Anyone who has spent time learning about the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is familiar with the three-dimensional aspect of the Standards — an integration of disciplinary core ideas, cross-cutting concepts, and science and engineering practices. While most would reason science education has always involved themes and practices in addition to the content, the integral shift the NGSS offer is that each of these is given equal status.
The Next Generation Science Standards changed how science is assessed. Students must show proficiency in all three dimensions, not just content mastery.
I love the beginning of the school year because my classroom is a blank slate. A new start gives me a chance to take all the learning I experienced over the summer and put it to use. Some of my time this summer was spent learning with a group of teachers in the state of Iowa around the concept of coherence and phenomena-driven lessons.
National leaders in NGSS curriculum development, implementation, and training shared with the us immersion lessons that demonstrated how phenomena are used to generate student questions, which are then used to guide the learning in the unit.
One of the hidden treasures of NGSS is the incorporation of coherence and phenomena-driven lessons. These strategies are not found in the standards themselves, but in the EQuIP rubric in the NGSS resource library.
A coherent lesson is a lesson that fits into a broader storyline. Coherent lessons flow together like a story, where each lesson connects to the previous one and the story progresses as students work through the unit. This storylining provides students a reason to progress through the unit and gives meaning to each of the lessons within.
The EQuIP rubric not only provides a process for evaluating a lesson’s alignment to the standards and three dimensional learning, but also allows a reviewer to look for how these components work together to make sense of phenomena. The reviewer then looks for evidence that the lessons have coherence.
Implementation of NGSS can seem like a daunting task. The focus is no longer content standards, but rather an interlocking system of content, engineering and design strategies, and cross cutting concepts — a 3D approach.
Content learning occurs when students design experiments, create models, and design solutions around authentic tasks and engaging phenomena. These phenomena can be grouped under common themes, or cross cutting concepts, which unite all discipline areas, such as cause and effect, structure and function, and patterns.
Standards-based teaching has directed instruction for so long that a wide variety of quality, engaging labs and activities have been developed to help students better understand the content. Does NGSS implementation mean we need to abandon these well-thought-out lessons? Does it mean we, as teachers, need to rewrite everything we’ve worked so hard on in order to make our teaching more 3D?
The answer is no!