NGSS – How It Will Change Science Education

In 2013, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were introduced with the goal of improving the quality of science education in the United States. Until then, the National Science Education Standards of 1996 laid down goals to help teachers guide their students. However, a lot has changed over the last two decades, both in terms of the significant advances in the fields of science and engineering as well as the expectations from a student embarking upon a professional career in these fields.
With the rapid growth in STEM jobs in the US over the past decade (thrice as much as non-STEM jobs), it’s evident that STEM careers will be the backbone of a strong economy driven by innovation and competitiveness. However, too few US students pursue STEM majors and careers. The new standards lay down guidelines to help schools and teachers design their curriculum to fuel students’ interests from an early age and keep them engaged through different grade levels so that more students are prepared for higher education and careers in science and engineering.
How is NGSS different?
Traditionally, classroom instruction in the US was focused on learning by rote. The NGSS framework is based on three disciplinary core ideas – content knowledge, practices and crosscutting concepts – and advocates the integration of these core ideas into a three-dimensional learning experience. In other words, for every concept that is introduced in the classroom, students have to engage in its practice as well as connect it to crosscutting concepts, wherever possible.
How will it change science education?
Moving beyond facts
In the past, science learning has followed the process of rote memorization. The NGSS framework lays emphasis on developing skills such as practical learning and critical thinking, which are more relevant to scientists in their careers. It moves beyond just teaching concepts and helps students to experience the process of developing and testing ideas, supporting claims through presenting evidence and gaining insights into the connections between various science disciplines.
Focus on Investigation
Usually, classroom instruction as we know it involves the teacher sharing information with the whole class. In the NGSS framework, the role of the teacher changes to that of a moderator. Students have to conduct their own investigation, find solutions to problems and engage in discussions to prove their understanding of a concept.
Multiple assessments
Previously, assessments were based on questions that had only one right answer. Under NGSS, students are given open-ended questions and have to discuss and find evidence to support their claims. Since it might not be possible to evaluate the student’s understanding of a particular concept from a single assessment, teachers will rely on ongoing multiple assessments.
Deeper coverage of fewer concepts
The teacher might introduce fewer concepts, but through the process of exploration, engaging discussions and connecting crosscutting concepts from other disciplines, students will gain a deeper understanding of science concepts.
Going beyond the classroom
Teachers will have to find innovative ways to help students gain a better understanding of concepts through field visits where they can see science at work. Parents can also play an important role in keeping children engaged by encouraging them to ask questions and working together with them to find solutions, so that learning is a continuous process that extends beyond the classroom.
Critics of NGSS feel that the content restriction will reduce the college-readiness of high school students. However, at present with only around 30% of US students opting for science majors at college, the NGSS framework will help to increase the numbers by keeping students interested in science and engineering through an innovative and engaging approach to the teaching science. Furthermore, the critical thinking and communication skills that students learn through this new way will have an impact on their lives even beyond science.
NGSS Lead States. 2013. Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States.
See Also
Top NGSS Science Apps
* Next Generation Science Standards and the NGSS logo are registered trademarks of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of, and do not endorse, this product.