Jump to content


Spartacus

The Student as Historian: An ICT Revolution


  • Please log in to reply
41 replies to this topic

#1 John Simkin

John Simkin

    Super Member

  • admin
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 16,097 posts

Posted 16 February 2005 - 06:01 PM

The main objective of this presentation is to explore the ways that ICT can help students develop a love of history.

I never liked history until I became a historian. That might seem a strange thing to say but I believe this view is held by hundreds of thousands of people.

When I was at school I had not developed the idea of deferred gratification. I judged everything as it related to my life at the time. All my friends were the same. We were in a school where it was not possible to take external exams. School was just a holding base for people waiting to work in the local factories. Therefore our teachers were judged on their ability to make the lessons interesting. Those who taught me history failed dismally in this and I left school without an interest, let alone a love, of the subject.

Soon after I started work I was befriended by a man who was 15 years older than me. His son had died at birth and as I did not have a father, so in a way he sort of adopted me. During lunch-breaks he used to tell me interesting stories about being a child in London during the Blitz.

But like all good teachers he did not only tell interesting stories, he also asked good questions. He asked me about my own history. I did not know the answer to that, so I began asking the same questions of my mum. She also had interesting stories to tell about the war. She also told me stories about my father’s role in the war and how it had both physically and mentally damaged him. Apparently, having to kill during battle had left its mark on him. Also, at the time of his death, he was waiting to go into hospital to have his right arm amputated. This was as a result of the injuries he had suffered during the war. My mother admitted that she suspected he had committed suicide as a result of these wounds.

My mum also told me about my two grandfathers who had both taken part in the First World War. My mum’s dad survived but my other grandfather had been killed during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. My mum knew nothing about my father’s side of the family but she did have a brass medal-type thing that gave brief details of his death. I was intrigued by this event and was determined to find out more. I wanted to know how he died. Most importantly, I wanted to know why he died? Why did the government feel it necessary to send him to France to fight against the Germans. Did he die for a noble cause or did he die in vain?

I joined the local library and began reading books on the First World War. Up until this time I had read very few books. I even visited the site of his death. I was then able to discover that his body had never been found. Maybe some day in the future a French farmer will dig up his body. Apparently, several are found every year.

As you can see, I first became interested in history when I became a historian. I know I am not alone in this. I am regularly contacted by people via my website who say they hated history at school but love the subject now. Book sales and viewing figures for history documentaries suggest that the subject is a popular subject with the older generation. The number of people who visit my website (and others like it) also support this view. It is usually argued that the main reason for this is that school pupils are too young to appreciate history. I don’t agree with that. My four year old grandson is already fascinated with history (limited at the moment to the history of steam locomotives and medieval knights). He enjoys nothing better than to say me “did you know….”. Usually this information has come from some television programme he has been watching. He often quotes Pete Waterman as his source of information. He is already becoming a historian who is just as concerned to teach as to learn. In fact, both things are closely intertwined.

The people who email me with the claim that they now love history are invariably historians. Not in the sense that they earn a living from writing or teaching about history. But nearly all of them are carrying out research into the past. In all cases, this research is linked to their own lives. A recent survey showed that the fastest growing hobby in the UK is family history. The main reason given for this is the development of the web. It has enabled anyone with access to the internet to become involved in historical research.

Therefore, what I am particularly interested in is providing materials that will encourage pupils to become historians.

I think there are several different ways to do this. One is to develop online materials that allows students to study the past via either their own family or via the local community.

For example, when I first started an educational website in September 1997, the main objective was to produce resources to support my teaching. At the time I was teaching a GCSE unit on local history.

http://www.spartacus...stGrinstead.htm

The idea was to explore the debate that took place in East Grinstead between 1906 and 1914 on the subject of votes for women. To resource this unit I spent a lot of time looking at back copies of the East Grinstead Observer. Most of the information came from the letters page and reports on meetings of the NUWSS in East Grinstead. There were also a couple of local women who were supporters of the WSPU. One of these women, Kitty Marion, endured 200 force-feedings in prison during this period.

There was tremendous opposition to women’s suffrage from the local Conservative Party (one of its leading figures, Wallace Hills, was editor of the East Grinstead observer). The Liberal Party tended to support the NUWSS (but they were very hostile to the WSPU). The local parliamentary candidate, Charles Corbett, was a member of the Men's League for Women's Suffrage and his wife (Marie Corbett) and his two daughters (Margery and Cicely) were very active in the NUWSS.

