Middle school labs look very different in an NGSS aligned classroom. The NGSS will change your labs in more ways than you think. Here are 4 ways that the NGSS will change labs in your classroom.
How are labs different in an NGSS Aligned class?
1. Labs don't take place after the lecture.
Before NGSS, teachers provided students with course content before they did a lab activity. The lab provided confirmation of what was taught by the teacher. (We refer to this style of labs as confirmation labs.)
However, in an NGSS classroom, experiences come first. So, students obtain course content by engaging in experiences such as lab-style activities. Then, the teachers provide additional information to clarify what they have learned through discovery.
Why don't labs follow course content?
When a discovery-based approach is used, students have a better understanding of the material. Also, students retain the information better because of the experience that they have had. Finally, this approach helps students develop vital critical thinking skills.
2. Say goodbye to cookie-cutter labs.
Pre-NGSS, teachers often gave their middle school students a lab handout. Often, teachers expected students to follow a recipe-style procedure. In this case, students were only responsible for reading and carrying out the procedure. They were not responsible for planning the investigation.
This style of labs emphasized the result of the investigation rather than planning and carrying out the investigation. As a result, students' ability to plan investigations suffered.
In an NGSS aligned classroom, students responsible for planning investigations. In fact, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations is one of the eight Science and Engineering Practices.
Unfortunately, some students struggle with making this shift. Check out this post to find out how I scaffold student investigations.
Here is a picture of the outline that I use to help my students plan their investigations. I review the outline before they are able to conduct their investigations. To view this resource on my TPT page, click here.
3. The emphasis is on the practices rather than the Scientific Method.
According to the Framework for K-12 Science Education, the Scientific Method should no longer be used in the classroom. Instead, students should be using the Science and Engineering Practices. These practices can be used separately or together to help students build an understanding of the nature of science.
To learn more about why the Scientific Method is no longer used, check out this post.
There are 8 Science and Engineering Practices. And, each of the practices has many subcomponents. These components are grade-band specific and help to provide insights about what the practices will look like in each band. To view the Science and Engineering Practices and their subcomponents, check out the NSTA Matrix for the Science and Engineering Practices.
What about the Lab reports?
In my classroom, I no longer require students to write formal lab reports. However, lab reports may be appropriate for higher-level courses and when students have mastered the science and engineering practices.
To find out if lab reports are right for your NGSS Aligned class, read this post.
4. The Science and Engineering Practices aren't just for lab days.
Pre-NGSS, I set aside specific days to spend time doing hands-on activities. However, since I made the shift to the NGSS, students are exploring in my classroom all of the time.
By looking at the NSTA Matrix for the Science & Engineering Practices, I have been able to incorporate the practices in so many ways. Often, I just look at one subcomponent and incorporate it into my lesson plan. Other times, we spend one or more class periods engaging in laboratory-style activities.
Do you want to learn more? Check out these resources:
- Scaffolding the Investigation Process for Your Students
- Why the Scientific Method Doesn't Align with the NGSS
- Why I Don't Require Lab Reports in Classes
- A Framework for K12 Science Education – National Academies Press
- NSTA Matrix for the Science and Engineering Practices