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5 Tips to Help Transition to NGSS

[fa icon="calendar"] May, 2016 / by Press Room

Press Room

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS*) demand a shift in how educators approach science education. This shift includes an emphasis on the integration of three dimensions: to incorporate an understanding of how scientists and engineers think and act with the learning progression of science content. Students need opportunities to engage in learning that blend all three dimensions of the standards:

  • Science and engineering practices (what scientists and engineers do)
  • Disciplinary core ideas (what science and engineers know)
  • Crosscutting concepts (how scientists and engineers think)

Measured Progress is at the forefront in developing NGSS-aligned items, performance tasks, and assessments. As we develop this content, we can see that teachers need tools they can easily integrate to help them transition to the NGSS. These tools need to support best formative assessment practices and help teachers gather evidence of student learning as they progress towards the full expression of the performance expectations (PEs) of the NGSS, as per the evidence statements. To help educators with this transition, we offer STEM Gauge®—a classroom-level formative assessment resource built on the NGSS. Teachers can use STEM Gauge to help them gather evidence of three-dimensional learning.

Here are some suggestions on how to integrate NGSS-aligned formative assessment practices into your daily instruction.

1. Begin with familiar content and item types 

Start with science content that students have already been introduced to, in an assessment format they know, such as a multiple-choice item. The content and item type are familiar, and the focus is solely on the three-dimensional nature of the PE as represented in an assessment item. This gives students time to discover and unpack how each dimension is represented in an assessment item. Use a two- or three-dimensional assessment item as an exemplar with small groups or the whole class to look for evidence of each dimension of the PE in the item. Using the same color-coding as in the NGSS to highlight the science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and core idea elements within each item can help students understand the multi-dimensional nature of the PEs and NGSS.

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2. Introduce new complexity slowly

Once students are familiar with the three-dimensional nature of NGSS-aligned assessments, start to integrate more complex items that give students an opportunity to demonstrate higher-level thinking. From these more complex items, teachers can elicit evidence of what students know and can do. This evidence can serve as a formative checkpoint to inform and modify lesson plans while teaching and learning is occurring.

3. Provide opportunities for scientific discourse 

Getting students to talk about their ideas, inhabit the role of scientists and engineers, and solve problems together is a critical part of the NGSS framework. Encourage students to write, review, and discuss each other’s open-response answers in relation to rubrics, so they are better prepared to explain why they think the way they do. This activity helps them learn the language of argumentation, develop a “critical eye” toward their own learning, and better understand what is expected on tests.

4. Scaffold learning to meet the performance expectations

It takes time for students to absorb new material. As they progress toward mastery of the three dimensions of the PEs, students need practice working with preliminary steps. Teachers can scaffold learning to meet PEs by using items of increasing difficulty written to the same PE. The NGSS evidence statements were used to design STEM Gauge items that provide these preliminary steps. Students are able to build their knowledge over time to reach the level of rigor expected. Provide support for students and scaffold up to the level of rigor outlined by the evidence statements. By embedding STEM Gauge assessment items into daily lessons, teachers and students gain continuous information about students’ learning. Ongoing instruction can be adjusted as needed to help all students acquire essential scientific concepts and processes as outlined in the NGSS PEs.

5. Use multiple assessments for full demonstration of the PE

Clustering multiple items together around a common stimulus, such as an article or the description of a laboratory procedure, is a good way to scaffold learning and direct students toward the goal of meeting the PE. Use the NGSS evidence statements to help students master the three dimensions of the PEs. This allows teachers to see goals of what students should know and be able to do within each standard by the end of the year. Because individual assessment items may not address the complexity of all three dimensions in the PE, we recommend you use more than one item and more than one type of assessment to allow students to fully demonstrate their understanding of each PE. Some science and engineering practices embedded in the PEs are best assessed using performance-based assessments. Individual assessment items can be used to help prepare students for, or be incorporated within, more complex performance-based assessments.

STEM Gauge provides tools to help you implement these tips. Each STEM Gauge topic set helps teachers begin to incorporate the NGSS in the context of current curricula. STEM Gauge is one part of a broad NGSS curriculum, instruction, and formative assessment program. The item sets are designed to complement instruction.

If you need more support in your transition to the NGSS, Measured Progress can help. View the on-demand webinars from our recent NGSS support series. Then, download the STEM Gauge Teacher’s Guide Sampler to get a good sense of what NGSS-designed assessment questions look like, along with sample student responses and rubrics.

Contact us to learn more about how you can implement STEM Gauge.


 *NGSS is a registered trademark of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of this product, and do not endorse it.

Topics: Classroom Assessment, Formative Assessment, NGSS

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