top of page

digital audio

Introduction to the Next Generation Science Standards - Out to Learn
00:00 / 00:00

The audience for this audio file is informal educators who are unfamiliar with the Next Generation Science Standards, but who will be responsible for teaching programs that support NGSS as part of their new job. This is the same audience as for my Week 2 Infographic and my Week 4 video.

The transcript can be found below the OER checklist.

OER Assessment Checklist

In the US, the approach to classroom science education has historically focused primarily on teaching students the content of science. That’s stuff like, as a kindergartener, knowing that the sun is important for life on Earth, and then as a high schooler, being able to describe the different steps of photosynthesis, which is connected to why the sun is important for life on Earth.


This approach to science encourages students to be good at memorizing and recalling science facts, but doesn’t necessarily equip them with the tools or skills they need in order to understand how and why science works.


The Next Generation Science Standards, or NGSS, are pretty different. Instead of focusing just on that content knowledge, these new standards teach dynamic three-dimensional science, with the goal of getting kids ready to actually be scientists and make contributions in the field, not just pass a test at the end of the year.


So, what are the three dimensions of NGSS?


First, we have the Disciplinary Core Ideas, or DCIs. These look a lot like the content standards from before. In NGSS, they’re divided into four disciplines: life science, earth and space science, physical science, and engineering. Our example from before, about the sun and photosynthesis, shows up in both the life sciences and the earth and space sciences disciplines.

Now that leads us right into our next dimension of NGSS, the Crosscutting Concepts. These are seven really big, broad concepts that tie DCIs together across disciplines and  across grade levels. By talking about them on purpose, students have an easier time seeing how the different disciplines are interconnected, and how their study in one year relates to their study in the next. The Crosscutting Concepts are Patterns; Cause and Effect; Scale, Proportion, and Quantity; Systems and System Models; Energy and Matter; Structure and Function; and Stability and Change.


So again looking at our sun and photosynthesis example, when teaching those ideas, a teacher using the NGSS would be sure invite students to articulate how the sun and photosynthesis relates to “energy and matter”, but also how other science concepts relate to energy and matter. The content also relates to other crosscutting concepts like structure and function, cause and effect, and systems and system models, and by highlighting these connections, students begin to see how the sciences are all deeply interconnected.

Now all of this science-y information is well and good, but what really differentiates the Next Gen Science Standards from their predecessors is the way that students interact with this information. Students aren’t just sitting there passively receiving this information, or even completing labs that their teachers have created. NGSS goes further, asking students to actually develop and use the cognitive, physical, and social skills that scientists use on a daily basis. These are the practices of science and engineering, and they are woven throughout science education to help students develop a deep understanding of the content and to help them get ready to be actual practicing scientists as adults. The Practices of Science and Engineering are:

Asking questions and defining problems; Developing and using models; Planning and carrying out investigations; Analyzing and interpreting data; Using mathematics & computational thinking; Constructing explanations & designing solutions; Engaging in argument from evidence; and Obtaining, evaluating, & communicating evidence.

Working together, the three dimensions of NGSS -- Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and the Practices of Science -- create a dynamic and engaging approach to science education.

bottom of page