Archive for July, 2011

Here is an explanation of my beliefs about classroom management. It is based off of the theories of several educational theorists, which I site and explain in my essay.
EDU 6130- Final

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With any subject, it’s important to inspire to a deeper level of understanding and reasoning. This is especially true with history or social studies, where student involvement in material depends on whether or not students make the connection from facts about the past to applications in the present and the future. If students never get past Bloom’s first two levels of his cognitive taxonomy in a social studies curriculum, then they will leave the class complaining about the amount of facts and dates they had to memorize. Some of the ways that you can inspire students to think deeper about history’s lessons and applications is through asking divergent questions, assigning individual projects, and through cooperative learning.
Borich states that one of the purposes for the use of questioning in the classroom is to encourage a higher level of thought process (Pg. 299). Your goal in asking questions of your students about lesson material should be to help them analyze, synthesize, and/or evaluate the information, (from Bloom’s top three levels of his cognitive taxonomy) (Pgs. 308-310). The questions that you should ask should be divergent or open ended as often as possible, so that students can develop their own understanding from the discussion of relevant questions with their peers in the classroom (Pg. 300). If you ask questions that address the top levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, you will be asking students to distinguish patterns, compare information to create something new, and appraise information to make judgments. You might be asking students in a social studies curriculum to identify how history repeats itself; to explain events from the perspective of someone who lived at the time; or might be asking students to make judgments about individual motivations and controversial events throughout history. The ultimate goal of helping students to develop proficiency in historical practice is that understanding history allows an individual to make educated decisions for success in the present. Asking divergent questions is one way that students will be able to develop this understanding through providing their own judgments of different historical scenarios during class discussions.
Another way that teachers can inspire students to deeper levels of understanding in history is through assigning individual projects and self-directed learning. The most appropriate form of this for high school students is Project-Based Learning, where students are asked to complete a specific task that aligns with the goals and objectives of the curriculum. Borich has some suggestions for effectively using Project-Based Learning: the project should be presented in the form of a challenge that is interesting and motivates students to become actively engaged; it should allow for personal choice and preference; it should be appropriate for the grade level and accomplishable in the time frame; it should require some form of collaboration; and it should result in concrete product (Pgs. 351-352). For the subject of history or social studies, Project-Based Learning could be a research report about someone of interest and importance in history or an assignment to construct the viewpoint of different individuals involved in an important event. With Project-Based Learning, students are given the opportunity to apply analysis, synthesis, and evaluation techniques that they’ve developed in your classroom on new material to draw their own conclusions. This practice is helpful to the encouragement of higher level thought processes, because students aren’t being prompted by you to make cognitive leaps and develop understandings of the information.
Cooperative Learning or the Collaborative Process is also helpful for encouraging higher level thought processes. Borich states that higher level thought processes are believed to be stimulated more by interaction with others then by reciting information or reading it from a textbook (Pg. 365). Students who are pursuing projects that require higher-order thinking are given cues from peers and are able to reason out through discussion what may not be apparent through personal reflection. Students are encouraged though interaction with peers to develop their reasoning and problem-solving abilities (Pg. 365). Cooperative Learning can be extremely helpful in encouraging higher order thought processes in the subject of history or social studies.
References
Borich, G. (2011). Effective Teaching Methods: Research-Based Practice (7th Ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

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Direct Instruction and Indirect Instruction both have their place in the curriculum and teaching strategies of every subject. For some subjects, it is difficult to apply all of the strategies suggested by Gary D. Borich in his book Effective Teaching Methods: Researched-Based Practice. For the subject of history, it is natural for a teacher to gravitate towards Direct Instruction because of the massive amount of information that is available and is often necessary to student understanding of specific historical concepts and events. Historians naturally gravitate towards long-windedness, but in doing so in the classroom run the risk of losing their student’s attention. On the other hand, a curriculum that favors Indirect Instruction has the possibility of engaging student interest in the learning environment, but does not allow for the communication of as many specific understandings. What is the balance that should be achieved here in a history or social studies curriculum?
The suggestions for effective Direct Instruction on page 224 line up clearly with the goals of a social studies or history curriculum and the common history lecture will follow his suggested format: objectives or goals are stated clearly at the beginning of a lesson (“today we will be learning about the Civil War”, etc.); information is presented sequentially (or chronologically); items presented are specific and concrete; and instruction is followed by a check for student understanding. His suggestions for presenting and structuring content (Pgs. 231-234) through different structural relationships of information is also useful to the history teacher who seeks to communicate different historical concepts through the comparisons of different historical understandings. However, Borich’s suggestions for guided practice are more difficult to apply to a history lecture because of that fact that they don’t contain information about learning a new skill. History teachers can ask students at the end of lectures to practice recalling the information they just received through quizzes, papers, and classroom discussions. However, asking for immediate recall directly following a lecture may have detrimental effects to the solidification and processing of the new information. It would be better to ask students to recall and reflect on information received in class at home through papers and other forms of assessment (Independent Student Practice, Pgs. 240-243). With guided student practice being a central part of Direct Instruction (according to Borich), it would be easy to argue that Direct Instruction is only effective for skills instruction, but how will history teachers communicate large amounts of historical facts and concepts without the use of Direct Instruction?
Indirect Instruction seems that it would be more effective in drawing students into historical study. Borich notes that Indirect Instructional strategies fit into the Constructivist ideals for the classroom by allowing students to gather and develop their own understandings from their projects and personal initiatives. Indirect Instruction in a social studies class consists of projects where students answer questions about world problems and societal conditions. Each project addresses specific understandings and combines together so that students gain higher understandings of concepts that span specific focuses (Pgs. 260-261). This kind of strategy is effective if the teacher is content with not being able to orate on their favorite subject in their classroom. This, it seems to me, is the biggest roadblock to the greater use of Indirect Instruction in history or social studies classrooms. One could also make the argument that students won’t have the same amount of interaction with as many subjects because of the limitations of project-based learning. Amount and depth of understanding, however, will depend on the ability of the teacher in the specific setting.
The most effective strategy for instruction in history or social studies classrooms is a mixture of Direct and Indirect Instruction. Teachers who enter into the profession because they want to be able to talk about their favorite subject should be allowed to do so in their classroom, to their student’s benefit. Teachers who are passionate about their subject have a way of inspiring their students to achievement, granted that they follow specific strategies outlined by Borich and others to make their Direct Instruction as productive as possible. Teachers should also, however, give students as many opportunities to explore history for themselves. The incredible benefits and effects on student understanding of project-based learning should not be ignored or left out of a social studies or history curriculum. Effective teachers will use every means available to them to give their students a healthy mixture of both types of instruction.
References
Borich, G. (2011). Effective Teaching Methods: Research-Based Practice (7th Ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

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