Collaborating on a Vision for NGSS Instructional Materials

Recently, state science teachers associations in four states that had adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)—California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington—worked together to address the critical role that review and selection of high-quality instructional materials will play in successfully implementing the NGSS. Inspired by learnings from “pioneering” teachers who have been on the forefront of early implementation, as well as learnings from other recent adoption processes, the four states produced the white paper Priority Features of NGSS-Aligned Instructional Materials. The paper is intended to be an information tool for organizations producing instructional materials, as well as a resource to aid states and districts in selecting the highest-quality instructional materials possible to support NGSS implementation.

To fulfill the expectations envisioned in the NGSS with full engagement of students in science, the paper recommends that the following aspects must be incorporated into instructional materials:

  • Three-Dimensional Learning
  • Phenomena and Problems
  • Students Engagement and Sense-Making
  • Assessment Systems
  • Integrated Science
  • Support for Analysis of Data and Mathematics and Computational Thinking
  • NGSS Shifts for Educative Curriculum 

This project was unprecedented. A 16-member committee from four states collaborated to establish a vision for instructional materials. For the first time, the state science teachers’ associations of these four western states joined forces to advocate for their members and students. The process was dynamic and offered a wonderful opportunity for each organization to share expertise and ideas about what is needed to fulfill the vision of NGSS implementation. As the paper transformed from a memo to a professional white paper, each member of the collaborative team learned about and increased their knowledge of the Framework for K–12 Science Education (NRC 2012), as well as other research, aspects of three-dimensional learning, phenomena and problems, student engagement and sense-making, assessment systems, and other relevant topics.

The process of producing this paper was enlightening for our associations in another important way: We realized science teacher associations have the ability to play a strong leadership role. Understanding the importance of this work, the team leveraged the potential power of collaborating with their partner organizations as contributors to further the work. It is through such collaboration that we have a larger voice. By having four NGSS states and several other entities sign on to the white paper, we now have a greater opportunity to influence those that want their products in our states.  

Additionally, this work is being used to help guide government agencies in our states that are in charge of reviewing and making recommendations, to help their staff understand what is important in today’s science classroom. This collaboration and the reach of its influence are powerful. If we, as state science teacher associations, want to create a culture of science, we must gather strength through such collaborative efforts to create consistent messaging for stakeholders.

We are hopeful about the change that this paper has the potential to effect in the near future. As educators, we know how time-consuming and challenging it is to create lessons and learning sequences aligned to the NGSS. Our teachers really need instructional materials that fulfill the full vision of the NGSS. Even more important, access to high-quality instructional materials that include the priority features identified in the white paper will help schools and teachers ensure that all students are prepared for success in college and career, and promote meaningful changes to the STEM workforce, bridging the existing equity divide to embrace the creativity and ingenuity of people from all backgrounds.

Our white paper, Priority Features of NGSS-Aligned Instructional Materials, can be found on our respective websites:






Dana Brennan

Dara Brennan is president of the Oregon Science Teachers Association and STEM Teacher on Special Assignment for Springfield School District.





Andy Boyd


Andy Boyd is president of the Washington Science Teachers Association and Math and Science Specialist for North Central Educational Service District.




Jill Grace

Jill Grace is president of the California Science Teachers Association and a regional director with the K–12 Alliance at WestEd.





Bret Sibley is president of the Nevada State Science Teachers Association and Science Regional Trainer for the Southern Nevada Regional Professional Development Program.





This article was featured in the January issue of Next Gen Navigator, a monthly e-newsletter from NSTA delivering information, insights, resources, and professional learning opportunities for science educators by science educators on the Next Generation Science Standards and three-dimensional instruction. Click here to access the archive of issues and to sign up to receive the Navigator every month.

Visit NSTA’s NGSS@NSTA Hub for hundreds of vetted classroom resourcesprofessional learning opportunities, publicationsebooks and more; connect with your teacher colleagues on the NGSS listservs (members can sign up here); and join us for discussions around NGSS at an upcoming conference.

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

Future NSTA Conferences

National Conference

2017 Fall Conferences

Follow NSTA

Facebook icon Twitter icon LinkedIn icon Pinterest icon G+ icon YouTube icon Instagram icon


This entry was posted in Next Generation Science Standards. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Collaborating on a Vision for NGSS Instructional Materials

  1. Harry E. Keller says:

    This is a great step forward for everyone: teachers, administrators, students, parents, and, lastly, vendors.
    My company has been seeking more uniformity across state boundaries for nearly 20 years. Our original product design (including web delivery, real online experiments, and hands-on measurement) was based on what scientists do and on how best to model that activity for young learners. Merely copying scientist’s activity won’t work, nor does the old way of memorizing vocabulary, procedures, and formulas. The Babel of state standards made designing instructional materials difficult. NGSS and their adoption by many states have helped. Note that some states have created a sort of super-NGSS by adding to NGSS (e.g. NY).
    As a scientist myself, I have applauded the effort to bring investigation to the forefront of NGSS, while criticizing some of the details. New York State has addressed some of my concerns and has made a version of NGSS that I can strongly support.
    Our online science system deals with nearly every aspect of the recommendations. While not being able truly to have students design experiments in this reality-based online system, we can at least model design activities for them.
    We do recommend that students do more than learn from online experiences. Fully hands-on projects where students do some of the design work add much to the learning experience. We have created some online guides within our technological capabilities that help in this aspect. One example is the synthesis of an inorganic compound that can be done safely and inexpensively in the classroom and even at home. However, these have not been popular with our school clients and so have not been expanded. For that reason, we have not attempted to expand our reach to lengthy project investigations.
    We always welcome input from the educational community, and that input has guided our development over the years. I look forward to continuing improvement of our excellent system for learning science because anything can be improved, and continuing effort at learning and developing is the hallmark of science and engineering as well as software-based learning systems.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *