Supporting Undergraduate Preservice Science Teachers with an NGSS-Aligned Unit Planning Tool

Todd Campbell
Professor - Science Education
University of Connecticut

This project aims to serve pre-service science teachers and K-12 students nationally by positively impacting the ability of science teacher educators to support undergraduate preservice science teachers in implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) through the construction and testing of an innovative unit planning tool. The tool will provide a research-based structure to the unit design process while also providing “just-in-time” resources for preservice teachers as they learn to merge ambitious science instruction with curriculum design. These efforts are timely as national, state, and district leaders are rapidly identifying the robust demands placed on educators and learners by the new standards. By preparing and disseminating the ongoing work and results of the project at state and national levels, this project contributes to the ongoing nationwide effort to generate a concrete model of research-based strategies to support preservice science teachers to engage all students in the practices of science through model-based inquiry (MBI) that are well aligned with the NGSS and supportive of students’ engagement in rich representations of science in classrooms. In the project, we design, implement, and study a planning tool with embedded instructional heuristics to enable undergraduate secondary education students to engage their students in NGSS-designed units for the purpose of learning about the epistemic practices of science through classroom implementation. Science has evolved a unique set of practices for the construction of new knowledge and research in science education has shown the utility of integrating these practices into the K-12 science classroom in order to provide students a more authentic view of the scientific enterprise. The practices, as outlined in the NGSS, are many; however, we believe that modeling can serve as an umbrella under which the remaining scientific practices can be embedded. Thus, modeling, integrated into the classroom in the form of model-based inquiry (MBI), is central to teachers’ understanding and enactment of the scientific practices in their classrooms. Because we are in the early stages of our funded work, we propose to share about our intended work (i.e., research design), as well as an early draft of our planning tool and an exemplar unit developed with the planning tool in collaboration with project teacher leaders focused on the increases in cases of Lyme Disease in the US in connection to climate change and land-use and how Lyme Disease is experienced differently by racial and ethnic groups in the US. In the end, we believe that dissemination of the units, research, and the NGSS-aligned planning tool with embedded instructional heuristics developed during this project will provide other science teacher educators a framework to improve undergraduate preservice science teaching and learning nationally. Further we believe the ability to share our work at this early stage with experts in STEM education will support our continued iterative refinement of this important work.


Ron Gray, Northern Arizona University; Yue Bai, University of Connecticut; Stefani Chase, Northern Arizona University