The word from the science education community on NGSS is “take it slow”. I could not agree more! The shift to NGSS will take purposefulness and support as we adjust curriculum, instruction and assessment. This Education Week article provides perspectives from around the country.
This report on the expeditionary learning linking science and engineering reflects the vision of NGSS. Teachers Gus Goodwin and Peter Hill (and their teammates) at King Middle School create a meaningful context for science and engineering. I am inspired by the student learning capture in this video report. Take a few minutes to watch it. I think you will agree, you can see the practices, crosscutting concepts, and core disciplinary ideas in this expedition.
Knowing about science is not enough; knowing how our students think impacts our teaching effectiveness and help us to achieve the NGSS vision.
Below is the link to an article in Science News on the study by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics on middle school physical science teachers’ knowledge of student misconceptions.
As part of an unusual study, Philip Sadler, the Frances W. Wright Senior Lecturer in the Department of Astronomy, and colleagues tested 181 middle school physical science teachers and nearly 10,000 of their students, and showed that while most of the teachers were well-versed in their subject, those better able to predict their students’ wrong answers on standardized tests helped students learn the most.
The Standards are now live. Achieve released the Next Generation Science Standards today and Maine is proud to have been among the 26 Lead States that participated in the development of these standards.
The timing for this release is PERFECT. Throughout the spring and summer Maine educators can begin to acquaint themselves with NGSS and revisit the Framework for K-12 Science Education. That process should continue throughout next year. Implementing this vision is a multi-year collaborative effort. No district will be able to comprehensively and effectively transition to the NGSS over a summer.
I am already looking forward to Fall 2013. In October both the Maine Science Teachers Association and the Maine Curriculum Leaders will focus their conferences on the NGSS.
You can access the NGSS document at http://www.nextgenscience.org/.
“Constructing and critiquing arguments are both a core process of science and one that supports science education, as research suggests that interaction with others is the most cognitively effective way of learning [31-33].” (Framework, 2011)
MLTI tools can assist students in the development of well-supported and well-reasoned science arguments. As a result of the relationship among the eight practices there is no single MLTI “argument” tool. Rather, students can support science arguments through a variety of tools. They may use Pages to outline their reasoning for a science argument or they may use Numbers, SketchUp to provide visual evidence for their argument. Most important, developing a science argument, like constructing a science explanation, relies on a variety of tools.
And teachers can provide a variety ways for students to gain experience creating evidence-based arguments. Joe Kracjik (2012 NSTA webinar) suggests that students can, and should, use argument in science to:
- Defend claims
- Defending models
- Critiquing claims of other scientists and engineers
- Defending interpretation
- Defending experimental designs
- Defending data analysis
- Defending the appropriateness of questions and designs
It goes without saying that these science arguments should ALWAYS be supported by evidence and reasoning.
Over time teacher must assist students to argue with increasing sophistication. The Framework proposes the following progression for argument:
Young students can begin by constructing an argument for their own interpretation of the phenomena they observe and of any data they collect. They need instructional support to go beyond simply making claims—that is, to include reasons or references to evidence and to begin to distinguish evidence from opinion. As they grow in their ability to construct scientific arguments, students can draw on a wider range of reasons or evidence, so that their arguments become more sophisticated. In addition, they should be expected to discern what aspects of the evidence are potentially significant for supporting or refuting a particular argument.
Students should begin learning to critique by asking questions about their own findings and those of others. Later, they should be expected to identify possible weaknesses in either data or an argument and explain why their criticism is justified. As they become more adept at arguing and critiquing, they should be introduced to the language needed to talk about argument, such as claim, reason, data, etc. Exploration of historical episodes in science can provide opportunities for students to identify the ideas, evidence, and arguments of professional scientists. In so doing, they should be encouraged to recognize the criteria used to judge claims for new knowledge and the formal means by which scientific ideas are evaluated today. In particular, they should see how the practice of peer review and independent verification of claimed experimental results help to maintain objectivity and trust in science.
Thank you to Phil Brookhouse, MLTI Consultant, for this posting.
Students should share explanations and designs both in spoken and written form. Pages can serve as tool for written student explanations and SketchUp and Pages are great tools for sharing designs. These two applications themselves are not tools specific to explanation or design, but using the thoughts from Frameworks stated above, they provide opportunities to “develop explanations of what they observe when conducting their own investigations”; “provide a basis for further questions”;” identify and isolate variables”; “use their measurements”; “rely on models or representations”; “use mathematics or simulations”; or ”generate and test possible solutions.” We must support students to make explanations and designs supported by the creation of strong questions/problems, the development of clear models and investigations, and the application of rigorous data analysis and use of mathematical and computational thinking.
All eight practices of the Framework are interrelated. The quote from Framework below explains the progression of skill for explanation (science) and design (engineering,).
PROGRESSION FOR EXPLANATION
Early in their science education, students need opportunities to engage in constructing and critiquing explanations. They should be encouraged to develop explanations of what they observe when conducting their own investigations and to evaluate their own and others’ explanations for consistency with the evidence. For example, observations of the owl pellets they dissect should lead them to produce an explanation of owls’ eating habits based on inferences made from what they find.
As students’ knowledge develops, they can begin to identify and isolate variables and incorporate the resulting observations into their explanations of phenomena. Using their measurements of how one factor does or does not affect another, they can develop causal accounts to explain what they observe. For example, in investigating the conditions under which plants grow fastest, they may notice that the plants die when kept in the dark and seek to develop an explanation for this finding. Although the explanation at this level may be as simple as “plants die in the dark because they need light in order to live and grow,” it provides a basis for further questions and deeper understanding of how plants utilize light that can be developed in later grades. On the basis of comparison of their explanation with their observations, students can appreciate that an explanation such as “plants need light to grow” fails to explain why they die when no water is provided. They should be encouraged to revisit their initial ideas and produce more complete explanations that account for more of their observations.
By the middle grades, students recognize that many of the explanations of science rely on models or representations of entities that are too small to see or too large to visualize. For example, explaining why the temperature of water does not increase beyond 100°C when heated requires students to envisage water as consisting of microscopic particles and that the energy provided by heating can allow fast-moving particles to escape despite the force of attraction holding the particles together. In the later stages of their education, students should also progress to using mathematics or simulations to construct an explanation for a phenomenon.
PROGRESSION FOR DESIGN
In some ways, children are natural engineers. They spontaneously build sand castles, dollhouses, and hamster enclosures, and they use a variety of tools and materials for their own playful purposes. Thus a common elementary school activity is to challenge children to use tools and materials provided in class to solve a specific challenge, such as constructing a bridge from paper and tape and testing it until failure occurs.
Children’s capabilities to design structures can then be enhanced by having them pay attention to points of failure and asking them to create and test redesigns of the bridge so that it is stronger. Furthermore, design activities should not be limited just to structural engineering but should also include projects that reflect other areas of engineering, such as the need to design a traffic pattern for the school parking lot or a layout for planting a school garden box. In middle school, it is especially beneficial to engage students in engineering design projects in which they are expected to apply what they have recently learned in science—for example, using their now-familiar concepts of ecology to solve problems related to a school garden. Middle school students should also have opportunities to plan and carry out full engineering design projects in which they define problems in terms of criteria and constraints, research the problem to deepen their relevant knowledge, generate and test possible solutions, and refine their solutions through redesign.
At the high school level, students can undertake more complex engineering design projects related to major local, national or global issues. Increased emphasis should be placed on researching the nature of the given problems, on reviewing others’ proposed solutions, on weighing the strengths and weaknesses of various alternatives, and on discerning possibly unanticipated effects.
Below are links to the previous posts for each of these five practices.