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Review Finds Big Impact on Teaching & Learning with KnowAtom for NGSS

Posted by Megan Powers on Jun 13, 2021

Northeastern University research finds that public school classrooms using KnowAtom’s STEM curriculum designed for NGSS observed a variety of positive and sought-after results, from shifts in teacher beliefs about teaching and learning to improved student engagement to increased standardized test scores and more collaborative student classroom behavior.

The independent research reviewed KnowAtom curriculum designed for NGSS in elementary and middle school classrooms of professional public school teachers in multiple schools, including urban schools with high percentages of special populations including English Learners (ELs).

Professional Development for Teachers Focuses on Exchange of NGSS Practices

The research titled “The Effects of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) on Teaching Practices: An Instrumental Case Study” by Dr. Tracy L. Waters, found KnowAtom designed for NGSS effectively integrated the goals of the Next Generation Science Standards and strongly supported elementary and middle school teachers in effectively making instructional and curricula shifts necessary with strong evidence of transformed student performance and engagement as a result.

The new elementary and middle school science standards (NGSS) are intended to bring science to life through skills, content, and systems thinking. KnowAtom makes the implementation of the NGSS framework practical by providing detailed phenomena, instructional pedagogy, Socratic dialogue, small group hands-on investigation materials, with a focus on developing student’s ability to use thinking moves as tools to problem-solve and deepen their own understanding of new ideas.

KnowAtom developed its next generation science (NGSS) curriculum to be a grade-specific, intentionally focused on the discovery process, while helping teachers adapt to the changes in pedagogy necessary to effectively teach the next generation science standards to mastery.

By partnering with schools and districts for curriculum and professional development researchers found KnowAtom supports success for all students in the classroom. Key benefits of the partnership with KnowAtom included positive shifts in beliefs about teaching and learning, which resulted in changes to instructional methods, improved student engagement, increased science standardized test scores, and improved classroom behavior.

Next Generation Science Standards Transform Beliefs about Teaching and Learning

Researchers studied different public schools and teachers with a wide spectrum of teaching experience who had used KnowAtom for at least two years. Researchers found evidence for positive transformation in beliefs about teaching and learning in all participants.

When teachers and students recognized that science had a genuine connection to other subjects, its lessons became more applicable and universal. For instance, when science intersects with what students are reading or what they are learning in math, it sparked meaningful “aha” moments and connections.

Through professional development teachers became more comfortable serving as facilitators, sharing the responsibility for learning with their students. This greater student involvement was found to lead to better classroom behavior and more student collaboration.

According to the research, those interviewed recognized that student demographics should not dictate teacher expectations, rather teachers should hold all students to the same high standards for mastery. This realization resulted in a focus on developing students to a mastery level by helping students develop critical thinking skills, using pedagogical approaches that naturally differentiate, and becoming professionally comfortable that multiple outcomes should not only allowed, but encouraged.

New Approaches Increase Engagement, Collaboration, and Language in Science

Researchers also found that student engagement and collaboration increased among KnowAtom science partners. These teachers reported enhanced academic vocabulary and greater overall classroom participation when students practice different levels of evidence-based reasoning, rather than rote memorization. Deeper engagement in “figuring out” instead of “learning about” science heightened students’ ability to learn and absorb new information.

When students engage and collaborate in figuring out phenomena through KnowAtom, it leads to a more positive classroom experience and deeper, more transformative student learning outcomes.

Students and Schools Benefit from KnowAtom with Improved Standardized Test Scores and Behavior in Science

All of this led to meaningful improvement in both test scores and classroom behavior. Students were observed to be more engaged, collaborate more readily, raise their hands more often, take intellectual risks more publicly, and achieve better science test results.

While curriculum changes can be challenging, they can also be empowering and transformative. As more research on Next Generation Science Standards emerges, the positive impact of real science and engineering with NGSS is there.

This research shows a well designed hands-on NGSS curriculum like KnowAtom with a next generation approach to professional development can help unstick traditional science instruction in elementary and middle school science classrooms.

Topics: Professional Development, Next Generation Science, Case Studies, Next Generation Science Classroom Instruction, NGSS-Aligned Curriculum

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