STEM – CCSS – CCRS – NGSS Are Letters That Can’t Spell Anything Without PBL

So my last post was on project based learning. Since then I have received a lot of comments, encouragement (thank you, much needed!), and questions. One of the questions that keep coming up is how hard it to justify moving to PBL and STEM in the days of common core. I find that question funny because PBL is the only way I can think of making sure I meet CCSS (or in my state CCRS, we aren’t a common core state) across the curriculum. If I was just teaching a basic “How to use a computer” type class without using PBL/authentic assessment I wouldn’t be hitting almost every ELA anchor standard and I definitely would not be meeting many of the math standards.

Even more important to me as a science teacher (yeah I still teach one science class a day) with instructional technology degrees are the ISTE Standards for Students and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I don’t wants to just meet the first ISTE-S in each section, I want to meet all of them. If you look at them, moving from a-d moves up to higher levels of learning. With authentic assessment and PBL, we are meeting those higher ones. Also, I feel like I’m doing a better job hitting the NGSS in my STEM/Tech class than I am in my science class. The NGSS have a lot of focus on “STS,” which stands for “science, technology, and society,” and the interdependence of science, tech, and engineering. I talk about this often, you throw math in there and you really cannot have one without the other. The MakerSpaces movement lines up with these so perfectly, I cannot see how there could be an argument against them. I love how the storyline for the middle school engineering standards state “By the time students reach middle school they should have had numerous experiences in engineering design.” Looks like STEM needs to start earlier than middle level. Also, it doesn’t say “gifted students” (who usually get that experience) it says “students.”  Not science is the last on the list with social studies, that engineering design (as well as other scientific concepts) needs to be experienced.  Ok went on a little side step there. Back to standards.

I’m sure I can say this all day but some examples of standards I have used this year:

ELA Reading Anchors:

  • Analyzing texts that address similar themes and topics
  • Analyzing point of view
  • Summarizing key details
  • Cite textual evidence
  • Integrate and evaluate similarities using content presented in diverse media formats

ELA Writing Anchors:

  • Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of text or topics
  • Use tech to produce and publish writing to interact and collaborate with others
  • Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation (If that is not inquiry based PBL, I really don’t know what is!)
  • Gathering information from digital sources. Assess credibility and accuracy while avoiding plagiarism.
  • Writing over long periods of time and shorter time frames (this has probably been the hardest of anything else).

Math Standards:

  •  Attend to precision
  • Use appropriate tools strategically
  • Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others
  • Reason abstractly and quantitatively
  • Represent and interpret data
  • Analyze decisions and strategies using problem solving concepts
  • Solve real world problems involving area, surface area, and volume
  • Represent and analyze relationships between dependent and independent varibles
  • Develop an understanding of statistics variably
  • Summarize and describe distributions
  • Use random sampling to draw inferences about a population

Next Generation Science Standards (Middle School):

  • Asking questions and defining problems
  • Developing and using models
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information
  • Engaging in arguments from evidence
  • Evaluating and design solutions to determine if something meets criterias
  • Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
  • And these don’t even get into the specific content standards!

I’m sure there are more, but these are just some. The thing is, CCSS/CCRS/NGSS are more performance based than content based. According to Google performance means “the action or process of carrying out or accomplishing an action, task, or function.” There is a product that comes with that action or task. Again, authentic assessment and PBL is not about the content or the finished product but the action, task, or function. It is why we look at the project as a whole, from beginning to end. These standards start from the beginning with the questions and research and end with designs and arguments. The data, evaluating, problem solving, reading, writing, etc, all fall in between. So like I said before, I cannot imagine teaching these new standards without PBL, how is that even an argument?

One Comment Add yours

  1. Kishari Sing says:

    Thanks for this post Amanda, I only saw it the other day after ISTE retweeted it. Totally agree that the hands on, critical thinking of PBL is the ideal fit for this standards. My question for you: do you use PBL for all subjects? Or do you mix traditional/blended/flipped/? and PBL?

    We’re a PBL curriculum company, and I’m trying to get a realistic idea of how teachers who are not at 100% PBL schools deploy and manage it with non-PBL courses.

    Thanks! Kishari

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