NGSS Practices: The Skills of Science


Are you implementing NGSS with the expected RIGOR?

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are an exceptional set of guidelines to foster a deeper understanding of the skills associated with science and engineering.  Rather than focusing on laundry lists of facts to be memorized, the standards really set students on a path to “doing” science in schools and having the right types of learning opportunities to be successful at the next levels of learning.

That is…if they are implemented properly.

Assessment Framework ImageContent and Skills in Science are each a side of the same coin–inseparable and individually so important.  Pure content memorization becomes meaningless if it never is applied or used, and you can’t engage in skill practice without the grounding arena of the content.

The NGSS Scientific and Engineering Practices hit a home run with skill articulation.  But, one of the biggest roadblocks I have encountered to successful implementation in schools is a total misalignment of complexity per grade.

The NGSS standards include 8 Practices that most teachers are excited to include in lesson planning and design.  This is exciting as it encourages teachers and students to focus on transferable skills with leverage, endurance and readiness for the next level of learning.


Practice 1.  Asking Questions & Defining Problems

Practice 2.  Developing & Using Models

Practice 3.  Planning & Carrying Out Investigations

Practice 4.  Analyzing & Interpreting Data

Practice 5.  Using Mathematics & Computational Thinking

Practice 6.  Constructing Explanations & Designing Solutions

Practice 7.  Engaging in Argument from Evidence

Practice 8.  Obtaining, Evaluating and Communicating Information.

The Problem:

Because the 8 practices are included as a single list for all grade levels, some teachers misalign their rigor.  For example, a teacher at the 6th grade level aligned her question to Practice 4, and simply asked them to read a data table.

grade 6 misaligned

This question would be better suited at the grade 2-3 level rather than the 6th grade level.

In the 6th grade, we would more appropiately ask the student to use that data to either interpret or provide evidence for a phenomena related to temperature fluctuations, or even distinguish between correlation and casual data.  To do this, we would have to provide the student with more than just a single week of temperature data.  We would likely need to provide the student with geographical information, longitudinal data, and background information and content instruction in causes of temperature change.

The Solution:

But there is somewhere we can look for assistance!  The NGSS Appendix F provides detailed descriptions of what application of these practices would look like at grade level bands.




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Anne Weerda
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Anne Weerda

This article was written by Kids at the Core founder, Anne Weerda.

Anne is an assessment and curriculum specialist best known for her work in assessment design, data analysis and instructional effectiveness. Anne is a sought after speaker in the area of assessment design, curriculum and instruction.
Anne Weerda
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