It takes time for students and teachers to build relationships and then to begin exploring and building the science and engineering ideas necessary for explaining phenomena and solving problems. However, teaching and learning during a pandemic very likely comes with challenges related to instructional time. As a result, educators may feel that they need to find ways to reduce the amount of material they “cover.” It might be tempting to choose a set of “priority standards” to address this issue for science and engineering, as was done for mathematics and English language arts, but priorities in science and engineering are framed differently. This chapter describes the priorities of science and engineering education and describes ways to optimize instructional time.
In addition to challenges related to instructional time, the current and ongoing changes in the education landscape likely also require that instructional materials be modified to account for technology constraints and student needs. These modifications may need to be made to every lesson, whether an open educational resource, a commercially produced resource, or materials developed at the district level. Some developers are making some adjustments to their materials, but many others are not. For science, very few multigrade coherent instructional programs are currently available that have been adapted to support instruction in multiple learning environments. As a result, many districts and teachers feel pressure to either quickly modify materials on their own or find new online programs as a stop-gap measure.
Although the work to make the necessary modifications to instructional materials is happening at breakneck speed, it is important to ensure that the resulting materials retain and even increase their focus on good teaching and
learning principles—on how students can learn science and engineering effectively. High expectations for all students need to be maintained, supporting high-quality educational experiences that empower students. Whether learning and teaching take place in person or remotely, synchronously or asynchronously, a focus on the vision of science and engineering education remains the same: all students making sense of phenomena or solving real-world problems by learning and applying grade-appropriate disciplinary core ideas (DCIs), science and engineering practices (SEPs), and crosscutting concepts (CCCs).
It is challenging to figure out how to save instructional time and still be consistent with the vision of the Framework. However, if the scope and sequence of materials need to be modified to account for resource disparities in remote environments, it is critical that students not be disadvantaged by receiving less engaging and rigorous instruction as a result of the modifications. When educators review materials that have already been adjusted, they will need to look carefully at where changes have been made to make sure the changes will not negatively affect students or increase inequities in opportunities to learn.
The guiding questions in this chapter are intended to help education practitioners consider how this volume’s four foundational principles—in particular, Principle 1—can be applied to modifying the scope and sequence of materials and to reviewing materials that have been modified—whether locally or by the original developers—to ensure they support learning in the current changing environment and adhere to the vision of the Framework:
The focus of curricula will need to be on conceptually meaningful student work. When the schedule and mode for instruction shifts and time in the classroom is reduced, there is an opportunity to look beyond the concept of seat time and focus on what students really need to take away from their learning experiences. There is no time for busy work—work that does not build deep and flexible knowledge and skill—and it might be necessary to leave out some favorite instructional activities that are fun, but do not link to meaningful content, or that focus mainly on memorizing specific facts or details.
Practitioners modifying or reviewing instructional materials can look for evidence that all parts of instruction are deeply meaningful, providing support for either building relationships between peers and the teacher or carefully building enduring student proficiencies in all three dimensions.
However, building these student proficiencies in science and engineering is a time-intensive process. Although there are many ways to maximize instructional time, it might not be feasible for students to reach all of the previously targeted learning goals during a period of ongoing system disruptions. In this situation, the focus needs to shift from trying to “cover” all of the targeted content to staying true to the vision of the Framework and the NGSS with rich three-dimensional learning experiences. Covering content in relation to science and engineering education is often enacted as the delivery of information about the DCIs to students. In such a scenario, none of the Framework or NGSS learning goals would be met.
The Framework includes descriptions of the progressive deepening of a limited number of DCIs over time. Even without the constraints of technology and time imposed by a pandemic, the focus was already on depth over breadth. For example, rather than including details of concepts such as stoichiometry, the DCIs focus on broadly applicable ideas, such as the conservation of atoms during chemical reactions. In addition, by emphasizing the need for students to integrate such ideas with science and engineering practices and crosscutting concepts, the Framework called out the value of having students build useful knowledge and skills in an authentic way. Instead of having students memorize ideas related to DCIs and then reflect those ideas back on assessments, students engage in such practices as analyzing data or arguing from evidence to develop DCIs and CCCs, and then show that they have developed these thinking tools by making sense of a phenomenon or solving a problem. In this way, students learn deeply enough that they are able to transfer their knowledge and skills to new situations.
