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What Professional Development Strategies Are Needed for Successful Implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards?

Reiser, Brian J.
Publication Year:
Paper presented at the Invitational Research Symposium on Science Assessment, Sep 2013
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
ETS K-12 Center Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Professional Development Science Education


The new vision for science learning and teaching established in the Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council, 2012) and carried forward in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; NGSS Lead States, 2013) requires a dramatic departure from approaches to teaching and learning science occurring today in most science classrooms K-12 (Banilower et al., 2013). This approach to teaching and learning builds on decades of research identifying problems with science classroom learning and promising strategies for what is needed to make learning more meaningful and effective for students (National Research Council, 2007). Central to the vision of teaching and learning articulated in the Framework and NGSS are three interrelated goals that affect how teachers need to support student learning: 1. Core Ideas: The Framework and NGSS shift the emphasis away from the breadth of too much content to a focus on the in-depth development of core explanatory ideas. 2. Practices: The Framework and NGSS outline a central role for science and engineering practices in which students develop key explanatory ideas and models through investigation and apply them to make sense of phenomena. 3. Coherence: Building explanatory ideas requires treating science learning as a coherent progression in which learners build ideas across time and between science disciplines. The shifts in teaching practice required to achieve these goals are generally recognized to be substantial (National Research Council, 2012; Wilson, 2013). Tools including new curriculum materials and new assessments will be important supports to help the K-12 system move in these directions, but without a strong focus on aligned professional development, adopting NGSS and providing these resources will not be sufficient. Supporting students in the type of coherent sensemaking science practices called for the in Framework and NGSS requires a change in teachers’ daily practices. These shifts in practice cannot be accomplished by learning about NGSS, or by developing a collection of isolated techniques. Instead it requires fundamental attention to what we now know about how to support teachers changing their practice. To identify a professional development agenda, we begin in Section 2 with an analysis of how the Framework and NGSS demand real change in K-12 classrooms, exploring the three issues of core ideas, practices and coherence. We identify the central shifts in teaching practices on which professional development must focus if NGSS is to be successful. Then in Section 3, we review the implications of research on professional development, particularly in systemic attempts to change teaching practice, for teaching learning and teacher change of this sort, and consider how an effective PD system could support teaching change aligned with the Framework and NGSS.

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