This is a particularly exciting time for science educators across our nation, both for those in states that have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and those in areas that will never formally take that step, as they begin the process of putting into practice the vision of science education outlined in the Framework for K–12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards.
As exciting as this time is, it would be disingenuous to suggest that this process will be an easy one. Anyone who has ever been involved in a major renovation can attest to the fact that the business of change is never fast, can be overwhelming, and is always messy. In order to succeed, science teachers must prepare themselves for this task. In order for this vision of science education to fully take hold, teachers will have to take responsibility for their own professional learning and for shifting the instruction in their classroom. Teachers will have to take the lead, but they shouldn’t expect to do it on their own. My advice to readers is to start by connecting with your colleagues, whether that is in your school or district, through NSTA’s listservs and online communities, or on broader social media like Twitter (follow @NSTA or search #NGSS for starters).
Once you’re plugged into a professional learning community, how might you go about bringing the Framework for K-12 Science Education and the NGSS to life? First, fully familiarize yourself with the contents of both documents, beginning with the Framework, which brings together more than a decade’s worth of research on student learning in science and provides a solid foundation for the subsequent standards. This means not skipping the front matter or the appendices in order to get to the “good parts”! In fact, you might want to begin with the appendices, as they provide context and guidance for teachers as they translate the NGSS into classroom practice. Reflect deeply on your current instructional practices and compare them to those described in the Framework and NGSS.
A word of caution, it is easy to fall victim to the temptation to tell yourself that you are already using some teaching strategies that align with the Framework and NGSS. While you likely have some excellent lessons in your repertoire, this new vision of science teaching represents a true innovation for the vast majority of us. In order to shift our practice, we have to turn a critical eye toward that practice. Think about your needs in terms of professional knowledge and pedagogy and develop a plan to address those areas of need. NSTA offers a host of resources through the Learning Center and NGSS@NSTA hub, both of which can assist you in your quest for understanding. Continue reading …