5 Ways NOT to Implement Next Generation Science Standards

Patti Duncan on episode 275 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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Patti Duncan shares some of the common mistakes she finds that schools implementing Next Generation Science Standards make. If you’re implementing NGSS in your school or state, this is a must listen.

Legends of Learning has amazing game based science experiences for students in 3-8 aligning with Next Generation Science and select state standards. Go to coolcatteacher.com/science and sign up for your free account now.

Whether it is earth science, life science, or physical science you can reinforce, reteach, and take kids further as they play the science games at legendsoflearning.com. And thanks to Legends of Learning for sponsoring science week this week on the 10-Minute Teacher.

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Enhanced Transcript

5 Ways NOT to Implement Next Generation Science Standards

Link to show: http://ift.tt/2piqrUa
Date: March 16, 2018

Vicki: Today we’re talking with Patti Duncan @yoyosciteach about five ways to NOT implement the Next Generation Science Standards.

So, Patti, lots of folks talk about how TO do this, but what’s our first way to NOT implement NGSS?

Patti: I think, Vicki, the biggest thing that I see people struggling with that they try to do immediately is find a way to make NGSS fit in their current curriculum.

So, instead of looking at the standards as they’re intended, they look at them in little pieces, and then they try to say, “Well where can I do science and engineering practices and colligative properties?” instead of thinking, “Where do colligative properties fit in the bigger picture of things?”

1. Don’t try to fit NGSS into the current curriculum.

Vicki: So really, just trying to change as little as possible, right?

Patti: Yes. Looking at it more of a cookie cutter type of way of meeting aspects of using it in totality, the way that it was intended.

Vicki: OK. What’s our second?

Patti: I think the second one that I would say, primarily is they overthink it.

This sounds like the opposite of what I just said, but there some are folks who just totally freak out. “Oh my, I have these new set of standards. They’re totally confusing, and I I have to scratch everything I’m doing and start all over again.”

2. Don’t scrap everything you’re currently doing, either.

That’s not the case. You don’t have to start all over again. You just have to rethink what you’re doing, and do it in a different way.

Vicki: OK. So there’s obviously a happy medium here between this. (laughs)

Patti: (laughs) Yes.

Vicki: OK, what’s our third way NOT to?

Patti: The third way not to be… Take your curriculum and force it into NGSS.

So what I mean by that is… When people look at… We’ve been brainwashed, Vicki, basicly, as educators to think that what has to be “covered” is what the books have said has to be covered. Or what’s on the test.

3. Don’t take your current curriculum and force it into NGSS.

The reality is, especially for states that are implementing NGSS in totality, and the assessments are going to become based on the NGSS standards, it’s not going to be like any book .

So looking for a book that’s going to the solution to the NGSS standards is not going to work.

You have to find a multitude of resources, a variety of resources — whether they be web based or text based, or internet based or kit based or module based.

There are going to be multiple things that need to be pieced together. But I don’t know that anybody right now has any one solution… and it certainly isn’t going to come from a book, because that’s not the way the NGSS thinking works.

Vicki: Yeah, because isn’t a lot of it about how you teach?

Patti: Yes. So that’s another piece of it, right?

So if I say the fourth thing would be to think that it’s all about curriculum. Because it’s not.

It’s a combination of the content and how we approach the content, but also what we do.

I’ve been saying this about STEM for years, too, right? STEM is more about how we teach than it is what we teach.

4. Don’t focus on checking items off. Concentrate on experiential learning.

It shouldn’t be about necessarily I’m making these checkmarks and hitting these levels of meeting certain DCIs or science and engineering practices or crosscutting concepts as much as it is about, “What experiences am I bringing to the students, through my planning? What am I being intentional about bringing into my classroom so that the students experience these things to develop these skills, to see these connections, to understand this content in the context of solving a real-world problem and where they answer questions about real scientific phenomena.

Vicki: I love because on a recent show that we’ll link to in the Shownotes, Meg Ormiston talked about a school she was working with that was “over rubricked.” They were checking all the boxes, but they couldn’t collaborate, and they couldn’t think, and they couldn’t create.

Patti: Right. Because just like with any new set of standards or any new thing that comes through — especially when something, as you know, Vicki, you’ve been doing this for a long time.

When something comes through an administration, and they’re all crazy about it and excited about it, but they don’t fully understand it themselves, maybe. It’s more about, “Do I see these certain things? And if I can check these boxes off, then everything’s cool. But that’s not necessarily the case. And that’s not going to help us implement NGSS with fidelity.

Implementing NGSS with fidelity is going to take some time. But it is also going to take — like you said — collaboration, and thinking about what we’re doing, rather than just checking off boxes.

Vicki: OK, so what’s our fifth?

Patti: I think that is the last one, right?

The fifth one is to not think that it has to happen overnight.

You don’t have to re-create your entire classroom tomorrow.

5. Don’t think that the shift to NGSS will happen quickly. It won’t. It can’t.

A lot of teachers are doing the right thing, and they’re getting professional development. A lot of folks are going to conferences, and they’re trying to understand the most they can. But people shouldn’t feel overwhelmed that they have to change everything, that they have to meet certain expectations.

