Teachers Can Field Test the OpenSciEd Science Curriculum

Teachers can field test the materials and participate in professional learning centered around goals that promote important shifts in classroom instruction. Participation should prioritize educators from non-dominant groups.

Massachusetts is one of ten partner states participating in the national OpenSciEd project to create a high school curriculum that is designed for NGSS and aligned with the NM STE Frameworks. Teachers in 5 Massachusetts districts have field tested and provided feedback on middle school units.

What is OpenSciEd?

OpenSciEd is a free, open source curriculum initiative launched to address the need for high-quality, standards-aligned, full-course science instructional materials that teachers can use in their classrooms. While the initiative started at the middle school level, the goal is to eventually create an entire K-12 science curriculum.

Each OpenSciEd unit centers around a specific phenomenon and follows a logical scientific storyline. The units are designed to motivate students to think deeply, plan investigations, and develop evidence-based explanations. They also support the development of crosscutting concepts and STEM skills.

Activate Learning curriculum experts provide extensive field test product implementation support and certified professional learning for teachers before and during the use of each unit. The professional learning options are designed to meet teachers where they are in their learning journey and can be delivered in-tandem with implementing the materials. Typically, professional learning is offered in virtual synchronous formats.

How does OpenSciEd work?

OpenSciEd brings together a team of partners, including the AESD Network, to support teachers as they implement and use the NGSS-aligned science curriculum. The AESD Network supports the statewide project through serving as the curriculum management team and providing professional learning opportunities; developing structures for teacher networking across the state; and informing the development of additional instructional and assessment materials.

The AESD Network also serves as one of the certified destitution partners for the OpenSciEd middle school science field test. Teachers across the state are using these units to engage students in scientific thinking that moves from memorizing facts (mechanistic understandings) to figuring things out through phenomena-driven instruction that includes ELA/literacy and math integrations.

The OpenSciEd materials are based on research and have been designed to work in a wide range of classroom contexts. A rigorous research methodology was used to develop the units, which were then field tested with educators in ten partner states. The field test was supported by the BSCS Science Learning, Boston College, University of Colorado Boulder, Dana Center at the University of Texas, Digital Promise, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

What are the benefits of OpenSciEd?

OpenSciEd is an NGSS-aligned curriculum that transforms science education. Its pedagogical approach shifts teaching to student sensemaking by using driving questions and scientist circles. The pedagogy is supported by unit-specific professional learning so that teachers can experience the pedagogical shift firsthand and then implement it in their classrooms.

The pedagogical approach requires that students construct their own understanding of real-world phenomena by asking and answering scientific questions and designing investigations and collecting and analyzing data. OSE also emphasizes the crosscutting concepts and practices that are essential to all sciences.

The consortium of creators, led by the nonprofit curriculum developer BSCS Science Learning Team and the Next Generation Science Storylines project out of Northwestern University, started building the OpenSciEd materials in 2017. They recruited ten partner states and field tested three prototype units with teachers. These teachers helped create the scope and sequence, design specifications, and instructional model for the middle school curriculum. The consortium also created teacher training instructions that are available for free and aligned to each unit.

What are the challenges of OpenSciEd?

A critical factor in determining if any curriculum implementation will be successful is the level of support and training given to teachers. If a school does not have leadership that supports the new approach to science instruction, high-quality teacher training and empathy for current workloads, it can be very challenging to implement a curriculum with a major shift in instructional practice.

OSE uses hands-on, relevant, and inquiry-based lessons that engage students as scientists to build their understanding of real-world phenomena. Each unit is part of a coherent sequence anchored in driving questions that follows a logical science storyline, and the lessons are designed to motivate students to think deeply and develop evidence-based explanations.

During the initial design and writing of each unit, professional learning developers create resources that both familiarize teachers with the details of that specific unit as well as supporting their learning about a key aspect of the OpenSciEd approach generally. The focuses are selected based on feedback from field test teachers, who report a range of issues that need to be addressed in these learning opportunities.

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