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Teachers Supporting Student Motivation and Engagement in NGSS Instruction

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) put forth an ambitious call for science educators to create instructional experiences that will enable all their students to participate in the real-world practices of science. The underlying idea is that doing scientific activity — such as designing and carrying out investigations, collecting and making sense of data, weighing claims and evidence, and reporting and debating results — encourages students to actively think about, integrate, and apply what they know. As students do this, they learn how scientists think about the world and they learn that science is an active quest to gain deeper understanding.

The promise of NGSS instruction rests on teachers creating instructional experiences where students are highly active in their learning. At this time, there are very few resources available to teachers to help them support and sustain students’ motivation and engagement with regard to ambitious NGSS instruction. Of high need is a professional learning approach with effective classroom strategies that teachers can readily learn and implement in their lesson planning and instruction.


WestEd, with funding from the National Science Foundation, has joined a multi‑institutional effort to develop a professional learning approach for science teachers that will equip them to support and sustain students’ motivation and engagement during NGSS instruction. The professional learning approach, called M-PLANS (Motivation – Planning Lessons to Activate eNgagement in Science), is being developed by a team of experts in science education, student motivation, and teacher learning from WestEd, The University of Nevada Las Vegas, and Michigan State University.


The project team will focus their design work on middle school science instruction and follow a design-based methodology where they will develop, test, and refine the professional learning approach through multiple iterations. A unique feature of the design work is that the team will collaborate with science teachers from multiple districts and schools to jointly develop a set of resources and classroom strategies that will be part of the professional learning approach. This design feature is meant to ensure the materials are widely adoptable by schools and educators.

Intended Impact

This project aims to provide science teachers with a set of motivationally-based strategies to actively engage students in NGSS instruction. By developing a professional learning approach for doing so, the M-PLANS team intends to support teachers in meeting the call of NGSS to enable all students — including those whose backgrounds have been historically underrepresented in science fields — to feel included, empowered, and interested to learn science.