I think that the biggest way that NGSS might fail in any district is if the expectation is that things are going to change immediately.

It’s a BIG difference to go from:

“Do we know a lot of content? And can we take standardized multiple choice tests and spit out things we’ve memorized?”


“Can we apply scientific knowledge, technology, mathematical knowledge, engineering concepts, a good ELA base work? Can we apply all of that to an understanding of scientific phenomena?”

That’s a shift. And it’s going to take time. A lot of time.

And we have to be patient.

Vicki: So Patti, if you got stuck on an elevator, with someone who was trying to understand NGSS. How would you give them an elevator pitch about how this is going to improve the science classroom?

How is NGSS — done right — going to improve our science teaching?

Patti: That’s funny that you should ask that, because I was just talking to some middle school kids yesterday. We were sitting around talking, and they asked me what I did, and I told them.

And they were like, “Oh, well, our science class is boring.”

And I said, “Well, what do you think science should be about?”

And they said exactly what it should be about.

First of all, they think it should be fun. Science should be fun, but all learning should be fun. Right?

They also said, “It should be about figuring things out.”

And so NGSS is about helping students look around — with what I like to call their science eyes — and noticing things and asking, “Why? Why is this way? Why does this do this?” Applying what they’re learning in the context of answering those questions.

So, as a teacher, my role is to bring those phenomena into the classroom to make them ask that question, to make them want to learn more about what’s going on so that they can understand the science behind it.

Vicki: And sparking the curiosity!

Patti: Right.

Vicki: I mean, isn’t that so much part of it?

Patti: It’s a huge piece of it. Sparking curiosity. That’s what the phenomena is all about. I think that if I could even add a sixth “don’t”…

What a lot of people are trying to do is like they’re getting all worked up over phenomena. I actually had a conversation with somebody last week who thought that if it wasn’t “phenomenAL”…

Vicki: (laughs)

Patti: … something big and fantastic like a volcano erupting, that it wasn’t appropriate.

BONUS: Don’t get hung up on big and fantastic and amazing. Spark curiosity.

And I said, “No, you’re misunderstanding that word. The word “phenomena” simply means an observation. It means something that happens in nature.

When we look at the world, when we look around us… why right now when I look out on my front lawn is the snow all melted around the trees?

That’s a phenomena and something I could look at. Those are the kinds of things you want to ask the students.

I actually took some pictures last week when we were in a storm of a full pot of snow, and then the resulting pot of melted snow. We were using snow to melt in the house because we didn’t have power. And I posted that on an NGSS website, and they were like “That’s awesome! What does it mean?” (laughs)

And I said, “Well, that’s exactly what I want the kids to ask! If you needed a full pot of water, how many pots of snow would you have to melt? And why does snow take up much more room?”

Those are the kinds of things that our students need to think about when it comes to science.

Vicki: Oh, and I love the illustration you said about observing a phenomenon versus it having to be phenomenal.


Patti: Right.

Vicki: Because people do kind of, I guess, when words are very similar, they can easily get off track, can’t they?

Patti: Yes. They can. And that is a part of the issue, too, when you’re talking about the “don’t” when you’re talking about NGSS, right, because there are three different parts of standards.

There’s the science and engineering practices, there’s the cross-cutting concepts, and then the disciplinary core ideas.

A lot of folks are spending a lot of time with the disciplinary core ideas because that’s very similar to standard curriculum. But they’re kind of ignoring and/or putting aside these two other pieces.

NGSS is three-dimensional for a reason. It’s meant so that students understand that it’s more than just memorizing things.

NGSS is three-dimensional for a reason. Don’t focus on only one part.

And so when you look at, in particular, the cross-cutting concepts — things like energy and scale and more importantly, models. That’s what makes me think of it.

So modeling science is all about not only creating a physical representation of something that’s too big or too small to see in real life, but it’s about creating something, or coming up with an example of something that could be used to explain something or be used to predict.

That’s one of the things I’m struggling with in the folks that I’m working with in professional development — is this concept of modeling — because they only hear “model” and they think, “Oh, it’s that representation of the solar system I made in sixth grade. It’s hanging in my mother’s attic.”

Vicki: Ohhh.

OK, so this is so exciting. You know, when we get kids to get excited about observing, and they become scientists, and they’re not just reading things in a book that other people have done. I mean, we’re really about transforming the classroom.

Patti Duncan is an expert in this area. I hope you’ll check her Bio in the Shownotes.

Thank you Patti. This is very insightful. Sometimes to learn how to do something, we have to learn how to not do it, don’t we? (laughs)


Patti: Yes. Yeah.

Because knowing what we don’t need to do helps us figure out what we do.

Vicki: That’s right!

Patti: Thanks, Vicki.

Contact us about the show: http://www.coolcatteacher.com/contact/

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford kymberlimulford@gmail.com

Bio as submitted

Patti Duncan is a scientist, educator and presenter. She has 10 years experience as a food chemist, 20 years as an educator and 15 years in professional development. Patti has presented world wide on the topics of science, STEM, Professional Learning Networks and educational technology. She is currently developing programs to help teachers implement NGSS.

Blog: duncanpatti.wikispaces.com

Twitter: @yoyosciteach

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

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