Next Gen Science Enters New Dimension: Assessments of 3D Learning Give Teachers Better Insight into Student Understanding

By Meyers, Harriet | District Administration, March 2014 | Go to article overview

Next Gen Science Enters New Dimension: Assessments of 3D Learning Give Teachers Better Insight into Student Understanding


Meyers, Harriet, District Administration


A new approach to assessing students' three-dimensional learning should soon give teachers a clearer picture of the reasoning their students are using to grasp key science concepts. This more intensive level of assessment will be a critical tool for schools implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) that are designed to boost STEM scores.

3D learning means the student demonstrates proficiency in three areas: The science and engineering practices, the crosscutting concepts such as patterns or cause-and-effect associated with a particular performance expectation but also having connections to other fields of science and the disciplinary core ideas. "Assessing three-dimensional learning poses a significant challenge; however, asking the student to perform tasks made up of several related questions and observing how the student uses the scientific practices in the context of the concepts of science will provide information to the teacher on how to design or revise instruction," says Peter McLaren, science and technology specialist for the Rhode Island Department of Education. Rhode Island was the first state to adopt NGSS.

For example, as a student explains the design of a model developed to clarify a scientific concept, the teacher can assess the student's understanding of the use of the practice and the context in which it connects with the concepts of the core idea. By probing further, the teacher can also find evidence of whether the student understands the concepts that connect to a more coherent view of the scientific world.

At the 2014 National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) conference, being held April 3-6 in Boston, educators will hear from a recently released National Research Council report on using NGSS performance requirements to develop science assessments.

McLaren says he plans to help administrators at the conference understand the framework behind the NGSS, how it was developed and why. "Administrators will be prepared to make better decisions about implementation, professional development and curriculum alignment once they understand the research and reasoning behind the framework," he says.

NGSS is only one of the major topics that will be discussed in Boston. Also covered will be professional development for teachers at all levels and the new training and instructional resources and materials that are available for supervisors and administrators.

"Whether or not you are located in an adopting state, we are all facing a dramatic change in the way we expect people to teach science," says David Evans, NSTA executive director. "For example, technology is driving changes, and some districts now use only e-books. Another change is the emphasis on Common Core, which could take classroom time away from teaching science--unless we work to bridge connections between them."

For the first time, NSTA has shifted the professional development sessions of the conference to Saturday, so administrators can send more of their teachers.

Teachers, technology and time

Evans says the conference sessions will cover other important topics in science instruction, including:

* Teaching elementary science with confidence. Elementary teachers will learn classroom management strategies and how to incorporate NGSS science and engineering practices in instruction.

* Technology: With interest growing in the "flipped" classroom, the conference will reveal new technology tools and examine how they impact the role of the teacher.

* Linking science to literacy. Conference speakers will show how the two subjects can be combined. …

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