Tuesday, March 22, 2016

New Curriculum Emphasizes Critical Thinking Skills

The shift to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) will make it easier to embed Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Literacy. With the focus off rote memorization, reading, writing and critical thinking will be fundamental skills in a science class
The United States’ ability to innovate depends on science education. Citizens are required to use critical thinking and communication skills in a global economy driven by advancements in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).
The National Science Foundation reports there are currently between 2-3 million unfilled positions due to the lack of qualified candidates in the areas of STEM.
The NGSS emphasizes the eight practices (skills and knowledge) essential to scientists and engineers in their workplaces and intertwines these practices with the core ideas students are learning in science class. They include: Asking questions and defining problems; developing and using models; planning and carrying out investigations; analyzing and interpreting data; using mathematics and computational thinking ; constructing applications and designing solutions; engaging in argument from evidence; and obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information
When students are engaged in these practices, they learn how scientific knowledge is developed and how it is linked to engineering. This type of education can help prepare individual students for a well-paying job in the future.

In addition to the science and engineering practices, the NGSS provides seven crosscutting concepts students should master in preparation for college and careers. Including patterns; cause and effect; scale, proportion and quantity; systems and system models; energy and Matter; structure and function; and stability and change.
We are in a transition from a focus on knowledge itself to a focus on putting that knowledge to use. In our 7th grade science class, we are currently learning about energy waves.
Students were asked the questions: Is there a relationship between frequency, wavelength, and speed? If so, what is it? If not, why?
Each small group developed a model using a slinky, meter stick, and stopwatch. As a whole group, we planned an investigation for the small groups to carry out.
All students collected data. They analyzed the data and computed averages in search of a mathematical pattern or proportional relationship.
I was impressed with their organized data tables and graphs. If students found a mathematical relationship, they were asked to construct an equation or formula to compute quantities.
In their conclusion, students had to answer the investigation questions and write an argument for their claim supported by evidence from their data. Each small group had time to discuss and communicate their results to the entire class.
Many of the small groups discovered a cause and effect relationship between frequency, wavelength, and speed. In addition to learning and using core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts, this investigation requires students to learn and use skills in reading and writing.
The CCSS for Literacy will supplement NGSS in order to help students meet the challenges of reading and writing in a science class. Students who meet these literacy standards will have the skills needed to perform the critical reading necessary to pick through the astounding amount of information available today.
We model the reading strategies involved with comprehending science text by performing a think-aloud. All of these skills are paramount in the real world and this world is becoming more about being able to critically think and less about memorizing text. Information is attainable in new ways, students are learning in new ways, and we need a populace that can solve 21st century problems. The recent adoption of the CCSS and NGSS standards in Michigan is commendable; implementing them in our schools will only benefit us as a society.