Lesson: Moodle and Causes of Civil War
I created this lesson on using the online discussion board Moodle and the causes of the Civil War partly from a SPU class and partly on my own. The Issues and Advances in Education Technology class at SPU brought Moodle to my attention, but the school also began using Moodle before I came up with the idea to use it in my class. The manner in which I utilized the technology (and thus reaching the criterion for that aspect of Standard T) came from my original creation. As students analyzed the causes of the Civil War and responded to each other, this allowed them to demonstrate their competency toward the various written and historical standards (as well as understanding of content). Obviously a great part of this lesson dealt with creating technologically fluent students while creating historical arguments. The attached artifacts showed their understanding of the material clearly in their Moodle responses.
Instructional Strategy-Referenced Reflection
Similarities and Differences
As Robert Marzano states in his Instructional Strategies that Work, “asking students to independently identify similarities and differences enhances students’ understanding of and ability to use knowledge” (Marzano, 2001). In this lesson, I asked students to consider their previously learned knowledge during our unit on Antebellum America and access it to form an opinion. Students needed to compare the causes of the Civil War and determine independently which one (between social, economic and political) proved to have the most impact on the beginning of the war.
While I believe most students gained a good understanding of the similarities and differences in the various causes, I would be more explicit in my explanation of these thematic causes prior to asking students to write about them in the future. This is partly what didn’t go well and partly what I would do differently in the future. Some students appeared to struggle particularly with understanding the social cause of the Civil War. As I reflect upon the lesson, it does seem pretty vague. I think some students confused social with political causes.
My mentor teacher encourages the instructional strategy of similarities and differences as part of our Jesuit teaching model. We continually strive for students to create their own learning opportunities and similarities and differences fit perfectly in this model. My university coordinator did not comment specifically on this instructional strategy, but did give me great feedback on the lesson overall. Specifically, she encouraged me to have assessments that matched up with my learning strategies.
Homework and Practice
One of the primary focuses of the first semester at Seattle Prep for juniors involves the National History Day paper. This research paper challenges and pushes students to work toward a historical analysis of an innovation in American history. Teaching students to create a paper around a centralized argument (thesis) rather than a collection of facts can be difficult for students. This skill requires a great deal of practice for even the most sophisticated students. Thus I create many assignments that require students to generate topic sentences or thesis statements so they can practice this kind of analysis. This particular lesson requires students to do the same kind of analysis that they must do for their research paper.
I believe that this lesson does a great job in terms of homework and practice. While I wanted my students to succeed on this particular assignment and lesson, I really wanted them to practice for their research paper. This lesson accomplishes this practice very well. I wouldn’t change much, if anything, concerning this instructional strategy.
The only advice I received regarding this strategy involved ensuring that my assessment matched my strategy. My university coordinator wants to make sure that assessments are not just informal, but formalized with rubrics. Thus I created a rubric for the lesson.
Generating and Testing Hypotheses
A large part of our curriculum at Seattle Prep, especially in the junior year, involves creating hypotheses and proving them with evidence. As I mentioned before, the National History Day paper allows students to use this skill, but there are a number of other smaller assignments that push students to do this as well. As Robert Marzano states, creating hypotheses in writing and proving them can be instrumental in student development. “A fair amount of research has demonstrated the power of asking students to carefully explain – preferably in writing – the principles they are working from, the hypotheses they generate from these principles, and why their hypotheses make sense” (Marzano, 2001). In this lesson, students not only had to generate a hypothesis, but they needed to prove it with specific evidence from earlier lessons or the text. Additionally, students needed to respond to two classmates, thus their hypotheses were tested by being examined and commented on by their peers.
I feel pretty good about this instructional strategy as I use it a lot in all of my classes. Students must learn how to form an argument and prove it; I feel that there is no more important skill in history. While I am confident in my ability to teach this skill and in particular with this lesson, I would be more clear in my instructions with this lesson. I allowed students to choose the cause of the Civil War and I left it too open ended. Some students created a hypotheses that involved all three causes rather than taking a strong stance in choosing one particular cause (social, political, or economic). In the future, I will not allow this ambiguity so that students must take a strong stand and form their argument.
On this particular strategy, I did not receive any feedback or advice from either my mentor teacher or university coordinator.
Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers
This particular lesson centers on the important and “higher level” question of the cause of the Civil War. This isn’t a factual recall question and it requires students to analyze information to create an argument. As Marzano states, “a fair amount of research indicates that questions that require students to analyze information – frequently called higher level questions – produce more learning than questions that simply require students to recall or recognize information – frequently referred to as lower-order questions” (Marzano, 2001). By constructing an argument with support and analyzing the different perspectives of other students in the class, each student must access analytical and higher level skills.
I would add an element to this lesson in preparing students to create their arguments to better utilize this instructional strategy. The advanced organizers presented by Marzano could greatly benefit many of my students in creating their argument concerning the cause of the Civil War. Most likely, I will use the graphic organizer such as a mind map to accomplish this.
Both my mentor teacher and university coordinator (as well as other faculty members and the Dean of Academics) to continually push myself to ask “higher level” thinking questions in class. This is emphasized continually at Seattle Prep.
Standard S Criterion-Referenced Reflection
By asking students to create a historical argument concerning the cause of the Civil War and write it on the discussion board “Moodle”, there is no doubt that the lesson is content driven. Additionally students debated their point of view in class thus accessing their oral communication skills. Lastly, by reading other students’ arguments on the Moodle page and having to respond to two classmates, each student understood the content even better. Not only do they read about the information, students create their own argument and analyze others.
Aligned with Curriculum Standards and Outcomes
Students in my class understand that they are creating historical arguments in regards to the causes of the Civil War. The Antebellum sub-unit involves analyzing the causes of the Civil War through three different lenses: economic, political, and social. As the class learns about specific people and events, the particular lessons are connected to causes of the war.
Integrated Across Content Areas
This lesson didn’t access much in aesthetic reasoning but did allow students to contrast and prove their argument in different manners. First, they wrote their hypothesis on Moodle with evidence backing it up. Second, they needed to respond to classmates. Third, they argued their point in class in a debate format. The creation of a hypothesis with evidence utilizes scientific reasoning.
Standard T Criterion-Referenced Reflection
Informed by Standards-Based Assessment
I charged students with creating a historical argument, thus my assessment must match this objective. I created a rubric assessing students’ ability to create and back up their argument with evidence.
Students are allowed to choose their own perspective on the cause of the Civil War. This creates an opportunity for each student to create their own argument without being forced to take a specific perspective. Additionally, by responding to other students’ commentary, each student gets to explore the history for themselves.
Influenced by Multiple Instructional Strategies
As referenced in the four instructional strategies included in this lesson, this lesson definitely varies its approach to reach learning targets. I allowed students to not only write about their historical argument on Moodle, but respond to each other online and in the classroom through debates. These varied instructional strategies allowed for different types of learners to achieve success.
Informed by Technology
By using Moodle, students in my class utilized a web 2.0 tool that they will encounter numerous times in the college environment. They became more proficient in using technology while still working toward analyzing the causes of the Civil War.
Student Moodle Work
Seattle Prep Moodle