Implementing the Next Generation Science Standards: Impacts on Geoscience Education

Friday, 19 December 2014: 1:40 PM
Michael Edward Wysession, Washington Univ, Saint Louis, MO, United States
This is a critical time for the geoscience community. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have been released and are now being adopted by states (a dozen states and Washington, DC, at the time of writing this), with dramatic implications for national K-12 science education. Curriculum developers and textbook companies are working hard to construct educational materials that match the new standards, which emphasize a hands-on practice-based approach that focuses on working directly with primary data and other forms of evidence. While the set of 8 science and engineering practices of the NGSS lend themselves well to the observation-oriented approach of much of the geosciences, there is currently not a sufficient number of geoscience educational modules and activities geared toward the K-12 levels, and geoscience research organizations need to be mobilizing their education & outreach programs to meet this need. It is a rare opportunity that will not come again in this generation. There are other significant issues surrounding the implementation of the NGSS. The NGSS involves a year of Earth and space science at the high school level, but there does not exist a sufficient workforce is geoscience teachers to meet this need. The form and content of the geoscience standards are also very different from past standards, moving away from a memorization and categorization approach and toward a complex Earth Systems Science approach. Combined with the shift toward practice-based teaching, this means that significant professional development will therefore be required for the existing K-12 geoscience education workforce. How the NGSS are to be assessed is another significant question, with an NRC report providing some guidance but leaving many questions unanswered. There is also an uneasy relationship between the NGSS and the Common Core of math and English, and the recent push-back against the Common Core in many states may impact the implementation of the NGSS.