43- Kayla Jubert: Making the Shift to NGSS in the Classroom

April 12, 2022

Have you ever wondered what an NGSS classroom looks like? In this episode, Nicole interviews Colorado science teacher Kayla Jubert about her journey to meet the intent of the NGSS. Kayla discusses the changes she’s made and the benefits to her classroom.

NGSS – Making the Shift

If you are ready to make this shift, but you aren’t quite sure where to start, here are some episodes we recommend.

About Kayla Jubert and Pre-NGSS Teaching

Kayla is a Middle School Science teacher, primarily teaching sixth and seventh-grade classes. At the time of this episode, she’d taught science for 6 years.

Teaching Prior to NGSS

Before making the shift to NGSS, Kayla’s classroom was a typical science classroom. Students took notes, then completed an activity, and then did a lab to reinforce the material. It was very similar to the way that she experienced science education as a student.

She recalled giving her students “a lot of notes”. She said, “This is not great for middle schoolers … to take all of these notes. I was, like, I don’t know how to make this less though.” Also, she admit that many of the labs she did were “cookie-cutter” style labs in which the outcome was pre-determined.

She knew she wanted to make changes in her classroom, but she didn’t know what that would look like. And, any resources that she’d found were more of the same traditional style resources.

Making the Shift to NGSS and 3-D Learning

While attending an NSTA conference, Kayla learned more about phenomena and inquiry and realized that was what was missing from her classroom. Also, she was able to understand the connection between phenomena and student curiosity. “This is incorporating the magic back into science.”

White text on turquoise background.  Quote "This is incorporating the magic back into science."  - Kayla Jubert - Episode 43  - On making the shift to NGSS in Her classroom. 
Teaching Science in 3D Podcast
Kalya Jubert discusses what her class was like after she started incorporating more phenomena and allowing student-driven lessons.

From there, Kayla found Nicole’s website. After reading some blog posts and using some of Nicole’s strategies, Kayla felt more confident making changes in her classroom.

Getting Started – Adapting a Photosynthesis Lesson

Kayla brought in air plants from home and used them as a phenomenon for her photosynthesis lessons. Her students came up with a driving question that they investigated in a lab setting.

Person in white shirt holding air plant.  Image of person is blurred in background.
In one of her earliest attempts at NGSS alignment, Kayla used air plants as a phenomenon to explore photosynthesis.

At first, she was terrified to give her students control in the lab. However, in the end, she realized that her student figured out how the air plants worked without her having to tell them. Through this investigation, she realized that her students were more capable than she once believed.

Asking Questions and Phenomena

From there, Kayla continued to incorporate investigative phenomena into her lessons. And, she allowed students to come up with questions that they investigated in class. Her goal was for students to learn more on their own, with fewer notes.

“The kids really enjoyed it. And, they continued to surprise me with their perserverence through some of the things where I am not giving them answers,” says Kayla.

How it Worked with Struggling Students

In the past, Kayla felt that students with special needs struggled in her classroom. However, using this approach she’s seen all of her students make more progress. She suggests that this type of learning levels the playing field and gives all students more opportunities to access the material.

Surprisingly, Kayla said that some of her highest achieving students were the ones who struggled most. In fact, they found it difficult to play around with materials to figure things out. And, they struggled because they were worried about getting things “wrong”. However, eventually, all students became accustomed to this way of learning.

What about tests?

Often, teachers are worried about how this method of teaching translates to student performance on tests. Kayla revealed that her student test scores have overwhelmingly improved since using a more inquiry-based approach in her classroom.

In fact, Kayla reports that the class average on her first test this year was 85%. Before, she said she was thrilled if students averaged 75%. So, this approach exceeded all of her expectations.

Also, the rigor of her tests increased during this time. Students were required to provide more explanations and apply their understanding to different scenarios. Still, students consistently performed better on these tests.