Modeling Powerful Social Studies: Bridging Theory and Practice with Preservice Elementary Teachers

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<ul><li><p>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</p><p>The Social StudiesPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:</p><p>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.</p><p>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</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the Content) containedin the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of theContent. Any opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, andare not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon andshould be independently verified with primary sources of information. 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RITTER</p><p>Social Studies Education, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA</p><p>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.</p><p>Keywords: preservice teacher education, social studies education, elementary education, self-study</p><p>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</p><p>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-</p><p>Address correspondence to Jason K. Ritter, Assistant Professorof Social Studies Education, Duquesne University, 600 ForbesAve., 102A Canevin Hall, Pittsburgh, PA 15282, USA.</p><p>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</p><p>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</p><p>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</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f G</p><p>uelp</p><p>h] a</p><p>t 13:</p><p>34 1</p><p>6 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>118 Ritter</p><p>talk of educational theory but then struggle to walk thatsame talk.Given these issues, the purpose of this article is to discuss</p><p>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.</p><p>A Rationale for Modeling</p><p>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-</p><p>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 promotion of a view of social studies asmeaningful, integrative, value-based, challenging, and ac-tive (National Council for the Social Studies 2008).</p><p>Modeling in teacher education consists of intentionallydisplaying certain teaching behaviors, techniques, or ap-proaches to students with the objective of facilitating theirlearning about teaching. But modeling is not intended toencourage preservice teachers to simply mimic what theyexperience as part of their teacher education programsin their future instruction as teachers. Instead, modelingrests on a perspective of teaching that emphasizes preser-vice teachers critically engaging with, and reflecting on, theprocess of being taughtboth in the past and, equally im-portantly, in the present as students of teaching.Although modeling places responsibility for construct-</p><p>ing understandings of how to teach on preservice teachers,teacher educators still have a pivotal role to play. JohnLoughran (2007, 1) described this as follows:</p><p>Enacting a pedagogy of teacher education is enmeshed inthe ways in which teacher educators knowing and purpose-fully create opportunities for students of teaching to seeinto teaching. It is about how teacher educators are ableto make teaching a site of inquiry. In so doing, students ofteaching might see into practice (both their own and thatof their teacher educators) in such a way as to gain a gen-uine appreciation of the skills, knowledge and abilities thatshape practice. Such inquiry opens teaching to questioning,probing, reflection, and critique that goes way beyond thetechnical.</p><p>Hence, modeling fits with the idea of teaching as a learningproblem, not as a technical, rational pursuit of best practice.Within the field of social studies, when teacher educa-</p><p>tors effectively model the promotion of a view of powerfulsocial studies via the NCSS framework, they contribute tothe professional development of preservice teachers in atleast two ways. First, preservice teachers are provided withopportunities to actually experience teaching and learningaligned with NCSS standards to build the social under-standing and civic efficacy of students. Second, as describedabove, preservice teachers are made privy to the complex-ity of teaching. This can send powerful messages to disruptdangerousmyths associated with teaching (i.e., good teach-ers have all the answers; good teachers are always in control;etc.) and to facilitate the skills and dispositions required ofreflective practitioners.</p><p>Literature Review</p><p>Literature reviews conducted in the field of social stud-ies over the last twenty years have consistently indicated adearth of studies focused on methods courses (Adler 1991;Armento 1996; Banks and Parker 1990). This trend seemsto be reversing itself as a number of recent publicationshave featured social studies teacher educators actively writ-ing about their own practice and learning. Indeed, much ofwhat we currently know about methods courses in socialstudies has been gleaned as a result of this burgeoning line</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f G</p><p>uelp</p><p>h] a</p><p>t 13:</p><p>34 1</p><p>6 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>Modeling Powerful Social Studies 119</p><p>of action research and self-study scholarship (Adler 2008).One drawback to the existing literature concerns the factthat it mostly comprises individualistic studies and descrip-tive accounts of particular practices. Althoughmore shouldbe done to purposefully connect these studies and accountsso that interested readers might consider broader general-izations of the literature, the current body of work doeshelp to shed light on teacher education practices within avariety of contexts.For instance, using case studies to link how the preservice</p><p>teachers in his secondary social studies methods course ac-tually taught as student teachers, Todd Dinkelman (1999,2000) described how his instructional focus on collabora-tive inquiry around issues of critical democracy and cur-riculum building may have facilitated preservice teacherthinking about, and engagement with, critically reflectiveteaching practices. Brian Sevier (2005) similarly detailedhis attempts to sensitize the preservice teachers in his socialfoundations teacher education course to diversity throughexaminations of culturally relevant teaching practices. In asocial studies methods course aimed at middle-level learn-ing, Hilary Conklin and her colleagues (2010) describedhow structured teacher education coursework, includingcourse readings, small group discussions, and interviewswith students, could be used to help beginning teachersinvestigate and potentially better plan for middle schoolstudents intellectual capabilities.Similar examinations of social studies methods are also</p><p>present in teacher education courses for preservice teachersinterested in teaching at the elementary level. For example,Sally Beisser and Diana Schmidt (2001) addressed theirattempts to incorporate service-learning and community-based teaching and learning into an elementary social stud-ies methods course through close collaboration with thelocal school district. Barbara Cozza and her colleagues(2001) described their attempts to create collaboration be-tween preservice teachers and elementary schools throughlessons with global connections and high levels of parentalinvolvement. And issues associated wi...</p></li></ul>