Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


First Advisor

Elizabeth B. Lewis

Date of this Version

Fall 12-1-2021


Tankersley, A.N. (2021). The role of the Next Generation Science Standards in teachers' curricular choices in the life science classroom (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln


A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska, In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies (Teaching, Curriculum, and Instruction), Under the Supervision of Professor Elizabeth Lewis. Lincoln, Nebraska: November 2021

Copyright © 2021 Amy N. Tankersley


In 2013 a group of experts used A Framework for K-12 Science Education (NRC, 2012) to draft the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which aims to increase science literacy through integrating the concepts and practices of science into comprehensive standards for science (NGSS Lead States, 2013). As students learn to explore the content and practices of scientists, ideally, they should increase their ability to think and reason in ways that will benefit their ability to participate in society. Because of the complex nature of systematic education reform, teachers need to put significant time into implementing NGSS to fulfill the goals and objectives and support student science literacy.

The purpose of this multimodal study was to explore how teachers use their knowledge and experience to interpret NGSS and NGSS-aligned curricula in their classrooms. For the quantitative portion of the study, I analyzed 347 observations of middle and high school life science lessons to identify what, if any, reform-based instructional practices changed post-NGSS Adoption. For the qualitative portion of the study, I interviewed collected curriculum and lesson notes from three high school biology teachers and two district administrators from one urban school district.

Finding suggests that the adoption or adaption of NGSS is not enough to change teachers' instructional practices. The qualitative data was collected after the original data collection when the three qualitative teacher participants had chosen to use NGSS-aligned “storyline” curriculum. Analysis of interview data and curriculum materials revealed that teachers found both beneficial and challenging aspects of adopting a storyline curriculum. The findings of this study led to recommendations for professional development and support for the use of NGSS in the secondary life science classroom. The results also point to future research needed to understand better how to use NGSS effectively in the life science classroom.

Advisor: Elizabeth B. Lewis