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Design Project: Teaching Social Studies for Understanding

Needs Assessment

1. Instructional problem: The need for pre-service teachers at the undergraduate level to learn effective teaching strategies that foster the development of deep understanding within their adolescent students, specifically in the content area of Social Studies.

2. The nature of what is to be learned: Pre-service teachers in the field of social studies adolescent education will learn how to implement teaching strategies that foster the development of deep understanding in their students.

3. About the learners: Those who will be participating in this course will be pre-service teachers at the undergraduate level whose student teaching experience will be commencing in their upcoming semester. These students will have a concentration area of social studies adolescent education and will have had previous education instruction before participating in this course. Students will have a general understanding of educational strategies that are effective in the classroom, but are participating in this course with the aim of exploring the concept of deep understanding and learning effective teaching strategies to promote it.

4. Instructional content: This course will be broken up into units that will explore the various issues surrounding the development of understanding. Such content will include differentiating between "knowledge" and "understanding," examination of the elements of deep understanding, and ultimately progressing towards examination of effective teaching strategies in the content area. The lessons will contain an overview of what is to be learned respectively and will consist of activities such as reviewing articles, constructing sample activities, and reflection on the content of the lesson.

Performance Objectives

  • Given readings on differentiating between "knowledge" and "understanding," students will classify the distinguishing features by writing a brief response that highlights the two concepts.
  • Given their previous responses, students will identify the role of "generative topics" in developing understanding by participating in a discussion of the material.
  • Given the New York State Social Studies Core Curriculum for grades 7-12, students will generate examples of generative topics from within the curriculum and highlight ways in which they could be constructed to foster understanding by constructing a chart of their topics.
  • Using the examples pulled from the NYS SS Core Curriculum, students will demonstrate effective strategies by developing activities for classroom instruction that foster understanding.
  • Choosing whether to use their previously created activities or develop new activities, students will generate in writing a complete lesson plan to demonstrate their understanding of effective teaching strategies.
  • When completed the development of their entire lesson, students will identify the features of their lesson that promote understanding by writing a personal reflection and discussion of their planning process.

Task Analysis

Course Purpose:

Upon completion of this course, pre-service teachers in the field of social studies adolescent education will have improved their understanding and ability to implement effective teaching strategies that instill deep understanding in their students. The participants will explore how they can go beyond didactic teaching methods to improve their students' depth of understanding.

Learning Outcomes:

Unit One: Defining Understanding

The first unit for this mini-course will primarily focus on examining and reflecting on differentiating between knowledge and understanding in terms of student learning. Using the provided readings, by the end of this unit participants will be able to:

  • Explain how the concepts of understanding and knowledge differ from one another.
  • Reflect on past educational experiences and analyze whether they, as students, experienced more knowledge based or understanding based instruction.

Unit Two: Generative Topics in Social Studies

For the second unit in this mini-course, participants will further examine the role of generative topics in promoting understanding. A more in depth analysis of these topics will then lead to the participants extracting examples of generative topics from the current New York State Social Studies Core Curriculum for grades 7-12. Upon completion of this unit, participants will be able to:

  • Analyze the components of generative topics and determine the reasons for their effectiveness in understanding-based instruction.
  • Examine the NYS SS Core Curriculum and target examples of generative topics within the curriculum.

Unit Three: How to Teach for Understanding

The third unit in this mini-course consists primarily of taking a more hands-on approach for the participants. Based on the required readings for this unit, the participants will begin developing effective social studies teaching strategies that promote understanding. By the end of this unit, participants will be able to:

  • Analyze effective social studies instructional techniques.
  • Develop such instructional techniques that promote the development of understanding in student learning.
  • Utilize reflective thinking processes in the development of their teaching strategies to highlight the specific components that are being utilized to foster understanding.

Unit Four: Lesson Development

The final unit for this mini-course will consist of the participants using the information they have examined thus far in the course by developing a complete instructional lesson plan that is conducive to understanding in student learning. By the end of this unit, participants will be able to:

  • Reflect on the content examined and completed in this mini-course by applying it to the development of their lesson.
  • Critically analyze the stages of their lesson development to explain how their lesson promotes student understanding.

Prerequisite Skills:

Essential prerequisites

  • Participants will need:
    • knowledge of basic classroom procedures
    • understanding of the types of students they will be working with
    • the ability to reflect on the learning processes of adolescents

Supportive prerequisites

  • Participants will need:
    • understanding of State Standards and Core Curriculum of their content area
    • basic instructional design abilities
    • essential classroom management skills

Instructional Curriculum Map

Below is the link to my ICM saved as a word document.


Design Project

Teaching Socials Studies for Understanding