Bundling of the PEs
This whirlwind journey of trying to figure out how to begin transitioning to MS NGSS and what the writers of the NGSS are intending us to build for curriculum continues to be a daunting task. I have been doing much reflection on our work after reviewing the example bundles of PEs recently released by NGSS. These are excellent examples of how the PEs could be bundled, but it is much different that the bundles created by the California Department of Education. On page 20 of Appendix K released by NGSS, it explains that:
"States are encouraged to edit the sample models and turn them into state specific models to reflect an organization that works best for the state. There are many unique factors that may influence a state’s decision to arrange the performance expectations in a particular way".
Although the newly released bundles of PEs by NGSS provide insight into how curriculum could be developed, it seems that California has done an excellent job in emphasizing the importance of some topics that are unique to us such as drought and loss of natural habitat. Appendix K also uses California as an example since they were the first to release their own NGSS Framework with model bundles provided.
One sentence in the Examples Bundle Guide states that "the NGSS PEs are not intended to be taught or assessed one-at-a-time, or in isolation". I do think we are probably doing too much of this and over time I would expect that we could integrate the PEs more once we have built capacity with the NGSS. Our sequences and assessments reflect where we are in this transition.
The article titled "Using Curriculum Adaptation as a Strategy to Help Teachers Learn about NGSS and Developing Aligned Instructional Materials" conveys the idea that teachers need scaffolds as we develop new curriculum by revising and connecting to the lessons we have taught in the past. I believe we have done this in our work thus far, adapting what we already do into models that better fit the expectations of the NGSS like 5E lessons, connecting to phenomena, inquiry investigations and engineering design challenges.
In my role as a digital learning coach, I am always trying to meet teachers where they are. Cognitive coaching strategies help me to get teachers to talk about their thinking which then clarifies their decisions for them and increases their awareness. This was the intention of the sequencing activity that Delia Racines, Ph.D. and I brought to the middle school science teams last spring. We wanted teachers to talk about their thinking and decisions in sequencing with one another so that they increased their awareness of the NGSS.
I have come to the realization that there is not one way to do this. There is not one path or one way to bundle the PEs. The path we have chosen is one that will lead us to the same end goal of designing curriculum to meet the requirements of the NGSS. And at this point, the end goal is still even a bit unclear since we are still years off from taking any state assessments. The sequencing of the standards is what our teachers needed at the time to understand the three dimensions built into the performance expectations, the bundling of the PEs as provided in the California framework, and the shift to an integrated approach to teaching science that we are all now responsible for teaching.
What We ARE Doing Right!
As I have begun working with teachers and visiting classrooms over the past several weeks, I am seeing evidence that our work is changing the way we are teaching science in TUSD. I have seen:
The EQuiP rubric is something that we will eventually use to evaluate the lessons, units, and assessments we have created. I began to use this rubric over the past several weeks to make sure we were not too far off track from the elements as described in this rubric. The EQuIP rubric is divided into three categories.
I. NGSS 3D Design: to ensure students make sense of phenomena and/or design solutions to problems by engaging in student performances that integrate the three dimensions of the NGSS
II. NGSS Instructional Supports: to ensure support for ALL students by placing the lessons in a sequence of learning for all three dimensions and providing support for teachers to engage all students.
III. Monitoring NGSS Student Progress: to ensure the monitoring of student progress in all three dimensions of the NGSS as students make sense of phenomena and/or design solutions to problems.
In using this rubric to assess a variety of lessons, I have found a few areas in which we should improve before writing any more assessments and several validations of what we are doing right.
Areas for improvement:
What we ARE doing Right:
Final Thoughts Before We Begin
As we approach the final days of our transition units and are about to embark on teaching the NGSS in middle school classrooms throughout TUSD, teachers are filled with a mixture of emotions ranging from anxiety to excitement. Although we are far from reaching the end goal of what our revised and perfected TUSD curricular units for NGSS will look like, we have made significant progress in shifting our views about teaching science.
This blog is about to shift focus as well, moving away from telling the story and reflecting on how we got here to offering support to those who are in need. In the posts that follow, I will begin to share resources to help support both teachers and students as we move through this curriculum together and reflections on the lessons and assessments as I work with my fellows. I am so appreciative to work with a group of educators that are so open minded and willing to try new things. Good luck everyone and let me know if there is anything I can post that will help to support you!
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.