The Next Gen Science Standards bring sweeping shifts in the way that we teach science. Often, these changes seem endless. In this episode, we discuss the biggest differences between the NGSS and more traditional teaching methods. You will walk away with a better understanding and a plan for moving forward.
What are the biggest changes that come with the next gen science standards?
Though there are countless changes that come with the NGSS, here are the biggest changes. Hopefully, this episode will help you start thinking about the ways you can make changes in your own classroom.
NGSS Change #1: Using and Discovery-Based Approach
The first difference Nicole discusses is using a discovery-based approach. When using a discovery-based approach, students discover content through investigation rather than through lectures.
In this model, the role of the teacher is completely different. Instead of lecturing, the teacher acts as a facilitator. They plan activities to help their students make sense of phenomena. They allow students to explain what they have discovered. Then, they help clear up misconceptions and fill in any gaps in learning.
Often, this teaching approach is referred to as “explore before explain” or “lab before gab”. The lesson sequence is based heavily on activities that help students make sense of the content. And, these activities take place before the lecture.
To learn more about using a discovery-based approach in the classroom, check out this episode.
NGSS Change#2: Moving to a Student-Centered Classroom
Traditional science classes are teacher-led. But, that is not the case with an NGSS classroom. Unfortunately, Erin admits that when she started teaching her classes were mostly lecture-based.
However, Erin rarely lectures in her classroom anymore. In fact, she rarely stands at the front of the classroom at all. Instead, she acts as a facilitator in the classroom. She provides students with opportunities to make sense of phenomena and then asks leading questions to drive her thinking.
NGSS Change #3: Using the Science and Engineering Practices
Many traditional science classes start the school year with the Scientific Method. However, in an NGSS-aligned classroom, students should learn to use the Science and Engineering Practices instead.
In an NGSS-aligned class, students learn to use the practices like tools on a toolbelt. They learn to use these tools one at a time. Then, they can select the tool that best helps them with the job at hand.
While this change seems small, it affects many of the things that we do in the classroom. For example, we traditionally provide our students with recipe-style labs. In these activities, students are given step-by-step instructions. But, with the NGSS, students are expected to plan their own investigations.
Also, labs are traditionally used to confirm what students learn during the lecture part of the class. However, in an NGSS-aligned classroom, the instructional sequence starts with the activities.
Learn more about the Science and Engineering Practices in this post and why we don’t use the scientific method here.
NGSS Change #4: Using a 3-Dimensional Approach
Another big change that comes with the Next Gen Science Standards is that there are three components to the standards. These are the Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts. Each of these components has equal importance in the classroom.
Ideally, all of your lessons are three-dimensional. This means that they include a piece of each of the three components.
The three-dimensional structure of the standards makes them much more complex. And, teachers struggle just to read them. But, Erin answers all of your questions here in her blog post.
NGSS Change #5: Using Phenomena and Storylines
NGSS lessons are built around phenomena. Phenomena are real-life occurrences that students are curious about. Students ask questions in order to make sense of phenomena, and thus, learn about the content.
Phenomena are an essential component of the NGSS. However, phenomena are not provided in the standards. This is because phenomena must be relevant to your students in order to be engaging. So, the phenomena that teachers choose will vary even if they are teaching the same content.
To learn more about phenomena, check out these episodes:
- How to Incorporate Phenomena (Episode 7)
- All About Anchoring Phenomena (Episode 77)
- How to Choose Better Phenomena (Episode 87)
Learn more about the Next Gen Science Standards
Erin and Nicole have countless resources to help you learn more about this new teaching method. Here are just a few to get you started.
- Erin’s Blog Post: Your Questions About Three-Dimensional Learning Answered
- Nicole’s Blog Post: Science Phenomena for Your NGSS Storylines
- Erin’s Blog Post: Using Student Questions in Your Storylines
- Season 1 Episode 2: How You Can Incorporate Phenomena
Other resources in this episode
- NSTA Matrix for the Science and Engineering Practices: Use this matrix to make sure that you are using the practices in your classroom at the appropriate grade level band.