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What's Next for FOSS in 2018?

Linda De Lucchi, Co-Director of FOSS, Lawrence Hall of Science
September 27, 2017 | Uncategorized

The FOSS Next Generation K–8 Program is almost complete. "Complete" is a relative term, as we always seek ways to enhance the program once it has been "finalized." The FOSS Project is dedicated to providing high-quality support to FOSS educators throughout an implementation, and the goal of every enhancement is to better support teachers and districts. At this point in the cycle of curriculum development, we are often asked, "What's next?" Here's what the FOSS staff have created for the future.

We worked with educators in California and around the country to design professional development tools to facilitate continuous improvement of teaching with the focus on learning. We have now incorporated these professional development strategies and enhancements into the instructional materials that will be available as chapters in the © 2018 releases of Teacher Resources on FOSSweb. The program remains the same (same instructional design, same modules and courses, same investigations, equipment, student readings), but with improved strategies for sense-making, and improved assessments to support three-dimensional teaching and learning. These new tools will be introduced in the online Grade-Level Planning Guides and will be detailed in specific chapters on FOSSweb. These new chapters will be particularly useful for the experienced teacher who feels comfortable teaching a module or course. In essence, the tools provide extended content that normally would be accessible only if teachers engaged in higher-level professional development.

Focus on Three-Dimensional Teaching and Learning

One of our goals is to enhance learning beyond a single module (or course) to provide teachers with tools that weave together the several modules at a specific grade using a three-dimensional teaching and learning approach. Strategies for engaging students at the beginning of the year, the middle of the year, and the end of the year with science and engineering practices will be described in one chapter using examples from the three modules. Specific ways to bridge student learning using crosscutting concepts at different times in each module will be presented in another chapter. Another chapter, called Sense-Making Discussion for Three-Dimensional Learning, will provide a few examples of how to plan and conduct sense-making discussions in different parts of the three modules throughout the year. These suggestions will be flexible as it is not essential to use the grade-level modules in a specific order.

Another enhancement is that we have identified the anchor, investigation, and everyday phenomena explicitly in each module and investigation, with a guiding question for each investigation that can be answered at the end of the investigation in the Wrap-Up discussion.

Educators often talk of three uses of phenomenon in instruction: An anchor phenomenon establishes the storyline for the module. An investigative phenomenon guides an active investigation part (expressed in the guiding question for the investigation and through the focus questions for each part). Related examples of everyday phenomena are exposed in the FOSS readings, videos, discussions, formative assessment, outdoor experiences, and extensions.

We also make use of an Image Gallery for each module on FOSSweb to provide access to images and short video clips to introduce the module anchor phenomenon or an investigative phenomenon. These images and videos are also suggested as ways to revisit the guiding question for the investigation during the review and wrap up before the I-Check. The images and video clips come from the FOSS Science Resources interactive eBook or the streaming videos. We will also add links to these images and video clips in the Resources by Investigation (RBI) section on FOSSweb.

Students working on an environmental project

FOSS has a strong environmental component, now specifically enhanced for the California educator with direct connections to the CA Environmental Principles and Concepts.

Three-Dimensional Assessments

FOSS has a forward-looking assessment system with both formative and summative assessments and we are making them even more robust. For the 2018–19 school year, FOSSmap (our online assessment system) has a new user interface, and we have taken this opportunity to make revisions to the benchmark assessments (Survey/Posttest and I-Checks) so they are even more three-dimensional. As educational leaders across the country are working on the NGSS assessments, we have been learning how to develop better 3-D items.

We are also developing new interim assessment tasks for grades 3-5 to directly target specific NGSS performance expectations. They are not meant to be diagnostic for daily instruction using FOSS curriculum, rather they are generic tasks that students should be able to answer given any curriculum used to teach the NGSS. Interim assessments can be given after students complete an investigation focused on a particular performance expectation, or you can give them at the end of the year as a grade-level test, especially when a state or district test is not given at that grade level. These tasks will be updated as we learn more about the design of large-scale national assessments.

These tasks begin with a scenario to set the context for the assessment items that define the task. Teachers can opt in many cases to include a hands-on experience, and in a few cases a computer simulation. Each task then consists of a number of related items to which students respond. Most are constructed-response items, but a few may be multiple-choice, multiple-answer, or short answer.

Establishing a Classroom Culture—Access and Equity

In our professional development work, we found that most teachers need support in conducting sense-making discussions focusing on the three dimensions of NGSS. In the updated Teacher Resources, we help the teacher establish norms for discourse and introduce ways to establish a culture of productive discussion that supports engagement in the science and engineering practices. Students need to feel free to express their ideas and to provide and receive critique from others as they work toward understanding of the disciplinary core ideas of science and methods of engineering. Teachers need guidance in asking questions and encouraging collaborative communications in the service of better understanding of the disciplinary core ideas, science practices, and crosscutting concepts.

The FOSS Program has been designed to maximize the science learning opportunities for all students including those who have traditionally not had access to or have not benefited from equitable science experiences—children with special needs, ethnically and culturally diverse learners, English learners, children living in poverty, girls, and advanced and gifted learners. FOSS is rooted in a 30-year tradition of multisensory science education and informed by recent research on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to be culturally and linguistically responsive to teaching and learning. Procedures found effective with students with special needs and students who are learning English are incorporated into the materials and strategies used with all students during the initial instruction phase. A new Access and Equity chapter in Teacher Resources will focus on these strategies and further suggestions will be provided for enhancing the science and engineering experiences for all students.

State-Specific Resources

FOSSweb provides the opportunity to share state-specific resources. An example of such a resource is the FOSS connections to the California Environmental Principles and Concepts. FOSS has a strong environmental component specifically enhanced for the California educator with direct connections to the CA Environmental Principles and Concepts. This is part of the California state-specific Teacher Resources and CA Planning Guide for each grade level. Educators across the country will also be able to use a new feature of our Interdisciplinary Extensions: Environmental Literacy Extensions.

Developing Partnerships

These are some of the new tools we have available to educators for the coming year. We will announce these updates on FOSSweb and through emails to registered FOSSweb users. As always, we look forward to establishing partner relationships with districts to meet the specific needs of teachers and students in their community and help to integrate science seamlessly into the educational experiences of all students. Our mission is to help every school become a science-centered school. To contact us about partnerships, write to