modeling powerful social studies: bridging theory and practice with preservice elementary teachers

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Guelph]On: 16 November 2014, At: 13:34Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Modeling Powerful Social Studies: Bridging Theory andPractice with Preservice Elementary TeachersJason K. Ritter aa Social Studies Education, Duquesne University , Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania , USAPublished online: 28 Feb 2012.

    To cite this article: Jason K. Ritter (2012) Modeling Powerful Social Studies: Bridging Theory and Practice with PreserviceElementary Teachers, The Social Studies, 103:3, 117-124, DOI: 10.1080/00377996.2011.596857

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  • The Social Studies (2012) 103, 117124Copyright C Taylor & Francis Group, LLCISSN: 0037-7996 print / 2152-405X onlineDOI: 10.1080/00377996.2011.596857

    Modeling Powerful Social Studies: Bridging Theoryand Practice with Preservice Elementary Teachers


    Social Studies Education, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

    This article reports on the practice of a teacher educator in an elementary social studies, teacher education course while he attemptsto promote a view of powerful social studies teaching and learning through modeling powerful social studies lessons and publiclysharing his thinking about the lessons as they unfolded. Findings from this self-study of practice describe the challenges and highlightthe potential of using modeling in teacher education as an intellectual and pedagogical method to facilitate preservice teacherslearning about teaching social studies.

    Keywords: preservice teacher education, social studies education, elementary education, self-study

    A recent speech delivered by Secretary of Education ArneDuncan at the University of Virginia has led to furorin many university schools of education. In the speech,Duncan (2009) was quoted as saying: In all but a fewstates, education schools act as the Bermuda Triangle ofhigher educationstudents sail in but no one knows whathappens to them after they come out. No one knows whichstudents are succeeding as teachers, which are struggling,andwhat trainingwas useful or not.Although thesewordsmay incense those of us in teacher education who take se-riously our responsibility to prepare future teachers, theanger does not justify reactions that ignore the veracity ofDuncans critique.Indeed, earlier reviews of research similarly indicated the

    questionable influence of university-based preparatory pro-grams on teachers beliefs and practices (Clift and Brady2005;Wideen,Mayer-Smith, andMoon 1998). Robert Bul-lough and Andrew Gitlin (2001, 198) observed how be-ginning teachers often do not think their teacher educationhas had much of an impact on their learning. It would ap-pear manyhaving undergone extensive apprenticeshipsof observation as students (Lortie 1975)tend to teach inthe same ways they were taught, as opposed to teaching inways that align to how they were instructed in their teachereducation programs. In social studies, this often translatesinto the adoption of a view of teaching as simple transmis-

    Address correspondence to Jason K. Ritter, Assistant Professorof Social Studies Education, Duquesne University, 600 ForbesAve., 102A Canevin Hall, Pittsburgh, PA 15282, USA.

    sion of information for student absorption, lacking in anyserious degree of thoughtfulness (Newmann 1990).All of this demands us to question how it is possible

    for preservice teachers to spend so much time in schoolsof education only to come out on the other end relativelyunchangedembracing views and enacting practices thatconform to their default assumptions about education. Ofall the reasons offered byDuncan (2009) in his speech (someof which border on the offensive), one explanation doesresonatewithmy experiences and the feedback often sharedwith me by preservice teachers: The programs are heavyon educational theoryand light on developing core areaknowledge and clinical training under the supervision ofmaster teachers. Although the latter part of this criticismsuggests a need to reconsider the general structure of mosteducation programs, the first part represents an issue thatcan, and should, be dealt with in the immediate context ofsocial studies teacher education classrooms.Some may disagree with the notion at its core, that it is

    possible for teacher education programs to be too heavyon theory. Notwithstanding the merit of such a convic-tion, it does seem evident that some preservice teacherssuccessfully complete their education programs without aclear understanding of how theory informs practice. Tobe clear, this claim is not universal. A number of factorsinfluence what preservice teachers actually learn duringtheir preparatory experiences, as well as how they per-ceive that learning. Still, the theory-practice divide seemsworthy of our sustained focus because a weak understand-ing of this relationship positions theory as something forteachers to know rather than as something for them to do.Indeed, many demonstrate an amazing ability to talk the




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    talk of educational theory but then struggle to walk thatsame talk.Given these issues, the purpose of this article is to discuss

    one promisingmethod, the teacher educator acting as a rolemodel (Lunenberg,Korthagen, and Swennen 2007) is capa-ble of strengthening preservice teachers understandings ofthe relationship between theory and practice in social stud-ies. To this end, a rationale for teacher educator modelingis elaborated in the next section, followed by a brief reviewof the existing literature on social studies methods courses.After that is a description of the methods used to collectand analyze data focusing on my own attempts to modelpowerful social studies in an elementary teacher educationcourse. Then, an examination of the conditions surround-ing modeling as an intellectual and pedagogical method forteaching others how to teach is presented. This examina-tion is couched within the sparse body of existing literatureand my own experiences as a social studies teacher educa-tor. The article concludes with a discussion of what appearas the most significant issues for the future study and theuse of modeling in social studies teacher education.

    A Rationale for Modeling

    That many preservice teachers resort to teaching in thesame ways they were taught appears linked to the fact thatmany do not fully grasp the connections between theoryand practice espoused in their teacher education courses.This simultaneously points to the source of tension as wellas a possible solution. Simply put, teacher education pro-gramsmight exert greater influence on teachers beliefs andpractices if more attention is paid to the actual process ofpreparing teachers (Putnam and Borko 1997). This realiza-tion begs us to consider how preservice teachers in socialstudies are being asked to engage in their own processes oflearning how to teach.An important, but under-researched, player in the pro-

    cess of teacher education is the teacher educator (Howeyand Zimper 1990; Korthagen, Loughran, and Lunenberg2005; Lanier and Little 1986). Recent scholarship suggeststhat the way teacher educators model the promotion ofcertain views of learning could be a more important fac-tor in shaping teacher behaviour than the content of themessages they are sending, despite inherent differences be-tween the university and school contexts (Lunenberg,Korthagen, and Swennen 2007, 588). In other words,how one teaches is an essential part of what one teaches(Grossman 2005; Loughran and Russell 1997). For socialstudies teacher educators interested in facilitating the goalsof the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), thismeans increased attention should be placed on building thesocial understanding and civic efficacy of students throughmodeling the pr


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