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Next Generation Science Standards: Dimensions and Practices

Next Generation Science Standards: Dimensions and Practices

Author: Kathleen Johnson

In this lesson, students will learn about the different dimensions and ideas that make up the Next Generation Science Standards.

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Today, we're going to be looking at understanding the Next Generation Science Standards. And for today's lesson, I've chosen a quote by Carl Sagan, which says, "somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." By the end of today's lesson, you will be able to review the origin of the Next Generation Science Standards as well as analyze the Next Generation Science Standards and all of the specific elements involved.

The development of these standards is really a wonderful collaboration between the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science as well as the Achieve Group. All of them collaborated together to develop these standards. First what happened in this process was the National Academy of Sciences developed a framework for the K-12 science education. And what I love about this is it was based on current research, making it exceptionally applicable to students who really wanted to continue a career within the sciences.

Then, states led by Achieve, a nonprofit organization that's independent and committed to really looking at educational reform and college and career readiness skills, developed the K-12 Science Standards, including content and practice standards across many different science disciplines and grades. The Achieve group was really instrumental in helping to ensure that all of this came about. Achieve was established in 1996, and it helped to include a number of different governors as well as various business leaders that really wanted to work on improving college and career readiness skills in addition to increasing graduation rates.

So once Achieve got together, they worked with those 48 states, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State Officers, all helping to develop the Common Core Standards. They also helped to work with the National Research Council and the 26 states that were involved in developing the Next Generation Science Standards. These science standards were published in 2013, and they based these elements of the Next Generation Science Standards on the initial framework that was developed by the National Academy of Sciences.

Next, let's take a look at that framework. This framework can be found at the following website. It's quite a long website to write down, but it's a wonderful place to get the specifics of the framework that we're going to discuss. This framework is really broken down into three different dimensions. These three dimensions include disciplinary core ideas-- what are the major elements within the discipline that we want students focusing in on-- content-specific information, as well as cross cutting concepts. And we're going to break each of these elements down just a little bit more as we go on.

Let's take a closer look at these disciplinary core ideas. The disciplinary ideas are grouped into four large domains, the first of which are the Physical Sciences. Next, focusing in on the domain of Life Sciences, the Earth and Space Sciences, and finally, Engineering Technology and the Application of Science. These are the four major areas covered in the Science Standards.

In order for something to be considered a core idea, it needs to meet at least two of the following criteria, but ideally it will meet four. First it needs to have a broad importance across multiple disciplines or be a key organizing concept of one of the disciplines. It needs to provide a key tool for understanding and investigating more complex ideas.

The idea should relate to the interests and life experiences of students, society, and/or personal concerns. Finally, it should be teachable and learnable over multiple grades. This is the way that they've really found to delineate interesting ideas and elements within science along with those core ideas.

So when we look at that first criteria, one core domain that really fits with that is the universe and its stars within the Earth, space, and science area. It has broad importance over multiple sciences and engineering disciplines. There are a lot of different ways that we can look at that. And it's really a key organizing concept for the Earth and Space Science element.

If you take a look at the criteria number 2, to provide a key tool for understanding and investigating more complex ideas, certainly the growth and development of organisms core concept within the Life Sciences progression area really does that. Understanding at a basic level growth and the development of organism lets us really get involved in the other complex ideas and problem solving when it comes to those organisms at a more advanced level.

Looking at the criteria for number 3, relate to the interests and life experiences of students, connecting to societal concerns. Clearly within the Physical Science area, the conservation of energy and energy transfer hits that right on the nose, especially for modern day students and teachers who are concerned about the energy use we have in our country and around the world.

And finally, if you look at criterion number 4, to be teachable and learnable over multiple grades, the human impacts on Earth systems within the Earth and Space Sciences area really fits amongst all grades. You can start at a very basic level in those lower grades and continue to add complexity and depth as you continue all the way up through the rest of high school.

Cross cutting concepts have application across all domains of science, hence the idea of cross cutting or cutting across. As such, they are a really great way of linking different domains. And you can look here at the various areas that are considered cross cutting concepts-- patterns, similarity, and diversity; cause and effect; scale, proportion, and quantity; energy and matter; and so on. You can see how these major elements could be seen in all of those areas that we discussed, whether it be earth science, space science, engineering, physical sciences, life sciences, and so on. The beauty of these cross cutting concepts is they provide a way to organize interrelating knowledge across science fields, kind of a way of working between different classes in order for students to really find that coherence and that scientifically based view of the world, bringing all of the different varied areas of science together.

Now let's focus in on the science and engineering practices. These are the behaviors that scientists engage in as they are going to investigate and build models and theories about the natural world. We're really looking at a key set of practices that engineers use as they design and build their systems. How should we be instructing students as scientists and engineers to behave as they go into the field?

First there's an emphasis on asking questions and defining problems. The asking questions part is really more for those scientists. And defining problems that need to be fixed are really focusing in for those engineers. Developing and using models, this not only helps to think critically about a situation but also really helps with that collaboration. Planning and carrying out those investigations as well as analyzing and interpreting the data that comes from those investigations.

There's a real focus in on the practice of using mathematics and computational thinking to help broaden one's mindset as well as, especially for science, constructing explanations for why something exists and, for engineering, designing those solutions to the problems that were defined earlier. There's a real emphasis put on engaging an argument from the evidence, really getting into that mindset of questioning what is happening in order to come to a best possible solution as well as obtaining evaluating and then communicating the information that's found.

As with any of these standards, there are positives and negatives that come along with them. First, these have not been adopted by the majority of states yet. Even though 26 states helped lead in the creation of this work, they have not yet adopted these standards.

However, most resources are indicating, especially those that are right off the shelf resources, indicate that they are aligned with next Generation Science Standards. A really wonderful helpful one is the Equip Rubric, which can be found at It's a wonderful tool to evaluate the alignment and to determine the degree to alignment of materials, lessons, and units as you're developing that science course.

These standards are written a little bit differently from the Common Core State Standards as they are written as performance standards. And you've probably noticed that as we went through some of the elements of the standards. There is also an option to follow the standards using two different approaches. The first approach is a topical approach, or you could follow the standards using the disciplinary core idea approach. Again, a little bit of a different vantage point to looking at these standards.

Now that we've reached the end of our lesson today, you've been able to review the origin of the Next Generation Science Standards as well as analyze the Next Generation Science Standards. I'd like to take just a moment now for reflection. After learning about the Next Generation Science Standards, I want you to think about what it will be like to teach those as a science teacher, understanding that your colleagues in other states might not be using the same standards. What difficulties would come of this?

It's your turn now to apply what you've learned in this video. The Additional Resources section could be super helpful to you. This section is designed to help you discover useful ways to apply what you've learned here. And each link includes a brief description so that you can easily target the resources that you want.

Notes on "Next Generation Science Standards: Dimensions and Practices"

(00:00-00:12) Intro

(00:13-00:24) Objectives

(00:25-02:27) History of NG Science Standards

(02:36-03:09) The Framework

(03:10-06:09) Disciplinary Core Ideas

(06:10-07:21) Cross Cutting Concepts

(07:21-09:03) Science & Engineering Practices

(09:04-10:20) Positives & Negatives

(10:21-10:33) Review

(10:34-11:12) Reflection