Reflection into Action: Growth Through Collaboration


How will the Next Generation Science Standards affect my teaching, my classroom and most importantly, my students’ learning?  That’s the question many teachers in Kentucky are asking themselves as they begin or continue to walk down the road of NGSS implementation throughout the upcoming school year. Inspired by the blogging of fellow KY science teacher Patrick Goff, @BMSScienceteach, I am going to join him in his quest to use a thoughtful approach to NGSS implementation where collaboration with others is key and support is ongoing.  What better way to focus on reflection and putting that reflection into action to build capacity than through blogging.

How will the NGSS affect my teaching?

I have been immersed in the NGSS standards since last summer and can honestly say that I love them and I am basically obsessed with learning about them every opportunity I can.  My goal is to continue to deepen my understanding and share my reflections in this blog.  As a teacher leader, I place great value on conversations that can move the learning of others as well as my own.  I am excited about the opportunities that exist for these conversations throughout our state as well as virtually throughout the US around the common language of the NGSS.I hope others will take this approach, actively engaging in adult learning, having conversations with others, engaging in reflection for growth, and being mindful when reviewing resources for implementation.  There is always that temptation to look for the easy answers about “How to do the NGSS”.  Following someone else’s plans without the thoughtful  reflection, analysis, debate, and questioning  will not enable us to reach our own understanding so we can truly shift our classrooms in a sustained way.  I also believe as Brunsell, Kneser, and Niemi so effectively state in one of my favorite new resources Introducing Teachers and Administrators to the NGSS, NSTA 2014, “the NGSS represents an evolution of our understanding of the standards, not a complete break with the past”.  If we develop a deep understanding of the NGSS and build our capacity as teachers who coach students to independent thinking and lifelong learning, we will be able to utilize many of our resources by making revisions and shifts in design, and we will be able to be critical consumers of new resources.

How will the NGSS affect my classroom?

Over the past year, I shifted my classroom to immerse both the students and myself in the eight Science and Engineering Practices (SEP’s) of the NGSS.  Elevating the practices of science (skills in context) to be equal to the content along with the focus on engineering, K-12 coherence, and depth of understanding instead of breadth of coverage are the main shifts in moving from the old standards to the Next Generation Science standards according to one of my favorite articles for teacher reflection at the beginning of the NGSS journey, What Professional Development Strategies Are Needed for Successful Implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards? Brian Reiser. The result was a classroom of empowered student meaning makers, engaged and motivated, energized by the opportunity to share their thinking with the world.  One of the best changes I made to designing instruction around the NGSS SEP’s was embracing the BSCS 5E’s framework developed by the amazing Rodger Bybee. This framework puts the student in the spotlight as meaning maker in possibly all, but definitely 4 out of 5 of the E’s (Engage, Explore, Explain, Extend, Evaluate). This shift from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side” is a way to embrace the spirit of the NGSS and work towards its vision for science education. A snapshot of my classroom discovering science through the 5E’s is found here:

How will the NGSS affect my students’ learning?

My wish for my students is to act and think like scientists.  If I create a class culture that supports risk taking and reflection for growth; if I scaffold thinking skills and the NGSS Science and Engineering practices so students can work towards proficiency receiving specific, timely, and appropriate feedback; and if I give students choice and authentic audience to share that thinking; I believe that the students will achieve the goal of the standards. This goal is aligned with our state vision: scientifically literate thinkers and problems solvers who are college, career and life ready.  So many times this semester, lifted and filled with emotion, I looked out at my classroom of students with awe and pride.  They were confident, articulate question -askers and communicators of thinking that were not shaken by visitors (both virtual and face to face), cameras, or sharing their thinking with the world through video and social media.  All students can achieve big things if we trust them, provide authentic experiences that interest them, and challenge them to think while coaching from the sideline. The NGSS and the CCSS give us a framework to make that happen.

The NGSS is an opportunity for us to transform science education in our state as well as throughout the country. As I officially start my new school year, I am looking forward to sharing reflections about my partnerships with students, parents, and colleagues who continually coach me and help me grow.  I will share how I work to transform my teaching through deepening my understanding of the NGSS, curating, revising, and developing resources, and learning, sharing and collaborating with others through PLC’s, digital communities, social media, and my work on the NGSS Implementation team.  I will share reflections about the shifts in my classroom, 5E’ s lesson plans, and units developed with a UbD (Understanding by Design) lens and evaluated using the EQuIP rubric developed by Achieve.  Finally, and most important, I will reflect and share about my amazing students and their learning and how they coach me every day.

Please join me in blogging and reflecting on the NGSS, your science classroom, and your amazing students during this school year.

Thank you to Patrick Goff, @BMSScienceteach who inspires me and who had the great idea to start blogging and sharing around the NGSS.  Share your blogs to our community hashtag #NGSSblogs