Rather than needing to start from scratch, Issues and Science and Science and Global Issues: Biology were built on years of experience in curriculum development, research on best-practice in science education, in-classroom field studies, and educator feedback.
Ironically, earlier editions of Issues and Science and Science and Global Issues: Biology were sometimes criticized for being “ahead of its time” by moving away from the textbook and worksheet and instead providing consistent, repeated opportunities for students to practice science in a hands-on way. Our approach to root each unit in a real life issue, or to be problem-based, also brought up concerns that students would “ask too many questions” and that teachers “couldn’t handle” the integration of content with the unresolved, socio-science issues of the world. Even today we are challenged for our assessment system that doesn't churn out achievement data, but instead gives students space to give messy answers that show critical thinking, not just the right answer.
Funny thing is, the research on which Issues and Science and Science and Global Issues: Biology are based is the same research on which the NGSS is based, and it turns out students are most engaged when the learning is relevant to their lives, when they are empowered to ask questions and challenge ideas, and when they are given a platform to propose and test possible solutions. Students learn best when they feel that what they are doing matters and this has always been our aim.
It is with these experiences and goals that previous editions of our program were completely picked apart, analyzed, and held up to the NGSS lens, before beginning the pain-staking redesign process. And yes, it was a redesign, because we weren’t about to scrap what was already good, just so we could say it was brand new. Just like other developers also designed their programs around what research showed to already work (arguably borrowing a lot from programs like Issues and Science).
The truth is, the NGSS is complicated and ever-evolving. There is no one right way. There are still debates today - between brilliant, recognized education leaders and among amazing unknown teachers - all of whom are trying to do what’s best for students. So what is best for your students? We're happy to share with you whatever you need to make that decision. Ask questions, hold us accountable, make us provide the evidence - because science is not just something we teach, it's what we do.
- Check out the Learning Pathways used to guide the NGSS development of Issues and Science, 2019
- Using Issues to Anchor an NGSS Unit, published in NSTA's The Science Teacher, 2017
- NGSS in Practice, featuring SEPUP's collaboration with AMNH to develop a model NGSS unit, 2019
- Engaging in Argument from Evidence | Assessment, 2018
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