STEM and the Four Levels of Readiness

The Next Generation Science Standards require a very specific kind of resources that allow students to achieve mastery of the standards.

Mastery means that students have developed skills and knowledge that they can take what they have learned and apply it to new scenarios and contexts, which allows them to tackle any problem or question, rather than just predetermined ones.

Because of this shift, it is important to understand that not all curriculum and resources create mastery readiness because not all resources prepare students to think critically and develop transferable skills.

In general, curriculum and resources can be categorized into four levels relating to their ability to create "readiness."

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Awareness readiness comes from resources often provided by museums, STEM companies, and even government agencies to create awareness about STEM itself. As a result of those resources, a student might be able to tell you what a company does or a particular way they use an element of science and engineering.

Knowledge readiness is something we often get from textbooks. It involves students being able to tell you all about what scientists have discovered and what solutions engineers have developed.

Performance readiness is a typical stage for young students to achieve. When asked a question like, "How hard is this rock?" the student will know to do a hardness test. Therefore, performance readiness is mastering a task specific to a particular question but not necessarily viewing that information or action as transferable.

Mastery readiness, however, focuses on practice skills and transferable STEM skills, developing them and using them to access content. It focuses instruction on equipping students to answer questions and solve problems independent of their context.

We can use the example of the rock here as well. Rather than asking students to just answer the question of how hard a rock is, mastery-ready resources will provide students with a real-world scenario in which they will have to apply their knowledge of rock hardness.

One possible scenario involves a contractor who is building a home. This contractor needs to decide what kind of countertop they will use, based in part on the durability of the material.

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The question posed might be: How should that contractor go about determining which material is most durable for a countertop?

A student would need to think about that question and then come up with an experiment that would provide data to answer that question. For example, they could carry out hardness tests of different materials. They would then have to use their data from the testing to arrive at an evidence-based conclusion about which type of countertop material would be most durable. It’s the "hardness test" transferred and applied.

As teachers and administrators look for curriculum to successfully implement the new next generation standards, they should focus on those resources that allow students to reach mastery readiness, not just performance readiness. This difference will ultimately determine how successful implementation will be.

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