Translating the NGSS for Classroom Instruction

Contributor
National Science Teachers Association, Author: Roger Bybee
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Unit
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

This book was published by NSTA and was written by Rodger Bybee. It gives a brief introduction to the Framework and the Next Generation Science Standards and describes examples of how to translate these into instruction in the classroom in elementary, middle and high school. I will focus on Chapter 6 in this review since it discusses a unit for teaching biological evolution to middle school. The chapter begins with how to link the performance expectations at the middle school to what students should learn in K-5 about evolution. The instructional sequence is built on the 5E model and includes an assessment. A description of a typical classroom with teacher questions and student responses as well as activities carried out forms the main text of the chapter. Students examine brachiopod fossils, observe and graph their variation in size and then hypothesize how these differences developed. Background information on fossils is provided by the teacher. Other similarities and differences in fully formed organisms and from embryos are identified from pictures and, after research, students construct explanations backed by evidence of common ancestry. As a part of their study students analyze patterns of data, construct explanations, and explain how the fossil evidence shows how living things have evolved over time. Crosscutting concepts such as stability and change, and cause and effect are also incorporated into instruction. In the assessment students are asked to construct an explanation based on evidence about how speed in cheetahs evolved and to use mathematical representations to explain how specific traits evolve in populations over time. A table with a summary of the three dimensions in the integrated instructional sequence completes the chapter.

Intended Audience

Educator
Educational Level
  • Grade 8
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 6
  • Middle School
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Available for purchase - The right to view, keep, and/or download material upon payment of a one-time fee.

Performance Expectations

MS-LS4-6 Use mathematical representations to support explanations of how natural selection may lead to increases and decreases of specific traits in populations over time.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on using mathematical models, probability statements, and proportional reasoning to support explanations of trends in changes to populations over time.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include Hardy Weinberg calculations.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The chapter describes an instructional sequence that deals directly with teaching middle school performance expectations about biological evolution with the example of a population of brachipod fossils. Two performance expectations are integrated in the instructional sequence and three other performance expectations (MS-LS4-1, MS-LS4-2 and MS-LS4-3) are addressed, but not fully outlined in the sequence. For MS-LS4-6, Students are asked to graph the variation of some trait of brachiopods to see the distribution. This graph is then used to help explain how natural selection operates on variations in a population. Ties to what students should know and be able to do from their instruction in elementary school are discussed. The ideas presented in the chapter are somewhat cursory and incomplete and teachers will need to be much more specific in their instruction. For example, students were asked to construct an explanation for how brachiopods changed over time, but no format for the explanation was given and background on natural selection or having students develop a model to explain natural selection were lacking. The outline of of the unit has merit and will help teachers think through how NGSS instruction can be three dimensional, but much work will need to be done by teachers to fill in the many gaps in the description of the unit.

MS-LS4-4 Construct an explanation based on evidence that describes how genetic variations of traits in a population increase some individuals’ probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on using simple probability statements and proportional reasoning to construct explanations.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The chapter describes an instructional sequence that deals directly with teaching middle school performance expectations about biological evolution with the example of a population of brachipod fossils. Two performance expectations are integrated in the instructional sequence and three other performance expectations (MS-LS4-1, MS-LS4-2 and MS-LS4-3) are addressed, but not fully outlined in the sequence. Ties to what students should know and be able to do from their instruction in elementary school are discussed. The ideas presented in the chapter are somewhat cursory and incomplete and teachers will need to be much more specific in their instruction. For example, students were asked to construct an explanation for how brachiopods changed over time, but no format for the explanation was given and background on natural selection or having students develop a model to explain natural selection were lacking. The outline of of the unit has merit and will help teachers think through how NGSS instruction can be three dimensional, but much work will need to be done by teachers to fill in the many gaps in the description of the unit.

MS-LS4-3 Analyze displays of pictorial data to compare patterns of similarities in the embryological development across multiple species to identify relationships not evident in the fully formed anatomy.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on inferring general patterns of relatedness among embryos of different organisms by comparing the macroscopic appearance of diagrams or pictures.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment of comparisons is limited to gross appearance of anatomical structures in embryological development.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
There is a brief mention of an activity to address this performance expectation. Students are given pictures of embryos and asked to identify the similarities and differences. The teacher would need to address the idea in more detail about how this suggests relatedness among individuals.

