There is a very active NGSS Twitter community, and observing and participating in their discussions is providing our Get Real! Science team of teachers-in-training with invaluable insight into the struggles and accomplishments that current science teachers are dealing with and celebrating as they shift their traditional teaching approaches to better align with NGSS goals.
On February 4, 2019, the NGSS Twitterverse tackled the questions of how to differentiate instruction with NGSS and how to balance NGSS with college prep.
Responses from teachers discussed varying the amount of structure they provide when they introduce labs. The goal is to have students design the lab procedure, but teachers suggested providing procedure stems and prompts to those students who need additional support.
In addition, teachers suggested the “bundle and flip” approach in which students who are ready for a challenge learn some content on their own at home so that, when other students are working on the topic at school, they can work together on a more challenging problem.
Responses from the community of teachers suggested that most students really didn’t retain a lot of the specific content from high school to college so that it made the most sense to focus on the soft skills and fundamental science concepts that would benefit them in whatever science classes they pursued in the future.
When we discussed this in our Get Real! Science seminar, we shared similar ideas.
We thought that 3D learning did a lot to support both differentiation and college readiness. Incorporating the NGSS science and engineering practices (SEPs) and cross-cutting concepts (CCCs) into instruction throughout a student’s years of education provides a consistent structure to build all learning on.
We also shared some frustration with preparing students for college. For those of us who had worked in higher level higher school classes, we felt we had been constrained by the college prep structure that had already been established. This was particularly the case for AP classes that were focused on preparing students to pass the AP exams. We wondered if this was worth the students’ time and effort because, in our experience, many colleges do not accept AP credit as a replacement for college credit. We hypothesized that this was because the students who received the AP credit still often needed a refresher on the content when they got to college. So, was it worth the time and stress students were spending on the AP classes? Although we knew that the credit might not be accepted, we knew that students who did take and pass AP classes were deemed more competitive by colleges. For this reason, those students who want to be competitive will still need to take these higher-level courses even if there is no cost or time savings to them when the go to college.