Teaching with the Next Generation
Science Standards

Posted by Francis Vigeant on Nov 11, 2016

What is Science and Engineering Proficiency?

It's important to understand what proficiency really means under the new standards. Previously, proficiency meant being able to answer a question in a textbook. Now, it means planning an investigation that yields data in order to answer a question set by the student. Same thing with engineering: Proficiency is identifying problems, developing prototypes, testing those prototypes, and gathering data to see if the concept devised by the student solves the problem.

In this setting, the teacher coaches through asking higher order questions, helping students engage in Socratic dialogue, and helping adjust supports until there can be a full release of responsibility.

However, it doesn't happen all at once. It typically happens over the first 10 weeks of school. That's really key, and to understand why, let's return to grit and how that plays out in the classroom.

"Effort counts twice. Effort builds skill. At the very same time, effort makes skill productive."

"Effort counts twice. Effort builds skill. At the very same time, effort makes skill productive." —Angela Duckworth

One of the best quotes from the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance is the one above: "Effort counts twice. Effort builds skill. At the very same time, effort makes skill productive." Duckworth explains that skill is talent multiplied by effort, and achievement is effort multiplied by that skill. These equations explain how effort counts twice. And if you look at this quote, you can understand why classroom curriculum and lessons in the classroom inquiry environment need to change. They need to require a lot more student effort.

That might seem counterproductive to student learning, because it would lead to even lower engagement with the material. But this is a misconception. Effortful activity can be very engaging, but only if it is purposeful. There must be a full release of responsibility, leading to an environment in which science and engineering activities are student-centered. It must be intentionally nurturing, engaging students in the practices, and relevant. It must be scaffolded from one level to the next so we are teaching as teams.

For effort to be a feasible expectation in the classroom, we need to deliver effective STEM instruction, which must take place in a next generation inquiry model. Talent is no longer enough. It does have an effect when it comes to skill development, but the key is that by creating an environment where you expect effort and set challenges requiring it, students see a personal benefit to engaging in that task. That is what will create grit, and in turn create students who can successfully work as scientists and engineers in later life.

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