New Findings: Teachers & Students Transformed by Next Generation Science Standards with Curriculum Designed by KnowAtom

New research from Northeastern University researcher Dr. Tracy L. Waters identifies the changes middle and elementary school teachers made to their instructional practices when implementing KnowAtom’s Next Generation Science Standard (NGSS)-based curriculum. She describes the KnowAtom curriculum as “built on an innovative approach to teaching science based on the NGSS, where teachers become facilitators of learning rather than givers of information.” Her research shows just how much “teaching practice was transformed through curriculum implementation when teachers began to release responsibility to students…”.

With an understanding that using an NGSS-designed curriculum for the first time can be a major change for educators, KnowAtom serves as a partner throughout the full implementation process. A key part of this partnership is providing professional development opportunities for teachers. The study looked at diverse training opportunities offered to teachers at different schools to identify what worked best. Waters’ research shows how adopting the KnowAtom curriculum supported with professional development as part of a substantive partnership resulted in the transformation of beliefs, practices and engagement levels for both teachers and students.

Professional Development for Teachers

Implementing substantive NGSS programs delivered measurable results in student learning outcomes and sparked changes in belief and methods from teachers.

In fact, the study identifies major instructional changes made by teachers who had previously asked for student memorization and recall and taught by giving information directly to students. Using the KnowAtom curriculum, these teachers changed practices and expectations, asking students to discover, explore, and model their understanding. Using the KnowAtom curriculum helped teachers develop a new classroom culture that supported active learning and collaboration.

These findings align with what we know about best practices in science education and NGSS.

Giving students phenomena-based learning opportunities highlighting real-world science and engineering challenges sparks high student engagement. The study showed improvement in test scores and classroom behavior, use of academic vocabulary, collaboration, engagement, and participation. Teachers in the study reported that students were “conducting investigations, solving real scientific problems, and engaging in academic discussions with their guidance.”

Teachers need active, long-term support to make significant changes in their teaching methods.

That’s why KnowAtom offers a Professional Learning Community model that supports district and school leaders, as well as teachers. This new model of professional development gives teacher leaders hands-on training aligned directly with the curriculum, who return to their schools to train and mentor other science teachers. This creates a sustainable, trusted network of in-house professional development specialists, giving teachers the time and collaboration needed to understand, measure, develop, and implement long-term change.

Implementing the KnowAtom curriculum helps teachers, administrators and students rethink attitudes and beliefs about teaching and learning science.

This research shows that giving students the opportunity to regularly engage in open-ended questions and use evidence from multiple sources to evaluate claims results in a surge in student engagement levels and a reduction in behavior issues. To sustain long-term change, however, administrators must offer professional development and new ways for teachers to collaborate, giving them the long-term support needed to alter their methods and ultimately beliefs on science education. That’s why KnowAtom serves as a collaborative partner in delivering sustainable outcomes in elementary and middle school science, including implementing a Professional Learning Community.