The Next Generation Science Standards call for dramatic shifts in teaching and learning. It will be important to go about implementation carefully and thoughtfully.
There are concrete steps that educators and administrators can take to ensure a successful implementation.
In the classroom:
- Have a curriculum that is specifically designed for NGSS. This will help educators use the standards the way they were intended to be used in the classroom—as a framework that builds from one year to the next and connects the concepts in a systematic way.
- Create a classroom culture where students are scientists and engineers. This will allow students to come up with the questions, engage with the phenomena, and move from that question into their own experiment, into their own technology, their own data, their own conclusions, and their own reflections.
- Focus less on the “right answer” and more on the skills necessary to develop the science and engineering practices. This will nurture higher order thinking skills—the ability to create, evaluate, and analyze—so students can apply what they have learned to new contexts.
- Move away from infrequent, high-stakes summative assessments and toward instructional formative It is the job of a formative assessment to give teachers perspective on their students and where they are in the spectrum of mastery. They also provide teachers with important information about their own instructional practice.
- Move away from unproductive student tasks and assignments. This will help refocus the purpose that should be driving the learning.
- Create and communicate a shared district vision that aligns to NGSS’s vision. This vision needs to be shared between you, your district, and the standards themselves. Your vision needs to focus primarily on the classroom experience and what successful student performance looks like.
- Establish a leadership team to help communicate the vision and support educators. Your team needs to understand the human organizational behavior of your district and teachers at different levels. They also need to be able to envision the student and teacher experience as the Next Generation Science Standards vision. This means that your team needs to understand the standards themselves.
- Provide ongoing professional development. Providing support in the form of professional development will go a long way toward ensuring educator success as they shift to this new form of classroom instruction. Especially in the first three to five years, professional development is essential because educators are in a learning curve with these new standards. They are shifting expectations of themselves, including their pedagogy, and they're shifting the expectations of their students.
- Budget enough time and resources. To successfully implement NGSS will take time and money, and principals and administrators need to ensure adequate supports of both time and resources. The bottom line is that students need to engage with investigative phenomena, which means classrooms will need a curriculum that supports next generation learning. You also need to ensure that enough time on learning is scheduled for students to focus, think, and practice the skills that are required of them.
Taking time to fully understanding the Next Generation Science Standards and the shifts in teaching and learning required under them will go a long way toward successful implementation in your school.