January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

Teachers Discussing the Challenges of Implementing NGSS

Posted: Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

by Peter A’Hearn

The following is a conversation that took place between a group of science teachers on a patio on a warm Southern California night after a long day of science training. The topic of conversation was the challenges of implementing NGSS.

K. (2nd grade teacher): I am overwhelmed by the huge shift in instruction and the level of rigor that is being asked for. It’s overwhelming. When you think about time and what we have to doI do lots of rigor but when you think about other teachers who are on page 345 in their study book and how they are going to have to change.

P. (8th grade teacher): In order to have kids do what we just did (in the training) will need a huge shift in classroom culture. I heard this morning that it will take nine years to have kids prepared for NGSS.

K.: That’s the danger of the pendulum shift. We are giving more autonomy to kids– teachers have a hard time letting go. That is the big shift.

Mi. (1st grade teacher): If you have a teacher who can create great engagement then the kids will go with the shift.

P.: The key thing you said was that it depends on the teacher.

D. (4th grade teacher): It’s going to take a lot of support to get NGSS to look right and feel right.

J. (high school biology teacher): At my school when I talked about NGSS nobody got it–they have only heard of Common Core.

Ma. (7th grade teacher): If it doesn’t click fast they will get discouraged and give up fast–they need to see it.

D.: Initial success or total failure”–the motto of the Air Force explosive ordinance disposal team.

J.: It’s not that we don’t do parts of what NGSS does–we do PBL, we do projects–but we don’t do it continuously. It’s like it’s flipping–right now projects are interspersed in the teaching but now the projects drive the thing.

P.: I think it’s a big shift in classroom culture—real inquiry where they don’t get the answer at the end of the day—where they go home without the answer and where the answer comes from class consensus and not the teacher.

Mi.: The kind of writing that we worked on today for constructing explanations—that needs to be happen over and over again with kids to be successful and teachers are just used to doing it once or twice a year. That is a huge demand on time.

J.: At my school, students are uncomfortable without having a right answer–am I correct or am I wrong? But in NGSS they are supposed to be leading, they are not used to that.

Ma.: Kids are conditioned–they want to be told the answer.

P.: What I’m hearing is they don’t want to persevere.

J.: Perseverance is a big issue—I don’t know if it’s the culture of the classroom or the wider culture.

Ma.: The outside world is not going to go away.

P.: I worked with a class of emotionally disturbed kids at my school on science–which sounds challenging, but the group has established norms that actually let you talk about things in more depth than in other classes.

Mi.: If we think about the opportunities of the perfect storm of CCSS and NGSS, it’s the only time in my long career that ELA, Math, Science, and the coming Social Studies framework that they are all aligned and they dovetail. It’s an opportunity to seize that they are all connected in a way that helps people think differently about how they learn.

Message on a wine cork: “Over a bottle of Wine Many a Friend is Found”- Yiddish Proverb

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

3 Responses

  1. Thank you for this article. I believe it is a good representation of what everyone will be processing through. The one thing that I have learned from all of this is that the closer an instructor is to the scientist side of the spectrum, the easier it is to ‘quilt’ together ideas, lessons and units that are NGSS friendly.

    If it is helpful to anyone out there, I have been using the cloud and social media to create a bank of resources and ideas along with the opportunity to create conversation… If anyone out there want to join you can find the resources on Symbaloo by search for ‘Webmixes’ with NGSS and LCER . Another resource that has the advantage of sharing and conversation can be found on FB @ https://www.facebook.com/scienceatlcer

    Enjoy what remains of summer! Matthew

  2. PS… Another resource that some may find useful can be found @ http://www.lewiscenter.org/AAE/Departments/Science/Teaching-the-Next-Generations-Science/index.html

    All for the Cause, Cheers, Matt

  3. […] Implementing NGSS will undoubtedly challenge most schools and teachers in participating states on several fronts. Its emphasis on process-oriented tasks and dynamic, student-centered content will require large shifts in culture, and place heavy demands on time. Many students and teachers will be outside of their comfort zones; some teachers may not be comfortable covering engineering practices, while some kids are used to being given the right answer as opposed to an inquiry-based approach that encourages problem-solving and debate. Add to that the fact that girls, minorities and other underrepresented students are falling behind in STEM compared to well-funded school districts, and the need for schools to get all kids up to speed and prepared for the future job market becomes even more crucial and challenging. Recently, science teachers sounded off on just a few of these challenges (Teachers Discussing the Challenges of Implementing NGSS). […]

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