Knowledge of subject matter and curriculum goals
Teacher candidates positively impact student learning that is:
1. Content driven. All students develop understanding and problem-solving expertise in the content area(s) using reading, written and oral communication, and technology.
2. Aligned with curriculum standards and outcomes. All students know the learning targets and their progress toward meeting them.
3. Integrated across content areas. All students learn subject matter content that integrates mathematical, scientific, and aesthetic reasoning.
My understanding of Standard S:
Student learning does not exist in a box and does not truly exist when students are in the dark. This makes it essential that we as teachers connect the curriculum to other aspects of students’ lives (other classes, activities, family) and be transparent with students about where we are heading in class. Letting students know how to achieve success and then guiding them there through aligning with the standards allows maximum learning opportunities.
Meta-Reflection for Standard S
Content driven. All students develop understanding and problem-solving expertise in the content area(s) using reading, written and oral communication, and technology.
My wish as an educator is for any graduate of Seattle Prep to be proficient in this criterion of Standard S. In order for a student to truly be prepared for life after high school they will be successful in all these aspects (reading, writing, oral communication and technology). The best way to achieve this is through the content. As a teacher of history at three different grade levels, the content varies depending on the class. At the same, students’ ability varies as well from class to class and within each class. Nevertheless, my goal is for each student to master the content using reading, written, oral communication, and technological skills.
In my senior seminar course entitled Ecology, Economics, and Ethics: The Global Water Crisis, students actually produce a “capstone” type final project that encompasses all these criteria. It is a great way for students to move from high school to the next academic level (in our school, 99%-100% of seniors go to four year colleges) with a real world issue – in this case the global water crisis. As part of the final project, students must synthesize the reading they did over the course of the semester from Water Wars by Vivanda Shiva and Water Consciousness by various authors, as well as supplemental readings provided by myself and my co-teachers. They then produce a written group paper addressing the problem itself (pollution in Elliott Bay for example), the causes of structural injustice including addressing tenants of Catholic Social Teaching (who is hurt by the pollution and how is it unjust), the current solutions (what is being done already), and then the group solution (what the students are going to do about it including advocating on behalf of themselves and underrepresented groups). Additionally, students must present their problem and solutions in a creative way including PowerPoint to the group at the end of the year, thus incorporating technology and oral communication.
In my junior history class, my students worked on creating historical arguments for the cause of the Civil War through a variety of formats. They began the debate on the online discussion board Moodle, thus utilizing a new technology and a new way of interacting (as well as a manner that they will encounter in college). Students needed to respond to two different prompts concerning the Civil War. By debating the cause of the war, students are certainly immersed in the content of that unit. It also allows them to access higher level thinking as they must go beyond factual recall and form an argument. They were required to respond to two different posts on Moodle by their classmates, thus engaging them in even further into the content. Instead of simply stating their argument and leaving it at that, students must either agree or disagree with each other online. While this allows students to work with technology, as well as their reading and writing skills, it did not yet address oral communication. That is why as a follow up I led a class debate on their posts in class following the day the posts were due. Students needed to line up across from each other and in a bit of organized chaos, debate each other on the merit of their posts. Through these different formats of working with the content, students understood the material better and felt better prepared for the test that came later in the unit. I attached a few responses from the Moodle board as student evidence of this work with the content.
Aligned with curriculum standards and outcomes. All students know the learning targets and their progress toward meeting them.
As I begin each lesson no matter the style (lecture, group work, partner work), I identify the learning target for that day and write it on the board. While there are times that students get lost a bit in the course of the classroom work, we finish each lesson with reviewing the target and asking students to explain their competence in achieving it. There are also times that the target is not met until the next day or may be continued on a quiz or test. As an example of this, I provide artifacts attached of two different lessons I did in class with learning targets attached to standards. The first lesson holds a GLE of analyzing how cultural groups shaped the United States. I taught this lesson within a Multicultural Unit in which we analyzed the contributions of American Indians, Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, and Mexican Americans to the late 19th, early 20th centuries. This particular lesson looked at the Populist movement of the time and asked students to compare the party platform to the themes of the unit. Students take notes on a PowerPoint, read material for class, and then discuss in class to reach the learning target for the day.
