The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) continue to impact the science curriculum and how science is taught. The adoption and implementation of NGSS by states provide opportunities to learning companies in content development.
Adoption of Next Generation State Standards (NGSS)
The map shows the states that have adopted NGSS or have revised their science standards based on NGSS.
States that have adopted NGSS
Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Hawaii
States that have standards based on the Framework
Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Indiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, West Virginia, New York, Massachusetts
NGSS and Science Curriculum
In response to this movement to NGSS, many companies and foundations that offer science instructional materials and programs are aligning their science curriculum to NGSS or developing new lessons, programs, and texts to meet them. Learning technology companies are also moving into this space with AR/VR products, coding courses, and robotics. These companies are developing curriculum to go with their digital products and competing with print publishers in the science market. With the loosening of adoption rules, Edtech companies are now competing with traditional print publishers in science instructional materials adoptions.
Adoptions are upcoming for science in Oklahoma in 2020, West Virginia in 2021, and Tennessee in 2022. These states have not adopted NGSS; however, they have revised their standards based on NGSS. Thus, companies entering those adoptions will have to align their products to the new standards. Texas has CTE and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) adoptions in 2021. Current science materials will have to be customized to meet Texas standards.
Implementation of NGSS
On thing is clear. The NGSS are here to stay and are becoming a framework for science curriculum. In a world increasingly ruled by computers and robotics, the teaching to the NGSS becomes increasingly relevant and important. The standards are considered instrumental to the success of tomorrow’s workforce. The NGSS are also changing classroom dynamics and pedagogy. Gone are the days when a science teacher wrote facts on a board and held forth at the head of the classroom. The focus now is on inquiry–based learning. The NGSS are designed to enable students to participate in their own learning. Students become active learners rather than bystanders. The standards call for students to form hypotheses, test theories, and analyze data for themselves. Thus, the NGSS guidelines have changed the methods used to teach science. This presents challenges to teachers. So, how to implement these standards in today’s classroom? Here are five challenges teachers face.
1: Limited Resources
The approach to learning that the new standards recommend may be quite different from traditional science instruction. Because the NGSS are only guidelines, not curricula, their implementation depends on school systems and educators creating their own materials or obtaining the necessary materials from a smaller pool of available resources. Classrooms will need new lesson plans, new homework assignments, and new assessments—not to mention new physical equipment for hands–on activities. Outfitting an NGSS classroom can be a time–consuming and costly undertaking. As a result, many schools that have adopted the new standards are still in the process of creating or obtaining these materials.
2: Being on the Same Page
Seeing the standards for the first time can be daunting for teachers. How exactly does a teacher help a third grader “define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost”? Is the standard about defining the problems, or about determining the constraints? And what does a third grader know about these issues? Professional development materials for teachers making this transition will be critical to their success teaching to the NGSS.
3: Do As I Say…
Further complicating matters, the standards focus on students “doing” science rather than just reading about it. Many elementary school science teachers, however, have never performed laboratory research or complex experiments themselves. It’s hard to teach something that you are learning along with your students. Some teachers may need to bolster their confidence by attending relevant science workshops.
4: Where Did the Time Go?
With so much activity revolving around student research—assessing and discussing scientific concepts, creating plans, performing activities to illustrate concepts, and interpreting results—it is easy to see that time is not on the teacher’s side. Teachers will need to firmly lead students rather than simply telling them how to proceed; and this careful management of processes can be especially time–consuming in a classroom setting.
5: No Wrong Answers
When the goal is to teach students to hypothesize, test theories, and interpret data for themselves, students will sometimes struggle with a concept or task. While it might be tempting for teachers to provide quick answers in such cases, the NGSS are based on the idea that the struggle itself is an important part of learning. Unfortunately, this not only makes learning more time–consuming, but it also means that students will sometimes go home without a definitive answer to their questions. Leaving questions unanswered may seem counterintuitive not only to teachers, but to students as well. These “loose ends” can also affect assessments within a science curriculum.
Since the NGSS are here to stay, however, and will frame how we approach and think about science for the forseeable future, we must all adapt to the world of NGSS and its framework.