This page is dedicated to 8 of the top concepts, theories, and methodologies (listed in no particular order) learned in EDU-460 that should be applied in every social studies classroom (and, let’s be honest, in all classroom instruction).

  1. Reflective Practice: A proactive reflection technique used at the end of every lesson and/or assignment. This strategy engages both student and teacher (professor); the student actively looks for ways to continue learning and building on strategies learned in class while the teacher actively looks for ways to improve the quality of instruction as well as the the quality of observation, analysis, and technique. This strategy involves answering three questions (for both the student and the teacher):
    • What new information did you learn? – (What?)
    • How did this new information affect you? – (So What?)
    • How has this new information challenged your thinking? – (Now What?)
  2. Critiques and Reviews: An effective strategy best used after teaching a new concept, strategy, or methodology. This strategy activates higher level thinking skills, allowing students to build up to the highest level in Bloom’s Taxonomy, “Create”, through “Analysis” and “Evaluation”.
    • For example, in education, when learning how to write a lesson, it is beneficial to first directly model what a high quality, tight lesson looks like, follow that up with critiques and reviews of other lessons (to demonstrate good examples and bad examples), followed with students creating their own high quality, tight lesson.
  3. Backwards Design: A top-down curriculum design strategy formulated to create tight and succinct units and lessons within instruction. Implementing this strategy is no easy task and requires a lot of work and forethought, but it produces efficient and measurable results in instruction and leaves no room for student busy-work. Implementing this strategy begins by identifying the desired results (standards, goals, essential questions), which is followed by determining acceptable evidence of understanding (assessment and objectives). Only once you have determined these two things should you move on to planning learning experiences and instruction.
  4. Standards-Based Gradebook: This will ROCK your world! But watch out, if you don’t understand the problem with the “traditional” gradebook system, you’ll  think this strategy is way out in left-field. Here’s how I’m going to explain it. I’ll talk about the problem with the “Traditional” gradebook, and then I’ll send you to a video that will explain the solution. Deal? Deal. Let’s go!
    • The Problem with the “Traditional” Gradebook: 
      • Let me start by asking a few seemingly simple questions. Please take time to implement reflective practice and consider these questions carefully before moving on.
        • What is the purpose of “grades”?
        • What do “grades” actually mean?
        • What do “grades” tell you about how much a student knows?
        • What do you do with students who work really hard, get all of their assignments turned in, but can’t seem to pass a test no matter how hard they try?
        • What do you do with students who don’t turn in any of the homework, don’t study hardly at all, but can pass every test with their eyes closed?
        • What is the purpose of homework? Should it be recorded in the gradebook? Why?
        • Why do we “average” the grades from all assignments, tests, quizzes, etc.?
        • What does the “average” tell us about what a student knows?
        • Where do standards fit into the “Traditional gradebook?
      • “Your answers to those questions are evidence of your philosophy of education and the way you believe a student learns.
      • But is it really? Might there be a disconnect somewhere in this process that you didn’t notice before?
      • Take a look at Rick Wormeli’s video for the solution to this problem. I promise it’ll ROCK your world! (And if you’re feeling daring, watch his video on Homework)
  5. Teaching Economics: Do NOT let this fall between the cracks, especially for young minds. Economics is something that can be integrated into just about every content area within the classroom; so do not tell me you don’t have time to teach this. Teaching students to be financially literate is the key to the future success of our economy today. If you doubt me, look at our country’s debt clock. Do you really think economics isn’t all that important?
    • This is especially important in urban school districts. You may think young urban minded students won’t understand, but believe you me, they will understand the core economic principle of scarcity quicker than students living in a wealthy school district. While reading, writing, and arithmetic are important to helping students in urban school districts succeed, equipping them to be financially literate will allow them to utilize and apply their reading, writing, and arithmetic skills in a way that will allow them to take control of their means and resources rather than letting their lack of means and resources control them.
  6. Content vs. Application: The world of education is slowly (painstakingly-so) making the shift from teaching content to teaching application. If you compare the world of education to the “real” world, the world of education is miles behind the “real” world regarding this shift. No longer is school a bank of information; these days, anyone can access anything they want by jumping on google for about 5 seconds. So why are we continuing to hound content into the minds of our students? You know students will only memorize the content, regurgitate it for the test, and the forget about it as soon as they walk out of the classroom door , so why hasn’t our paradigm shifted? We should be teaching students how to access accurate information (because we all know that Abraham Lincoln said in 1864, “The problem with internet quotes is that you can’t always depend on their accuracy”). We should be teaching students how to critically evaluate information and synthesize it with what they know to create accurate original and innovative ideas. When it comes down to it, our focus as educators should be to specifically teach students higher level thinking skills. Content is everywhere; the question now is, how should it be applied?
  7. Differentiated Instruction: Meeting the needs of each student within your classroom without planning 23 separate lessons that all meet one standard; it seems like something that could only happen in education heaven. Guess what? It’s not nearly as difficult as you think. It involves specific planning targeted at content (yes, despite my previous point, this is still somewhat important), process (how students make sense of information), and product (the end goal; what students will have to show for their work), while incorporating each student’s individual readiness level (background knowledge, processing ability, current skill level), personal interests, and learning profile (preferred learning style; how to take in information). The easiest way to implement this? 1) Backwards Design, 2) CHOICE. No, I do not condone complete freedom of choice at all times within the classroom, but students should take control of their own learning, so it only makes sense that you provide multiple options for students to achieve certain goals and standards. 3) Mini-Lesson and Workshop time: Teach in small snippets (as opposed to the typical “lecture” style class) and allow for group collaboration during workshop to give students the time to process in a way that works best for their mind.
  8.  Collaborative Learning: This means allowing students to work in groups for a good majority of class time. BE WARNED: DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, GRADE STUDENTS AS A WHOLE GROUP. Whole group grading can be equated to a socialist economy. It is expected that every group member puts in 110% and that grade rightly gets fairly divided between each group member. One inevitable problem: people are lazy and will always try to get away with doing less work than everyone else. This leads to some people contributing 20%, others contributing 40%, and others contributing 150% simply so the project gets done according to the expectations. When this gets distributed out, those who put in minimal work receive a better grade than they deserve while those who put in more than their fare share of work get a much worse grade than they deserve (again, what really is the purpose and/or value of grades?). Grading groups as a whole is a nice sentiment, but ultimately, it is detrimental to students’ views of collaborative learning and it (generally) does not measure individual progress. I repeat, DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, GRADE STUDENTS AS A WHOLE GROUP.

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