Since the transition to the NGSS began, school districts and colleges from around the country began writing curriculum to provide instructional resources for teachers and students. At first, there was very little to be found online to serve as examples and many groups began aligning lessons and activities to the NGSS. I did this with the science teachers that I worked with as we looked for good resources online and tried to NGSSify it.
However, there is a big difference between aligning instructional materials to the NGSS and designing instructional materials for the NGSS. As a Peer Review Science Panelist for Achieve, we have been trained to use the EQuIP rubric to find examples of High Quality NGSS Designed lessons and units. We are definitely finding that science education is shifting as more high quality examples are emerging that realize the vision presented in the NRC Framework for K-12 Science Teaching, which preceded the writing of the standards.
Recently, the middle school unit, "Understanding White Sharks" received the highest honor of the NGSS Design Badge and provides an excellent example of how to engage students in three-dimensional learning that enables them to explain the phenomenon of recent increased shark encounters in the United States.
Two more middle school units, Investigating Life on the Third Rock and MySci Module 5 Waves, received the rating of Example of High Quality NGSS Design if Improved. The rubrics are also provided for you to understand the areas in which the reviewers see room for improvement. However, in order to get the Example of High Quality NGSS Design if Improved rating, there must be strong evidence of three-dimensional learning that allows students to "figure out" a phenomenon. It means, the authors were very close!
Huge Contributions from the University Systems
A great deal time and effort has been dedicated to helping shift teachers and students to the NGSS at the University level. For example, The MySci Unit above was written by a team from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. The valuable resources found on the STEM Teaching Tools Website comes out of the University of Washington in collaboration with partners form the Research + Practice Collaboratory.
Emerging from the curriculum writing efforts are new models to help others develop their own lessons and units. Next Generation Science Storylines has several tools found here that help to create a coherent series of lessons using a phenomenon routine. This comes out of the Reiser Lab at Northwestern University.
Recently, the UCLA Science Project shared their Curriculum Planning Wheel shown below that is used with both novice and experienced science educators to facilitate a deep understanding of science content material and a large repertoire of highly-effective, research-based teaching strategies that can be used in the science classroom.
As these models and instructional materials are emerging, educators from around the country are beginning to develop a better understanding of the vision presented in the NRC Framework for K-12 Science Teaching. However, there is still a very large gap between understanding the NGSS and putting the NGSS into practice.
Below is a slide presented by Achieve when The Board on Science Education (BOSE) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) and Achieve all convened in a meeting to explore the needs of districts implementing the Next Generation Science Standards and similar standards based on A Framework for K-12 Science Education.
Our Transition to the MS NGSS
Notice that this website is called "Our Transition to the MS NGSS". This was purposeful in that we are all finding our way with the new standards and shifts in instructional practices required for the NGSS. Each day, we all continue to grow in our understanding and there is not one chosen path to take. We have made great strides since the release of these new standards, but the journey is far from over and we will continue to work hard to help develop a generation of students who will not only be literate in science and engineering, but will be effective contributors to society. The good news is that more and more resources and examples of high-quality, NGSS-designed work is being published each and every day to help us all continue to learn and grow.
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.