This past week I met with a classroom teacher passionate about science, so much so that she had written her growth goals around making changes to better align with the draft performance expectations of Massachusetts’ updated science standards. With her new goals minted and approved, the teacher was left caught in the “now what?” space that can paralyze those willing to make positive changes in their classroom but unsure where to begin.
Fortunately, recent experiences at both the Massachusetts Science Teachers Associations annual conference and NSTA had brought to my attention a few great resources that can really help teachers and administrators looking for guidance in the still-uncharted waters of the NGSS (and its adaptions like those found in Massachusetts.)
#1: “Foundations Pages” on the NGSS@NSTA Hub
While expected learning progressions for science practices, disciplinary core ideas, and cross cutting concepts can be found in many places, (including the Massachusetts Department of Science, Technology, and Engineering’s own page) for ease of use and visual simplicity my favorite is the NGSS@NSTA Hub’s own “Foundations” pages for the three dimensions. Here teachers can easily identify the elements that embody every Science Practice, DCI, and Cross Cutting Concepts. By referring to the Foundations pages teachers can cross-check themselves to ensure the expectations they are putting forth in their classrooms are grade-appropriate.
#2: Massachusetts’ “What to Look For” Observation Guides
For those not yet prepared to dive into the details of each dimension (or simply lacking the time!) the Massachusetts Department of Curriculum and Instruction’s “What to Look For” Observation Guides provide users with a quick snapshot of the disciplinary core ideas expected to be explored at grades K-8. Each guide also includes a listing of the eight science practices, of which at least one students should be using during any given science lesson. While these tools are ideal for administrators doing walkthroughs, responsible for observing several grades and/or subjects, the department has made it clear these are not evaluation tools. That said, on the backside of each guide users find a checklist of elements found in Standards I and II of Massachusetts’ Model Teacher Rubric. These elements are practices that can be spotted in any classroom, no matter what the grade or subject. Tailoring classroom curriculum and instruction to these elements will therefore boost the effectiveness of one’s science classroom experience. As an added bonus, the state has also made these observation guides for mathematics (available on the same links page.)
#3: NGSS Evidence Statements
For those further down the curriculum rabbit hole, making adjustments to lessons and units as a whole, the NGSS K-8 Evidence Statements are great tools to self-check one’s expectations for students with concrete examples of what students work should look like. Each performance expectation has its own evidence statement document, keeping them easy to read. The evidence statements make for good reminders to teachers that while teacher modeling plays an important role in helping students better understand and reach for performance expectations, a classroom is not NGSS aligned until the students in the classroom are performing the science practices while engaged in the disciplinary core ideas.