Next Generation Science Standards–understanding based on “prior experiences”

Child examines shadow

A preK student acquires prior experience with sunlight needed to demonstrate understanding of NGSS Performance Expectations.

The second draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) has been released and can be viewed in two formats, by Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI) from the NRC’s Framework for K-12 Science Education, and by topic.

We are all invited to provide feedback, on parts of the standards that interest us, or on the entire document. Again and again, the NGSS states that the Performance Expectations build on “prior experience.” That means to demonstrate understanding of the Kindergarten Performance Expectations, children must already have had experiences which will allow them to understand. So preschool teachers take note of the proposed Performance Expectations for Kindergarten through Grade 2, and provide the rich experiences that will allow children to build understanding of these natural phenomena and relationships.

Before diving into this second draft, I found it helpful to read Science and Children editor Linda Froschauer’s reflection on the guiding document for the NGSS, A Framework for K–12 Science Education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas

In the January 2013 Editor’s Note she says:

What does the Framework tell us? We all see different aspects of the document that are personally revealing, but I’ll share with you my own list of significant components.

•          Inclusion of engineering as a partner in developing scientific thinking. The addition of engineering brings with it many opportunities to support student understanding not only of core ideas (concepts) but also the nature of science and practices.

•          Practices (using process skills) taught in conjunction with development of disciplinary core ideas (content). In the past, lessons may have provided instruction in practices without these vital connections.

•          Crosscutting concepts as integral and conscious components. We have all used themes to connect aspects of student learning. The Framework provides a concerted effort to identify crosscutting concepts and build them in a continuum of understanding.

•          Continuum of learning or learning progressions. Although we have all been aware of the importance of knowing what our students have learned in the past and how that learning will be further developed in the future, the Framework emphasizes the importance of this carefully crafted progression.

This issue [Science and Children 2013] helps teachers move toward the NGSS by providing lessons based on the Framework. It’s clear that where we are going and how we will get there has changed; the next step is up to you.

Linda Froschauer

Editor, S&C


National Research Council (NRC). 2012. A framework for K–12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Take a look at the NGSS January 2013 draft and see the Performance Expectations for grades K and above. Join in the conversations in the NSTA Learning Center forum about the NGSS and comment before the January 29, 2013 using the NGSS website form.

Regardless of how we think the new standards apply to preschool or align with our programs’ standards, we can use this opportunity to reflect on our teaching and consider how to improve it.


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  1. Kim Delgado
    Posted July 7, 2013 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    In light of the impending common core, what are some of your initial thoughts surrounding the futures of high stakes testing, staff accountability, school choice, standards, charter schools, vouchers, and K-12 online learning?

    Here is my snapshot view:

    I believe that with the dawn of the common core, high stakes testing just changed formats, teachers will still be the target of finger pointers, bad teachers will linger with little support in a burned out position, children from the families of means will relocate to a school with a student to teacher ratio somewhere dramatically less than 40 to 1, and that online learning is a reality of our information society.

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