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Planning an NGSS Topic Study

There are several steps that should be completed to plan and implement an effective NGSS Topic Study. The following guidelines will help to use time effectively and ensure success of the NGSS Topic Study process.

Defining the Purpose for Using the NGSS Topic Study Process
Although the NGSS Topic Study Cycle Format includes time to define the purpose and goals of the study process, it is important to know how the topic study fits into the larger learning of your group. Some examples of such purposes could be:
  • A content group or grade level team is looking at a particular performance expectation with the goal of developing a performance task around the standard. In preparation for this work, they agree to use the topic study process for each of the three dimensions of the performance expectation to build a common understanding prior to sitting to write the performance task.
  • A science department at a school sets a goal to deepen understanding of the scientific and engineering practices of the NGSS. They agree to use to the NGSS Topic Study at each department meeting for the year, working on a different practice each month. They also agree to rotate the facilitation of the topic study each month from teacher to teacher, with the department chair leading the first meeting.
  • In planning for an instructional unit, a group of teachers want to emphasize a particular scientific and engineering practice in the unit. They use the NGSS Topic Study to deepen their understanding of that practice prior to planning that unit.
  • As part of a workshop for teachers, teachers have the chance to use the NGSS Topic Study as part of their learning for the day to deepen understanding of a particular topic.

Scheduling Time for the NGSS Topic Study
The NGSS Topic Study Cycle Format is designed to be completed in one hour of time. It is recommended, however, that additional time be allocated if possible. The learning cycle format is designed to capture background thinking, engage in research, collaboratively discuss with peers, and reflect on how to use the learning. It is important to not cut out any step in the process as it diminishes learning experience.

Gathering Resources and Materials for the NGSS Topic Study
Prior to running an NGSS Topic Study session, there are a few details that will need attention. These include:
  • Teachers will need access to the Framework for K-12 Science Education. It can be downloaded as a PDF document for free at the National Academies Press. A hard copy is available for purchase as well. This resource is invaluable to building awareness and understanding of the Next Generation Science Standards.
  • Many of the videos in the resources sections of each topic require access to YouTube. One question that needs to be answered in setting up a topic study session is whether videos will be watched as a whole group, or individually.
  • There are other resources for each topic, including several appendices from the NextGenScience website. They can be viewed online or downloaded to a computer. If hard copies will be used, they will need to be printed in advance.
  • There are several handouts that can be used for note taking and reflective purposes. They can be downloaded at theNGSS Topic Study Tools and Handouts page. They are in a Word document format so they can be printed out or used directly from the document.

Facilitating the NGSS Topic Study
Facilitating the NGSS Topic Study involves the gathering of resources in advance of a session, leading the participants through each of the steps in the NGSS Topic Study Cycle Format, keeping track of time, and making notes and summaries of group ideas. 
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