NGSS urges shift from 'learning about' to 'figuring out'

The Next Generation Science Standards, adopted by 16 states so far, makes students think more like scientists - applying skills and knowledge to problem-solve, rather than the more traditional memorization approach. It is an undertaking by teachers and content providers alike to create that blend of providing information without spoon-feeding, thus forcing the student to 'connect the dots'. There is a fine balance in the works; teachers must be patient and students must be persistent! The latter is a big challenge in this day and age of instant electronic gratification.

The goal is "Students who grow up in classrooms organized by the Next Generation Science Standards see a natural phenomenon that sparks their curiosity and then are guided along a path of inquiry, engaging in the activities real scientists do to make sense of it." The bottom line for the individual learner is that what they are learning has to make sense in their world and has to somehow have purpose, rather than just using memorization for some assessment.

The NGSS' goal is to help students create a more coherent, logical view of the world based on evidence and the role science plays. It is far more than content knowledge; it is developing a new skill-set of putting it all together to solve real world challenges of today and tomorrow - the application of knowledge.

The State of Illinois adopted NGSS in January 2014, and mandated them to be fully implemented in the 2016-2017 school year. The Chicago Public School teachers have been preparing for the more demanding Next Generation Science Standards by collaborating and partnering with the local educational community. Andy Howard, at Illinois Institute of Technology, says "With NGSS, teachers need to learn how to take a Design-Based Research (DBR) approach to teaching each science unit; we are providing them with the content expertise to do just that."

Idaho, however, has stalled in their commitment to the NGSS approach after receiving a surprise rejection from Idaho lawmakers earlier this year. Idaho State officials now say new K-12 science standards, which would include for the first time in Idaho, references to global warming and the Big Bang theory, will be further reviewed and won't be re-submitted to the Idaho Legislature until 2018.

EdGate will be watching how the NGSS plays out across the US and even internationally, so stay tuned!

By: Larry Johnson 
Project Manager