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Get to know science and engineering education's “Big Three.”

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Jul 26, 2012 11:35:00 AM

Marygrove MAT explains how the Big Three dimensions will benefit science students!The science and engineering world is constantly evolving, and new discoveries and applications are quickly integrated into new understandings! This phenomenon has created a new set of science standards in addition to the STEM curriculum that is used to provide the most up-to-date framework for educating future scientists. As a result, schools and teachers across the country are beginning to implement two tools aimed at transforming science and engineering education in the United States. These are  A Framework for K-12 Science Standards: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas and the Next Generation Science Standards.

The framework is divided into three specific dimensions that are basic to deep understanding of how science and engineering work. They are:

  • Science and engineering practices. Otherwise considered science behaviors, these practices are the actions scientists participate in while investigating, theorizing, and drawing conclusions about the scientific world. These practices also include engineering design which requires a different approach than scientific inquiry. Engineering design involves the discovery of a problem that can be solved via careful and comprehensive design. On the other hand, scientific inquiry requires the scientist to pose a question and then answer the question through investigation and experimentation. 
  • Crosscutting concepts. These key concepts can be applied across all areas of science. They serve as a link between the different domains and are designed to be explicitly taught to students.  It is important for teachers to teach these key concepts and skills just like they specifically teach content because they help students organize, conceptualize, and internalize new knowledge.  These crosscutting concepts are:
    • Cause and effect
    • Patterns, similarity, and diversity
    • Scale, proportion, and quantity
    • Energy and matter
    • Systems and system models
    • Stability and change
    • Structure and function
  • Disciplinary core ideas. Much like threads that weave together the STEM curriculum, classroom instruction, and all forms of assessment, these are essential ideas.  In order for a science idea to be considered “core” it must meet at least two of the following criteria, but  ideally, a core idea will meet all four of the following:
    • Has relevance across a variety of disciplines or represents a key concept of one specific discipline.
    • Supplies an essential skill that promotes understanding of additional ideas.
    • Has importance at a range of grade levels and the ability to be studied at varying degrees of difficulty.
    • Impacts the experiences and interests of students and relates to real life problems that require students to use scientific knowledge.

It helps to understand that all of the disciplinary ideas are divided into four domains: life sciencesearth and space sciencesphysical sciences, and engineering, technology, and applications of science. Each core disciplinary idea contains a clear and concise explanation and range of grades for instructional planning and assessment purposes. The range of grades, each covering 3-4 grade levels, allows schools and teachers the flexibility to reflect on their instructional priorities within the established framework.

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has a portion of its website dedicated to the Next Generation Science Standards. You can find updates, supporting documents, and resources to help with the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards and STEM curriculum. 

For more information, download our FREE on demand webinar on “Cutting Edge Science,” a lively conversation about the Next Generation Science Standards featuring Marygrove College MAT’s Charles Pearson, Ph.D.

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Tags: Next Generation Science Standards, science and engineering education, on demand webinar

Next Generation Science Standards Champion Diversity in Science Curriculum!

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Jul 24, 2012 11:24:00 AM

Marygrove MAT encourages teachers to champion diversity in science in your classroom!The recently completed Next Generation of Science Standards document attempts to address the needs of a variety of learners. The team tasked with writing the standards document is dedicated to promoting equity in schools and addressing the challenges and opportunities present among a variety of learners.  This commitment to diversity in science curriculum is evident in the work they have completed so far.  As the documents continue to be revised and refined, this commitment will continue until every learner has an entry point and avenue for continued scientific growth. 

The most recently released National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) data shows that only 32 percent of eighth graders proved to be proficient on the 2011 science assessment. Specific sub-group data details some gender differences in scores such as male students scoring five points higher than females, and achievement score variations among some cultural and socioeconomic groups. This data strengthens the case for including diversity in the science curriculum and the necessity for a set of comprehensive science standards that is applicable to all students.

It is important to remember that the Next Generation Science Standards are still in draft form.  The first version was released to the public in May, 2012 and, after a three-week window followed for feedback, the committee is revising the draft, with the next draft due for public release in Fall, 2012.

