Since 2013, 44 states (including Washington D.C.) have adopted standards informed by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and/or A Framework for K-12 Science Education (Framework). These standards were developed based on years of research into not only what content students need to become informed, science-literate citizens, but also research into how students learn science best.
At EdReports, we recognize that this big shift in science standards must be accompanied by high-quality, aligned instructional materials to support teachers in the classroom. Our reviews of science programs evaluate how well-designed these materials are for the innovations of the NGSS and components in the Framework such as the “three dimensions” and “phenomena-driven instruction”.
We put together a video (inspired by educator Lacey Wieser's blog) to accompany our science reports highlighting three ways to identify if you’re using high-quality science materials in your classroom.
To inspire the next generation of science leaders, teachers deserve great instructional materials that provide intentional opportunities for students to explore the natural and human-made world and develop a deep understanding of how it works.
The Next Generation Science Standards and a Framework for K-12 Science Education were designed for just this purpose. As teachers adapt to these new innovations, having the right content can help tremendously to ensure they’re supported to give every one of their students a great education. Wondering if your materials are high-quality?
Here are three key features of high-quality science curricula designed for today’s science standards.
1. “Phenomena don’t have to be phenomenal,” but they should be intentional.
Phenomena are observable events that occur in the universe that students can explain or predict with their knowledge of science. Tidal patterns, sunrise, leaves changing color, and the way dew collects on grass are just a few examples. Quality instructional materials are purposeful when presenting phenomena. Students investigate phenomena as a way to engage in science and engineering practices or to identify larger patterns and connections on their way to a deeper understanding of science content.
2. Students have opportunities to do the thinking, questioning, designing, and discovering for themselves.
Research shows that students are most likely to excel when they are engaging in science rather than just learning about it. High-quality materials support teachers in creating classrooms where students are not passive recipients of information, but active participants in constructing their own knowledge. Quality materials provide common entry points for students and allow them to drive their own learning,collect their own evidence, and construct their own explanations about the world connected to science knowledge and skills.
3. Learning objectives are meaningful and connected to the standards.
Educators are highly skilled professionals and understand that the lessons and units being taught to students have bigger learning goals attached to them—goals for the day, goals for the week, goals for the year. Materials should be clear about how each learning objective is connected to the larger picture. Instructional materials can offer many different pathways to engage students in meeting today’s science standards, but quality curricula articulate those paths clearly to the ones guiding and participating in the learning.
Research tells us that instructional materials are an essential component in how students learn. Quality materials, in the hands of great teachers, can help ensure all students engage in science education that will prepare them to be citizens who can make informed decisions and leaders who can work together to discover and develop solutions to our most urgent challenges.