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A Content Analysis of NGSS Science and Engineering Practices in K-5 Curricula

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

NGSS & Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Jessica Cellitti Drexel University

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Jessica Cellitti is a Ph.D. candidate with research interests focusing on pre-college engineering in urban public schools. Before entering the Ph.D. program at Drexel, she taught math and science in grades K-12 in for 7 years. She designed STEM elective courses on topics ranging from civil engineering and astrobiology to robotics. Jessica has two bachelor’s degrees in Elementary/Special Education and Psychology as well as minors in Mathematics and Science. While teaching she also pursued a Masters degree in Science Education as well as a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction in STEM Education. Jessica is a NASA Endeavor Teaching Fellow and also a graduate of Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Academy.

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Rasheda Likely Drexel University

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Rasheda Likely received her Bachelors of Science and Masters of Science in Biology from the University of North Florida. Prior to beginning the doctoral program at Drexel University, she worked in Virology (the study of viruses) for the Florida Department of Health for three years. She has also taught “Principles of Biology” laboratory sections at University of North Florida and Physiology at Drexel University. Rasheda is currently in her second year in the "Educational Leadership and Learning Technologies in STEM" PhD program at Drexel University. Her research interests include urban education curriculum and instruction and teacher professional development.

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Magdalene Kate Moy Drexel University

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Magdalene is a Ph.D. student in the Educational Leadership Development and Learning Technologies doctoral program with a concentration in STEM education. Magdalene received a B.S. from the University of California, Riverside with a major in biology and a minor in women's’ studies. She also has earned a M.S. in microbiology from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, PA.

Her interest in STEM education developed during her undergraduate education where she served as the president of the California Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation. During her tenure, she was responsible for encouraging undergraduates, particularly minority students, to participate in scientific laboratory research. Prior to attending Drexel University, Magdalene was employed as the Assistant Director of Teaching Laboratories in Drexel’s Biology department and as an adjunct professor at Rowan University.

Magdalene’s current projects include the Philly Scientists, a mobile application for increasing biodiversity in urban Philadelphia, the Pittsburgh Learning Commons, an educational non-profit focusing on STEM education in informal settings, and Europa Universalis IV, a historical grand strategy game and her current thesis interest.

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Christopher George Wright Drexel University

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Dr. Wright is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning, & Curriculum in Drexel University's School of Education.

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The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) encourage K-12 teachers to facilitate science and engineering instruction that is three-dimensional in nature, motivating students to develop knowledge building practices. The dimensions are based on crosscutting concepts, disciplinary core ideas, and science and engineering practices (SEPs). This study focuses on the eight SEPs, which were developed for students to use science inquiry and engineering design to solve meaningful problems.

These practices move beyond traditional science instruction and into engineering, which involves content that teachers were not asked to cover prior to the implementation of the NGSS. Because of this, teachers have begun to seek out support in free, online curricular materials to meet the demands of the NGSS, despite budget restrictions or support from administration. This means that we must hold high standards to the curriculum that is provided online to teachers. In this study, the research team examined 40 lesson activities from a website that provides teachers with over one thousand free activities. This website was chosen because it is NSF-funded, a collaborative effort from several well-respected universities, and a top hit when searching for “K-12 Engineering Activities” on Google. It is also one of the only sites that provides complete units, as opposed to stand-alone activities, at no cost.

A search was conducted within the website to limit the focus of this research, which included looking at complete units under “Science and Technology” that cover the Engineering Design Standards for grades 3-5. All lesson activities were coded by two of the researchers, using a codebook that was developed with the “practices matrix” in the NGSS. The codebook included themes and subthemes from the matrix with examples of each code. Intercoder agreement statistics were calculated using MAXQDA software and averaged a correlation of 97.3%.

The findings indicate an emphasis on the following SEPs: (1) planning and carrying out investigations (2) developing and using models and (3) analyzing and interpreting data. For planning and carrying out investigations, the coded segments encouraged students to make observations to be used later for analysis. A few segments related to making predictions but none that asked students to plan an investigation or evaluate data collection methods. Another common practice that appeared in engineering-specific units was developing and using models. For this practice, students were asked to build and test prototypes. Students were not asked to develop a design plan, optimize a solution, or refine ideas based on the performance of a prototype. Instead, students would use teacher-directed models to test solutions and communicate design features.

The practices with little to no coded segments - (1) asking questions and defining problems (2) constructing explanations and designing solutions and (3) engaging in argument from evidence - are critical to the success of these standards. Implications of this research should encourage curriculum developers to re-evaluate the ways in which curricula are aligned to the practices listed in the NGSS. Additionally, websites and curricular resources need to specifically identify the claim that their resources are “NGSS-aligned.”

Cellitti, J., & Likely, R., & Moy, M. K., & Wright, C. G. (2018, June), A Content Analysis of NGSS Science and Engineering Practices in K-5 Curricula Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29667

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