January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

NGSS and the Teaching Learning Collaborative: It’s About the Process

Posted: Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

by Dave Tupper and the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative Core Leadership Team at Lakeside Union School District

Change is a process, not an event!

The CA Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS) require significant instructional and conceptual shifts in terms of how science instruction is planned, delivered, and assessed (NGSS Lead States, 2013). With several California Math Science Partnership (CaMSP) Grants under our belt, and now as a district partner in the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative, the Lakeside Union School District is able to provide some perspective related to helping teachers as they address those shifts.

Conceptual Flow built from TLC Planning Day

We learned that one of the most powerful professional learning strategies in assisting teachers as they become more facile with the NGSS and the requisite shifts continues to be the Teaching Learning Collaborative (TLC) (K-12 Alliance, 2017). In a nutshell, the TLC is a multi-day lesson study model in which teams of 3-4 teachers, guided by a facilitator (a trained K-12 Alliance Regional or Project Director or member of our Core Leadership Team), spend a full day collaboratively building a phenomenon-based, Three-Dimensional Conceptual Flow for a sequence of instruction, Three-Dimensional includes Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs), Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs), and Crosscutting Concepts (CCCs). From the Conceptual Flow, the team selects a “chunk” to flesh out and develop into a 5E Learning Sequence complete with teacher prompts expected student responses and built-in decision point assessments.  It is rigorous but rewarding work that involves really digging into the NGSS, negotiating ideas, and thinking hard about what kids are asked to do when they are asked to do it, and how they will demonstrate their understanding using DCIs, SEPs, and CCCs to help students explain phenomena or solve a problem.

On the TLC Teaching Day, using a script for the lesson, the team co-teaches the learning sequence they designed. It should be noted that in this lesson study model, one teacher is “on” at a time, thus taking the onus off of the teacher who is teaching, and making the focus more on the lesson design. Teaching is followed by a debrief of the effectiveness of the design that is supported by evidence from the facilitator scripting notes and student work collected during the lesson. Teams analyze the notes and student work for indicators of how well the lesson design resulted in the desired student understanding. The learning sequence is then redesigned based on this evidence and taught to another group of students. The process of looking at student work is repeated and the learning sequence is refined in the following pattern: plan, teach, debrief; adjust, teach, debrief. 

Lakeside Union School District Concerns-Based Adoption Model

While the TLC process is one of the most effective professional learning strategies we have encountered, it is not without a learning curve.  As budding leaders and facilitators of the TLC process, the Lakeside NGSS Core Teacher Leaders have noticed some patterns in how teachers tend to respond and react to the TLC process over time. These teacher responses are loosely analogous to the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM) Stages of Concern educators experience as they move through the change process (Hall, G. E., et al, 1987). In Lakeside’s experience, the CBAM Stages of concern seem to fall into three “Clusters of Concern” as teachers’ experience with the TLC process progresses from novice to veteran.

Concerns About Planning

In their first few TLC cycles, teacher concerns/reactions tend to cluster around planning. When unfamiliar with the TLC as a process, teachers often expect a “make and take” lesson, and wonder aloud, “I thought you were giving us some lessons to use in our classroom”; followed shortly by “six hours to plan a lesson! I usually plan my whole science year in that time”; or, “this is great but you know we can’t take so long to plan each of our lessons.” Novice TLC teachers are often less comfortable with the idea of backward planning, especially when it comes to science instruction, and tend to begin their planning around activities rather than identifying the science concepts (DCIs) and elements of SEPs and CCCs we expect students to understand. We hear things like: “I have this cool activity that is super fun, and it is easy”; “why can’t we just google lesson ideas”; “It seems weird to start from scratch when there are already lessons out there.” Concerns about planning also include questions related to management in terms of materials and time, as well as concerns about releasing teacher “control” as the learning becomes more student-centered. All of these questions and concerns are natural and legitimate when learning a new process, and effective facilitators have come to expect them.

It Is About the Student Learning

With only two or three TLCs under their belt, teacher concerns seem to shift from personal concerns about planning to those related to student thinking and how they might adjust instruction and practice to further develop deeper student understanding of the three NGSS dimensions. Teachers come to see the TLC as a strong professional learning experience and their mindset begins to shift. “The design process of the 3-D 5E lesson was different from how I traditionally planned a lesson. Even with UbD training, this process was much easier to think about the flow of the lesson, especially in terms of what the students versus what the teacher is doing. I really feel that this second time around I had a much better understanding of the whole process.”

As teachers gain experience with the TLC process, they begin to focus more on what the students are doing and how they will demonstrate that learning authentically as they move through the stages of a 5E learning sequence. The lesson debriefs, using evidence from the learning experience, provides opportunities to examine student learning on a much deeper level than teachers are generally accustomed to…and they love it. When debriefing the lesson through the lens of this objective evidence, there are some realizations or “aha’s” that surface around the idea of student thinking/learning.

