Then, while I was enjoying the snow days this week, I downloaded and began to read the National Academies newest resources for NGSS implementation, Science Teachers' Learning: Enhancing Opportunities, Creating Supportive Contexts. (You can download the entire book as a pdf here.) In this book, the authors make several recommendations that will be needed to support science teachers as they transition from older models of science teaching toward the vision of the NGSS. Before getting to the recommendations, the authors take a quick look at the vision of The Framework and the NGSS followed by a look at current practices in science education. It was in the "quick look" at the vision that I had an epiphany.
Until then, I had made some basic assumptions about the DCIs. 1. That they shuffled the order in which content was taught in schools. (For example, a lot of the life science I used to teach in 7th grade has moved to 6th or 8th grade in the Kentucky middle school NGSS model.) 2. That the DCIs were trimmed down to allow for more depth and exploration. 3. That they help teachers decide what to eliminate from their previously over-crowded curriculum. 4. That they added waves and engineering as essential components of science instruction.
What I failed to realize is that the DCIs are the essential understandings that allow our students to be science literate. They are the big ideas that underpin science, and if our students understand these big ideas, they'll have little trouble going deeper later. If, indeed, these DCIs are the essential big ideas, then everything in my curriculum should reflect back to them. Every activity I do should be grounded in at least one of these ideas. Every time my students use one of the science and engineering practices, they must be using them in conjunction with at least one of these big ideas.
This means I'm going to have to do a little more work in my classroom. I need to learn the DCIs as well as I know the practices and the crosscutting concepts. I could list either of those from memory, but I don't have a good handle on the DCIs. Ted Willard (@Ted_NSTA) has been doggedly reminding us that it's not really NGSS if it's not connected to a DCI. I finally get it, Ted; I finally get it. Will you join me this week in asking, "What DCI does this activity/lab/discussion/etc. connect to?" ( See below for a list of the DCIs.) Use this link to go to the chapters focused on DCIs in The Framework.