Data Use in the NGSS
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Data Use in the NGSS

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were developed to modernize science teaching and learning, and to provide students with the skills and knowledge they will need to be scientific thinkers in the 21st Century. We wanted to know how well NGSS-aligned curricula could prepare students for a big data economy. So this spring, the Oceans of Data Institute took a closer look at the quantity and nature of NGSS performance expectations that involve the use of data.

This included performance expectations that specifically mention the use of data, such as Analyzing and interpreting data, as well as others in which the use of data is implicit, such as Engaging in argument with evidence, Planning & carrying out investigations, and Using mathematics and computational thinking. We then compared the Standards’ performance expectations against the big data-enabled specialist (BDES) occupational profile that we developed last fall, which describes the specific skills and knowledge needed to compete in the big data workplace.

You can read our white paper to learn more. But here’s the good news: the NGSS have a strong emphasis on the use of data. Not surprisingly, many skills identified in the BDES profile—such as developing an analysis plan, applying methods and tools, and evaluating the results of the analysis—are well aligned to the NGSS.

But our comparison did find that other aspects of big data science are not as well represented in the NGSS. Specifically, tasks related to data management, data quality and data ethics were largely absent. All three of these areas were cited as being important by our big data experts.

So while the NGSS represent a historic step forward, we still have to do more work to ensure that students are graduating with all of the habits and skills that they will need. More work is needed to “unpack” the tasks listed in the BDES profile to better understand the skills needed to work with large, complex data sets. Likewise, we need to continue to develop NGSS-aligned teaching and learning materials that prioritize learning from data, such as the EDC Earth Science curriculum

Overall, however, the news is good. Data does play a leading role in the NGSS, a critical step in preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s world.


Ruth Krumhansl, Director
The EDC Oceans of Data Institute

Screenshot from Ocean Tracks
Look for ODI's two articles about big data in the July 2015 issue of The Science Teacher magazine!

"Think Big" explores curricular strategies for transitioning students to working with large, complex data sets. "Harvesting a Sea of Data" addresses another fundamental challenge in getting big data into K-12 education: how to build a good interface.
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