19 June 2012

NGSS Redux

In May, the first draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) (think "Common Core," but for science) were released for public comment. The comment period is now over, and I know many of you posted on your blogs or submitted official feedback about the document. If you're looking for the document, you can download a copy here. There's nothing of use left on the NGSS website.

While there are plenty of comments that should have been made about the content and volume (400 standards? Really?) of the NGSS, the first thing that stuck out for me was the incredibly poor design. Here is a sample page:

What an unholy mess. Content is smashed together...organization makes no sense...and the colors are poor choices. Here is what the page looks like to someone who can't see or interpret the red part of the color spectrum:

Hmmm...not much difference between the middle and right columns in the middle of the page. The red text at the top has been completely de-emphasized. What about those who don't see shades of green?

A little better, but not much. I guess accessibility isn't a priority for the writers of these. Goodness knows building understanding was not.

I've been playing around with the design a bit. Here is what I have so far:

Click to embiggen or download .docx version here.

I can't figure out why the original document repeats the header in the first row of the table. Meanwhile, why put the abbreviation for the strand before the long form name? I've changed up the header to identify the grade level and name first. And, I've only listed it once.

You might not be able to tell from the original document, but the actual standards---what students should know and be able to do---are the component just under the table header. This should be called out, because everything else on the page is just supporting information...stuff that is nice to know, but not need to know. So, I created a separate section for the junk in the trunk: Connections.

K.OTE. c
When you look at the NGSS as it stands now, the pages are mostly taken up with the three columns of colour---and while the information there is interesting, it's really just an explanation of the learning targets. What the authors are (apparently) trying to say is that they've integrated three pieces of the framework (blue = science and engineering practices; yellow = disciplinary core ideas; green = crosscutting concepts) into one standard:  K.OTE c: Use observations and information to identify patterns in how animals get their food.

I took the giant three-column copy-and-paste from the original framework and slimmed it down to the main ideas. I did keep the three color scheme, but employed hues that everyone will be able to differentiate. If the standards are supposed to be an amalgam of the three areas (core ideas, cross-cutting concepts, and science and engineering), then we need a representation that shows this. I'm not sure that my idea for a graphic is the right one...perhaps some sort of "map" would be better; but I do know that the giant blocks of colour in the middle of the page are a stupid idea. I'm hoping one of you will have some better ones to share here.

CCSS lists are on the right. It's worthwhile information to provide, but they're not critical to learning targets themselves. I think these could either go in a supporting document/appendix or be represented differently.

On the bottom of my version, I copied in some language from the original document (connections to other DCIs at this grade level and articulation with others), but there is nothing on the original document which tells us what it means or why it's there. Maybe there will be some explanation in future drafts; but, if this is critical "big picture" information for implementing the standards, it deserves more attention than it's currently getting with the NGSS document.

The next---and final---draft of the standards is scheduled to be released in September. I don't know if we'll see many differences between the May version and the next link in the sausage chain. But I hope the NGSS group will invest in finding someone who can design something usable for everyone.

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