Clarity and Coherence Through Collaboration

Thank you to Ashley Hammonds, Berea Independent Schools, who co-wrote this blog with me.

This blog was originally published in “Science Connection” A Kentucky Department of Education Publication.  Thank you to Christine Duke, the editor and creator, for the opportunity to share. This publication can be accessed at the link below:

Science Connection, KDE, March 2015

Clarity & Coherence Through Collaboration

A Framework for K 12 Science Education (National Research Council ,2012) presents an evidence-based vision for science teaching and learning that is grounded in decades of research. As states look to the Framework and NGSS to guide science education, it becomes evidence that significant shifts in science teaching and learning are required to meet this new vision and provide meaningful and effective experiences for students.

One article describing these important shifts is that of Dr. Brian Reiser’s: What Professional Development Strategies are Needed for Successful Implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (2013). According to Dr. Reiser, “Central to the vision of teaching and learning articulated in the Framework and NGSS are three interrelated goals that affect how teachers need to support student learning: 1. Core Ideas: 2. Practices: 3. Coherence.” The focus of the core ideas goal is depth over breadth, while goal 2 elevates the practices (acting and thinking like a scientist) to be equally important to content. Core ideas and practices intertwine with crosscutting concepts (the thinking tools) resulting in the 3 dimensionality of the NGSS where students develop understanding of key core ideas as they engage in the practices and apply the crosscutting concepts to explain phenomena or develop solutions to problems. This emphasis on 3 Dimensional learning has, and should, receive much focus in NGSS conversations. Equally important, however, is the third goal: coherence. Dr. Reiser describes coherence as “Building explanatory ideas requires treating science learning as a coherent progression in which learners build ideas across time and between science disciplines”.

The following piece offers insight into the power and potential of the coherence through collaboration. We strongly believe in supporting students in 3D learning where each year is carefully designed to build on prior understanding. This is just one example of the collaboration that continues between two passionate teachers to support students as they continue to develop…

Behind the Scenes

Ashley– 4th Grade Teacher

In preparing my lessons related to sound waves, I spent time digging deeply into the intent of the corresponding performance expectations. I learned that these performance expectations will measure students’ ability to develop a model of waves to describe patterns in amplitudes and wavelength. So I started planning and had a brainstorm! I recalled an informative and creative session I attended at last June’s KEA Let’s Talk Conference. The presenter, Tricia Shelton, inspired me as she shared her success in integrating technology in the classroom. I began thinking about all the possibilities that could become unique learning opportunities for my students that focused on the performance expectation dimensions. I contacted Tricia and the story began. I just so happened that Tricia was currently focusing on this same content at the high school grade band. What good fortune! We began collaborating via google hangouts and dissected the standards for sound waves across the progression to ensure that we had a feel for what is expected of students as they grow their understanding of this concept as well as the other dimensions. Tricia and I worked together to develop a lesson plan integrating common components of the standards in elementary and high school that includes the use of technology.

Tricia–High School Teacher

My class was really excited to connect with the 4th graders at Berea Community Elementary School. They were eager to take on this unique task to support the students as they learned about waves. We were finishing a learning progression in which I bundled several of the physical science performance expectations. My students were using their understanding of waves to make sense of digital and analog communication. Having pre-assessed my students on this content, I found that the high school students did not have a strong foundation in the middle school performance expectations about waves and their applications in technologies for information transfer. This was not a surprise since the new KCAS Science standards have only been implemented a short time. I knew that I needed to fill in the gap with foundational experiences using models to strengthen their understanding of those skills and concepts that are associated with the middle school grades. This provided the perfect opportunity to address the basic components that were similar to those being addressed by Ashley’s students.

The Berea/Boone Collaboration

Ashley– 4th Grade Teacher

Our collaboration began by making a video of my 4th graders from Berea Community Elementary School discussing the topic “do sound waves move?” Students, armed with a dry erase marker and a small white board, shared their current understanding of sound waves as I captured their thinking on my iPhone.  Some students drew detailed diagrams, some used their body to show me how sound waves move, and others were more comfortable sharing verbally.  This activity engaged them and it was an opportunity for me to assess any misconceptions or if I needed to reteach and focus on certain aspects of sound waves.

