Science

                                                                            

“We can judge our progress by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers, our willingness to embrace what is true rather than what feels good.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ~ Carl Sagan

Overview

Now, more than ever, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education is critically important for the success of 21st century students. STEM disciplines permeate every aspect of our modern lives and access to high-quality, research-based STEM learning opportunities will ensure that all students are ready to meet current and future challenges, both locally and globally.

In order to meet the needs of our K-12 students, Vermont adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in 2013 to serve as a foundation for statewide STEM instruction. Based on the Framework for K-12 Education, the NGSS refocuses K-12 science and STEM education to improve readiness for college and STEM careers as well as preparing students to become informed, knowledgeable citizens. The standards are designed so that students apply scientific practices, ask questions, problem solve, make mistakes, and correct misconceptions, with the larger goal of reaching deeper scientific literacy.

Science and STEM Education in Blended and Virtual Environments

The Council of State Science Supervisors (CSSS) has released a series of one-pagers that districts and educators may find helpful when planning for face-to-face, blended/hybrid, and fully remote learning environments for the 2020-2021 school year.

In addition, consider how materials and teaching approaches being suggested can be used to:

  • Support flexible scheduling and those with limited technology access.
  • Engage students in meaningful science and STEM explorations, investigations, and/or sense-making.
  • Encourage students to engage in activities that already happen in their homes with materials that families already have.
  • Help students make explicit connections to their interests and identities.
  • Provide students with choices for how they engage, what they investigate, and how they demonstrate learning.
  • Support students in self-reflection related to content and process to support their science learning.
  • Exercise sensitivity when referencing the current pandemic as a possible phenomenon to investigate.

A Vermont Portrait of a Graduate through Science and STEM

A Vermont Portrait of a Graduate (PoG) serves to clarify the attributes a Vermont senior should be able to demonstrate upon graduation. These attributes have been collaboratively developed by Vermont students, community members and educators, and include cognitive, personal, and interpersonal skills and abilities that align well to science and STEM. Therefore, a robust PoG should be used as a tool to vertically align programmatic and instructional decisions K-12, as well as review and refine local proficiency-based graduation requirements.

Connection to Science and STEM

The discipline of science is linked to the AOE’s PoG through six learner attributes: Learner Agency, Academic Proficiency, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Communication, Global Citizenship and Student Well-being. 

The following model crosswalks these attributes and their indicators with the NGSS and NGSS-based instructional practices to show how a strong science curriculum can serve as a vehicle for students to demonstrate proficiency.

Learner Agency

Real-World Contexts Phenomena High Expectations Application Authentic Learning

Students become intrinsically motivated when they see the value of learning. As they investigate compelling, real-world phenomena, students apply obtained skills and knowledge to new and different contexts.  Students that develop high expectations for themselves often learn to tackle challenging learning activities, produce high quality work and become life-long learners.

Academic Proficiency

3D Learning Essential Concepts Effective Questioning Constructing Explanations Authentic Learning

Students that engage in authentic, three-dimensional learning develop the ability to apply scientific practice and content knowledge to new contexts. The application of these scientific practices and concepts, coupled with 21st century skills such as collaboration, innovation and self-direction, help prepare students to formulate and refine probing questions to further their learning, evaluate multiple models, and aids in designing explanations and solutions that are consistent with scientific ideas, principles and theories.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Effective Questioning Carrying Out Investigations Inquiry Constructing Explanations Analyzing Data

When students use inquiry-based science that incorporates all three dimensions of the NGSS, they practice the use of evidence, logic and creativity when investigating and developing explanations about the natural world. Analysis of data collected from an investigation creates the evidence a student needs to answer their own questions and/or explain their thinking. The practices involved when students solve real-world problems and build explanations may challenge their preconceived notions and lead to new understandings about the world in which they live.