Supporting documents were also released including an overview of the section which focuses on diversity entitled "All Standards, All Students." Created by the equity and diversity team, an arm of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), writers focused specifically on diversity in science curriculum. This section aims to address the needs of a variety of learners. It will identify instructional strategies, additional resources, and possible targeted adaptations and modifications to make the NGSS a document that benefits all learners. The final version of this chapter will include vignettes focused on support for student groups such as English Language Learners (ELL), students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students, and racial and ethnic minorities. The May release included research and additional information on the NGSS in regards to:

  • English Language Learners (ELL):  Because science education requires a vast vocabulary of technical and content-specific vocabulary, many English language learners struggle because of language skills.   The Next Generation Science Standards encourage teachers to integrate instructional strategies used for literacy development, such as activating prior knowledge, explicit instruction on reading strategies, and the use of graphic organizers.  Teachers may also want to teach the specific genre of scientific writing and record keeping.
  • Students with Disabilities: The Next Generation Science Standards are written for special needs students in the inclusion classroom, resource room setting, or self-contained classroom.  The writing panel encourages teachers to use a variety of instructional methods, based on students' Individualized Education Programs (IEP) or growth goals, so that students may fully learn the scientific concepts. Accommodations and modifications can easily be made to the standards documents to alter delivery, practice, application, or assessment.

Every child deserves the equal opportunity to learn science. We are very pleased about the steps that the NGSS will take to make science learning accessible to children of multiple intelligences, as well as those with diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. It is an exciting time in education!

Get a leg up on the NGSS—coming this fall. Download our FREE on-demand webinar, “Cutting Edge Science,” and see how the standards will impact your instruction.

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Tags: Next Generation Science Standards, equity in schools, curriculum, instruction and assessment, science curriculum, on demand webinar

A look at science standards nationwide. How do you measure up?

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Jul 17, 2012 4:10:00 PM

science standards nationwideIn early 2012 the Thomas Fordham Institute released a study outlining the current state of science standards for grades K-12 in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. The analysis of the standards and the compilation of data are helping to develop the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), currently being developed by a core group of 26 states.  

As the development of the NGSS moves forward, it is a perfect time for states and districts to continue refining their current standards.  Being able to concisely outline the student learning that should occur is crucial for ongoing academic success.

The findings from the Fordham Institute varied greatly from state to state.  Each state had strengths, weaknesses, and areas for continued improvement in regards to their state science standards.  It is important to note that although the Next Generation Science Standards are currently in development Fordham continues to examine current standards with the intent of making continuous improvements. There must be constant refinement of current science curriculum expectations and not the expectation of "waiting" for a better set of standards to come along.

After Fordham's analysis was complete each state earned a traditional letter grade based on the overall quality of the science standards.  In twenty six states the current science standards earned a D or an F, representing nearly 50 percent of the science standards being taught and assessed in the United States. Only 13 states, slightly more than 25 percent, received a B or better.  Only two jurisdictions, California and The District of Columbia earned an A after the analysis was complete. Both received high marks for consistency, quality, and careful design of the science standards.

One factor, in particular, places the California science standards at the head of the pack.  The California standards are extremely clear and concise. There is no ambiguity relative to what students are expected to know, understand, and be able to do. Examples include:

Second Grade:

  • The motion of objects can be observed and measured. As a basis for understanding this concept:

a. Students know the position of an object can be described by locating it in relation to another object or to the background. 
b. Students know an object's motion can be described by recording the change in position of the object over time.

Sixth Grade:

  • Sources of energy and materials differ in amounts, distribution, usefulness, and the time required for their formation. As a basis for understanding this concept:

a. Students know the utility of energy sources is determined by factors that are involved in converting these sources to useful forms and the consequences of the conversion process. 

The core standards (in bold) clearly describe the basic science core concepts students should understand. The outcomes are clearly defined. The accompanying indicators concisely describe more specific ways in which student learning should occur.  

If you currently serve, or hope to serve on a committee that is drafting curriculum, take note of California’s clear and concise descriptions. It makes all the difference in the world, especially to a teacher who may be new to teaching science, and less familiar with its content.

For more best practice tips and a sneak peek into the soon-to-come Next Generation Science Standards, register for the Cutting Edge Science Webinar at 4 p.m. Wednesday! It’s not too late… there are still virtual seats available! Register here.


Tags: Next Generation Science Standards, curriculum, instruction and assessment, webinar

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