Tricia–High School Teacher

When the Boone County High School students in Shelton’s class watched the 4th grade video, the excitement was palpable. The high school students loved connecting with their new 4th grade friends and were very interested in talking about sharing their thinking around this phenomenon. The older students were asked to view the video and provide feedback. Students suggested sending messages through Twitter and creating a student produced video that would provide guidance and clarity on some of the younger students’ misconceptions . I was excited to provide an opportunity for my students to share their learning beyond the 4 walls. I projected the 4th grade Disciplinary Core Ideas which foster conversations and an awareness about the different grade level DCIs being in sync! The students went to work making videos to support the 4th grade students about waves. They were diligent in using correct terms and and language of the NGSS.

Feedback Fuels Future Learning

Ashley– 4th Grade Teacher

My students were thrilled to watch the video made by their Boone County friends and read the comments from Tricia’s students via Twitter.  Tricia’s students sent us videos approximately a minute in length.  Their video clips included the use of jump ropes, diagrams, their voices and body language to demonstrate patterns in wavelength and amplitude. The 4th graders loved watching the videos, and became excited about creating more videos.  After watching their videos, my students broke into small groups and determine if they agreed with the evidence and reasoning provided in the video.  Some students got jump ropes and replicated some of the videos clips we watched, and others compared diagrams in the video to ones they drew in their science notebooks.  The videos coincided perfectly with what we are learning about waves.  My students were very engaged and noted how they wanted to pursue science in high school like their new friends. My 4th grade students became more invested in the content as a result of the collaboration. They applied their new knowledge of waves as they provided feedback to Tricia’s students using a review form for presentations (see  The provided questions required the students to look at evidence presented in the videos to reinforce the stated claims.  Another question asked if the presenter provided evidence with reasoning, and if their claim was clearly stated.  Going through the form as a whole class we were able to define unknown words, and make a 4th grade version of the questions. This process alone was vital in building comprehension and vocabulary skills and providing a real life example of integrating reading in science.  By using the feedback form and looking for evidence it required my students to use higher ordered thinking skills as they addressed misconceptions.

Tricia–High School Teacher

The Shelton students were motivated to engaged with an authentic audience who would provide them feedback on their video products. In order to provide feedback to the high school students on their ability to communicate evidence-based thinking, the 4th graders used a “coaching” form.  This Google form asked the reviewer to determine if the video creators addressed their audience, provided multiple pieces of evidence with reasoning in their thinking product, and used effective technique. Students in the Shelton class used the data from the “coaching forms” from their high school peers as well as from the Berea class to “Reflect into Action”.   They analyzed the feedback provided and reflected on how to improve their future evidence-based video communications. With growth mindset  dispositions, the students were mindful of the feedback as they shot new video thinking products to share with our 4th grade Berea friends as well as their connected classroom of High School students in Tennessee. ( Students constructing understanding and then sharing those evidence-based communications with the others to support the learning is a powerful snapshot of what’s possible in a 21st Century classroom immersed in the Next Generation Science Standards.

Collaboration continues as Tricia and I plan to engage our students in a new context: using patterns of light to transfer information and compare multiple solutions (NGSS 4-PS4-3).  Our classes will use a code and engineer a light apparatus to act as a telegraph. My classroom will  make observations, gather evidence from the patterns of light shared through the video and work collaboratively to decipher the code.  After successfully deciphering the code and observing the lesson being modeled by Tricia’s students, my students will then engineer a light apparatus and record a code that Tricia’s class will then need to decipher.

To master a subject is to be able to teach it, which is exactly what our students are doing. They are teaching the NGSS to their classmates and Tricia’s class. By making videos, watching others on videos, and using physical models, my students have a clearer understanding about sound waves. They also have gained knowledge about technology etiquette, and constructive criticism.

The common language and K12 coherence of the NGSS makes these collaborations possible: across states and across grade levels. We hope this story encourages you to imagine the powerful stories and opportunities for teachers collaborating and supporting each other in KCAS standards implementation.

Tricia Shelton and Ashley Hammond


Promoting Reflection through Community: PLN- We need your Help!

