What is the biggest change you need to make to become an NGSS teacher?

ngss teachingThe biggest transformation you need to make when adopting the NGSS is NOT to your content. It’s to your instruction.  It’s to how you teach.  

I fell for this one when I adopted the standards in my classroom soon after they were released.  I thought I was just changing my content a bit. It took me years to realize that wasn’t the case — that I needed to literally change HOW I teach.

Unlike standards we have seen again and again, the NGSS combine three dimensions.  I’m sure you’ve heard of them if you’ve been around the NGSS for awhile. These dimensions are one of the big differences between previous standards and the NGSS.

While previous standards may have included the Science and Engineering Practices as special “inquiry skills” students were expected to adopt – and these skills were typically taught in an isolated “scientific method” unit – the skills typically took a backseat to content focuses. The NGSS view these skills as equally important to the content. In fact, these skills are the vehicle through which you’re teaching content.

Considering this, it’s no surprise that you MUST change your teaching practices in order to truly fulfill the standards. While many classrooms engage in hands-on learning and student-centered activities, when content is the primary focus, even these activities typically embody a “teaching as telling” approach. Students are told – through the lab or text or simulation or notes – what to think.

But Instruction In Your NGSS Classroom…

In an NGSS classroom, students are participating in activities through which they can make their OWN meaning of science concepts. The teacher guides students to an accurate and clear understanding, of course, but the initial connections and big ideas are truly “puzzled out” during activities that engage students in the Science and Engineering Practices.

For that reason, students might “puzzle out” how organisms rely on the stability of both biotic and abiotic factors in the environment to survive, grow, and reproduce by examining data on global precipitation patterns or nutrients in a waterway.

This process is generally pretty foreign to most classes, teachers, and students, and so it takes some serious support and scaffolding. That said, it is a necessary move for those who are truly ready to embrace NGSS-style instruction. You can’t just teach new content in the same old ways when it comes to the NGSS. The Next Generation Science Standards are less WHAT you teach than HOW you teach.

If you’re ready to dive into NGSS professional development that goes beyond the WHAT and gets into the HOW, be sure to check out the Science Teacher Tribe Course + Community. Get a preview of what professional development inside the membership is like by enrolling in the free mini-course, Intro To The NGSS, today!

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