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NGSS Evidence Statements: Developing an Effective Classroom Experience

Posted by Francis Vigeant on Oct 11, 2021

Creating a next generation learning experience with the appropriate challenges is what leads to student learning. NGSS Evidence statements are key to facilitating an interactive student-led learning environment when used properly. 

Any discussion of evidence statements relies on a deep understanding of NGSS performance expectations (PEs) and their three-dimensional nature. These PEs are a set of expectations for what students should be able to do by the end of instruction or by the end of a particular grade level or grade band. Each PE incorporates all three dimensions – a science or engineering practice, a disciplinary core idea, and a cross cutting concept. In the classroom, students engage in all three of these dimensions simultaneously apply the practices and content knowledge to understand and make sense of phenomena.  

NGSS evidence statements were developed for each PE and were designed to illuminate what a student could do to demonstrate that he or she is proficient on the NGSS PEs. Notice the key word here is do— they should be active in nature, rather than the traditional approach that rested merely on what a student must know.  

Because performance expectations are three-dimensional, their corresponding NGSS evidence statements are as well. They help show how students can use the practices to demonstrate their understanding of the content through the lens of the cross-cutting concepts.   

How are NGSS Evidence Statements Used? 

NGSS evidence statements were never meant become the teacher’s end goal of assessment, but rather a tool that can inform assessment. Many teachers use NGSS evidence statements to help design assessment because they do provide a starting point for how a student could demonstrate mastery after instruction.  

The nuance here is within how the NGSS evidence statements are used. It’s a common misconception that evidence statements can be substituted for assessment; instead, they provide guidance in the context of NGSS PEs. 

Evidence statements are not only a handy feature of what NGSS performance expectations expect students to be able to demonstrate by the end of instruction, they also specifically spell out the observable skills teachers must see in students to ensure they are building mastery over the subject material. With that in mind, teachers can use NGSS evidence statements to help inform effective instruction as well. Let’s take a look at what that would look like.  

How Should Use Evidence Statements? 

Questions you can ask yourself while using NGSS evidence statements include: Is the classroom experience something that's going to challenge the student appropriately? Is it going to nurture them? Will it lead to learning? This isn't just a qualitative question; we need to see quantitative evidence of learning within the classroom experience to prepare students for success on the performance expectations.  

Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

The NGSS standard you see here is a grade 5 life science standard.  

NGSS Evidence Statements Follow NGSS Practices: An NGSS Evidence Statements Elementary Example  

The first things that probably come to mind when reviewing this standard are food chains, food webs, and so forth. But if the experience planned for students involves reading from a textbook and that's it, then students haven't engaged in any of the practices or the processes. They haven't been challenged to actually solve a problem (let alone identify it themselves) or answer a question (let alone ask one).  

When this happens, students won't be ready to demonstrate their understanding related to the performance expectations of the standards (and the corresponding NGSS evidence statements). After a lesson such as this, without any sort of real experience, it's unlikely that they've learned the necessary skills or even the necessary content to be able to produce evidence of mastery 

An Example NGSS Evidence Statement 

If you look at the example below for the Grade 5 Life Science standards above, you can see that Part 1 of the evidence statement calls for students to show they can identify components of the model. The next part, as dictated by the evidence statement, is to examine relationships among the components in the depicted environment. So students must be able to pull from these components the relationships that are relevant to describing the phenomenon they are exploring as a whole.   

This includes the idea that matter is transferred: that energy flows from the sun to the producer (the plant), on to the consumer (the animal), to other consumers (animals higher in the food chain that eat other animals), and through to the decomposer that eats dead material (fungi, bacteria, etc.).   

While the teacher can work as a guide, helping students identify where they still need to look at relationships or examine overlooked parts of the system, they are not simply giving students a single task but allowing them to have an experience.  

This is the crucial point here. An NGSS evidence statement is not spelling out a task; it's spelling out the minimum characteristics of mastery. A student who has reached a mastery level is going to be able to fluidly draw out the components of the food web model, as well as identify relationships and connections, even in an unfamiliar context.   

NGSS Evidence Statement

The NGSS evidence statement includes identifying components of the model, determining relationships within it, and then using this model to describe dynamic, high-level movement within the model. 

The NGSS Framework Is the Foundation 

Although evidence statements are listed individually for each performance expectation, it’s important to keep in mind the cross-cutting concepts and overlapping applications. Teachers can quite easily facilitate an environment where learning builds on multiple interrelated PEs at one time. 

As such, single evidence statements cannot dictate how PEs are taught.   

The vision of the NRC Framework, as well as the NGSS, is that students develop critical science and engineering skills and knowledge to effectively interact with and explain phenomena they encounter within the context of the real world. This framework of understanding is critical. When students are engaging as scientists and engineers in the classroom, the real role of the curriculum is to translate the standards into a framework of understanding and supports for effective STEM instruction and mastery-level student experiences, which organically produces mastery-level student learning outcomes.  

Through these experiences, students become well-equipped to produce evidence of their learning in the classroom and throughout life, whether that's in a career or in their everyday lives. These really are life skills students are learning when they have true, rich experiences in context. 

Know Atom offers NGSS curricula for K-8 grade. Our NGSS resources equip you to help your students make the crucial shift from acquiring knowledge to actively making sense of ideas within the context of real-world phenomena. We like to say if you “start with real, you end with mastery.” Let’s discuss how we can help you use evidence statements to develop an effective—and engaging —classroom experience. 

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