The NGSSblogs project is an initiative created by the Multi-Tools Online Community (MTOC) facilitators to encourage teacher reflection and collective conversation around the Next Generation Science Standards.  The goal of this community is to change the culture of science education by providing a space for educators to learn, connect and share as well as to provide opportunities for teachers to lead from the classroom.  There is not an instruction manual on how to implement the Next Generation Science Standards, but there are thousands of science teachers who can play a central role in transforming science teaching and learning and creating a path for translating the Next Generation Science standards into instruction. The Multi Tools Online Community seeks to centralize these voices and connect these educators with one another to work together from a common language of the NGSS with a common vision of advancing student science achievement. The pillars of the MTOC community: Reflection, Relationships, Resources:

  • Collect, create, and curate resources for NGSS implementation
  • Encourage and empower teacher leadership from the classroom through active participation in this global community and building both online and face to face relationships.
  • Support reflection that leads to educator professional growth.

The first project of the MTOC is to focus on the reflection pillar of our community.  We are promoting the practice of reflection through writing and sharing blogs around NGSS, science teaching and learning, and professional learning.  Through blogging, teachers are telling their stories, sharing their voice, and carving out the path for NGSS implementation. We have been inspired by reading the blogs of other educators working to learn about and implement the Next Generation Science Standards.  We are launching a campaign to add more bloggers to our family and encourage more educators to join in this reflection by reading blogs and providing feedback to our bloggers.

We need your help.  

  1. Do you know of any educators who might be willing to and join share a blog post?  Here is an invitation to take the leap and reap the benefits of reflection around classroom teaching and learning  Please share this invitation with any educators you would like to nominate to participate in this initiative.
  2. Do you know any educators who would be willing to read and provide feedback to our bloggers by posting comments?  Here is a link to our @NGSSblogs Twitter account and #NGSSblogs hashtag as well as our NGSS Peer Learning Network Google Community.  Educators can read and provide feedback to bloggers. Educators not quite ready to blog themselves can become part of the community by reading and commenting on blogs.  New and existing bloggers can support others by providing feedback.
  3. Are you an educator who uses blogging as a vehicle for reflection and professional growth?  We need your help to encourage other bloggers as well as to develop supports for providing feedback to our NGSS bloggers with the goal of moving their thinking and learning forward. Would you consider taking a minute to respond to our brief 3 question Google survey?

To transform science education, we need more than just a set of standards that capture a vision.  We need stakeholder voice to drive and sustain the work needed to create STEM classrooms that prepare students for a successful future. We need you help- please support our NGSSblogs project by sharing our invitation, supporting our bloggers, or sharing our thoughts around blogging through our survey.

We would love to have your voice in our community.  This community is for all educators and educational stakeholders (not just for science teachers :D).  Please contact us for more information:

Trish Shelton @tdishelton  or @NGSSblogs

NGSS PLN Google Plus Community

Peer Learning Teams for Teachers and Students

In the summer of 2013, I launched a Google plus community called NGSS Peer Learning Teams.  The peer learning teams structure has been a successful component in my classroom for years.  21st Century Technology and Social Media provides a great opportunity to capture those same benefits between teachers and between classrooms on a global scale.  Fortunately, I was blessed to have met Amanda Meyer, @alynmeyer, a fantastic reflective educator innovator from Minnesota, in the Spring of 2013.  We set out to collaborate as professionals to find ways to change our classroom practice to positively impact student learning.  We also sought to connect our classes so they could serve as peer learning coaches to one another.

Shared Vision and Partnership

To begin our journey together, we established our shared vision of exploring ways to improve the classroom environment for improved student learning.  In our vision, we were all full partners in learning, students and teachers.  To us, that meant that the voices of all the partners were critical in the direction of the learning. A second part of our vision involved working together to develop units driven by an explanation of a phenomenon and capturing the 3-Dimensional learning of the Next Generation Science Standards.  Most importantly, we sought to provide opportunities for our students to develop an appreciation for the amazing field of science that Amanda and I love so much.