There was a serious riot in East Grinstead in 1913 when a group of youths began throwing stones at speakers at a public meeting of the NUWSS. It was later discovered that these youths had been paid by local members of the Conservative Party. They were upset that the NUWSS had joined forces with the Salvation Army to demand the vote and legislation to control the selling of alcohol in the town (there were very close links in the town with the Conservative Party and the Brewing Industry).

I was able to trace the relatives of several people included in this campaign. This included the sons of two of the campaigners, Margery Corbett and Edward Steer, the daughter of Cicely Corbett, and the granddaughter of Marie and Charles Corbett. They were able to give me photographs, letters, membership cards, newspaper clippings, etc.

I decided to produce biographies of these local people and put them on my website. Each student then were given one of these characters to study. As we only had one computer in the school with an internet connection I had to print out the pages for the student to use in the classroom.

http://www.spartacus....uk/SUtitle.htm

The students had to be these characters in several debates we had on women’s suffrage and related subjects. For example, these characters were deeply divided over topics such as the rules governing the local workhouse, the establishment of a park in the town for children (some did not want to increase the rates to pay maintenance costs) and the First World War.

This was a great success and got me thinking about how I could use the internet with my other classes. During my research I discovered some great newspaper reports on the First World War. We taught the subject in Year 9. I therefore photocopied these articles and letters and put them into different topics. In the early days of the war the newspaper published a large number of letters sent by men on the Western Front to their parents and wives back home. I soon had a collection of articles/letters for each person in the class. The task was to create an encyclopaedia of East Grinstead and the First World War. They had to write up their own entry for the encyclopaedia. This was provided on disc and I was then able to upload it to the school website. In this way we created a teaching resource for schools in the town. We also turned some of the work into pamphlets that we sold on parents’ evenings.

http://www.spartacus...EGfww.title.htm

The students got a great kick from seeing their work published on the web. One boy’s father was living in Iran (he had separated from his mother). His father was able to read the boy’s work on the web. The pleasure this one boy received from this exercise justified all the time it took to organize this activity.

I did a similar thing when I studied the Second World War. Once again we placed the focus on events in East Grinstead. This included a case study of the bombing of the Whitehall Cinema. On 9th July 1943, a lone German aircraft that had lost the rest of its party on the way to London decided to drop its bombs on East Grinstead instead. One of these bombs hit the Whitehall Cinema, which at the time was showing the film Hopalong Cassidy. It was full of school kids. The raid killed 108 people and another 235 were seriously injured. It was the largest loss of life in any air raid in Sussex. However, as the kids discovered, it was not reported in the newspapers at the time. It was only after Germany had been defeated were details published in the national and local newspapers.

http://www.spartacus...WWwhitehall.htm

A lot of the children had grandparents who experienced this raid. They were able to interview them and report back to the rest of the class. Unfortunately I left the school around this time and this material was never added to the school website. Nor did anyone get appointed to maintain the website I had created for the students. Their material is no longer available online.

Another possibility is to link the children with a family from the past. That was what I was trying to do when I created the simulation on life in a medieval village (Yalding) and a medieval town (Easy Grinstead).

http://www.spartacus....uk/Yalding.htm

The simulation lasts for six months in real time. The activity begins with a look at Richard FitzGilbert, a Norman knight who took part in the Battle of Hastings. After the battle he became the Earl of Clare and one of England’s largest landowners. For the next few weeks the students follow the history of the Clare family between 1066 and 1330. This involves looking at issues such as castle building, feudalism, Domesday Book, religion, Thomas Becket, the Magna Carta, Origins of Parliament, the Clares in Ireland, the Clares in Wales and the Battle of Bannockburn, where the last of the Clare male line is killed. The Clare Estates (only the king owned more land than the Clares) are then divided up between Gilbert, 10th Earl of Clare’s three sisters.

The simulation looks at just one village under the control of the Clare family. The village is Yalding in Kent. I chose Yalding because a lot of its manor records have survived. It also has the same church and stone bridge that existed in the 14th century. It is still farmed and its common land still exists and they still hold the village fair there today as they did in the 14th century. The land is fertile but the village still suffers from the flooding that plagued the medieval residents of Yalding.

The simulation starts in 1336. Each student is given a character who lived in Yalding at that time. They are all given a house in the village and details of their family, animals, land, farming equipment, etc. Some are serfs and some are free. Each student is a head of a family with children. In 1375 they will become the son or daughter of the present character.

