involving preservice teachers in social studies content standards: thoughts of a methods professor
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Involving Preservice Teachers in Social Studies ContentStandards: Thoughts of a Methods ProfessorJanice Mcarthur aa Brigham Young University-Hawaii Elementary Education Department LaiePublished online: 07 Aug 2010.
To cite this article: Janice Mcarthur (2004) Involving Preservice Teachers in Social Studies Content Standards: Thoughts of aMethods Professor, The Social Studies, 95:2, 79-82, DOI: 10.3200/TSSS.95.2.79-82
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THE SOCIAL STUDIES MARCH/APRIL 2004 79
tandards this! Standards that!What are standards? Why do we
need them? Those are some of the com-ments I frequently hear from preserviceteachers as they confront the concept ofstandards in their teacher-educationcourses. Indeed, why incorporate stan-dards in teacher education? Federalmandates now in place leave littledoubt that teachers need to be wellacquainted with standards and how touse them to guide their teaching; forteacher educators, the choice is notwhether to include standards, but how.In this article, I describe how I amusing the standards developed in 1994by the National Council for the SocialStudies (NCSS) as a framework for thesocial studies methods course that Iteach.
Federal Mandate for Education
The emphasis of the 2002 major fed-eral legislation affecting education, theNo Child Left Behind Act of 2001(NCLB), on stronger accountability for
achieving results in student learning andfor the use of research-based teachingmethods has a well-documented recordof success. Political leaders who spear-headed the legislation apparently sup-port the widely held belief that mandat-ing that specific content be taughtmakes for the balanced education ofAmerican students. They also embracedincreased teacher accountability withthe intent of advancing student learning.The act directly addresses the need forstandards in all content areas.
Professional associations in contentareas addressed the needs for standardswell ahead of the NCLB legislation. Inan effort to give teachers across thenation a common thread for social stud-ies content, NCSS published its themesin 1994. Although standards may bederived from a variety of sources, it islogical and wise to use the best collec-tive thinking in a given content area as aguide. Hence, most states, includingHawaii, have opted to use the NCSSsocial studies themes as a basis for statestandards.
As the instructor of the social studiesmethod course in the teacher educationprogram at Brigham Young UniversityHawaii, I began using the national stan-dards in my course after I was intro-duced to them at NCSS national meet-
ings in the mid-1990s. The facultymembers and the administrators in theBYU School of Education had alreadymade a commitment to align theteacher-preparation program with thestandards promulgated by the variousprofessional associations. ReflectingIsaksons (2001) observation, Now thatsuch standards are in place teachers arebeing encouraged to align their teachingunits and lesson plans to these stan-dards, I stressed in the social studiesmethods course that students learnappropriate preparation for planningand teaching.
The NCLB Act also addresses theissue of accountability, and it holdsteachers responsible for student learn-ing. With that mandate from the nation-al level, what must teacher-educationprograms do to insure that their preser-vice teachers not only are familiar withcontent standards for which they arelikely to be responsible but also areactually using them in unit and lessonplanning?
According to Buckles, Schug, andWatts (2001), nearly every state hasadopted its own social studies stan-dards, proficiencies, and guidelines,attempting to incorporate and blendnational standards documents with statecurriculum requirements and other
Involving Preservice Teachers inSocial Studies Content Standards:Thoughts of a Methods ProfessorJANICE MCARTHUR
JANICE McARTHUR is chair of the Ele-mentary Education Department in theSchool of Education at Brigham YoungUniversityHawaii in Laie.
80 MARCH/APRIL 2004 THE SOCIAL STUDIES
educational objectives. In our curricu-lum at the university, standards are firstaddressed in the introductory educationcourse for preservice teachers, with ref-erence to standards as a federal mandatebut with little attention to specific con-tent. Teaching the content of the stan-dards is left to the specific methodscourses. In the courses, professors giveclose attention to the standards for theparticular subject, which enables preser-vice teachers to spend a great deal oftime with standards.
Even though the standards are intro-duced early in teacher educationcourses, questions still remain: Whatare the social studies standards? Whatis standards-based education? Theprocess of answering those questionsrequired a paradigm shift for many ofthe preservice teachers. At the begin-ning of the course, most preserviceteachers were fairly certain that teach-ing social studies meant the teacherasked the students to read an assignedchapter in the textbook and thenanswer the questions at the end of thechapter. When asked what the pupilswere to retain from the assignment, themethods students could not articulatethe focus of the lesson or what was tobe learned. Their common beliefappeared to be that whatever informa-tion is in the chapter is what should betaught. To shift from such thinking,methods students needed to focus onthree areas: What students can beexpected to learn in the discipline, howstudents should be able to use thatknowledge in the classroom, and howteachers can assess what students havelearned (Buckles et al. 2001). The needto assess student learning and teachingpractices created a change in theirthinking and a paradigm shift.
Problems and Concerns WhenChanging Paradigms
A concern of those favoring standards-based education is that university meth-ods courses do not reflect the standards-based movement (Thornton 2001). Theycite as evidence the quality of the lessonsthat preservice teachers teach duringtheir school-based placement. Before the
introduction of standards, preserviceteachers often designed practicumlessons that included activities that theybelieved to be worthwhile even if thelearner outcomes were not obvious.When I began working with elementarypreservice teachers, I found what I con-sidered fluff in the lessons they pre-pared. I define fluff as those activitiesthat were fun for the children to do butwhen the preservice teacher was askedwhy the activity was done or what thestudents learned, he or she had difficultyanswering. The common response was,I thought it was something they wouldenjoy doing or It looked like it wouldbe fun. It was apparent to me that littlethought had been given to learner out-comes during the planning stage.
Opponents of standards-basedinstruction also expressed concernabout teaching to the test and narrowingthe curriculum by the use of standards.Research has shown that such concernis not unfounded. The literature sug-gests that the balance of teacher instruc-tion will favor what they know to be onthe test (Manzo 2002). Is that, however,enough reason to reject standards-basedcurriculum and instruction or to with-hold support until tests are aligned withthe standards? Most educators wouldsay no.
The last concern expressed by thoseopposed to standards was that socialstudies may get lost in a curriculum thatstresses literacy and mathematics. In aneffort to alleviate that concern, Manzoquoted Brian M. Stecher, a scientistwith RAND Corporation, who said,Lots of states have adopted standardsfor social studies, theyve put in a lot ofresources to establish statewide curri