Pedagogically speaking I am new to the NGSS and I am in a state that decided to write their “own standards” (almost carbon copies of the Next Generation Science Standards). The standards are so close to the NGSS that I feel comfortable saying they are NGSS standards
As a result of my NGSS “newbieness” I am starting at a basic level for my NGSS focus this year with my students. My focus is evidence-based thinking (EBT). Although EBT is the foundation of science/critical thinking. Helping students develop thinking skills instead of guessing the right answer is a major shift, at least for many of the students I work will.
For example: What do you observe in the image below?
At the beginning of the school year students responses to the question might include:
“A tree, a tree in a field,” and if I’m lucky “a tree in a field in the fall.”
“How do you know it is a tree?” I ask
“Because I can see it is a tree!”
“What is your evidence?”
“I know what a tree looks like and that is a tree.”
At this point students have not supplied evidence and some of the students are annoyed with my questioning. To be fair I do bait them a bit and if I gave more precise instructions, the task I ask of them would be much easier to complete.
So then I ask the question again. List some observations about this image. Possible responses from students might include: There is a tree, the tree is in a field, the tree has red/orange/yellow leaves.
My followup question would be, “What is your evidence there is a tree in the image” –
“I can see it.”
“What about it tells you it is a tree?”
Finally I start to hear things like, leaves, branches, a trunk. They might tell me about the color of the leaves and how they vary in hue on the same branch.
I feel starting the year this way to help students see that evidence is simple. Evidence does not need to be a Law-and-Order smack-down that sends everyone into a whirlwind because of the profoundness of the evidence. More times than not the evidence for a claim is painfully obvious. This can be tricky for some students because they feel they are wasting their time. It is a necessary step however.
So what is next? Practice is key. Once students begin to recognize evidence for the obvious things like images or various objects we can start to visit more complex things like concepts and hypotheses.
We will see how it goes.
Suggestions and feedback are encouraged.