Box 5-1 details how one teacher implements the idea that understanding the underlying principles of science in a deep way can prepare students to see connections between different areas of science, helping them ask the right questions and more easily solve problems when they encounter new situations, and transfer their knowledge and skills to explain new phenomena.
To make the best use of limited time, student learning experiences can aim to build and make use of the kinds of deep understandings that were seen in the story. These experiences equip students to make sense of the world around them.
The process to begin narrowly focusing instruction on deep and meaningful three-dimensional learning might look different in different grade bands because middle and high school students might have already had more experiences using the three dimensions during instruction than elementary students. The secondary students might therefore have more comfort with this kind of learning, potentially providing a smoother transition to its use in a different learning environment.
Educators can also maximize instructional time by connecting different science and engineering domains and ideas. For example, if students are trying to figure out how a tree grows, they will need to build ideas from both the life and physical sciences. When ideas from both domains are supported simultaneously, it takes less instructional time than if there is a focus in one unit only on life science ideas about photosynthesis and then a focus in another unit only on the regrouping of atoms in chemical reactions. In the same way, it would take more time to focus on helping students learn how to conduct investigations in one unit and then to begin learning how to analyze data in a separate unit.
One of the benefits of using real-world phenomena and problems as instructional drivers is their tendency to require both learning from multiple domains and from multiple practices. This tendency supports the use of “bundling,” or building toward multiple standards, performance expectations, or unit-level learning goals at one time. Instructional materials can take advantage of natural connections between multiple SEPs, DCIs, and CCCs to help students make sense of phenomena or solve problems.
These bundles can form the basis for instructional units. For example, in a 9-week 5th-grade unit from the Science and Integrated Language (SAIL) team at New York University, students explore a series of phenomena related to how garbage smells and why it changes over time. The students engage in instruction that builds their proficiency toward ideas related to decomposers in an ecosystem, the particle model of matter, different properties of matter, conservation of matter, and chemical reactions. Students also build toward several aspects of five different
SEPs as well as building understanding of how parts of five different CCCs can be used to help make sense of phenomena. In addition, the unit promotes language learning for all students, including English learners. By bundling these ideas together, students’ experiences were both more coherent and shorter than they would have been if all learning goals were addressed independently.
Some elementary instructional units and middle school courses already integrate science disciplines in this way; in contrast, high school courses very rarely integrate more than one discipline. Therefore, for bundling discussions at the high school level, educators might begin within each science discipline independently.
The sequence of core ideas that are introduced throughout the year, and the connections made between them are important in helping students develop an understanding of the most important ideas in science and how they are connected or related through crosscutting concepts. (Guide to Implementing the Next Generation Science Standards, Chapter 5, p. 29)
In addition to coherence within instructional units, as described in the previous chapter, it is important to plan for coherence within and between years. Although ideas in science and engineering do not build in as much of a linear, grade-by-grade fashion as do those in mathematics,1 scientific ideas, concepts, and practices exist as progressions that build over time. The ideas, concepts, and practices students build in their early years support their future learning. If these foundational ideas and practices are completely omitted in an attempt to save instructional time in one year, student learning in future years will be affected.
These science and engineering progressions are important factors when adjusting or evaluating curricula. If high-quality, year-long instructional programs are available that have been adjusted to accommodate student needs for remote or hybrid environments, they will likely be the most coherent option for students because connections are often made between one instructional unit and the next. However, when these options are not available, it is important to consider the progressions between ideas to decide whether some content will be skipped this year, what content can be built in for future years after students are back in school in person, and what content order will be most conducive to student learning in remote, hybrid, or blended learning environments.
When modifying or evaluating curriculum for early parts of the school year—times when establishing relationships and instructional routines in remote or hybrid environments is essential—it could be helpful to focus on phenomena or problems that do not directly build on core ideas from the previous year or grade level so that all students can start with a common, shared experience. For example, a phenomenon about hair being attracted to a balloon would help students build toward a 3rd-grade level of understanding of electric and magnetic forces and does not directly rely on understanding of related DCIs from 2nd grade.