Every week the students will receive via the website an update of their changing circumstances. For example, increasing revenues means they can buy more animals or if they are serfs, their freedom. During the simulation the students experience events such as harvesting, meetings of the Manor Court, a Village Fair, the Hundred Years War, the Black Death, Statute of Labourers Act, the Poll Tax, a visit from John Ball, and finally the events of 1381.

What I would like is for E-HELP to provide online advice on how history teachers could create similar projects like this in their own schools. The main objective would be to turn students into historians. To help them to become producers as well as consumers. For their research to become online information for others to use.

I would also like to use the Forum to give student access to people who have interesting stories to tell about the past. We already have witnesses who cover subjects such as the Second World War, the Life and Times of JFK, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. I would like to develop this to include other post-war events and issues.

http://educationforu...p?showforum=179

We also other sections where students can ask questions of historians. This includes sections on the American West, First World War, the History of Russia, the Holocaust, Black History, History of India, Nazi Germany, Spanish Civil War, etc. So far this service has not been used very much but I think it has great potential. For example, as we have historians from a large number of countries, we could have fascinating debates about the teaching of subjects like the British Empire and Communism in Eastern Europe.

Although it would be difficult and expensive to organize, especially in terms of monitoring, I would very much like to see a series of Forums created where students from all over the world could discuss their research into the past.

I would also like to see a searchable database created of material that has been produced by students during research projects.

Most of these ideas will need the support of governments. For example, you would need a team of people being paid to monitor these Forums. However, I believe if we create a few examples of how it can be done, we might be able to win over those who control educational budgets.

It is not unimportant that my views are reflected in two recently published reports. The Tomlinson Report called for students to carry out research projects. The Historical Association report on History 14-19 agrees with Tomlinson and argues that “inquiry work could be an individual study of a topic chosen by the pupil or a guided inquiry with the whole class looking at the same thing”.

#2 Vicente López-Brea Fernández

Vicente López-Brea Fernández

    Experienced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 64 posts

Posted 23 February 2005 - 11:14 AM

But essentially, are we doing anything different from what others did 2000 years ago? I was shocked by John Simkin’s words when “he thought he was debating this issue with himself” and stated “the structure of what is going on in the classroom has not changed (in fact it has remained the same for over 2000 years)”. Shocked, as I guess expected by the author of such opinion, I experienced a feeling of panic: Are we moving? Or it is just introducing new gadgets to preserve the isolated mastery of knowledge and let others out of the race? Is there a 1st world learning, sophisticate, technology-oriented,

#3 John Simkin

John Simkin

    Super Member

  • admin
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 16,097 posts

Posted 24 February 2005 - 08:30 AM

But essentially, are we doing anything different from what others did 2000 years ago? I was shocked by John Simkin’s words when “he thought he was debating this issue with himself” and stated “the structure of what is going on in the classroom has not changed (in fact it has remained the same for over 2000 years)”. Shocked, as I guess expected by the author of such opinion, I experienced a feeling of panic: Are we moving? Or it is just introducing new gadgets to preserve the isolated mastery of knowledge and let others out of the race? Is there a 1st world learning, sophisticate, technology-oriented,

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


What I meant by this was that the traditional paradigm of education is of a teacher standing at the front of the class transmitting knowledge to his or her students. Behind the teacher will be a visual aid. Traditionally this was a blackboard but over the next few years it will become a whiteboard. This pattern is indeed unchanged for over 2,000 years. It is a model that was used by the Greeks (although Socrates rebelled against this model). If an Ancient Greek could be transported into the 21st century, a great deal of what he saw would be highly confusing. The one thing he would recognize immediately would be a school classroom.

One of the reasons why teachers have been reluctant to use technology is that it usually undermines the traditional paradigm. In doing so, it undermines the power structure that exists in the classroom. That is why the electronic whiteboard is the “killer application”. It will be accepted by teachers because it will reinforce the traditional paradigm.

Although the traditional paradigm reinforces the authority of the teacher, it offers a poor teaching model. Research has been recently carried out at the United States National Learning Lab in Maine to assess the most effective way that young people can learn. The researchers employed a variety of different teaching methods and then tested the students to find out how much they had learnt. From this the researchers were able to calculate what they called the Average Retention Rate. The results were as follows:

Teacher talking to a class (5%)
Student reading a book (10%)
Student watching an audio visual presentation (20%)
Student watching a teacher demonstration (30%)
Students taking part in a discussion group (50%)
Students involved in an activity that is related to what the teacher wants them to learn (75%)
Students teaching others (90%).