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Our students collaborate via Schoology and Google Hangouts

Collaborative Culture

The key to the collaborative culture is the emotional bond combined with the intellectual task:  head and heart.  The relationship must proceed the discourse. Trust is the foundation for our adult partnership as well as our classroom partnership with our students.  “With the belief that I am a full partner, I can feel my lens is valued and I then feel motivated to contribute to the external reflections that move collaborations.”  Amanda and I are clear and explicit with our students that we need them and their feedback to do this important work.  We would partner to find answers to the questions that the group constructs together.  A necessity in this collaborative culture is a focus on reflection and “Alone Zone” thinking time.  In building our culture, Amanda and I focus on providing all students the space they needed for internal dialogue before expecting external dialogue.  Especially for introverts, that means scheduled class reflection time.

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Focus on Inquiry

Inquiry is a dynamic process of being open to wonder and puzzlement and coming to know and understand the world (  I love this quote that captures what I love about science and what I love about learning.  My favorite part of this work with Amanda is that it is driven by questions instead of beginning with an answer. The search for the answer is more important than the answer itself, mostly because of the dynamic nature of thinking and learning.  Every group of students is different, research is constantly giving us a better lens into how people learn, and the field of science is always giving us new context to seek to explain our world. In addition to the foundation in questioning, an inquiry focus means students are the constructors of understanding.  The focus of our instructional design is that students will use previous knowledge and experience and connect those to the experiences we design for them as a result of their questions.  This enables the collaborative group to build and revise understanding together over time.  Amanda and I could support each other on becoming better question askers to support students who are doing the heavy lifting.  Lastly, an inquiry focus means a focus on evidence-based communications, shifting focus from the one right answer to the claim that can be best supported by the evidence gathered from my explorations.


Amanda and I agreed to a full examination of our teaching and our students’ learning.  WIth a shared vision, collaborative culture, and focus on inquiry, the trust and support necessary to have open and honest dialogue was already in place.  We welcome the feedback and appreciate the additional lens into our work.  Through examination of student data, we made decisions about our instruction and assessment design.  The philosophy that our design is never “finished” enabled us to welcome changes even as the unit progression was wrapping up. Even though the focus on student work was critical, the biggest impact for me was our reflective dialogue.  Having the privilege to hear the thinking of a colleague I admire is truly a gift.

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Students peer coaching Video Thinking Products of Minnesota classroom partners

Over the next month, I will reflect and blog about each of the critical components of our Peer Learning Team (as it stands currently in its evolution).  Our goal is that by sharing our experience, we can open up our network and grow from the feedback of others as well as possibly providing the impetus for others to create virtual Peer Learning Teams as well.

Being involved in a Peer Learning Team enables me to reflect with someone who has a shared experience.  That reflection enables me to make decisions that improve my teaching and the learning of my students.  This reflection enables me to better understand my profession and fuels my constant quest for answers to me evolving list of questions. I am beyond words appreciative of my partnership with Amanda, and I am so excited about the future of our collaboration.

Here is a link to our first joint teaching unit- our shared classroom experience.


NGSS 3 -Dimensional Learning: Hands-on Minds-on Science

“The more hands on the experience, the more excited students will be about the learning.  The more minds-on the experience, the deeper the understanding will become.”

How do we design experiences for students that are both hands-on and minds-on?  The Next Generation Science Standards provides us with a beautiful vision for science education for all students obtained by engaging in the Science and Engineering practices and applying Cross-cutting Concepts to gain an understanding of Disciplinary Core Ideas.  This 3- Dimensional Learning (the blending of the three dimensions of Disciplinary Core Ideas, Science and Engineering Practices, and Crosscutting Concepts driving both the instructional progression and the assessment) is the most significant way that the NGSS differs from prior standards and is thus a challenge for many teachers.  In the NGSS, the 3 -Dimensional Learning in the classroom leads to proficiency demonstrated in the Performance Expectations. This blog uses a learning progression around Performance Expectations LS1-2 and LS1-3 as a context for sharing thinking around how NGSS 3- Dimensional Learning can provide students with hands-on minds-on experiences that lead to engagement and understanding.