Later in the school year, after relationships and instructional routines have already been established, educators can consider choosing phenomena or problems that can help diagnose what students may be missing from previous instruction. For example, a problem about weather-related hazards used in 3rd grade might require students’ background knowledge from 2nd grade about how water can change the land and how it can exist in both solid and liquid form. This problem could therefore be used later in the 3rd-grade year, after students and the teacher have become comfortable with one another and with the instructional model. This approach would allow the teacher more time to focus on closely monitoring student learning, uncovering students’ underlying ideas about water, and working with students individually to ensure they have the support they need to solve the problem about weather-related hazards. Below is a schematic of this approach (Table 5-1).
TABLE 5-1 Considerations for Units Across the School Year
|Early in the School Year||Later in the School Year|
|Not relying on understanding of related DCIs from the previous grade||Requiring understanding of related DCIs from the previous grade|
|Providing common, shared experiences||Diagnosing what might be missing from previous instruction|
To use this kind of approach, it is important to understand how DCIs, SEPs, and CCCs build on students’ prior understanding, including within a grade band. Although the Framework describes DCIs as end-of-grade-band expectations, they are often used as learning goals in individual courses. Appendix K of the NGSS describes some examples of the ways middle and high school courses that use these DCIs can be sequenced conceptually over time within the grade band.2 These
2 See Appendix K. Available: https://www.nextgenscience.org/sites/default/files/resource/files/Appendix%20K_Revised%208.30.13.pdf.
types of examples may be helpful in thinking about the conceptual foundations students will draw upon for learning in each course.3 In middle and high schools, districts (even within the same state) are likely to be using different course models, so coherence within progressions will need to be determined based on the course model used.
Figure 5-1 below is an image from NGSS Appendix K. In this course model, educators put the DCIs they considered to be foundational in course 1 and showed with arrows how the ones introduced in course 2 build on those in course 1, and how the ones included in course 3 build on those in course 2. Connections such as these are present throughout the K–12 content of the Framework.
In the NGSS, a section on each page of performance expectations lists “Articulation of DCIs across grade bands.” They include many, but not necessarily all, connections students might be building on as they progress in their learning. Appendices E,4 F,5 and G6 of the NGSS describe progressions of the three dimensions across grade bands K–12. Appendix E summarizes the core ideas in each grade band so the differences across time are clear, and Appendices F and G list the specific elements of the SEPs and CCCs, respectively, that students are expected to know by the end of each grade band (i.e., by the end of grades 2, 5, 8, and 12). For example, Figure 5-2 shows the progression for one CCC, Stability and Change. In addition, examples of K–12 connections and progressions for all three dimensions of the Framework are listed and described in the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) Atlas of the Three-Dimensions.7 Using these resources can help educators identify knowledge and skills that will be used as the foundation for future learning.
Not all the foundational building blocks for students’ learning are necessarily found within the same science discipline. For example, students’ understanding of the particulate nature of matter developed in late elementary school directly supports their learning related to photosynthesis and water cycles in middle school. As these connections are not always immediately apparent, it is important to communicate and plan across grade levels so that students’ learning over time
can be coherent after any adjustments are made to curricular progressions. This is particularly critical if foundational content is moved from this year to a subsequent year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.8
Challenging students to continually progress in their learning over all three dimensions can also help maximize instructional time. If instruction this year shifts to include new ideas that are easy to learn and teach in a remote environment but do not help to build toward learning progressions, students’ time will not be used most efficiently. When students are “introduced” to cell structures, modeling,
8 For more information, see Science and Engineering for Grades 6–12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Available: https://www.nap.edu/read/25216/chapter/7#143; also see Guide to Implementing the Next Generation Science Standards. Available: https://www.nap.edu/read/18802/chapter/7#53.
or the idea of cause and effect multiple times over several years of school, they may begin to feel bored or that their prior understanding and ideas are not being considered and honored. Students are unlikely to feel engaged if instruction is repetitive. Finding out what students have already learned can help educators and curriculum designers position new content as an extension of previous content without spending valuable time on repetition.