MS-LS4-1 Analyze and interpret data for patterns in the fossil record that document the existence, diversity, extinction, and change of life forms throughout the history of life on Earth under the assumption that natural laws operate today as in the past.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on finding patterns of changes in the level of complexity of anatomical structures in organisms and the chronological order of fossil appearance in the rock layers.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include the names of individual species or geological eras in the fossil record.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students look at fossil brachiopods to find variation and similarities. More different types of fossils should be used to help students understand more about the patterns in the fossil record since one of the emphases of this performance expectation is to analyze the chronological order of fossil appearance in rock layers.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students use the evidence from fossils to construct an evidence-based explanation of how natural selection may lead to increases or decreases of traits in a population. Students analyze the data that they collect about brachiopods and are asked to explain the differences in the populations. Different explanations are considered and students then construct an evidence based explanation of how natural selection may lead to increases or decreases of specific traits in a population. Like the performance expectation, specific teacher instructions are lacking and the chapter describes a broad outline of how instruction might look. The types of analysis and interpretation as well as how to construct explanations will need to be more specific than what is described in the chapter. It is a good start to a unit, but not complete.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Teachers should emphasize that the similarities of embryos is a clear piece of evidence for common ancestry.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
More about the fossil record needs to be included so that students understand about evolutionary history and descent instead of only looking at one species of fossil. Including other species and information about where they appear in the fossil record could help students see the evidence for common ancestry and diversity. Examples of the succession of types like the giant glyptodont and the armadillo could be examined by students.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
A description of how to teach natural selection and evidence of common ancestry and diversity is included in this chapter, but details are lacking. For example, on p.79 students are asked to complete an assignment to construct an evidence-based explanation about natural selection, but no specifics are given. Teachers should add more about how natural selection leads to adaptations, either through having students develop a model, more specific questions to help lead students to understand the process or other activities to clarify. Artificial selection is not addressed and it often helps students to understand the process in the natural world.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
This crosscutting concept is integrated into the instructional sequence, but is not explicit. Table 6.7 cites cause and effect as being in the background for the Engage, Explore and Elaborate phase of instruction and in the foreground in the Explain phase. The way that the Explain phase is outlined, however, does not mention cause and effect even though it could be interwoven into the instruction. Students could be asked to identify a cause in the environment that would be responsible for the effect of the population change. Using those specific words may help students connect the crosscutting concept of cause and effect to the scientific explanation that they are constructing.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The sequence of activities addresses all three dimensions of the NGSS. Much more will need to be done by the teacher to actually put these ideas into action, but the sequence of activities are outlined as well as possible questions to guide instruction. Table 6.8 at the end of the chapter contains a summary of teaching and assessment that support the NGSS with a description of each phase of the 5E’s. It may be helpful to look at this first before reading the lengthier description that is placed at the beginning of the chapter since it gives teachers an overall plan of teaching and assessment strategies.

  • Instructional Supports: Much more will need to be done by the teacher to actually put these ideas into action, since the book only contains an outline of the activities. The Engage and Explore phases include a fairly complete description of what could be done in the classroom. The Explain phase leaves out information that teachers will want to add or have students research such as specific adaptations for the brachiopods and how they helped them survive. A framework for writing explanations is helpful to students in this situation. They could be asked to construct a Darwinian Explanation that includes the variation in the original population, the selective advantage of a specific trait, which individuals survive and reproduce and pass on their genes and how the population changed over time. A very cursory description of a report is included in the Elaborate phase where students are asked to prepare reports “of similarities and differences of organisms and how they may have evolved.” A suggestion is to have a list of possible organisms that students can research. A list of what is required for the report will needed to be given to students. The description of the unit includes some possible questions that the teacher can ask of students and a brief layout of the activities involved, but there are major gaps that will need elaboration.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: A complete assessment is given and includes the question and scoring ideas. Possible responses are given for full credit, partial credit and no credit. The first question uses cheetahs as the example and students describe traits that vary among cheetahs due to genetic factors and also due to the environment. The second question asks about the scientific explanation for how environmental and genetic factors may have influenced the growth of plants in Africa. I’m not sure that enough emphasis during instruction is directed towards the difference between environmental and genetic factors influencing a population for students to answer these two questions. I would make instruction more explicit so that students would use evidence from their learning to answer the questions and not just something that they thought about without evidence. Questions 3-5 are based on natural selection for speed in cheetahs and students should be able to explain this phenomenon as well as analyze the evidence in the graphs provided after instruction.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -