Trends in Materials Designed for NGSS

As of January 2020, twenty states have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which are based on the National Research Council Framework for K-12 Science Education. An additional twenty-four states have adopted their own standards that are based on the National Research Council Framework for K-12 Science Education. Consequently, the standards are impacting science education for approximately 71% of United States students.

As teachers across the country have realized, NGSS changes the expectation for what science instruction looks like. NGSS moves students beyond just knowing science and demonstrating their knowledge through completing scripted science experiments and demonstrations to doing science and solving problems like scientists and engineers. This means the materials for science instruction have to change, too.

At Learning List, we have seen a shift in the design of materials to support the implementation of the NGSS. There are clear distinctions between products that are designed specifically to support NGSS and products that were previously designed for other science standards and then correlated to NGSS. In the strongest materials, designed specifically for NGSS, we have noted the following commonalities:

  1. Materials consistently integrate three-dimensional learning. They reflect a clear connection among the Disciplinary Core Ideas, the Cross-Cutting Concepts, and the Science and Engineering Practices. The three dimensions are not simply present in the material. They work in conjunction with one another to provide a cohesive learning experience. Students actively participate in learning experiences, such as designing and completing labs, as they learn the concept/content. These learning experiences are the vehicle for learning the content, so that students make connections, explain scientific phenomena, or design solutions.  
  2. Materials employ scientific phenomena as the basis for learning. They require students to study, experience, and explain scientific phenomena. Phenomena are frequently paired with statements of big ideas or guiding/driving questions.  While the phenomena may begin as the “hook” that encourages student interest in the concept, the value of phenomena quickly evolve. As students work through units of study, their goal is to find the explanation for the scientific  concept that is demonstrated by the phenomena. 
  3. Materials require students to “do science,” rather than simply learn about it. Students design their own experiences and formulate their own expectations and solutions.  The strongest materials consistently place students in the role of scientist. Their daily work in the classroom mimics the daily work of scientists. Students are actively engaged in scientific thinking by answering open-ended questions, designing the questions for themselves, designing experiments, and proposing solutions to problems.
  4. Materials designed for NGSS support mastery of the performance expectations and provide culminating activities that require students to demonstrate learning. In these materials, assessments reflect instruction. Students are required to demonstrate their learning toward mastery of the performance expectation throughout the unit. Materials are rich with opportunities for real-world formative assessment and generally include performance tasks, opportunities to design experiments, and other non-traditional assessments.
  5. Materials provide abundant teacher support. Publishers recognize that implementation of NGSS is a shift in thinking and practice for teachers. As a result, NGSS materials provide implementation resources, videos and documents to support the development of teachers’ content knowledge, and specific references to support the change in pedagogy demanded by the NGSS. 

A goal of the NGSS is for students to leave high school as informed consumers and learners of scientific information. As the NGSS change the face of science instruction, instructional materials will continue to evolve to support teachers in designing lessons  and students’ ability to make sense of the world around them.