The call for less repetition, however, does not mean that SEPs and CCCs should not be used more than once. To build deep understanding of and engagement with these dimensions and be able to use them in new situations, students need to experience them with multiple different DCIs in the context of multiple phenomena or problems. In many state standards, including the NGSS, SEPs and CCCs build throughout each grade band, allowing students the opportunity to explore them in multiple contexts over time. Students therefore have more than 1 year to build toward proficiency on the different aspects of each SEP and CCC.
This approach allows a large amount of flexibility during educational transitions. Instruction could begin in fall 2020 by allowing students to apply SEPs and CCCs they have previously developed to new phenomena or problems instead of trying to develop new SEP and CCC proficiencies right away. For example, while students are adjusting to a new instructional schedule, they could begin the year using their previously developed SEP proficiency in using models to predict a new phenomenon rather than beginning the year trying to learn how to choose which type of computer model will make the most accurate predictions about a phenomenon. Similarly, students faced with figuring out the phenomenon that “some parts of the world get a lot of rain and other parts get very little rain” could use their prior CCC knowledge that “systems may be part of larger complex systems” to think differently about how to approach the phenomenon. Using this concept, they could ask “are there larger global systems that affect the precipitation rate in the different areas?” rather than immediately being required to learn how to use new CCCs as thinking tools. This kind of repeated use of particular SEPs and CCCs can also be beneficial in shifting learning environments by helping to build consistency and familiarity across lessons.
Just as there is some flexibility with building SEPs and CCCs across grade levels, it may be helpful to think differently about building student understanding of DCIs over the next 2–3 years as the education system slowly recovers. DCIs are divided only by grade band throughout K–12 in the Framework. With the reduced emphasis of high stakes testing in many states, educators may have more flexibility to support students to build toward DCIs in a way that works well in
the current learning environment. For example, if classes are not able to support students to build toward the 3rd-grade idea “Climate describes a range of an area’s typical weather conditions and the extent to which those conditions vary over years” this year, it could be bundled together next year in instruction that builds toward the 4th-grade idea “Rainfall helps to shape the land and affects the types of living things found in a region.” In this way, students would still be able to deeply build understanding in the DCIs by the end of the grade band even if the scope of instruction each year is shifted.
When modifying or reviewing instructional materials for blended, hybrid, or remote environments, the driving phenomena or problems need to be carefully selected.9 Consider choosing as the focus of instruction phenomena or problems that:
- make clear connections to students’ interests and backgrounds,
- require students to build toward grade-appropriate learning goals, and
- can be investigated safely in remote environments or with materials that are widely and inexpensively available.
As discussed in Chapter 4, even when classes are expected to be fully in person for all students, situations may change quickly, and back-up plans will be needed.
As one of the foundational principles of this document, the idea of using phenomena and problems to drive all science and engineering instruction has already been discussed. In particular, Chapter 3 introduced the importance of choosing phenomena or problems that are truly engaging to students and connected to their homes and communities. Students have a better chance to succeed if their learning is contextualized with relatable and personally meaningful phenomena. Although the idea of using phenomena and problems to drive instruction is not unique to pandemic-related system disruptions, it has become more critical than ever. Educators reported widespread lack of student interest and engagement
in learning in spring 2020 after their classes moved to remote settings.10 Allowing students to engage with phenomena and problems that are closely connected to their lives or the lives of their families and others in the community is one of the best ways to maintain student interest in their own learning.
The phenomena used do not need to be extraordinary occurrences, such as explosions or a two-headed fish. Interesting science phenomena, such as color, are all around children every day. Teachers can help students become curious about these phenomena, helping them realize that they are not already able to explain why their pencil looks red.11 The same is true for focusing instruction on problems to solve: selecting small, everyday problems that are relevant to students and their communities, such as the fence on a hill becoming loose after a heavy rain, can encourage students to find other similar, related phenomena and problems in their own neighborhoods.
Box 5-2 presents the story of a group of young children engaged in trying to help their teacher solve a simple, everyday problem. Finding the solution allowed them to build toward their learning goals, including beginning to build a foundation for planning investigations and making claims from data. The students were able to work both collaboratively toward sense-making and independently to record their ideas, creating formal writing artifacts.
