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:
After Thinking More About it..... (update July 2017)
- The four "Units" found in each grade level sequence are too broad to really find an anchoring phenomenon that can be used to anchor the learning. There are just too many concepts found within each unit to find a single phenomenon to cover them all.
- Each learning progression is a series of lessons that should begin with an anchoring phenomenon and revisited throughout the learning progression. Additional investigative phenomenon should be integrated at the lesson level.
- The piktochart I originally made as shown above for anchoring phenomena, is a good way to explicitly teach the idea of systems and subsystems throughout the unit. More on this in the next blog post.....
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 focussed 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 for NSTA.