The next lesson focuses on the origin of the Cold War. This lesson involved two learning targets in identifying the themes of the era (Cold War) and analyzing the assumptions of an issue or event. After explaining this was our objective at the beginning of the lesson, I incorporated a number of different instructional strategies in this lesson to teach the content. Students began by listening and taking notes on the “Iron Curtain” speech of Winston Churchill and then watched my VoiceThread presentation as an overview to the Cold War. Lastly, students worked in pairs teaching each other using primary source documents. Through the variety of strategies used, I ensured students progressed toward meeting the learning targets. We finished with a class discussion, which allowed for questions to be asked for any confusion.
Lastly, I know students know learning targets and progress toward meeting them because I asked them that question on evaluations I handed out. Seattle Prep asks teachers to have students fill out evaluations near the end of the school year. Instead of using the format provided by Prep, I used my own with some additional questions including one around learning targets. Overwhelmingly, students remarked that they felt that I am clear and understand the goal of each lesson. Out of the 90 students I evaluated, 87 wrote that I am clear and understand the purpose of the each class period. I attached two examples of evaluations filled out by students here.
Integrated across content areas. All students learn subject matter content that integrates mathematical, scientific, and aesthetic reasoning.
Students who practice integrating different types of reasoning while working on content in the classroom will be better prepared for life after high school. One of the primary reasons that I believe so strongly in the integrated teaching format like we have at Seattle Prep is that we don’t live in a vacuum. While subjects are often taught independent of each other, the real world doesn’t allow for such isolation. In order to be successful, students must integrate all types of reasoning at the same time and solve problems. With this in mind, I try to integrate atypical reasoning into my history lessons. This includes mathematical, scientific, and aesthetic reasoning.
The first example displays my use of aesthetic reasoning in the classroom. History allows for many types of visual learning to demonstrate mastery of content including this assessment involving Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. Each student becomes an expert on a New Deal program such as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and shows it through aesthetic reasoning. They draw a soup can with the program detailed in the ingredients section because FDR’s programs were called alphabet soup. The examples I provide here show students gaining a grasp for the material through their work and it involves little writing! It is fantastic to find a visual way for students to better understand content.
The next example involves maps students created in my freshmen class for the Age of Exploration unit. In creating these maps, students needed to analyze the impact of European explorers on the indigenous people of the Americas. They needed to create a map of the different Indian cultures that lived in the Americas before European exploration. The next map needed to highlight the explorers routes, as well as shading the areas that Portugal and Spain conquered in the Americas. By creating these maps, students think critically and see visually the impact of exploration. Writing about the exploration or reading it in a text does not lead to the same analysis in students’ minds as creating the maps does because they can actually see the impact.
During the same unit on exploration, I involved mathematical reasoning in an assignment on those same explorers. As Spain and Portugal poured more and more money into exploration around the world, the actual explorers began taking routes down the west coast of Africa and across the Atlantic Ocean. In order for students to truly understand the difficulty of this exploration, I had them calculate the time it would take them to travel this far and the distance of the exploration. By using math, students can’t simply “google” the answer. They must figure it out themselves and in the process get a better understanding of how remarkable this period in history proved to be. This was a new era marked by new discovery, new conflicts, and new dangers. Using mathematical reasoning helped students understand this better.
Lastly, I use scientific reasoning in my classroom in a number of different ways. The National History Day research paper begins in early September and is ongoing until mid-January. Students create a historical argument or hypothesis and then go about trying to prove this in their paper. This instructional strategy not only involves the scientific reasoning of testing hypotheses, but also is backed by research. 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). The attached artifact shows a student’s history day paper with a thesis on conservation and the creation of national parks. The student chose his hypothesis and then researched enough evidence to go about proving it.
In addition, my senior seminar course integrated scientific reasoning on a daily basis as the class is entitled Ecology, Economics, and Ethics: The Global Water Crisis. Students must integrate their understanding of the water cycle with their understanding of water as a commodity. Through analyzing both the economic and ecological perspectives, students begin to formulate their own idea about how to view water and the world wide crisis. The example I provide here shows an assignment that asks students to integrate these different types of reasoning. Students learned more about the environmental impact of pollution and disruption of water through this class and get to practice integrated reasoning. This will make them better citizens – certainly more informed – as they make decisions for both work, play and in the voting process as adults.