for reflection this year, but will not be ready for standards based grading until Year 3 unless you edit them yourself.
Teacher Reflection: Reflection is one of the strongest forces in learning. Just as we expect students to reflect, it is important for teachers to reflect on their learning as we continue this journey in transitioning to the NGSS. Please consider joining our blogging efforts within our PLN to facilitate reflection and make your learning visible to help others on their journey. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in becoming a co-blogger this year. You will need a gmail account to join the collaborative effort.
RISK- is the potential of gaining or losing something of value.
Student Risk: This new type of student-directed learning feels uncomfortable for many students. As they make sense of phenomena and the world around them, many are feeling abandoned by their teachers. Their potential gain is not visible to them, and their potential loss is something they have grown very accustomed to in their education system. The biggest complaint is that they are having to "teach themselves". Students are accustomed to being spoon-fed information and memorizing terms and concepts that can be easily regurgitated on a multiple choice test. Some have absolutely mastered this skill and feel vulnerable with our new approach to learning. We are turning their worlds upside down. And that is a VERY GOOD thing! Others who have struggled with test taking in the past are the ones who are appreciating this differentiated approach the most and are finally getting a chance to shine.
In dealing with students, be transparent about the fact we understand what we are doing and how this is making them feel uncomfortable. But through taking this risk, we are teaching them how to find information and learn on their own. We are teaching them how to evaluate and improve their own products. We are teaching them how to collaborate with others and reach consensus in a respectful way, even when their ideas are not used! We are teaching them time management and how to own the learning process. All of these life skills are used in the real world and will be necessary for the jobs and careers of their future.
Most importantly, be compassionate and empathetic about the risks students are taking in transitioning to this new learning style and encourage them through feedback and support.
Teacher Risk: If you think students feel uncomfortable, the teachers have it even worse! Many have been teaching for a long time and this transition is not easy. There are many risks we are taking as teachers. We are learning how to shift the responsibility of learning to students, we are learning how to assess actual learning goals and not compliance, we are learning how to provide more student choice, and we are learning how to shift our grading and teaching practices to meet the requirements of the NGSS.
Be transparent in the fact that we are all taking risks and that this is hard for both students and teachers alike. That we may not get it perfect for a few years, but this is a part of the learning process and trying new things. However, we do know that through taking these risks, we will grow. We will grow to become better teachers, better students, and better contributing members of society. The potential gain from these risks far outweighs what we might lose.
Most importantly, model risk taking and the learning process for your students.
Summary: Action Steps for Teachers
Revise: Add comments and resources to the Padlets about what worked and did not work.
Reflect: Write a blog post and share your learning.
Risk: Go outside of your comfort zone and try new things.
You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
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.