These research findings do not surprise me. I once carried out some research on a group whom I had taught over a period of six years (11 to 17). The information they had retained from their history lessons reflected the findings of US National Learning Lab, in that the most effective learning was related to the amount of active participation from the student.

However, it seems to me that the majority of teachers spend much of their time using teaching methods which, according to US National Learning Lab, are fairly ineffective. I suspect the main reasons for employing traditional instructional methods are as follows: (1) this was the way that the teachers were taught when they were pupils at school; (2) this was the way that teachers were trained to teach; (3) this is the accepted way of teaching amongst colleagues - i.e. peer group pressure; (4) teachers enjoy being performers; (5) the teacher feels more in control of the situation when traditional instructional methods are used.

Tradition is the great enemy of innovation. One of the advantages of using the Internet in the classroom is that it encourages teachers to think again about teaching methods. One of the fears that I have is that teachers producing materials online will attempt to duplicate the methods they use in the classroom.

The idea that students should play an active role in their learning is not a new idea. In the 1960s educationalists like Jerome Bruner argued that people learn best when they learn in an active rather than a passive manner. He used the example of how we learn language. It is claimed that this is the most difficult thing we have to do in our life, yet we learn it so young and so quickly – so easily in fact, that some experts in this field have argued that language is, to a certain extent, an inherited skill.

Bruner argues that the reason we learn language so quickly is due to the method we use. As we are introduced to words, we use them. We test them out. Words immediately became practical. We can quickly see why it helps us to know these words.

This method is very different from the way most subjects are taught at school. The student is usually a passive receptacle trying to take in information that they will need for some test or examination in the future. To complete this task effectively depends on students employing what sociologists have called deferred gratification. This is something that most young people are not very good at. They want their pleasures now, not in the distant future.

#4 Caterina Gasparini

Caterina Gasparini

    Experienced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 92 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:Udine, ITALY

Posted 28 February 2005 - 02:28 PM

What I meant by this was that the traditional paradigm of education is of a teacher standing at the front of the class transmitting knowledge to his or her students. Behind the teacher will be a visual aid. Traditionally this was a blackboard but over the next few years it will become a whiteboard. This pattern is indeed unchanged for over 2,000 years. It is a model that was used by the Greeks (although Socrates rebelled against this model).  If an Ancient Greek could be transported into the 21st century, a great deal of what he saw would be highly confusing. The one thing he would recognize immediately would be a school classroom.

"Perhaps with the increased personalization and individualization of learning, we can return to a Socratic dialogue between novices and experts in a mass education system rather than in one where education was for the privileged minority (...). One of the significant features of dialogue is that it emphasizes collective, as opposed to solitary, activity." (Michelle Selinger, Connected Schools, Cisco Systems)

I think that these words express the essence of education and the changes taking place in education now. Students teaching other students, students teaching their own teacher because they have become expert in a specific field, four-year-old children sharing knowledge with their own grandparents should be the normal practice of a teaching/learning process which will never end as it is based on dialogue and mutual exchange.

#5 Raymond Blair

Raymond Blair

    Experienced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 132 posts
  • Location:Nashville, USA

Posted 28 February 2005 - 03:21 PM

However, it seems to me that the majority of teachers spend much of their time using teaching methods which, according to US National Learning Lab, are fairly ineffective. I suspect the main reasons for employing traditional instructional methods are as follows: (1) this was the way that the teachers were taught when they were pupils at school; (2) this was the way that teachers were trained to teach; (3) this is the accepted way of teaching amongst colleagues - i.e. peer group pressure; (4) teachers enjoy being performers; (5) the teacher feels more in control of the situation when traditional instructional methods are used.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I think there is much more to it than this John.

First of all, in the best situation of your examples,

Teacher talking to a class (5%)
Student reading a book (10%)
Student watching an audio visual presentation (20%)
Student watching a teacher demonstration (30%)
Students taking part in a discussion group (50%)
Students involved in an activity that is related to what the teacher wants them to learn (75%)
Students teaching others (90%).


the student teaching others has a basic problem, what are the other students doing while the one student is in the 90% learning mode. I agree that teaching others is the best way to learn something.

While "students being involved in an activity that is related to what the teacher wants them to learn" does seem to be ideal, it is dificult to find the right activities that create that more ideal level of learning. Often times these types of activities can fall flat too.

I would argue that teachers use the traditional method because they come to believe it is the best approach to use in their system.

The influencing factors include classroom size and number of overall students and the range of interest, ability, and behavior of students.

Part of this is a structure that gives every class a small piece of time every day.
To optimize the 75% scenario listed above, I would want to be able to immerse my students in the basic material with a reading assignment and a presentation, and maybe even a discussion.