The driving problem to solve in the story maintained students’ engagement over many weeks of instruction, allowing students to drive more of the learning themselves and to build a sense of agency in the learning process. When phenomena and problems are used in this way, they can anchor units of instruction and help students learn to handle setbacks and wrong turns along the path to an explanation or solution.12 During this process, supporting students to make close connections to the lives of their families and others in their communities can motivate them to persist in their learning.
Box 5-3 describes how a teacher engaged students in figuring out a compelling phenomenon and used a survey assignment to ensure that students could clearly see how what they were doing in class related to the lives of people they know. Using the survey also gave students more opportunities to talk about their learning with their friends and family, providing much needed “face time” for when in-person classroom instruction is not available. Although the instructional unit in the story was used in an in-person environment, the idea of a digital survey prompting family and community conversations could be used in remote environments and adapted for many phenomena, providing students with opportunities to make connections between their schoolwork and their communities.
In this story, students were initially engaged by trying to answer their own questions through surveying people they knew. However, students became even more motivated and excited to continue learning after they saw trends in real data come in
from the community members surveyed by the whole class. This allowed students to see that their school learning was meaningful and relevant in the real world.
To help introduce both teachers and families to phenomena-based learning, NSTA has been developing a series of short “Daily Dos”13—tasks that embed sense-making and can be completed remotely. For example, in the task “Why don’t the dishes move?”14 students try to figure out how dishes stay on a table when someone yanks the tablecloth out from under them. Students are supported with short and safe home-based investigations to explore this idea. Similarly, the creators of the NGSS Phenomena webpage have begun developing resources for teachers and families to use for remote phenomenon-based investigations.15
Additional support for selecting engaging and authentic phenomena and problems is available from several different organizations:
- Next Generation Science Standards: www.nextgenscience.org/phenomena
- Qualities of a Good Anchor Phenomenon for a Coherent Sequence of Science Lessons, from the Institute for Science + Math Education: http://stemteachingtools.org/brief/28
- Using Phenomena in NGSS-Designed Lessons and Units, from the Institute for Science + Math Education: http://stemteachingtools.org/brief/42
- Criteria for Evaluating Phenomena, from NSTA and NGSS: http://static.nsta.org/ngss/docs/Criteria%20for%20Evaluating%20a%20Phenomenon.pdf
- Tools for Ambitious Science Teaching—Anchoring Events: Modeling presentations, from the College of Education of the University of Washington: https://ambitiousscienceteaching.org/presentations-on-anchoring-events-and-modeling/
- Appendix I: Engineering Design in the Next Generation Science Standards: https://www.nap.edu/read/18290/chapter/15
In addition to maximizing instructional time by making connections between different science domains, meaningful connections can also be made between
different academic disciplines, such as integrating science and literacy instruction. Although making these kinds of connections is very beneficial to students at all grade levels, it is likely to be easiest to begin this work at the elementary level.16 Students in elementary school often have only one teacher or a small group of teachers who work closely together, and elementary teachers are more likely to have close relationships with families and therefore more knowledge about students’ backgrounds and interests. In addition, elementary students are most at risk of missing out on science and engineering instruction.17
When schools have reduced time or resources, there is often a tendency to focus primarily on literacy and mathematics—especially in the early grades.18 However, science and engineering education are essential for all students, including at the elementary level.19 Reducing students’ access to science and engineering instruction affects not only their preparedness for coursework in all subjects in later grades, but also their development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills.20 Ensuring that all students have access to this critical preparation at the elementary level is an equity issue.21
In addition, science and engineering learning does not detract from literacy and mathematics learning. It supports and promotes learning in other disciplines by providing the rich and engaging contexts necessary for deep learning throughout the curriculum.22 Children are naturally curious and gravitate to real-world experiences, and they can explore these real-world experiences in high-quality science and engineering instruction. Curriculum developers can harness these experiences to also teach students mathematics and literacy concepts in a natural and engaging way.