Urinary PEs

This summer, I transitioned from focusing on understanding the Next Generation Science Standards to focusing on understanding how to translate the NGSS into student learning within my classroom.  I developed a unit, Introduction to Anatomy and Physiology: Systems, Subsystems, and Balance: Conceptualizing a Single System, to serve as the foundation for my course and the start of our NGSS road together.  I designed the learning progression around this core principles:

  • All NGSS aligned instruction must have students working to explain a phenomenon or solve a problem.

 Joe Tweet

  • Understanding develops as learners make new connections between their prior knowledge and the new experience. Understanding is built over time with each new experience.  This evolution is ongoing and flexible.

Making the unit’s center an evidence-based explanation of a phenomenon and student’s building/revising understanding of the science needed to communicate this explanation over time is key to designing a unit storyline that exemplifies 3-dimension learning while providing coherence between learning experiences. The progressions of these learning experiences involved a deliberate planned iteration of:

Exploration- learner actively constructing understanding

Reflection- making internal connection as well as external sharing of the experience through discussion and feedback

Extension– transferring understanding to a new context/ cements the experience and leads to deep understanding of the core ideas

The Exploration is Hands-on. The Reflection is minds-on. The Extension gives students the opportunity to transfer knowledge gained from these stages to a new context leading to deep understanding.

Over the next month, I will share a blog reflection around how each of the critical elements listed above were integrated into my unit plan. My hope is that by making my thinking public and sharing my unit, I can receive feedback from the Science education community so I can grow in my capacity to design NGSS experiences for my students.  I also hope that my reflections may support others on their NGSS journey and contribute to the collective conversation and effort to shift science education to prepare our students for career, college and life.

The framework and NGSS can provide us with a beautiful vision.  It is the work of classroom teachers and those that support classroom learning that makes the vision come to fruition.  Teachers sharing classroom stories and practical applications of the standards are the impetus that leads to improved science practice for all.

Please support my growth by providing feedback on my unit and my blog reflections and consider sharing your classroom stories, instructional and assessment designs, and reflections around the NGSS with me and the NGSS PLN so you can move our learning and thinking.

Thank you


An Invitation to Start an NGSS Blog: Reflect, Connect, Share

My guess is that you became a science teacher because you love learning, you love working with kids, and you love science.  Loving science means you are probably a question-asker.

Today’s question:  “How do I grow as an educator and work to continually create improved classroom experiences to honor those students I love?

Today’s Answer:  Blogging

This is an invitation to consider joining us in the #NGSSblogs Project taking place on Twitter at #NGSSblogs and with our NGSS Peer Learning Network Google plus community throughout the 2014-2015 school year and beyond.  Blogs and information about the project can be found at

We would like to bring people together across states to share our thinking and learning around the Next Generation Science Standards.  Great implementation will lead to great student achievement and progress towards the NGSS goal of depth of understanding through thinking and acting like a scientist. True integration of the 3 dimensions of the NGSS: disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts to explain phenomena and solve problems, will require a collaborative effort, collective conversation, and individual reflection.  Blogging is one way to support this effort.

Why should we blog?

Reflective Thinking

Blogging gives you a platform for reflective thinking (writing that we do for ourselves to think through things). This clarification of our thinking helps us improve our practice by what I call reflection into action.  My reflections always move me forward in some way to the next steps mode, leading to my personal professional growth.

Collective Conversation

By sharing your blog, you are making your thinking visible to others which supports them on the path of understanding, inspires reflection and revision of thinking.  Sharing your blog enables you to get feedback, affirmation, and a new lens into your classroom from others.  When you read and comment on the blog posts of others, you are also gaining great ideas and resources to enhance your own understanding and curate creative and innovative ideas for your classroom.

Getting Started Tips

Blogging is about the journey of reflection and collective conversation.  It is not about perfectionism.  Every teacher has amazing things to share from their experience as a learner and a classroom leader.  Please consider sharing any NGSS reflections.

Some sample ideas:

  • your classroom story
  • your ideas and reflections
  • resources you are finding useful in implementing the NGSS
  • how you are utilizing technology to teach the NGSS
  • your PLC or PLN story
  • responses to something you have read or heard or conversed around (like in #NGSSchat 😀 )
  • things you try that may or may not have worked
  • ANYTHING you would like to clarify thinking around.  If it helps you, it will help others.