Then we could set out at an activitiy that inspired higher level learning from a student. Beyond the difficulty of finding such activities that work (I am sure if this method was more widely used great ideas would be easier to find and they could inspire other great ideas from individual teachers) I larger block of time would be necessary for this. For example I could see teaching American philosophies of government as implemented by Hamilton and Jefferson in one block lesson one day and following that up the next week with an formal debate between team Hamilton and team Jefferson.

As with many of these ideas, it would be something that could be done in a cross curricular fashion, in this case with speech class, But how do you isolate all of the students that are in my history class and a speech class at the same time to take advantage of this always on the horizon cross-curricular approach and put it into action. Does it require new schedules every week? And how do we coordinate to know when I get to command the time of a speech or art or physics teacher to empbellish my material and when other teachers get to call me in.

The school schedule and format itself mandates the dmonation of "chalk talk"

(1) this was the way that the teachers were taught when they were pupils at school;

many young teachers remember this and fight against chalk talk presentations but find themselves in need of the style to make sure they can cover a broad enough range of material in a given period of time. I don't think this creates a feeling that the presentation is the only way to go. I think most of us spend time trying to figure how to break out of the system. I don't rely on this method for 60% of my days because I was taught this way.


(2) this was the way that teachers were trained to teach;

I was not trained by our education departments in college, I was in the graduate school method. I had separate sections from the main lecture with free reign to try to supplement learning from the classroom. This was set up specifically for the socratic method. I found genuine discussion extremely difficult to foster in that setting. I didn't switch to chalk talk and present supllemental material, but I also found the session distressingly unproductive for the majority of the students.


(3) this is the accepted way of teaching amongst colleagues - i.e. peer group pressure;

I don't feel peer pressure from my colleagues to teach a certain way. As stated earlier I feel pressured by the schedule of the day to make sure that the basics are covered, and then much of the time for a subject I want to cover has been used up.

(4) teachers enjoy being performers;

I think this one is the least accurate of all. I love the idea of creating the self-sustaining chain reaction of a learning environment in which I could be like God in the Newtonian or Deistic universe, where I set things in motion and they happened and I as the clock maker was revered as the rarely present omnipresent creator of learning.

I enjoy reading magazines and clicking around here on the Internet. If I didn't have to be "performing" and putting information in front of my students and holding them to task to do some type of learning for my subject, I would be a much more relaxed person.

I do not lecture because I like hearing myself speak. I do not like speaking in public much. I lecture because I feel that it is the best way to ensure that a level amoount of information is being chewed on by my several classes and that we have a base of material to work from to use for testing and interpretation purposes.

If my lectures were interrupted every day by on topic questions and those questions were anwsered eagerly by their peers and a real give and take in discussion was occuring I would be happy to give up more and more of my lecture time every week.
Nay, ecstatic. Moreso, I would feel like the greatest teacher in the world.

I encourage discussion. The students discourage it.

(5) the teacher feels more in control of the situation when traditional instructional methods are used.

There is a power dynamic in the classroom. There is a teacher student relationship. Teachers need to feel in control of the situation. Teachers should feel in control of the situation no matter what situation is used.

My main point here is that there are many reasons that the lecture format is still used and they go beyond those five listed above.

While our high schools are often assailed for there shortcomings, our university system has a much better reputation for learning. It relies even more heavily on chalk talk than our primary and secondary classrooms do.

#6 John Simkin

John Simkin

    Super Member

  • admin
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 16,097 posts

Posted 01 March 2005 - 08:59 AM

You have made a comprehensive response to my seminar. It raises a lot of important points and therefore warrants a lengthy reply. I will do this over the next few days.

The student teaching others has a basic problem, what are the other students doing while the one student is in the 90% learning mode.  I agree that teaching others is the best way to learn something.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I think this is best explained by providing a practical example of how this might work. The example concerns the subject of the Home Front:

http://www.spartacus....uk/2WWhome.htm

During the Second World War the British government was constantly monitoring the success of its various policies concerning the Home Front. The government was also aware of the possibility that it might be necessary to introduce legislation to deal with any emerging problems.

http://www.spartacus...k/2WWhomeAC.htm

The students have to imagine they are living in Britain in December 1941. The students are asked to write a report on one aspect of government policy (evacuation, rationing, refugees, etc.). The web page provides work on a total of 36 different topics, so it should be possible for each student to have a different topic.