Box 5-4 tells the story of an upper-elementary language arts teacher who decided on her own that a great way to teach her students reading and writing
16 For more information, see Design, Selection, and Implementation of Instructional Materials for the Next Generation Science Standards: Proceedings of a Workshop. Available: https://www.nap.edu/read/25001/chapter/3#8.
18 For more information, see Successful K–12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Available: https://www.nap.edu/read/13158/chapter/5#22.
21 For more information, see Successful K–12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Available: https://www.nap.edu/read/13158/chapter/7; also see A Framework for K–12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Available: https://www.nap.edu/read/13165/chapter/16#282.
These connections exist not only with mathematics and ELA. With an increased reliance on computers, simulations, and computational modeling in
skills was through an engineering context. Making the kinds of connections described in this story between two or more disciplines not only maximizes instructional time, but also increases coherence for students and allows them to understand the content from each discipline more deeply than if they had to become familiar with a different context for their learning in each discipline.23 Many state science standards make explicit connections to literacy and mathematics content standards that could be taught simultaneously, such as reading informational texts or organizing data into graphs.24 In addition, many current state science, literacy, and mathematics standards have overlaps in the practices they expect students to learn and use, such as placing an emphasis on student reasoning and arguing from evidence.25 At the secondary level, many state ELA standards include an emphasis on “science and technical subjects” that could be used as an area of collaboration.
23 For more information, see Science and Engineering for Grades 6–12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Available https://www.nap.edu/read/25216/chapter/5#57; also see Gasparinatou, A., and Grigoriadou, M. (2013). Exploring the effect of background knowledge and text cohesion on learning from texts in computer science. Educational Psychology, 33(6), 645–670.
25 See Cheuk, T. (2013). Relationships and Convergences among the Mathematics, Science, and ELA Practices. Refined version of diagram created by the Understanding Language Initiative for ELP Standards. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University.
remote environments, there is a new opportunity to more naturally add in connections between science and engineering and learning related to computer science, technology, and technology literacy (including privacy and cyberbullying concerns online).26 These kinds of connections would also contribute to the computational thinking sections of the science and engineering practices.
It is important to stress that although there are significant points of connection between disciplines, that does not imply that simply using science and engineering contexts to teach literacy, mathematics, and computer science would provide all of the science and engineering learning students need.
For example, reading a science-themed informational text as part of ELA instruction is not sufficient for science instruction, just as reading to obtain information in science class is not sufficient for literacy instruction.
The processes and appropriate pedagogy from each discipline need to be used in instruction. For science and engineering, this means that students still need focused sense-making and problem-solving opportunities that allow them to deeply build an understanding of fundamental science and engineering ideas, practices, and ways of thinking, as well as discipline-specific forms of literacy.
Even when schools are open and fully operational, many students often do not have access to science and engineering instruction at the elementary level—especially English learners, students with special needs, and students deemed to be academically at risk. These students are often pulled out of science class time to focus on literacy and mathematics because of assumptions that they need to focus on “basics” or that before they can engage in science and engineering they need higher levels of skills in literacy and mathematics.27 With the shifts to hybrid or remote learning, these students are at even higher risk of missing out on the engaging science and engineering experiences and rich context building that can support their literacy and mathematics education.28 For example, one of the best ways for English learners to build their language skills is to have meaningful
28 For more information, see A Framework for K–12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Available: https://www.nap.edu/read/13165/chapter/16#282. Also see English Learners in STEM Subjects: Transforming Classrooms, Schools, and Lives. Available: https://www.nap.edu/read/25182/chapter/5#60.
reasons to need to communicate. Rich science and engineering investigations provide those meaningful reasons.29
Box 5-5 describes a program designed to make use of science contexts and practices to strengthen English language skills for English learners.
This story highlights the benefits of allowing students to engage in sense-making discussions in their home language. By providing translation, the student teachers in the story gave the students the supports they needed to feel comfortable sharing their initial ideas and to feel that they were part of the learning
29 For more information, see Design, Selection, and Implementation of Instructional Materials for the Next Generation Science Standards: Proceedings of a Workshop. Available: https://www.nap.edu/read/25001/chapter/4#28.
community. With this foundation, students were able to begin engaging in science learning, motivating them to build the language skills necessary to expand their understanding and participation.
