July/August 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 8

Being an NGSS Teacher: Living with Uncertainty

Posted: Friday, May 5th, 2017

by Joseph Calmer

“Teaching with NGSS;” this phrase is becoming colloquial in our profession. The actual meaning of it is probably more amorphous than anyone would care to admit. I am going to explain how I “teach with NGSS” in this article. This diatribe is not meant to be the pathway to follow, just a simple path and an elucidation of how one teacher in California does it.

First off, there is a big philosophical assumption about the NGSS that one ought to have before trying to figure them out or attempt to practice NGSS’s tenets. The philosophical stance is built from the three tenets of How People Learn. This book says that learning occurs metacognitively, through conceptual frameworks, and is based on prior knowledge (Bransford, Brown et al. 1999). Most of us have heard these things a lot during our teaching lives, but one needs to truly embrace them. The other thing about the NGSS, which stands for “Next Generation Science Standards” (which truly are standards for the next generation), is that the clause: “All Standards, All Students” is not just a platitude but the actual, true intention. The standards are designed for all students to take them in school, not just the ones who sign up for specific courses (like the previous standards). 

So, I embrace the above notions in my practice. All students learn (via those three criterion) and that every student needs exposure to all the standards. As a physics teacher, I have been able to see many kids start to make the connections between the curriculum and, essentially, the nature of things. Often that process takes time, and is developed individually throughout the course. Some “get it” right away, some take a few labs, sometimes the whole year, and yet some may not “get it” during their entire duration with me (but I hope subsequently, they will). The common thread of their learning is me, I have to remain consistently driven to assist their learning. Again, it’s their learning. Just because I tell them, doesn’t automatically transcend to their learning; that’s the old banking/deposit mentality. A teacher doesn’t deposit knowledge into their students. The students have to develop their own understanding. That development occurs according to the three tenets of How People Learn.

In my class, I try to make everything as autonomous as possible. The things that are done synchronously are labs/data collection and end of quarter exams. This is made possible through a computer cart and my own embracing of technology use. I spend a lot of time doing demos in class to generate discussion and thought. The demos are designed to supplement the lecture notes and instructional videos I post via our LMS. I have tried to minimize my time talking (whole class) and maximizing how much time the students talk. I have found anecdotally (and research seems to support) that the classroom has to be a place where the students do most of the active work; they need to be talking, questioning, writing, responding, etc. From my experience, I have been able to cover more topics, more deeply because I talk less. I try to go at the speed of the class. I let the questions from demos and labs guide the discussion and their work.

The NGSS are made up of three dimensions, one is called the “SEPs.” These are the practices of scientists and engineers. The students need to use those practices while working through their own coursework and experiences. Another dimension is the CCCs, or Crosscutting Concepts, these are the concepts that transcend a specific science and apply to all sciences; like Patterns and Cause and Effect, etc. (more in the NRC Framework (NGSS Lead States 2013)). I know the standards are new to many teachers, but those teachers might find comfort in reflecting on their practice and realizing that students learn more from those conversations we’ve had rather than from the PowerPoint we gave. It simply came down to my use of class time. I would rather have my precious class time used to help them build understanding than simply depositing facts into their minds.

I was early to embrace the NGSS. When I first heard about the Framework, I read it, and felt a kinship with it. Again, I think it is only truly understood from a certain philosophical stance. I share a belief that Richard Feynman held: “I can live with doubt and uncertainty.” I also am comfortable with having multiple pathways by which students reach the goal.

I’ve discussed my approach to NGSS and my acceptance of certain uncertainties about using the NGSS standards in my pedagogy. Upon more self-analysis, I realized that I have also embraced existentialism and its tenets of individuality and purpose. I know this may seem like a tangent, but reflecting on why we do something and embrace an approach will help make all subsequent work meaningful and impactful.

References

Bransford, J., et al. (1999). How people learn: brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, D.C, National Academy Press.

NGSS Lead States (2013). Next Geeration Science Standards: For States, By States. Washington, D.C., Achieve, Inc. on behalf of the twenty-six states and partners that collaborated on the NGSS.

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

One Response

  1. I agree with most of the statements that you have made. But regardless of intent, in the end we are judged by what students understand (notice that I left out what “they know”). This must remain in our view so that we do not fall into the trap of suggesting that 3-D learning is a panacea.

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LATEST POST

CTC Seeking Educators for Science Standard Setting Conference

Posted: Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

The Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) and Evaluation Systems group of Pearson are currently seeking California science educators to participate in a Science Standard Setting Conference for the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) program. Each standard setting panel is scheduled to meet for one-day, in Sacramento, California. The fields and dates are listed below:

Multiple Subjects Subtest II (Science), Monday, October 2, 2017
Science Subtest II: Physics, Monday, October 2, 2017
Science Subtest II: Chemistry, Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Science Subtest II: Life Sciences, Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Science Subtest II: Earth and Space Sciences, Thursday, October 5, 2017
Science Subtest I: General Science, Friday, October 6, 2017

The purpose of the conference is for panel members to make recommendations that will be used, in part, by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) in setting the passing standard, for each field, in support of the updated California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET).

Click here to nominate educators. If you are interested in participating yourself, complete an application here for consideration.

Eligibility:

Public school educators who are:

• Certified in California
• Currently practicing (or have practiced within the last school year) in one or more of the fields listed above. 

College faculty who are:

• Teacher preparation personnel (including education faculty and arts and sciences faculty)
• Practicing (or have practiced within the last school year) in one or more of the fields listed above, and
• Preparing teacher candidates in an approved California teacher preparation program.

 Benefits of Participation Include:
• Receive substitute reimbursement for their school (public school educators only),
• Have the opportunity to make a difference in California teacher development and performance,
• Have the opportunity for professional growth and collaboration with educators in their field,
• Be reimbursed for their travel and meal expenses, and
• Be provided with hotel accommodations, if necessary.

For more information, visit their website at www.carecruit.nesinc.com/cset/index.asp

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or zi@cascience.org.)

New Information Now Available On-line:

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 2017)

Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.