NGSS Standards: Making the Shift to Performance Expectations
Standards for education are defined by the Common Core as “learning goals for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level”. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) take this definition to a new level by describing targets. These targets are performance expectations for all students. The shift is hardly subtle: It is huge!
The NGSS describe ambitious targets for student learning in science that are based on the goals described in the Framework. These targets are framed as performance expectations that describe how students will use their knowledge as they engage in scientific and engineering practices.
~Guide to Implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (p. 10)
Comparing and Contrasting Definitions
First, let’s look at the definitions. If we just look at “should know” for education standards, we’re left with they either do or they don’t. Likewise, looking at “should be able to do”, students either can or they can’t. NGSS takes it up several notches with “will use their knowledge” and “as they engage in scientific and engineering practices”. The implication is that students already have attained the knowledge and they’re actively using it as they throw themselves into the practices.
A goal is something you set. You hope that you reach that goal, but there are many reasons you may not. On the other hand, an expectation is non-negotiable. One way or another, an expectation will be happening!
Comparing and Contrasting Verbs
Next, take a look at the verbs in your state’s essential science standards. Then, compare those verbs with ones found in the NGSS.
Since I teach third grade in North Carolina, I looked at our North Carolina Essential Science Standards for Physical Science:
The verbs are understand, infer, compare, and explain.
The verbs are understand, recognize, compare, and summarize.
The verbs are recognize, recognize, and recognize.
Here are the NGSS Performance Expectations for Physical Science in Third Grade:
The verbs are plan and conduct, make, provide, ask, determine, apply, and define.
Referring to this article on the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy, verbs from NCESS and NGSS fall in the following knowledge levels:
Verbs from the NCESS
- recognize — remember
- understand — understand
- compare — understand
- explain — understand
- summarize — understand
Verbs from the NGSS
- plan — create (or apply)
- conduct — analyze?
- make — create
- provide — apply
- ask — analyze?
- determine — apply
- apply — apply
- define — remember
In both sets of standards, students are expected to “master” the material at the remember and/or understand level. However, the NGSS Performance Expectations are asking students to demonstrate “mastery” at higher thinking levels. Additionally, the tasks themselves have more than one part.
- Where is the knowledge going to come from?
- Where is the time to acquire that knowledge going to come from?
If I understand the vision of A Framework for K-12 Science Education, the knowledge will build over years of experience in school. Next, I want to look at the Performance Expectations for grades kindergarten, first, and second more closely.
- Will students acquire the knowledge they need in grades kindergarten, first and second to meet the third grade performance expectations?
- If so, where is the evidence? If not, what can be put in place to help all students acquire the basic knowledge so they can use this knowledge at higher levels of mastery in third grade?
If you have been implementing the Next Generation Science Standards in your classroom and have the answers to these questions, please share in the comments below. Are you finding that your students are able to meet the higher demands of the performance tasks? If so, what have you found helpful? Thanks so much for reading and sharing!
*Next Generation Science Standards 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 post, and do not endorse it. Visit the official NGSS website at https://www.nextgenscience.org/.
Originally published at egchapman.com on January 12, 2019.