Every student has to report back to the class about the topic he or she has investigated. (1) Each student has to provide a report on what has been happening in their assigned area since the outbreak of the war. (2) The student then has to make proposals about the changes they would like to see in government policy. (These proposals are then discussed and voted on by the rest of the class.)

#7 John Simkin

John Simkin

    Super Member

  • admin
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 16,097 posts

Posted 01 March 2005 - 10:00 AM

While "students being involved in an activity that is related to what the teacher wants them to learn" does seem to be ideal, it is difficult to find the right activities that create that more ideal level of learning.  Often times these types of activities can fall flat too.

I would argue that teachers use the traditional method because they come to believe it is the best approach to use in their system.

The influencing factors include classroom size and number of overall students and the range of interest, ability, and behavior of students.

Part of this is a structure that gives every class a small piece of time every day.
To optimize the 75% scenario listed above, I would want to be able to immerse my students in the basic material with a reading assignment and a presentation, and maybe even a discussion.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Experimentation is always stressful. The teacher is always aware that this new “activity” might “fall flat”. It is only natural that teachers will prefer to use “traditional” methods. The good teacher will obviously feel more secure in this environment. After all, he/she is only repeating perceived previous successes.

However, we need to ask the question: What do we mean by success? No doubt the students will be working in the proscribed way. They will appear to be listening to the teacher and will not be making any attempt to disrupt the class. On the surface it is indeed a successful lesson. But is it? What happens if we use other criteria to judge the lesson? For example, are the students actually learning anything other than they need to be quiet while the teacher is talking. This is after all the damning results of the United States National Learning Lab research. The average retention rate of this methodology is only 5%. If this is the objective then the students would be better off just reading textbooks. The teacher therefore becomes irrelevant. We might as well use teaching assistants or security guards to watch over the students while they read their books.

I would argue that one of the reasons why this teaching method has become so dominant has nothing to do with the learning process. Instead it has become a way for teachers to justify their position within the institution. Their job is to stand in front of a class keeping order and to transmit knowledge. The first half of this is easy to observe and measure. A teacher is therefore judged on his or her ability to do this. This is how they become known as a “successful” teacher.

The second half of this process: the transmitting of knowledge. Is more difficult to measure. Several years ago I did some research on this. What I did was to examine the exam results of individual teachers in my school. I used data obtained from the head that took into account of the overall success of the individual student. In fact, the school was measuring the “added value” of the teacher.

I then arranged for over 100 of these students to be interviewed by a group of my sociology students (one on one). The idea was to discover how the students perceived the teachers who had taught them in these classes (they had not been given the data concerning the exam results of the individual teachers).

What was interesting was the teachers with the bad exam results were often identified by the students as the ones with the best classroom control. However, this was also the main reason for their poor results. Their authoritarian style made it difficult for the students to explain to the teacher that their teaching, in terms of information retention, was ineffective. It was those teachers who were far less formal that had the best exam results. The main reason being was that the students could influence the way they taught. If they did not understand something, they were not afraid to ask for clarification.

I sent my report to the UK Secretary of Education. As a result he (David Blunkett) asked me to have lunch with him (he also asked me to bring with me four of my sociology students who carried out the research). As he happens Blunkett was called away at the last moment and we had lunch with his chief education adviser instead (a former professor of education at the London Institute). He told us that our research supported other evidence that the government had acquired. He also said that this research would help shape future educational policy. This gave my students a tremendous buzz (they all went on to study sociology at university) but of course it never happened.

#8 John Simkin

John Simkin

    Super Member

  • admin
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 16,097 posts

Posted 03 March 2005 - 12:42 PM

Many young teachers remember this and fight against chalk talk presentations but find themselves in need of the style to make sure they can cover a broad enough range of material in a given period of time. I don't think this creates a feeling that the presentation is the only way to go. I think most of us spend time trying to figure how to break out of the system. I don't rely on this method for 60% of my days because I was taught this way.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I agree that if the main objective is to get through the syllabus in the given period of time then most teachers will adopt the “chalk and talk” approach. However, that should not be the main objective. One needs to consider what is being taught. I have already pointed out that the retention rate is very low using this method and therefore it is pointless “getting through the syllabus” if they are learning very little of the material.

My other concern is the hidden curriculum aspect of “chalk and talk”. Or as John Dewey once said: “We learn what we do.” Basil Bernstein (On the Classification and Framing of Educational Knowledge) described “Chalk and Talk” lessons as an example of “strong framing”. In other words, the transmission of knowledge that is being organized by the teacher and which the pupils have very little control over”. Weak framing on the other hand, involves the pupils in negotiating what they learn and how they lean it. In their book, A Guide to Classroom Observation, R. Walker and C.Adelman define this type of pedagogy as “freewheeling”. Whereas the chalk and talk teacher concentrates on what the authors call “focusing”.

