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7 Common Mistakes Teachers Make When Shifting to NGSS

March 3, 2018 2 Comments

The instructional shifts that come with NGSS are huge.  Consequently, there are a lot of mistakes to be made.  Here are the 7 most common mistakes that teachers make when shifting to the NGSS.

What are the mistakes that teachers make with NGSS?

Let me start by saying that we are all doing the best we can. NGSS aligned curriculum is just starting to become available and most of us are making this up as we go.  Each of these is a mistake that I have made and sometimes still make.

My hope is that this post will help you identify these mistakes so that you can start making gradual changes in your classroom.

1.  Focusing Too Heavily on the Disciplinary Core Ideas

Sample DCIThe last set of science standards that were given was a list of things that students were supposed to know when they left our classroom.  It was an exhaustive list of seemingly unconnected ideas.

Teachers tend to rely heavily on the DCI when they start out because they are the most familiar component.  There is a lot of similarity between the DCI and “old standards” in the way they are written.

Again, the DCI focuses on what students should know.  While this may be a decent place to look for early lesson objectives, this is really only the tip of the iceberg.  Focusing too heavily on the DCI will continue to leave students without more meaningful learning.

2. Reusing Old Material Without Updating Them

Another common mistake teachers make is rearranging old material into new piles to make them “fit” NGSS.  In fact, this mistake is so common, some major publishers have done this when “rewriting” their material to fit NGSS.

For teachers, this may be a necessary mistake.  Because there is so little to work with, they are making do with what they have and there isn’t anything wrong with that.  However, this should only be a temporary solution.

3. Giving Students TMI (Too much info!)

Many teachers are used to giving our students information and then using confirmation style labs to support their understanding.  However, the NGSS requires using a discovery-based approach.

As often as possible, avoid this common NGSS mistake by creating scenarios that allow students to figure out the content for themselves.  This is tricky, especially in higher grade levels if your students are seeing NGSS for the first time.

4. Not Using Evidence Statements


Evidence statements are your friend.   Evidence Statements can be used to come up with performance tasks, essential questions, objectives, and are great tools for backward planning.   They can help clarify your questions about a given performance expectation and help you avoid many of the common mistakes that I mentioned above.

5. Believing Something is NGSS Just Because it Says So

There are so many resources marked with the NGSS label, but it is a mistake to take it at face value that they are aligned.

Resources at all levels, from Teachers Pay Teachers to the resources from major publishers have some major flaws.  Do your research.  You can google any evidence statement for any performance expectation.  Read a little and see if the resource really fits that standard.  If you aren’t sure, any good TPT author would be happy to answer your questions.


6. Using the Same Old Assessments

Those multiple choice benchmarks have got to go.  Your district may still make you give them, but you should be able to decide how you count them.

I have pretty much eliminated all tests in my classroom.  Instead, I am phasing them out for performance tasks.  Again, I am using those evidence statements to plan performance tasks.

It is a long and drawn-out process, but even my district leadership agrees that common assessments will look much different in the future.

7.  Don’t try to do it all at once.

One of the most common questions I get is “How do I do it all?”.  You can’t.

Pick something to work on.  Pick a Science and Engineering Practice to try or make a connection to a crosscutting concept.  By making small changes, you will start to see the positive results in your classroom.

Resources to help you avoid Common NGSS Mistakes:

What mistakes have you made when trying to move toward NGSS in your classroom?

Erin Sadler

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  • Stephanie March 17, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    Thank you for posting this, there is a lot of helpful information here.
    I love the PhET simulations! They are such a great learning tool!

    • d8jdi March 17, 2018 at 4:33 pm

      Yes! Absolutely. Especially when using them with google classroom. They are fantastic and its a great way to eliminate some of the paper in your classroom.

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