What Should We Budget for Time-On-Learning?

To begin our series on budgeting time and resources for next generation science, we're going to talk about what NGSS-aligned curriculum looks in the classroom timewise and how students engage as scientists and engineers. This entails understanding the difference between traditional models of STEM instruction and new models, which are NGSS-aligned.

Examples by Grade Span

Grade Span

This breakdown for the state of Massachusetts' adaptation of NGSS is an example of recommended time-on-learning.

In order to remain faithful to the Next Generation Science Standards, we must spend enough time on learning. The above is an example of one state's recommendation by grade span for how a district out to allocate time on learning for these new standards. This example is from Massachusetts, where KnowAtom is headquartered. At the K-2 level, the recommended time-on-learning is about 25 minutes a day, or approximately two hours a week.

In grades 3-5, the amount increases to approximately 35 minutes a day or 3 hours a week. In grades 6-8, the numbers go up to 55 minutes a day or 4.5 hours a week. And in grades 9-10, the recommendation is 60 minute a day, for a full 5 hours a week. So what does this really mean for student learning?

Well, we have to think of everything in a three-dimensional context in which the classroom brings together science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts. STEM curriculum—covering science, technology, engineering and math—must bring all three of these dimensions to life simultaneously in order for students to perform the expectations of the standards.

KnowAtom has been creating STEM curriculum for more than a decade now, and we can tell you that while the above numbers might seem high to teachers or districts not used to allocating that much time to STEM subjects, they are absolutely necessary. Cutting the time short doesn't leave room to instill in students the higher order thinking skills students need to adequately perform to the standards and to learn the skills they'll need to engage in science and engineering later in life. These blocks of time are necessary to enable full inquiry and hands-on instruction at these different grade levels.

This time can be broken up differently, of course. Perhaps you snag 15- and 20- minute chunks here and there to lead up to the lesson, then carve out a larger block for the actual experiment. However, the ideal situation is to break up that time-on-learning into as few blocks as possible. If you have a waterfall schedule where you get fewer but longer class periods, you tend to get more bang for your buck and more value out of that time-on-learning. However you end up approaching it, though, it really is critical to hit these numbers.

“Growing up, I wanted to be an inventor, solving problems that would help people have better lives. Every day at KnowAtom is an opportunity to invent solutions that give thousands of students and teachers a better experience doing science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM). Providing educators with professional satisfaction and students with the opportunity to understand the world we live in is my way of helping people have better lives.”