As commencement ceremonies approach I find myself looking to the New York State Standards as a way to evaluate and reflect on my past year of instruction. I find that this introspection allows me to document many suggestions and generate multiple ideas in preparation for the following year.
At this particular time I am examining New York State Social Studies standard five. This standard addresses civics, citizenship, and government. According to this standard the student is to be able to explain what citizenship means in a democratic society, how citizenship has changed over time, and explain the role of an informed citizen in today’s changing world.
In order to identify and determine if I have enable my students to achieve this standard I must first break down the components of the standard and how they relate to both education and instruction.
First we must contemplate what type of knowledge this standard is assessing. The ideas of this standard can be divided into two different levels. The first consisting of terms, details, and facts. The second consisting of principles, generalizations, and concepts.
This standard incorporates information and ideas from both of these levels of knowledge. A student attempting to achieve this standard must have prior knowledge and understanding of what a citizen is. This illustrates the first level of knowledge, identified as “terms”. Since the term citizen is prevalent throughout the entire standard it is imperative that students know and understand this term.
Another example of the knowledge within this standard is exemplified in the concept of democratic society. For a student to demonstrate citizenship within a democratic society, they must understand what a democratic society is. Without the knowledge of this concept, students would be incapable of demonstrating a thorough knowledge of the term.
So I ask myself if I have instructed in such a way as to ensure that the student learning experience assisted them in achieving this goal? Did I allow them to not only utilize their prior knowledge in my classroom but also impart to them the knowledge necessary for meeting the standard? There are multiple avenues to explore, understand, and employ when I instruct students regarding this standard. Here are two considerations I reflect on regarding the instruction surrounding this standard.
First, a student must possess the necessary vocabulary to meet the standard. Since this standard deals with terms and concepts, which are both different levels of understanding, it is essential that the student first be cognizant of the terms. Research has shown that a student must be introduced to word in context more than once in order to learn it. Since this is true, I must ask myself if I implemented on multiple occasions the word or term I desired my students to learn? This introduction could have been either verbal or through a reading activity, but the focus needed to be on introduction and implementation of the term.
This instructional methodology relates directly to the standard by ensuring a student can identify and understand the term citizen. Through a repetitious introduction students will have had a greater chance of applying that term to the concept aspect of the standard, which brings me to the second aspect of reflective consideration.
Students that achieved the standard being discussed must have grasped and have an understanding of the concept of a democratic society. This idea can be, and often is, interpreted in many different ways. The purpose here is to help students see the concept in light of the American idea of a democratic society. My instructional strategies will enable the students to not only develop a knowledge base, but also organize and prepare more readily to different situations. My role in instruction regarding this level of understanding is to provide the students with multiple opportunities to apply the concept to specific situations. A specific avenue that I implemented here was role-play and simulation. By offering the student an opportunity to put the concept into practice and use I was able to measure the understanding. This performance assessment greatly increased comprehension and understanding.
By taking these things into consideration and recognizing the level of understanding that was achieved, students were assisted in obtaining and utilizing the necessary knowledge to become successful in the academic world, Thus meeting the commencement expectations placed on them by New York State.