Strategies for addressing performance expectations

Performance expectations within the NGSS go beyond a learning outcome for a single lesson or class period. Instead, they represent what a student should be able to do after having developed skills in science and engineering practices, the ability to apply those practices to build understanding of disciplinary core ideas, and the ability to make use of cross-cutting concepts to contextualize their results. This is no small effort.

InTeGrate materials were developed as modules comprising multiple units. While individual units can stand alone, they also build on each other within a module, often to a capstone activity or unit that requires students to draw from all of the previous units. As a result, our modules as a whole often a address a single performance expectation, or the capstone activity may address a performance expectation. In addition, the units help students make progress along the way towards multiple performance expectations.

Pathways to performance expectations

Participants in a 2018 workshop developed several pathways to performance expectations that link together activities in different modules, allowing students to investigate core ideas through engaging in the range of science and engineering practices:

Strategies for building your own pathways

Strategies to consider as you browse all of the InTeGrate materials by performance expectations include:

  • Reading the module overview page to get a sense for how the activity of interest fits into the bigger picture of the module
  • Reading the instructor stories to learn more about how individuals modified the materials to meet their classroom needs
  • Adapting data-rich examples to local contexts and communities
  • Emphasizing quantitative skills or collaborative work
  • Encouraging students to generate questions and/or plan investigations

The activities highlighted below provide some examples of activities that are well-aligned with performance expectations, and include some suggested modifications.

HS-ESS3.1 Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity.

This performance expectation is well illustrated by the activity Crops and Irrigation Patterns in the United States in the module Water, Agriculture, and Sustainability. In this unit, students analyze and interpret precipitation data and irrigation water use data. This is a highly quantitative activity that asks students to convert between units like acre-feet to gallons per acre and millions of gallons per day to per year. They also compare crop values to the amount of money spent to irrigate those crops, and develop explanations for how individuals and communities make decisions about which crops to grow and which methods of irrigation to use.


This activity could be modified in a variety of ways to suit your classroom situation:

  • This activity makes use of data from the USDA for seven states (Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kansas, Nebraska, California, Idaho, and Arizona). If your state is not included in this list, it could be added or could replace one of the states.
  • The unit conversions and calculations could be incorporated into a math unit.
  • Precipitation and irrigation data could be supplemented with imagery from Google Earth or elsewhere to help visualize different settings.

Search for other activities that meet this performance expectation.

HS-ESS3.2 Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy and mineral resources based on cost-benefit ratios.

This performance expectation is well illustrated by the capstone activity, Mining, Society, and Decision Making, in the module Humans' Dependence on Earth's Mineral Resources. In the case study about phosphorus, students first work in small groups exploring, analyzing, and interpreting data about different components of phosphorous mining, the production of phosphate fertilizers, and the global phosphorous trade. They then reorganize in a jigsaw fashion and take the position of different stakeholders and evaluate the costs and benefits of different ways of reducing phosphate fertilizer use and/or mitigating the harmful impacts of phosphate fertilizers. A number of alternatives are presented in the activity for how students present and communicate their results.


This capstone activity could be modified in several ways as desired:

  • The focus on phosphorus could be changed to address an energy or mineral resource of interest to your community.
  • Students could obtain and evaluate different sources of information individually or in small groups rather than being provided with information by the instructor.
  • Students could generate the list of possible solutions themselves rather than being provided with them by the instructor.
  • Connections could be made to life sciences and the impact of fertilizers on the environment and biodiversity.
Search for other activities that meet this performance expectation.

HS-ESS3.5 Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth systems.

This performance expectation is exemplified by the capstone activity A modern catastrophic volcanic eruption? in the module Earth's Thermostat. Students initially explore, analyze, and interpret data about the climatic effects of past volcanic eruptions. They develop a conceptual model to show the societal and climatic impacts of a major volcanic eruption today, then make a prediction about the impact of such an event in comparison with human-induced climate change. Students write and present their conceptual model, including differences between regional and global effects, including references for their evidence.


This capstone activity could be modified in a variety of ways to meet the needs of the classroom:

  • Students could explore a potential eruption of a volcano that would have an effect on your community.
  • Different student groups could explore the potential effects of volcanoes at different latitudes.