(I posted this on my other NGSS focused site, but wanted to post an extended version here as well)
While the change to the Next Generation Science Standards is one I have been enthusiastic about from the start, I have been apprehensive at times as well in questing whether I am doing things right. For one, I am not used to spending so much class topic on a single research project. Usually I would introduce the project, give them a couple of days spread out in class over the course of the timeline to work, and then expect it turned in completed and perfect on the due date. I never would have spend a total of almost 3 weeks in class (about 10 full days of class time with the supplemental activities subtracted) working on a research project like this. However, in reflecting back on this time I truly see the value.
A large part of this change to NGSS, in my eyes at least, is in valuing the process. This might be the process of truly understanding a concept (not just having a teacher convey information to you), but it is also the process of creating something, like the research project. This whole activity has students finding a question they are passionate about, discovering the answer on their own, and working to figure out how to convey that information to others. A useful skill for all; but the truth of the matter is not all students will even get there.
In the past when a student didn’t finish a project like this they would get a zero, an F, a hole they had to fight to climb out of. Maybe they would turn in a late and incomplete paper, lifting them up to a higher F or maybe even a D. But, here’s the thing, that final paper only represents a fraction of the process and what they accomplished. They had to acquire background knowledge, collect research, and organize that research. Shouldn’t we be valuing this whole process and not just the end result. In really evaluating each part of the task it lets me do that. I think of some of my students who struggle, whether it is with motivation or ability, by valuing the whole process it makes it much harder for them to fail. That’s a great thing because there is nothing less motivating to succeed than being sure there is no way for you to not fail.
I will also say that as a teacher, I need to also value this process in myself. Yes, I need think critically about how I can improve my teaching, but I should also value the whole process that goes into each lesson I plan. This change to NGSS involves a process of learning for us all, one we may not succeed at 100% each and every day with each and every lesson, but one that we continue to work with and improve upon.