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3 Ways Next Generation Science Standards are Different

Posted by Francis Vigeant on Apr 17, 2014

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Everyone’s talking about the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Regardless of whether or not you live in a state that’s adopting them, they are reshaping the way educators think about science education because of their emphasis on higher order thinking—and that means that teachers and districts need to start thinking about how to best prepare for this new landscape.

We asked three of our experts to talk about what they see as the most important pieces of the NGSS.

They're all about higher order thinking skills.

Nicole LanoueNGSS really do represent a dramatic change in science education because they're all about higher order thinking skills. In other words, can students analyze, evaluate, and create? It’s no longer enough to teach students to memorize facts. Google can find facts. Students need to be able to question and problem solve if they want to excel in today’s workforce.

For me, this is an exciting shift because it more clearly aligns with real-life STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). What makes it even more exciting is that these practices are not specific to STEM. Every discipline, from engineering to business to law, depends on higher order thinking skills. Students who can analyze, evaluate, and create will be successful no matter what field they end up in.

— Nicole Lanoue, Product Development Officer at KnowAtom

Standards are no longer just separate facts that students need to know.

Francis VigeantThree-dimensional learning is the key to understanding the NGSS.  You’ve probably heard that term somewhere—it’s one of the most important buzz words around NGSS these days. What exactly does it mean? It means that the standards are no longer just separate facts that students need to know. Instead, every performance expectation—the statements that describe what students should know and be able to do—is supported by a foundation of three dimensions: scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas.

One of the most important things to remember when thinking about the three dimensions is that they’re all intertwined. That means that you can’t teach practices one day and crosscutting concepts another day. For students to master concepts, they will need to incorporate practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts into everything they do.

 — Francis Vigeant, CEO at KnowAtom

Students will have to analyze, evaluate, and create.

Sara GoodmanFor teachers and districts, one of the most concrete takeaways from the NGSS will be how they are assessed. Students will no longer be assessed on random facts they have memorized. Instead, they will have to analyze, evaluate, and create.We still don’t know exactly what this will look like. One thing is pretty clear: assessments that use scenarios and text-dependent questioning to allow a student to demonstrate their ability to do science and engineering will likely be the new norm. This isn’t that different from text-dependent questioning that many educators are now familiar with because of the Common Core Standards.

Despite the uncertainty around the assessments, the new emphasis on higher order thinking is great news for all of us who believe that higher order thinking is the key to a solid education.

— Sara Goodman, Science Content Developer at KnowAtom

Take the next step. Subscribe to our blog then dowload the NGSS curriculum evaluation tool here!

Stay tuned—we'll cover more about scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core idea from the NGSS in future blog posts. If you haven’t already done so, take two seconds and subscribe to this blog! We help demystify what’s going on in STEM education.

Topics: NGSS

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