- The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are a recent set of standards that leverage decades of research to present an innovative and coherent image for K 12 science education in the United States. Major themes in the NGSS include the intertwining of learning and doing science, addressing connections across scientific disciplines, developing coherent learning progressions across the K-12 spectrum, integrating engineering, and coordinating science standards with the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics (Bybee, 2014; Pratt, 2013). An additional key focus of the standards, particularly relevant to this study, is providing students the opportunity to engage in the practices authentic to the discipline of science (Xiang & Passmore, 2014). However, developing teaching practices that embrace this ambitious orientation toward science teaching and learning will require a significant shift of instructional practices for many teachers (Reiser, 2013). This study, presented as two manuscripts, explores the beginning of the implementation process in a K-12 school district by characterizing teachers' response to the NGSS, and the ways in which that response is systemically mediated. The first manuscript studies and characterizes teachers' classroom practice in light of the adoption and implementation of the NGSS in a K-12 school district. Classroom observations were conducted over a two-year period guided by the Practices of Science Observation Protocol (P-SOP) (Forbes, Biggers, & Zangori, 2013) to characterize the ways in which teachers provided students opportunities to engage in scientific practices. Findings discussed in this manuscript include patterns of teachers' classroom practice as it relates to the inclusion of scientific practices, and the activity structures teachers used to facilitate student participation in scientific practices. Notable patterns include the prevalence of some dimensions of scientific practice, and the limited occurrence of other dimensions of practice. Additionally, some classroom activity structures were found more likely to be used by teachers to engage students in scientific practices than others. Implications of these findings regarding opportunities for teacher learning related to the NGSS are also discussed. The second manuscript documents and describes the unfolding of the NGSS in the school district, and explores the ways in which the complex work of negotiating the implementation of the new standards by teachers is systemically mediated. Using qualitative research methods and cultural historical activity theory (CHAT) (Engeström, 1987), component parts of activity systems were identified that influenced teachers' work related to the NGSS. Using a third-generation CHAT framing, tensions among the activity systems' levels were identified that influenced the outcome as teachers' negotiated the NGSS, and its potential influence on their classroom practice. Main findings include the identification of three levels of activity systems that impact teachers' response to the NGSS. Further, tensions among the differing objects of activity systems, and tensions regarding key points of contact among the levels of activity systems were found to mediate teachers' response to the standards. Implications of these findings for facilitating the implementation of the NGSS are also discussed.
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