Blog Posting Suggestions:

  • Create a blog site using platforms like or
  • Create a blog post and send the url link to #NGSSblogs on Twitter and/or post in our NGSS Google community
  • Commit to trying to post at least 1 blog per month.
  • Commit to trying to comment and/or repost/retweet the blogs of others

Great website for teacher blogging tips

Blogging is about being part of a conversation.  Please consider becoming part of this global conversation around great science teaching and learning. Educator voices need to be shared and heard as we work towards shifting science education and preparing students for this 21st Century world.  All stakeholders (educators, parents, students) need to have a seat at the table about translating NGSS into classroom instruction during implementation.  As professionals and stakeholders in NGSS implementation, sharing our teaching and learning reflections is key to advancing science education.

For a Blog Coach consider the National Blogging Collaborative.

Please visit our NGSS Peer Learning Teams Website at

Contact me for more information:


Twitter: @tdishelton or @NGSSblogs

Google Plus:






Using the 5E’s Instructional Framework to Implement the NGSS in Your Classroom

This blog was published in the August edition of Science Connection published by the Kentucky Department of Education

I appreciate national science standards because they articulate a set of clear, consistent and challenging goals for science achievement for all students.  This common language around a shared vision lends itself to global conversations and collaborations to enhance student learning. At the core of the Next Generation Science Standards is a focus on the student as the constructor of meaning through immersion in the science and engineering practices to learn core ideas and make connections to unifying science concepts.  This is a conceptual shift in science education, illuminating the need for classroom experiences to reflect “the interconnected nature of science as it is practiced and experienced in the real world.” (NGSS, Appendix A).  How can teachers begin to implement the Next Generation Science Standards and create this vision in their own classroom?  The 5E’s framework is an effective way to plan a learning progression around a performance expectation (or bundle of performance expectations)  while supporting the NGSS vision of students as the active meaning makers in the classroom.

The 5 E’s framework was developed by the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) based on the constructivist view of learning.


Source: The BSCS 5E Instructional Model: Origins, Effectiveness, and Applications. Roger W. Bybee, Joseph A Taylor, April Gardner, Pamela Van Scotter, Janet Carlson Powell, Anne Westbrook, Nancy Landes. BSCS July 2006


The BSCS 5E’s incorporates research that has advanced our understanding of the best ways that students learn and incorporates these findings into a framework to improve classroom instruction through mindful planning and sequencing of instruction and assessment.  The 5E’s framework requires a change in role for many teachers from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side,” as well as instruction integrating the three dimensions: core ideas, practices and crosscutting concepts. During a 5E’s sequence, students begin by tapping into their own curiosity or by connecting to their own experiences and continually build on and revise their understanding. Each “E” serves a purpose in building the scaffolding necessary for students to construct their own knowledge. The teacher needs to be intentional and explicit with this planning to layer this scaffolding appropriately, address misconceptions, and not leave gaps in students’ learning.  Students are the thinkers, meaning makers, constructors of knowledge in all but possibly one of the E’s.  (During the Explain phase is the only time teachers should be communicating meaning.)

The 5E’s in action:  students acting and thinking like scientists.

As I walk down the path of NGSS implementation, the 5E’s  have been a very useful tool for planning my instructional and assessment sequence, and for me to facilitate student learning. I have found that to effectively support students in this learning progression, my work centered on coaching students through questioning to help them develop their understanding. This means using formative assessment data to develop those possible guiding questions for class experiences ahead of time and seeking information on possible misconceptions before doing the actual lesson. It also means providing planned and intentional time for reflection and collaboration throughout the lesson. These shifts have resulted in a vibrant, engaged classroom focused on discovery with assessment data indicating a deep understanding of the core ideas of science.

As you begin planning for the 2014-15 school year, you may want to consider starting with the 5E’s as an understandable and manageable tool to support NGSS instructional planning and provide the type of coherence between lessons needed to result in student understanding, application, and transfer of that understanding to new contexts.  By starting with the 5E’s, teachers can begin to reflect on making changes to improve their craft and providing their students with well-engineered, rich, engaging learning experiences so they can achieve the goal of our national standards.



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