NGSS summer reading

Summer is a great time to get familiar or deepen your familiarity with the Next Generation Science Standards. In the last few weeks many educators across the state have contacted me asking where they can get the standards.  The best resource is the NGSS page.  From this page you can access the standards as well as the NGSS Appendices.  The Appendices include many valuable resources for educators including Appendix D, the equity case studies; Appendix K, the Model Course Mapping for Middle and High School; and Appendices L and M, Connections to CCSS. And don’t forget . . . A Framework for K-12 Science Education continues to be a valuable resource for understanding the intent of the standards.  You can access all of these resource as free downloads.  What a gift!

Take it slow!

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.

Grand Challenges in Education

April’s special issue of Science magazine focuses on the Grand Challenges in education.  This is Bruce Alberts’ last month as editor of Science Magazine and it was his choice to make a special issue devoted to science education.
Don’t miss reading this edition. You will need to register in order to access the full text of the articles. As Margo Murphy, a ninth grade science teacher at Camden Hills Regional High notes, “There are lots of ideas in this issue to ponder and add to your own thinking. Bruce Alberts is a true believer in public science education.”

Inspiring engagement in STEM – the NGSS vision takes form at King MS

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.

Understanding misconceptions can support implementation of NGSS

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.

Achieve Releases NGSS!



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

Practice 7: Engaging in argument from evidence

“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.

Visual from McNeill/Berland NSTA Webinar on Practices

Visual from McNeill/Berland NSTA Webinar on Practices


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.