Many models exist for integrating science learning with other disciplines and show promising results for students’ educational outcomes.30 School time does not have to be divided into completely separate disciplines, such as one block for ELA, one block for mathematics, and one block for science. It is possible to maintain fidelity to each discipline while making connections among different disciplines. Students may even learn more effectively if they learn more than one discipline at one time. There is a current opportunity while reimagining school schedules and curricula to better integrate disciplines that only rarely exist independently in the real world.31
To modify schedules for remote, hybrid, or blended learning, some districts are telling teachers that science instruction should be included during class time for other disciplines, such as mathematics. However, without specific supports for what integration of multiple disciplines looks like in instruction, teachers are likely to simply follow their specified mathematics curriculum. If some teachers receive clear guidance about what integration could look like and other teachers do not receive this guidance, gaps may widen between which students have opportunities for science and engineering and which do not.32,33 Because integration or coordination of subject matter is more likely to take place at the elementary level than at the secondary level, elementary teachers will need support for integration or coordination of subject matter. To help provide this kind of guidance, the Oklahoma State Department of Education included disciplinary integration notes in its Return to Learn Guidance,34 and several Education Service Districts in Washington state worked together to develop resources that support elementary-level students in building toward standards from multiple disciplines together. For example, the kindergarten resources focus on “tackling trash” and include a virtual field trip and remote learning assignment; they help students build toward learning goals from science, ELA, mathematics, and computer science at the same
30 See Self, J. (in press). Using Science to Bolster Literacy Skills in Elementary. Council of Chief State School Officers; also see Drake, S.M., and Burns, R.C. (2004). Meeting Standards through Integrated Curriculum. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
34 See https://sde.ok.gov/sites/default/files/documents/files/R2L Launching Instruction in Grades 3-5.pdf.
time.35 The resources are housed at OER Commons, an online library of resources that can be freely used and repurposed by others.
The instructional resources used with students can significantly affect their learning; it is important that these resources be of high quality.36 However, developing high-quality instructional materials is a complex, iterative process that involves teams of well-trained curriculum developers working in concert with expert teachers. The teams need to have a deep understanding of the Framework, along with expertise in supporting students with a wide range of needs, such as English learners and students with disabilities.37 Curricular programs resulting from these kinds of development processes may be more effective in supporting student learning than curricula that are developed quickly by just one or two individuals.38 In addition, more than one teacher typically uses the same resource, so it is more efficient and effective for teams of educators or developers to work together to modify instructional materials and then to provide them to individual teachers than to expect each teacher to make all of the modifications on their own.39 For example, supplementary online resources could be provided along with context for how they fit into preexisting units. Individual teachers should not be required to create and modify their materials entirely on their own.40
In addition, because many of the ways to reduce instructional time described above involve coordination between more than one discipline or year of instruction, science and engineering teachers, science curriculum coordinators, and even science curriculum developers may not be able to implement these ideas alone. School- and district-level leadership can provide guidance about the importance of multiple disciplines and multiple years working together. For fall 2020 and
38 For more information, see Guide to Implementing the Next Generation Science Standards. Available: https://www.nap.edu/read/18802/chapter/7#55; also see Science and Engineering for Grades 6–12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Available: https://www.nap.edu/read/25216/chapter/8#172.
40 See Schwartz, H.L., McCombs, J.S., Augustine, C.H., and Leschitz, J.T. Getting to Work on Summer Learning: Recommended Practices for Success, 2nd Ed. Available: https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR366-1.html also see Guide to Implementing the Next Generation Science Standards. Available: https://www.nap.edu/read/18802/chapter/5#35.
subsequent years, they can also provide support structures to help teachers connect with their students’ teachers from the spring to find out what adjustments were made to the curriculum during the initial months of the pandemic and how students handled the transition.
Schools throughout the country are experiencing ongoing educational disruptions at the same time, and many of these schools have science standards influenced by the Framework. There is therefore an opportunity to collaborate across schools and districts to help modify high-quality materials. In addition, schools in the same district could get advice from community sources about local resources and phenomena that relate to students’ homes and cultures.