Roger Dale (Implications of the Rediscovery of the Hidden Curriculum) has argued that it is the teacher’s own experience as a pupil and teacher that reinforces the strong framing approach to teaching:

In terms of the process of education, student’s experiences in colleges of education is in many ways little different from their experience at school. There appears to be little of the progressive rhetoric which is preached in colleges practised there. Lecturing is the most common pedagogic style, whilst ‘enlightened’ examination techniques and individualised learning are proposed as desirable in schools, but not put into practice in the college. As Bartholomew puts it “this split which enables (the student, to appear liberal in his attitudes (e.g. in an essay) but engaged in fundamentally conservative practices as a learner is a central key to understanding the shift to conservative attitudes when he becomes a teacher.

I would argue that it is this “chalk & talk” approach plays an important role in what has been called the “hidden curriculum”. The main message that the pupil receives is that classroom knowledge is controlled by those “in authority” and therefore what is transmitted becomes “official truth”. Such an approach both inhibits the pupils’ attempts to define their “own truth” and disguises the subjective nature of truth.

History teachers have a particular responsibility to avoid the “chalk & talk” approach to teaching. Pupils need to be fully involved in their learning because to be passive receivers of information is to distort history.

I do not often resort to quoting government documents. However, this is what the HMI report on Curriculum 11-16 (December, 1977) had to say about this:

All historical events have a moral interpretation, and our reactions to them are inescapedly subjective. We unavoidably, if covertly, praise or deplore when we come across a death, a victory, or a reform. So our relationship to the past is inescapably subjective. It is not the task of history to eliminate this but to increase the knowledge on which we base these subjective reactions.

Socialisation via an institution where all valid knowledge is seen as being in the possession of ‘authority’ prepares the way for a society where people passively accept the views of those in positions of power. This is a recipe for mass political apathy and gives a lot of scope for political manipulation.

In the words of Paulo Friere (The Pedagogy of the Oppressed):

Whereas banking education anaesthetizes and inhibits creative power, problem-posing education involves a constant unveiling of reality. The former attempts to maintain the submersion of consciousness; the latter strives for the emergence of consciousness and critical intervention in reality.

The development of critical thinking is vitally important if young people are to achieve a political consciousness that is capable of providing alternatives to the existing power relationships. A problem-solving education will encourage the belief that they are responsible for their world and that they possess the ability to change it.

#9 Terry Haydn

Terry Haydn

    Experienced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 161 posts

Posted 04 March 2005 - 03:11 PM

I have found this strand really interesting, partly because the main bit of my job is training history graduates to be history teachers.

In my experience, even very bright and capable graduates can sometimes be hesitant and nervous about experimenting with teaching approaches which go beyond the straightforward and the safe. Unless they are given good models, examples and prompts, there is a danger that they can stick to a staple diet of 'bread and butter' lessons based on talking a bit, showing a video, getting the pupils writing, with perhaps some question and answer between teacher and pupils (a very different matter to active discussion between pupils moderated/guided by the teacher).

Getting discussion going and sustaining it requires really high-level planning and teaching skills. Even at undergraduate level, many seminars are characterised by fairly desultory and formulaic conversation after the lead presentation - how much harder to get younger and less able pupils talking, discussing and arguing.

One of my ways forward is to invite into the sessions history teachers who are particulalry accomplished at particular aspect of pedagogy. I've got someone who comes in to do a session on roleplay which is delivered with such skill that it disturbs their perceptions about roleplay (as something difficult and 'iffy') and persuades them to have a go at it. Once they realise how fulfilling and liberating it is to try things out and explore different approaches, they become more open minded about exploring a whole range of teaching approaches, although there are always some who are more adventurous than others.

#10 Doug Belshaw

Doug Belshaw

    Experienced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 118 posts
  • Location:South Yorkshire, England
  • Interests:Reading, IT-related projects, football. Oh, and my wife :)

Posted 04 March 2005 - 06:07 PM

Being an newly-qualified teacher myself I find this debate fascinating. When I'm tired - as I have been this half-term I teach in the way which I'm used to, have witnessed others doing, and the way in which I was myself taught. Starters and plenaries often go out the window, pupils have to do things because "I told you so", and there is a ceiling to learning going on in the classroom. I'm not saying I'm a great teacher, but when I'm on top of my game I'm much more sensitive to the needs of the pupils in my charge and there is a much more relaxed, non-threatening and collaborative atmosphere.