Reviewing the transcript of the lesson leads teachers to make comments like: “I think I talk too much, the kids should be doing more of the talking”; “I gave away all the science, and the kids just repeated it/agreed with me”; “When we revised the lesson to provide more student thinking time, students stepped up to share what they understood”; “I noticed that we (teachers) mostly just asked the students questions, and they did the thinking”.

Examining the student work often brings the realization that their students are often capable of more sophisticated thinking than we give them credit for, and they can do it without walking them lockstep through a procedure. Whether it is a Transitional Kindergarten class that was able to plan and conduct (with guidance) investigations into pushes and pulls on the playground, or a middle school class developing and revising models about the flow of energy within ecosystems, teachers begin to view instruction more through the lens of student thinking rather than task completion. Some common teacher observations include things like: “My kids can do more than I thought when I release some control”; “I see now that my other labs/activities tended to be more standalone or confirmatory, and that limits my students opportunities to think scientifically”; “I learned to question students rather than provide them with an answer. Student thinking is more important than simply completing a task or knowing the ‘correct’ answer.”

Collaboration Is Where It’s At

Middle School TLC Team Reviewing Student Work

After three or four TLC cycles and with planning for student learning more of a “habit of mind” instead of a concern, teachers begin to think about how they can meaningfully collaborate with their colleagues as they seek to spread and sustain the ideas of planning for deeper student understanding, and analyzing authentic student work as they hone their craft. “This process works for any content area”; or “our grade level team has started using parts of this process during our PLC time” are some of the quotes shared by TLC participants. The process of change enters the final CBAM stage as teachers begin to refocus and refine what they have internalized through their TLC experiences and start applying for the work across their practice. It becomes less about individual content areas, and more about effective teaching and learning. “At our site, we do kind of a mini-TLC for different areas”. The common denominator in this stage is collaboration. There are a lot fewer “I” statements and a lot more “we” comments. While they may have the individual will and skill to address the conceptual and instructional shifts expected with the NGSS, it is so much better to move through these adjustments with a few friends.

Continuous Improvement 

Data and Analysis of Student Work

As a professional learning strategy, the TLC process has been an incredibly effective way to help change teacher practice in light of the NGSS shifts. Watching teachers move through the change process as their concerns shift from planning, to student thinking, and to collaboration cements the idea that change is a process and it takes time. This is echoed in the principles of the NRC’s National Framework for K-12 Science Education when they mention: “a focus on core ideas, the development of true understanding over time, the consideration both of knowledge and practice” as being critical to growing in our understanding” (p. 26). After working so closely together for three years, Early Implementer TLC teachers have forged meaningful personal and professional relationships (often across sites) that help to open their practice, allow them to address the NGSS shifts in a safe space, and provide a structure to sustain and disseminate the learning. In short, the TLC process has allowed the district to build a true professional learning community and to develop the leadership capacity to help others embrace the process of change.

For more information on the nuts and bolts of the TLC, check out the companion piece to this article: K-12 Alliance Teaching Learning Collaborative: Nuts and Bolts of a Lesson Study.

Dave Tupper and the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative Core Leadership Team at Lakeside Union School District, Lenny Correia, Lucia González, Aubri McWay, Brian Mendoza, Cecilia Ochoa, Danielle Schniepp, Zulma Santana. All are members of CSTA.

Email: dtupper@lsusd.net


DiRanna, K., Osmundson, E., Topps, J., Barakos, L., Gerhardt, M., Cerwin, K., Carnahan, D., & Strang, C. (2008). Assessment Centered Teaching: A Reflective Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA, Corwin Press.

Hall, G. E., and Hord, S. M. (1987). Change in schools: Facilitating the process. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

K-12 Alliance at WestEd. (2017). Teaching Learning Collaborative. Retrieved from: http://k12alliance.org/tlc.php

National Research Council (2012). A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

NGSS Lead States (2013). Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States, APPENDIX A – Conceptual Shifts in the Next Generation Science Standards, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Retrieved from https://www.nextgenscience.org/resources/ngss-appendices

Powered By DT Author Box

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.

Leave a Reply


California Science Test Academy for Educators

Posted: Thursday, February 15th, 2018

California Science Test Academy for Educators

To support implementation of the California Science Test (CAST), the California Department of Education is partnering with Educational Testing Service and WestEd to offer a one-day CAST Academy for local educational agency (LEA) science educators, to be presented at three locations in California from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. As an alternative to traveling, LEA teams can participate virtually via WebEx on one of the dates listed below.

