- outlines the vision for K-12 science education in the U.S.
- describes assumptions about learning upon which the framework and ultimately the NGSS are built
- articulates the core ideas and practices for K-12 education in the natural sciences and engineering
- provides guidance for the NGSS by describing how these ideas and practices should be integrated into standards.
The NGSS are intended to reflect the new vision for science education that was outlined in the framework and:
- describe the essential learning goals
- describe how those goals will be assessed at each grade level or band.
One of the things I don’t like about the NGSS is something that is also one of its greatest improvements over prior standards. You see, the NGSS are organized as performance expectations (PEs). The PEs are what students will be assessed on at each grade level or band and are stated in terms of what students who demonstrate understanding can do. For example, here are a couple of NGSS PEs:
- MS-PS4-2 Develop and use a model to describe that waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials.
- HS-LS1-3 Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence that feedback mechanisms maintain homeostasis.
The problem I have is this: by combining a specific practice (such as: “develop and use a model” or “ plan and conduct an investigation”) with content, the PEs restrict the combination of practices and content in NGSS assessments. Therefore, the PEs limit the way students will demonstrate their understanding. I mean, I don’t think that the only way students can demonstrate their understanding of wave properties is through developing and using a model; or that the only way students can demonstrate their understanding of feedback mechanisms is through planning and conducting an investigation. Right? Or am I missing something?
The importance of combining practices with content is stated in the framework as follows:
“Standards and performance expectations that are aligned to the framework must take into account that students cannot fully understand scientific and engineering ideas without engaging in the practices of inquiry and the discourses by which such ideas are developed and refined. At the same time, they cannot learn or show competence in practices except in the context of specific content.”
So, I will not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I won’t simply dismiss the NGSS just because the PEs restrict the combination of content with practices in assessing students’ knowledge. The real innovation in the NGSS is that they are built on the framework’s vision of students being actively engaged in the practices of science while learning science content. I will write a weblog entry about this “vision for science education” a little bit later. Stay tuned!