Northeastern University’s Dr. Tracy L. Waters on the implementation of KnowAtom’s Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-based curriculum in fourth and fifth-grade classes showed elementary and middle school teachers increased their expectations of what students can achieve. In addition, students were better prepared for new standardized test questions aligned with the NGSS after completing KnowAtom’s hands-on, collaborative science lessons.
Educators who participated in Waters’ study expressed having higher expectations of their students after implementing KnowAtom’s NGSS hands-on curriculum that’s designed for the NGSS. Waters‘ research also revealed major changes in teaching practices, student achievement levels, and classroom behavior. Using KnowAtom, students also strengthened critical thinking and writing skills through their science time on learning. Teachers began changing their testing requirements from vocabulary and traditional recall to performance tasks where students demonstrate their level of mastery of the NGSS standards.
“KnowAtom integrates the scientific and engineering design process throughout its NGSS-based curriculum,” said Francis Vigeant, founder and CEO, KnowAtom. “By creating a learning environment where students take more responsibility for their own learning process and by giving them the opportunity to test their own ideas hands-on, we’re able to fuel learning with a student’s own personal interest in real-world phenomena. KnowAtom improves student engagement and, as Waters’ study shows, our professional development shifts teachers’ expectations of what their students can achieve.”
One educator who participated in the study described changing her instructional methods from asking students to fill in missing words on a handout, which required low-level cognition but aligned to the teacher’s expectations for the students, to asking students to apply core concepts in real-world situations. With collaborative, hands-on lab work, elementary and middle school students analyzed data and described the weather and climate of a specific region, while identifying factors that contributed to changes in both. The teacher reported altering her own belief about what her students could accomplish after using the KnowAtom science curriculum. In addition, her students were better prepared for the types of questions asked on new standardized tests aligned with the NGSS.
According to Waters’ research, critical thinking, math and literacy skills were also strengthen with the use of KnowAtom’s curriculum. One administrator noted seeing students do more writing in the science classroom when previously there had been no expectation that reading or writing was a part of learning science. Teachers reported that holding their students accountable for more than low-level recall, requiring them to model habits of mind during classroom discussions and debate, which helped improve literacy skills.