By Nancy Colleton and Arden Holderby
Connected Science Learning identifies and introduces successful linkages between formal and informal education. In support of this same objective, a recent effort by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) resulted in the creation of a tool to review existing informal education products for linkages to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The IGES effort involved assessing products from the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) Science Activation (SciAct) program and determining their potential value for NGSS. The NASA SciAct program includes “competitively selected teams from across the nation [that] connect NASA science experts, content, and experiences with community leaders to do science in ways that activate minds and promote understanding” (NASA SMD 2020).
As many of these products are intended for informal, out-of-school audiences, the research team quickly recognized that existing NGSS evaluation tools do not allow for identifying linkages. In other words, instead of asking whether a product was aligned with NGSS, the team asked how the product could contribute or add value to NGSS.
“We wanted to determine whether a product that was never intended to meet NGSS goals or stand up against an EQuIP Rubric, could in some limited, but meaningful way contribute to or add value to NGSS,” says John Ensworth, project lead and senior science educator at IGES.
“Based on our long experience in assessing products as part of the NASA SMD Independent Product Review, we know there are many exceptional products that exist or are being developed that could contribute to NGSS. It's a different way of looking at a resource, especially informal science education resources.”
Peg Steffen, an NGSS curriculum writer who contributed to the research and design of the tool, points out that while some products may not respond to all aspects of three-dimensional learning, products that promote practices, for example, could be valuable to educators.
As a result, IGES developed the Informal Resource Review Tool (IRRT) to identify whether an existing informal education resource—or one being developed or revised—is providing adequate connections to the NGSS for educators. Efforts to identify elements of three-dimensional lesson design within informal activities will assist educators to make connections to their own curricula, making a richer learning environment for all students.
The IGES IRRT is comprised of five criteria to evaluate how a resource or activity links to NGSS, including exploring connections to the three dimensions, cultural relevance, phenomena and educator material. These criteria were adapted from the NGSS Lesson Screener and, in addition, incorporate the Six Strands of Informal Learning from Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits (NRC 2009).
Just as the NGSS Lesson Screener should not be used to fully vet resources and its use is not sufficient to claim that lessons are fully designed for the NGSS, the IRRT also does not provide sufficient information to claim that an informal education activity or resource is fully designed for alignment with NGSS. However, using the IRRT to identify components of three-dimensional learning and NGSS that educators can weave into their curricula may help informal institutions begin conversations with educators so that scientific ideas and skills can be developed by students over time. It will also encourage educators to see informal educators as partners in the implementation of NGSS and their own state standards.
“As an informal educator, the IRRT provides the kind of assessment we need to better connect our resources to formal NGSS efforts. We welcome it!” says Joëlle Genevieve Clark, associate director for professional development programs, Center for Science Teaching and Learning, Northern Arizona University.
To access IRRT, please visit https://strategies.org/products/ngss-informal-resource-review-tool. For more information on the tool and its applications, please contact IRRT@strategies.org.
Nancy Colleton (email@example.com) is the President of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) in Arlington, Virginia. Arden Holderby (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a research assistant at the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) in Arlington, Virginia.
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