12- The Truth About NGSS DCI and Changes to Your Content

April 12, 2022

Frequently, we get asked, “What happened to my content?”. Misunderstandings about the NGSS DCI can cause problems in your planning and lead to undue stress. In this episode, Nicole discusses what’s happening with the DCI and how this will change your content.

The NGSS DCI – Your Content

Often, teachers think in terms of content when planning for their classes. They think about what students need to learn and how to get students to learn it.

But the NGSS DCI mixes things up quite a bit. Most likely, your content will change significantly.

What is a DCI?

The Disciplinary Core Ideas are the key pieces of content that students are expected to know when they leave your classroom. These DCI are the big concepts in science. But, many of the details discussed in the previous versions are left out.

The Disciplinary Core Ideas are one of the three dimensions of the Next Generation Science Standards. The other dimensions are the Science and Engineering Practices and the Crosscutting Concepts.

When the DCI, SEPs and CCCs are taught together, that is referred to as 3-dimensional science.

Clarifying the Intent of the Disciplinary Core Ideas

Many teachers are frustrated by the DCI at first glance. The DCI doesn’t provide specific examples of things that need to be taught. For example, the weather standards don’t specifically mention what types of weather to teach. Instead, there are examples that teachers may choose from.

Often, this leaves teachers feeling like the DCI are too broad. And, they aren’t sure what to teach.

However, the intent behind the DCI is to help students discover the big ideas in science. Students aren’t required to know everything associated with weather. However, they do need to understand broader concepts like differences between weather and climate. Also, they need to know how patterns and probability are used to predict the weather.

Why the change is important?

Your students have unlimited access to technology. They can search for answers to basic questions. So, specific content knowledge isn’t as important as it used to be. Instead, it’s important that students have opportunities to apply their content knowledge.

Also, when students were required to memorize a lot of facts, this came at the expense of their understanding of how to do science. Thus, there is a greater emphasis on the practice of science in these standards.

What am I supposed to teach in my NGSS-aligned classes?

This is up to you. It is important to remember that the NGSS are standards, not curriculum.

For example, when you are teaching about weather and climate, you might focus on the Mojave desert and its existence in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Or, compare climate patterns in North America and Europe and investigate the jetstream.

Quote - white text on Turquoise background : " The NGSS is not a curriculum, It's standards that state what students are going to know and what they are going to do.  All of the details are up to you." Nicole VanTassel Episode 12
The NGSS DCI allows for flexibility so that you can make the content relevant to your students.

Either way, your students should understand climate, some factors that affect climate, and the differences between climate and weather. These are the big ideas about climate.

This is where phenomena come in.

The phenomena that you focus on in your class are entirely up to you. It’s important to choose phenomena that are relevant and engaging to your students. You know your students best, so it’s up to you to choose the phenomena to use.

We discuss phenomena a lot on the podcast. You can learn more about phenomena here, here, or here.

Evidence statements provide some clarification about the NGSS DCI.

NGSS evidence statements provide extra information about the Disciplinary Core Ideas. Also, they provide additional information about student assessment. Use them to clarify the details of the content. Evidence statements often include examples and helpful details that don’t fit in the other version of the standards.

Find evidence statements using the reference links that we provided below.

Additional Resources to Find Out More About the NGSS DCI

We have several resources to help you make sense of the DCI. Here are a few things that we recommend: