Building NGSS Capacity at #NSTA15

NGSS Forum collageThe 2015 NSTA National Conference on Science Education (held in Chicago, March 12-15) was a great opportunity for educators to build their capacity for understanding and implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  In Thursday’s featured presentation (The Key to Implementing the NGSS? Teachers!), Dr. Stephen Pruitt described this capacity-building journey as a path toward expertise: gaining knowledge but also pairing that knowledge with the information on how to use it.  In Chicago, NSTA offered NGSS sessions for everyone, covering the spectrum of experience with the Next Generation Science Standards.

2015 National Conference Learning

In Thursday’s Featured Presentation, Dr. Pruitt described three key innovations of the Next Generation Science Standards–3-Dimensional learning, the shift toward students being engaged in explaining phenomena and designing solutions, and the integration of engineering with the nature of science. The conference offered over 350 sessions to learn about these key innovations and move the standards into practice. Conference attendees had opportunities to learn from the NGSS and Framework writers, science specialists, post-secondary researchers, and classroom educators.

On Friday NSTA hosted a series of presentations called the 2015 NGSS@NSTA Forum. Dr. Joe Krajcik facilitated one of my favorite forum sessions (Developing and Evaluating Three-Dimensional Curriculum Materials). During our time with Dr. Krajcik, we were immersed in NGSS experiences involving models, reflection, table talk, metacognition, and practicing all the elements of expertise. An important take-away for the group was that this “figuring out” using all 3 dimensions  by explaining or creating a model continues to build throughout the lessons facilitating the deep understanding of science.

Many of the NGSS “rock stars” describe the result of NGSS learning as creating a complete picture for the student as opposed to presenting the student with discrete pieces of information.  There were so many wonderful NGSS-focused sessions presented by teachers sharing how they are translating NGSS into classroom teaching and learning. For example, Jaclyn Austin and Emily Perry shared their Stormwater Literacy Project as part of the Natural Resources, Natural Partnerships strand incorporating the NGSS and helping students use the science they learn to impact change. The NGSS share-a-thon session on Saturday morning brought together a room full of NGSS resources and opportunities to impact classrooms.

Post-Conference Learning

A critical element to any great professional learning experience is the opportunity to put new learning into practice and reflect on product and results, as well as find on-going support.  For those new to the NGSS, Achieve announced the release of a series of videos around the NGSS developed in partnership with the Teaching Channel.  Educators can use these videos to continue learning about the three dimensions of the NGSS and how they work together.  For those ready to design NGSS lessons and units or to evaluate existing materials to see if they are NGSS aligned, the EQuIP rubric developed in a partnership between NSTA and Achieve is a tool to encourage reflection and conversation among educators working together to develop and evaluate instructional products.  The NGSS@NSTA Hub is a one-digital destination to support teaching and learning of the Next Generation Science Standards.  NSTA offers more than 80 resources (not counting their journal articles)  to support teachers in understanding the NGSS and implementing the standards.

Man and woman holding a sign saying NGSSBlogs ProjectIn addition to resources and tools, educators need opportunities to have conversations and share ideas, stories, and curriculum.  As the NGSS featured presentation title indicates, the key to implementing NGSS is teachers.  Every teacher has a story to share and should be a part of the national conversation and work building curriculum around the NGSS.  There are rich communities like the #NGSSchat PLN (Professional Learning Network) and the #NGSSblogs Project that offer ongoing support, conversation, and opportunity to share and receive feedback about the frontline implementation of NGSS:  the science classroom and the programs and PD that support it.  There are multiple ways to access and join #NGSSchat and the #NGSSblogs project.  Learn more at

Tricia Shelton at NGSS@NSTA forumTricia Shelton is a High Science Teacher and Teacher Leader with a BS in Biology and MA in Teaching, who has worked for 19 years in Kentucky driven by a passion to help students develop critical and creative thinking skills. Tricia is a 2014 NSTA Distinguished Teaching Award winner for her contributions to and demonstrated excellence in Science Teaching. As a Professional Learning Facilitator and NGSS Implementation Team Leader, Tricia has worked with educators across the United States to develop Best Practices in the Science and Engineering classroom through conference presentations, webinars, coordinating and co- moderating #NGSSchat on Twitter, and virtual and face to face PLC work.  Tricia’s current Professional Learning Facilitation includes work around the Next Generation Science Standards and helping STEM students develop the 21st Century Skills of critical and creative thinking, collaboration and communication (including Social media and Video) and Project-Based Learning. Since 2011, she has conducted action research in her classroom to develop effective and accessible instructional and assessment strategies incorporating Best Practice in the STEM classroom, including work for the Marzano Research Laboratory. Through a partnership with BenchFly, the premier science video production platform, she works with CEO, Dr. Alan Marnett, to reinvent scientific education and communication with video. Find Shelton on Twitter @TdiShelton.

Read Shelton’s previous blog: The Next Generation Science Standards: a transformational opportunity

To see more from the 2015 National Conference on Science Education in Chicago, March 12-15, please view the #NSTA15 Facebook Album—and if you see yourself, please tag yourself!

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

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