Communication

Constructing Explanations Analyzing Data Equity Conscious Decisions

As students move into adulthood, they must evaluate and communicate important ideas from multiple viewpoints presented in different media. To be critical consumers of information and to develop the ability to recognize methodological flaws and sources of error, students need to discern between observation and inference. In order for students to make conscious decisions about their world, they will need to be able to evaluate the merit and validity of claims, methods, and designs.

Global Citizenship

Conscious Decisions Equity Multiple & Independent Resources Complex Relationships Responsibilities

The global economy is fueled by advances and breakthroughs in science, technology, and engineering. Students will be entering a globally competitive world that will require the application of science knowledge and practices to new situations. In order for students to be prepared to discover new knowledge, solve challenging problems, make conscious decisions, and generate innovations. They will need to be able to connect content and practice using cross-curricular concepts to make sense of the world and approach problems not previously encountered.  

Student-Well Being

Social Interactions Social Awareness Engaging in Argument Responsibilities

Science is a social discipline at its core where scientists and engineers communicate with one another to refine ideas, gather feedback, refute claims and share findings. Students engaging in scientific discourse will encounter opposing viewpoints which will require them to share and clarify their own thinking, listen to others, deepen their own reasoning and, ultimately, collaborate with peers to come to a shared understanding of science phenomena and a better awareness of self. 

Assessment Information

State Level

Vermont will be assessing students in grades 5, 8 and 11 using the Vermont Science Assessment (VTSA) and the Vermont Alternate Assessment (VTAA- science). Both assessments are fully aligned to the NGSS Performance Expectations (PEs.)

Students will be assessed online on the same platform as the Smarter Balanced Assessment, but the VTSA and the VTAA are not considered a Smarter Balanced Assessment.

For more information regarding the VTSA, please read the VTSA FAQ or visit the Comprehensive Assessment Program Portal.

Local and Classroom Level

While there are many benefits of utilizing online platforms for state assessments, the shifting of the VTSA to a new system has meant that students will no longer be physically engaged with inquiry and inquiry materials.  Therefore, it is imperative that the classroom becomes the vehicle for inquiry tasks and projects.

As Vermont continues to refine its implementation of the NGSS, educators and administrators will need to work together to develop a robust pool of formative assessments that are authentic, equitable and personalized. The goal of the NGSS is to help students develop the skills and dispositions to use scientific and engineering practices, cross-cutting conceptual themes and major disciplinary core ideas to further their learning and solve problems.

For more information regarding classroom level science assessment, please download the PowerPoint of the National Research Council’s Developing Assessments for the Next Generation Science Standards and visit the AOE‘s State and Local Assessment Page.

Resources

Assessment Resources

NGSS Implementation Resources

Professional Development Resources

Curriculum and Instructional Development Resources

Curriculum Development

Phenomena

Alignment Tools

STEM and STEAM Resources

  • What is a STEM School? A resource for Identifying and Measuring STEM Schools and programs
  • Destination Imagination encourages teams of learners to have fun, take risks, focus and frame challenges while incorporating STEM, the arts and service learning.
  • National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) addresses the declination of students that are prepared to take rigorous college courses in math and science and are equipped for careers in those fields.
  • NGSS Engineering Hub provides an NGSS engineering design-aligned curriculum. Focuses on hands-on activities by grade and focus on the engineering design component of the NGSS.
  • Research + Practice Collaboratory engages researchers and practitioners around the country in an effort to address the gap between educational research and practice in STEM education.
  • STEM Education Coalition works to support STEM programs for teachers and students at different government agencies that offer STEM-related programs.
  • TeachEngineering Digital Library is a searchable, web-based digital library collection comprised of standards-based engineering curricula for use by K-12 educators.

Diversity and Equity Resources


Questions?

Email Margaret Carrera-Bly, or call (802) 828-5930.

Contact Us

Vermont Agency of Education
Secretary Daniel M. French
1 National Life Drive, Davis 5
Montpelier, VT 05620-2501

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