Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Look Back After Week One of Curriculum Development

First, let me offer my appreciation to the twenty-six members of my NGSS Transition Team that labored through the week to craft storylines, rubrics, unit outlines, and unit assessments.  My strong suggestion to anyone moving to the NGSS is to build a team of classroom teachers.  This group has worked with me since October and twenty of them will continue during curriculum writing starting on July 7.

The NGSS Transition team starts unit planning by thinking about how to reach all students.

In my last post, I discussed the unpacking document.  I can't emphasize enough how important a step this is.  It makes you really consider all three dimensions (DCI, SEP, and CC).  Once the team unpacked the PEs, they began drafting the performance based assessment using the GRASP.  

As the teams worked, I found them going back and forth revising the unpacking document as well as the PBA.   Once that process stabilized, the rubric started to evolve (insert collective groan).  Rubrics are the necessary evil of PBAs.  One tip on rubrics.  Maryland is a PARCC state so we used the four point rubric (0-3) format used throughout those assessments.  

Another tip.  Take advantage of pedagogies, templates, and vocabulary already in use rather than creating unique ones.  For example, the NGSS refers to argument in many of the performance expectations as early as Kindergarten.  The Common Core does not use argument until late elementary.  In the primary grades it is called opinion.  Yes, it is a nuance, but to elementary teachers already under intense change, any use of language they are comfortable with will gain you buy in.  At this point, buy in is really important.   We also realized with primary grades, we needed to really develop two rubrics.  One with teacher language and one with student language.  

The next step was to begin work on the unit outline.  This is where the poetry starts.  From the unpacking document,  all the enduring understandings and driving questions have to be organized to build a coherent storyline that leads to the PBA.  As I illustrated in my earlier post, the unit layout starts with students getting hooked by the scenario.  Right after that, they solve the problem as a form of performance pre-assessemnt.   As the teams worked on this outline a major obstacle had to be addressed.  After the third day of work, I reviewed the preliminary work on the unit outlines to see how they were addressing all three dimensions.  They were doing a great job writing the DCIs but the SEPs were almost absent.  This is the legacy of No Child.  We write to the content and "weave in" the process.  Alternatively, there were units that focused on the "scientific method".  So here is the book I want written:  

Learning to Do:  A Practitioners Guide to Building and Assessing the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices within Context.  

It is a working title.  

It is simply not enough to have students create an investigation, they have to be conscience of the fact that they are learning how to develop an investigation.  This is a real mind shift.  Teachers are becoming used to the hands-on side of science, but now they have to balance that with the "minds-on".  

By Friday afternoon, I had the teams evaluate their unit outlines using the EQuIP Rubric.  The preliminary evaluation shows a pretty good match.  The hard part will be when the lessons are written.  

So, in summary, here are your tips of the day.
  1. Get a team.
  2. Spend time unpacking the performance expectations.
  3. Make sure your curriculum speaks the same language teachers and students are accustomed.  
  4. Figure out how to teach the practices and not just the content.  Hands-on.  Minds-on.  

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