Pedagogy is the art of teaching. It's how teachers deliver the instruction and assess the learning. Pedagogy, in my opinion, is what differentiates great teachers from bleh teachers. Some of the smartest people in the world could absolutely suck at teaching in their area of expertise because they lack pedagogical skills. It's not that this person doesn't clearly KNOW their content, but instructing others to grasp concepts associated with a topic then assess their knowledge of content and skills is not easy. That is why not everyone can be an educator. Others might think they can be an educator, but as teachers know, pedagogy takes time and practice and not everyone is good at it.
So why is NGSS all about pedagogy? What a great question! NGSS asks that students take the KNOWLEDGE (DCI) associated with scientists and engineers to THINK (CCC) like them and DO (SEP) what they do. Traditionally, science teachers (not all of them, but let's honest, most of them) have lectured to students. They have kids take notes on a chapter, read the chapters, answer questions from the chapter, do a lab from the chapter, then test at the end of the chapter. I was taught this way and for a decent amount of time, I taught this way. I'm not calling this bad teaching. I learned. Heck, I even went into research, but maybe, just maybe learning like this is NOT thinking or acting like scientists/engineers. Truth be told, I didn't learn to think and act like a scientist until graduate school and that is simply a damn shame. So, NGSS is asking us teachers to allow this to happen at a younger age...like starting in kindergarten!
DISCOVERY and INQUIRY are KEY. Students need to experience something that gets them wondering. This wondering leads to questioning, experimenting and seeking out answers. But true scientific discovery doesn't happen through the front loading of information. That doesn't mean that researchers don't have knowledge about a topic. They do. But experimentation evolves because there are gaps in their knowledge, content that is not fully understood. Thus, teachers need to dangle just enough content in front of students to get them curious. Then, through exploration the students arrive to a better understanding of the concept. Sure, we can lecture to the students, but that prevents them the opportunity to think and problem solve like a scientist/engineer. We need them getting creative, working in groups, using their resources, making decisions in order to make meaning of what they are experiencing.
Our students are evolving as are the worldly needs and demands. If you haven't seen the graphic below, take a look at it. It is listing the skills of the future and is quite eye opening. Notice it doesn't say anything about knowing vocabulary words.
|Source: Future of Jobs Report, World Economic Forum|
When it comes to experimentation, researchers don't follow a recipe knowing what the answer is going to be. They often times take procedures/tools that are known and design experiments around those procedures/tools. Sometimes they create new procedures/tools all together. So if teachers are simply giving students the steps to an experiment, they are robbing the students of a rich opportunity to THINK. So what if the experiment doesn't work? The student didn't fail. They simply found one way NOT to test the hypothesis.
Multiple choice. I love/hate multiple choice. As a teacher it is super easy to grade, but as a learner I could narrow it down to two then argue why both are possible answers. However, if I guessed the wrong one, it was marked incorrect, regardless of my argument. In science, sometimes there is more than one right answer and by not allowing students the opportunity to argue why their answer is the best answer, we are not permitting the skill of argumentation with evidence.
Students should be able to look at data and interpret it. They should be able to make predictions from graphs and models. Teachers should not be telling students how to think about numbers and images, rather we should be challenging them to look for patterns and draw conclusions.
I went to a session at NSTA in 2017 and the lead presenter was from San Francisco Unified (SFUSD is ROCKING NGSS). He said we should be teaching ACTIVITY BEFORE CONCEPT - CONCEPT BEFORE VOCABULARY
This, in my opinion, is the HEART of NGSS. Teachers, this is our charge. It's not that lectures go away. They are simply strategically placed and HOW we deliver the lectures must be considered/revamped. Scientific content has not disappeared. It's always been there. But NGSS is NOT about the content. For teachers, NGSS is all about the pedagogy. We must embrace the pedagogy that reflects the type of learning that is expected with NGSS. Students THINK (CCC) and DO (SEP) science and engineering all the while acquiring KNOWLEDGE (DCI)and deeper understanding of concepts.