When it comes to Next Gen Curriculum and Standards, it's important to unpack curriculum mapping. NGSS Standards are performance expectations (PEs), and there are infinite routes to student mastery but for students to get there requires the skill and knowledge of teachers to create deeper learning opportunities.
Here are three big ideas every teacher should unpack about NGSS curriculum mapping:
1. The Difference Between NGSS Standards vs. NGSS Curriculum Units
This distinction might be common sense for some teachers, but it is an important point of clarity. Across the nation, we have heard arguments against "common core" that clearly confused the issue between standards and curriculum. Standards are a common benchmark of performance students are assessed against. Curriculum units are the tools we use to teach those standards. Don't be mistaken; the NGSS standards are not the "science Common Core." However, the analogy helps us understand that many parents who spoke out against Common Core standards were not happy with the curriculum that was being used, not with the standards themselves. They were not familiar with the difference between standards and curriculum units.
Standards are not curriculum. In science, curriculum mapping requires a deep understanding of the NGSS standards and with that understanding, teachers are better equipped to identify and design NGSS curriculum units. The goal of those units is to equip students to perform the expectations of NGSS standards proficiently.
2. The Development of Curriculum Course Mapping
It is important for science teachers to unpack the philosophy behind curriculum mapping, sometimes referred to as course mapping, when the Next Gen standards were developed. For starters, all students learn all standards. This might seem obvious, but it was not uncommon under previous standards for teachers to limit some content or expectations to higher achieving students. Research like TNTP's the Opportunity Myth exposes the unintended harm of this approach, reducing curriculum for some students to below grade-level content and expectations. Their research shows us that this common remediation approach is well-intended but deeply destructive to students' prospects for achieving grade-level performance.
3. There are Big Differences Between Traditional and NGSS Curriculum, But Resources to Help
Traditional course mapping at its core is a concept that tries to match tasks to standards in an effort to establish a curriculum. As traditional teachers dive into the process of sorting through each grade level and the alignment from K-8, it is easy to become overwhelmed. As next generation science standards are established, many traditional teachers begin to realize their traditional activities can't get students there. There are many DCIs to be considered, but most importantly, how do the activities of the curriculum once mapped work in concert with each other, creating opportunities for students to develop skills and reasoning ability. For teachers who might also struggle to see how this can look across the three dimensions of NGSS practices, core ideas, and cross-cutting concepts. It is a lot.
Success is easier when there are ready resources to help. Consider exploring KnowAtom's Next Gen Curriculum tools to help teachers navigate the standards. The hands-on, adaptive, and NGSS aligned curricular materials give teachers a framework for success with Next Gen Lesson Plan examples. If you'd like to forego mapping entirely, KnowAtom has research-based, teacher-developed, and classroom-tested NGSS curriculum kits available for your K to 8 teachers.
Course mapping is complex and time-consuming, but it's only the beginning of a solid NGSS standards curriculum. As K-8 teachers navigate the process, they might become overwhelmed. As teachers focus on the Next Gen standards (the what), their burden can be eased through Next Gen curriculum support (the how). A robust, hands-on curriculum like KnowAtom prepares K-8 classrooms for next gen science standards easing that challenge.