These collaborations can also extend across state lines. For example, the state of Louisiana initiated work to adapt iHub and OpenSciEd instructional units41 for remote use, supporting teams of administrators and teachers experienced using the curricula to make the necessary adjustments. Then Louisiana sought help from other states to find teachers who could help continue this work. Now, Massachusetts educators are working together with a team from Louisiana to adapt the rest of the OpenSciEd materials. The results from this work will be freely available to all districts in the country as each unit adaption is completed.42
These kinds of collaborations are also happening through informal educational institutions and scientific and engineering societies. For example, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers supported hundreds of geosciences educators from across the country to work together to figure out what the community could do to offer online field camps for their students.43 Although these virtual experiences were initially created with college undergraduate students in mind, many of them may support high school Earth sciences learning. The growing collection of ideas and resources is now freely available online.44
Once modifications are made to the instructional materials, either by local teams or by the original curriculum developers, the materials will need to be reviewed to make sure they have not shifted away from the vision of the Framework due to the modifications and that they can be effectively implemented in high- and low-resource areas.45 Like curriculum development, review processes
45 For more information, see Design, Selection, and Implementation of Instructional Materials for the Next Generation Science Standards: Proceedings of a Workshop. Available: https://www.nap.edu/read/25001/chapter/4#37.
are ideally rigorous processes that involve teams working together to carefully consider criteria for quality and can even include pilot testing.46 This kind of process is supported by the NGSS EQuIP rubric47 and the NextGen TIME tools and processes.48 However, with the current need for materials to support students right away, it can be helpful for trained educators to use tools such as the NGSS Lesson Screener49 to get initial information about quality.
The table below summarizes how curricula can be changed to better serve student learning during and after the COVID-19 pandemic (Table 5-2).
Table 5-2 Shifting Curricula During a Crisis
|Moving From||Moving To|
|Maximizing Instructional Time|
|Teaching academic disciplines in isolation||Teaching academic disciplines in a coordinated way, taking advantage of overlaps|
|Building toward one or two standards at a time||Building toward a bundle of learning goals that all work together to help students explain a phenomenon or solve a problem|
|Including busy work or discrete content that is only useful in one field of work||Focusing only on deep proficiencies that are broadly applicable|
|Introducing content several times over the years to make sure students understand it||Building on prior knowledge to help students grow|
|Expecting every teacher to adjust their own curriculum||Providing teachers with the modifications necessary|
|Working alone as a district to modify materials||Collaborating with educators across the country to modify common materials|
|Ensuring Quality of Materials|
|Driving learning with phenomena or problems that are interesting to curriculum developers||Driving learning with phenomena or problems that engage and motivate students and connect to their culture and background|
|Leaving gaps in student understanding due to time shortages||Coordinating the scope and sequence of content carefully to ensure student learning builds coherently|
46 For more information, see Design, Selection, and Implementation of Instructional Materials for the Next Generation Science Standards: Proceedings of a Workshop. Available: https://www.nap.edu/read/25001/chapter/4#23.
47 For more information, see Science and Engineering for Grades 6–12: Investigation and Design at the Center. Available: https://www.nap.edu/read/25216/chapter/8#172; also see Guide to Implementing the Next Generation Science Standards. Available: https://www.nap.edu/read/18802/chapter/7#57.
- Review materials to ensure that all parts of instruction are meaningful: either building relationships or building deep student proficiencies that are broadly applicable.
- Choose phenomena or problems that allow students to build toward a “bundle” of learning goals at one time.
- Review materials to ensure they avoid building toward repetitive learning goals, both this year and in future years.
- Coordinate planning conversations across grade levels to ensure students’ learning builds coherently over time, in all three dimensions.
- Select phenomena and problems that can be explored virtually and that connect to students’ homes and communities.
- Review materials to ensure phenomena or problems used to drive learning will authentically engage and motivate students.
- Provide guidance about how to coordinate and integrate different academic disciplines, especially in elementary school.
- Adopt a team approach to planning for and supporting curriculum modifications.
- Provide teachers with the modifications necessary for using instructional materials in their new teaching environment.
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