The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are transforming science education. As of this post's writing, 13 states and the District of Columbia have adopted NGSS, while others are using them as a model for updating their own science standards. Here are 9 things you need to know about NGSS.
1. NGSS Brings Science Education into the Future
Did you know that many of the current science education standards were developed almost 20 years ago? Our children have been learning science based on a framework that was developed before the invention of DVDs, the first NASA Rover landing, and the completion of the Human Genome Project.
2. NGSS Focuses on Depth of Skill over Breadth of Facts
Memorizing facts is no longer the focus. Instead, the new standards focus on developing a deeper understanding of how scientific knowledge and technology are developed. This requires students to apply the content through science and engineering practices. This way STEM curriculum developers and teachers are challenged to create instructional experiences rich with opportunities to apply new STEM skills to content.
3. The New Framework Focuses On Three Dimensions
NGSS focuses on three-dimensional learning with an emphasis on carrying out actual scientific and engineering investigations. The three dimensions are like three legs on a stool that support the performance expectations students are expected to master. Together the three dimensions provide a context for interpreting the performance expectation.
4. Dimension 1: Science & Engineering Practices
This dimension provides specific skills for making sense of science and engineering concepts. The practices are skills for developing scientific knowledge and technology. They are the foundation of science and engineering processes, a series of steps that real scientists and engineers use to answer questions and solve problems. In the past, students may have used STEM practices in isolation; with NGSS, students master practices as they investigate relevant phenomena from specific content areas.
5. Dimension 2: Crosscutting Concepts
This dimension provides a way to link concepts together from different domains of science. Crosscutting concepts highlight relationships by the way elements of a system behave and give students an organizational structure for making sense of content and understanding a system’s behavior.
6. Dimension 3: Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI)
This dimension provides the context for the performance expectation. Disciplinary core ideas organize the content into a number of core ideas that are developed and broadened over a student’s education. Disciplinary core ideas are the closest relative to the old standards’ facts.
7. They Include Engineering and Technology
Old standards focused on science and math in isolation, but NGSS integrate engineering and technology, as applications of science and mathematics are incredibly important to understanding the process of innovation and the STEM cycle. With the new standards, students deepen their understanding of science by applying scientific knowledge to solve engineering problems.
8. NGSS is Aligned with Common Core State Standards
The adoption of Common Core Standards by many states will not interfere with implementing NGSS. ELA and math skills are critical components of a STEM education. NGSS complements Common Core standards so that student learning is consistent across the disciplines.
9. NGSS Looks Different in the Classroom
Student learning will have to incorporate the three dimensions because combining practice with content gives the learning context. Practices alone are activities and content alone is memorization. So what does this mean for the classroom? Hands-on science and problem-based investigations that focus on creating, evaluating, and analyzing the applications of real-world science and engineering.