The dates and locations for the CAST Academy are as follows:

  • Monday, April 23, 2018—Sacramento
  • Wednesday, April 25, 2018—Fresno
  • Thursday, April 26, 2018—Irvine

The CAST Academy will help participants develop a deeper understanding of the assessment design and expectations of the CAST. The academy also will provide information and activities designed to assist educators in their implementation of the California Next Generation Science Standards and three-dimensional learning to help them gain an understanding of how these new science assessment item types can inform teaching and learning. The CAST Academy dates above are intended for school and district science instructional leaders, including teacher leaders, teacher trainers, and instructional coaches. Additional trainings will be offered at a later date specifically for county staff. In addition, curriculum, professional development, and assessment leaders would benefit from this training.

A $100 registration fee will be charged for each person attending the in-person training. Each virtual team participating via WebEx will be charged $100 for up to 10 participants through one access point. Each workshop will have the capacity to accommodate a maximum of 50 virtual teams. Each virtual team will need to designate a lead, who is responsible for organizing the group locally. Registration and payment must be completed online at http://www.cvent.com/d/6tqg8k.

For more information regarding the CAST Academy, please contact Elizabeth Dilke, Program Coordinator, Educational Testing Service, by phone at 916-403-2407 or by e‑mail at caasppworkshops@ets.org.

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.

Accelerating into NGSS – A Statewide Rollout Series Now Accepting Registrations

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

Are you feeling behind on the implementation of NGSS? Then Accelerating into NGSS – the Statewide Rollout event – is right for you!

If you have not experienced Phases 1-4 of the Statewide Rollout, or are feeling behind with the implementation of NGSS, the Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout will provide you with the greatest hits from Phases 1-4!

Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout is a two-day training geared toward grade K-12 academic coaches, administrators, curriculum leads, and teacher leaders. Check-in for the two-day rollout begins at 7:30 a.m., followed by a continental breakfast. Sessions run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Day One and from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Day Two.

Cost of training is $250 per attendee. Fee includes all materials, continental breakfast, and lunch on both days. It is recommended that districts send teams of four to six, which include at least one administrator. Payment can be made by check or credit card. If paying by check, registration is NOT complete until payment has been received. All payments must be received prior to the Rollout location date you are attending. Paying by credit card secures your seat at time of registration. No purchase orders accepted. No participant cancellation refunds.

For questions or more information, please contact Amy Kennedy at akennedy@sjcoe.net or (209) 468-9027.



MARCH 28-29, 2018
Host: San Mateo County Office of Education
Location: San Mateo County Office of Education, Redwood City

APRIL 10-11, 2018
Host: Orange County Office of Education
Location: Brandman University, Irvine

MAY 1-2, 2018
Host: Tulare County Office of Education
Location: Tulare County Office of Education, Visalia

MAY 3-4, 2018
Host: San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools
Location: West End Educational Service Center, Rancho Cucamonga

MAY 7-8, 2018
Host: Sacramento County Office of Education
Location: Sacramento County Office of Education Conference Center and David P. Meaney Education Center, Mather

JUNE 14-15, 2018
Host: Imperial County Office of Education
Location: Imperial Valley College, Imperial

Presented by the California Department of Education, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association/County Offices of Education, K-12 Alliance @WestEd, California Science Project, and the California Science Teachers Association.

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.

The Teaching and Learning Collaborative, Reflections from an Administrator

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

by Kelly Patchen

My name is Mrs. Kelly Patchen, and I am proud to be an elementary assistant principal working in the Tracy Unified School District (TUSD) at Louis Bohn and McKinley Elementary Schools. Each of the schools I support are Title I K-5 schools with about 450 students, a diverse student population, a high percentage of English Language Learners, and students living in poverty. We’re also lucky to be part of the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative with the K-12 Alliance. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

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.

2018 CSTA Conference Call for Proposals

Posted: Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

CSTA is pleased to announce that we are now accepting proposals for 90-minute workshops and three- and six-hour short courses for the 2018 California Science Education Conference. Workshops and short courses make up the bulk of the content and professional learning opportunities available at the conference. In recognition of their contribution, members who present a workshop or short course receive 50% off of their registration fees. Click for more information regarding proposals, or submit one today by following the links below.

Short Course Proposal

Workshop Proposal 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.

CSTA’s New Administrator Facebook Group Page

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Holly Steele

The California Science Teachers Association’s mission is to promote high-quality science education, and one of the best practice’s we use to fulfill that mission is through the use of our Facebook group pages. CSTA hosts several closed and moderated Facebook group pages for specific grade levels, (Elementary, Middle, and High School), pages for district coaches and science education faculty, and the official CSTA Facebook page. These pages serve as an online resource for teachers and coaches to exchange teaching methods, materials, staying update on science events in California and asking questions. CSTA is happy to announce the creation of a 6th group page called, California Administrators Supporting Science. 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.