Kicking off the school year… part 1

This weekend I was working with a teacher preparing for the first week of school.  This teacher has been thinking a lot about three-dimensional instruction and the vision articulated in A Framework for K-12 Science Education since his state adopted new state standards based on the Framework. Before his state adoption, he had consistently kicked off the school year with a demo embedded below.  This coaching moments blog focuses on a teacher’s evolving understanding and road to expertise as he translates the Framework vision into classroom teaching and learning.

 

“The mind is entertained by the unusual, the different, and the new.”

Andy Puddicombe, Headspace

On the first day of school in this teacher’s district, students only spent about 20 minutes in each period. He loved how curious and interested students were in the discrepant event embedded above.  It just felt right to him as a great way to kick off the year in a science classroom.  Last year, he had started learning more about the science and engineering practices with his new state adoption.  He noticed the mention of phenomena and use of observations as a foundation to begin the sensemaking process embedded throughout the elements of the science and engineering practices in appendix f of the Next Generation Science Standards.  With this new understanding, he added a focus on observations and inferences to his first activity with the goal of supporting students in being able to make careful, accurate and complete observations of phenomena in order to engage in the science and engineering practices. (Read more about his first iteration of the activity here).

asking Q progression with highlight

Since last fall, this teacher has evolved his understanding even further about the role of phenomena in a three-dimensional classroom.  This weekend our conversations included a-ha moments about how phenomena in this new Framework vision have many essential attributes.  They are engaging and evoked curiosity in kids (the gut feeling he experienced for years with this kick-off activity).  Phenomena empower students by becoming a rich context for their own questions (careful, complete, and accurate observations of phenomena increase the probability for good questions).  Phenomena are the context for both the scientist and the engineer because they can be explained with science ideas. This last attribute, the science ideas needed to explain the phenomenon, was the new understanding that this teacher wanted to add to the activity this year.  He wanted his students to start the year understanding how phenomena and their questions would drive learning in this classroom, and how phenomena will be the context for learning because we need science to explain them (and answer the questions we generated). His evolving understanding of the role of phenomena can be evidenced in his iteration of this kick-off activity, from fun engaging event to a trajectory for the year and an establishment of the culture of learning in this classroom:  

It is the phenomenon plus the student-generated questions about the phenomenon that guide the learning and teaching”

Using Phenomena in the NGSS resource from Achieve

In our conversations, we referred often to the resource linked above to deepen our understanding of phenomena and their critical role in the new vision for science education.  Coaching conversations using classroom experiences and third-point references and resources have resulted in this evolution of understanding.  How have you changed your thinking about phenomena and its focus in your classroom?

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My heart is full…

Teaching in the 21st century is full of challenges. Grappling with new standards, working to meet the needs of ALL students, and preparing students for opportunities in a rapidly changing world. Innovations in the 21st century have provided options to make tackling these challenges easier. Through technology and a national focus on supporting teacher leaders, there are many new opportunities to build relationships, seek or provide support, and share and receive knowledge so educators can learn and grow professionally. These educator communities inspire me.
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I started this blog 5 years ago when I began to climb the NGSS mountain. I craved partnerships and networks on my road to expertise, and I wanted to reflect and document how these relationships were guiding my trajectory. I am full of appreciation for my mentors, partners and colleagues, especially the partnerships with the students in my classroom. Stories of these partnerships and my learning are sprinkled in past posts throughout this blog. Discussions and experiences continue to contribute to my professional growth and shape my thinking about science education today.

This is the best time in history to be a science educator! The energy and impacts of contemporary research on how kids learn can be seen and felt in classrooms throughout the nation. Every student has a right to a high-quality education. Educators and stakeholder are passionate about transforming classrooms to achieve the vision articulated in A Framework for K-12 Science Education, a collection of this contemporary research. This is more than a shift in thinking, this is a flip in how classrooms operate (thank you Okhee Lee for that great analogy). Transforming the way we teach science is complex and challenging. Partnerships, community, and networks are critical for success.

I am reviving this blog and committing myself to share highlights from the learning that I am blessed to experience as I work with educators throughout the US. Since I have transitioned from my own classroom to supporting classroom teaching and learning on a national scale, I embrace a responsibility to share the wonderful snapshots of classrooms, the tremendous work of teachers and those who support them, the new thinking and research on science education, and the tools and strategies and approaches that are making a difference. This blog will be a tapestry of classrooms, discussions, and people– all partners and stewards of science education.
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My heart is full. I am in awe of the passion and hard work I observe from teachers on a regular basis. I am so appreciative of the conversations I have with teachers, researchers, curriculum writers, and education advocates. I can give back and show my appreciation by sharing. Thank you for checking in on the journey.

Trish

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

Trish

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

http://education.ky.gov/comm/Documents/Science%20Connection%20August%202014.pdf

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.

5Es

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.