As far as I'm concerned, so long as pupils are acting within an accepted framework, they should be given as much leeway as possible. Thinking along straight lines is something I've rebelled against my whole life. In my opinion, the average lesson should include less than 10% whole-class teacher input. The rest should be pupils getting on with learning

:plane Doug

#11 Vicente López-Brea Fernández

Vicente López-Brea Fernández

    Experienced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 64 posts

Posted 05 March 2005 - 08:10 AM

Being an newly-qualified teacher myself I find this debate fascinating. When I'm tired - as I have been this half-term I teach in the way which I'm used to, have witnessed others doing, and the way in which I was myself taught. Starters and plenaries often go out the window, pupils have to do things because "I told you so", and there is a ceiling to learning going on in the classroom. I'm not saying I'm a great teacher, but when I'm on top of my game I'm much more sensitive to the needs of the pupils in my charge and there is a much more relaxed, non-threatening and collaborative atmosphere.

As far as I'm concerned, so long as pupils are acting within an accepted framework, they should be given as much leeway as possible. Thinking along straight lines is something I've rebelled against my whole life. In my opinion, the average lesson should include less than 10% whole-class teacher input. The rest should be pupils getting on with learning

:ice Doug

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

If we accept the perspective that the teacher's main task is to facilitate "learning" we will set in our aims tha need of providing "elements" to learn (call it contents that develop objectives and are assessed according to pre-set criteria) and "reasons" for learning. It is an accepted standard view that more "teaching" time does not lead to more "learning". I believe ICT, on humanistic grounds (i.e., as a tool to foster guided and/or independent work; as a strategy to help students "face" the multi-faceted aspects of a given topic; as a lead to "unveil" knowledge, BUT considering that the use of ICT is part of a whole where classroom interaction, collaboration and respect for others in their capacities) can help and foster autonomy and can produce a good deal of collaborative work. Our role might be "leading" to the use or in the use of those programs allowing room for creativity, for collaboration and for extra-classroom extension.

#12 John Simkin

John Simkin

    Super Member

  • admin
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 16,097 posts

Posted 09 March 2005 - 12:01 PM

(2) this was the way that teachers were trained to teach;

I was not trained by our education departments in college, I was in the graduate school method.  I had separate sections from the main lecture with free reign to try to supplement learning from the classroom.  This was set up specifically for the socratic method.  I found genuine discussion extremely difficult to foster in that setting.  I didn't switch to chalk talk and present supllemental material, but I also found the session distressingly unproductive for the majority of the students.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Like most teachers I initially found “chalk & talk” lessons easier to do than “debate” lessons. There were many reasons for this. The main problem concerned the expectations of the student. Their experience of debates and discussions was not terribly good. As Douglas Barnes pointed out in his excellent book, From Communication to Curriculum (1972), students are aware that a real debate is not really taking place. Barnes claims that when teachers attempt to initiate discussion, they appear to pose “open questions”. In reality, although heavily disguised, they are likely to be “closed questions”. That is to say, that there is an official answer, and that answer is in the possession of the person who asked the question. This is what the students call “guessing what the teacher is thinking”. The objective in this situation is not to encourage the pupils to develop their own answers but to discover the teachers' answers. When the students realise this they become reluctant to participate. As Douglas Barnes points out:

“When teachers complain about classes who will not talk they often present this as a moral failing in the pupils it is more likely the pupils have learnt from their schooling and their knowledge is irrelevant in a context determined by teachers, examinations, school syllabus, and so on.” (page 127)

Although discussion methods encourage the students to talk and to become involved in the material (for a while anyway) they are still passive receivers of information. They are not creating their own meanings, their own view of reality, their own ‘truth’, they are being encouraged to accept the official versions, as expressed by the teacher.

Students therefore respond by using what Erving Goffman (Asylums, 1961) calls an “on-stage” presentation. What appears to be their opinions is a repackaging of those of the teacher. After all, we have all learnt this is the most effective way of being successful. We used to say in university that the best way to get an ‘A’ grade in your essay was to rewrite your teacher’s lecture notes.

The other problem concerns persuading students to listen to the views of fellow students. Students are used to listening (or in reality, to pretend to listen) to teachers. They have little experience of really listening to fellow members of the class. Therefore they would listen in silence when I was talking but were much less likely to pay attention when another student was talking. This often resulted in a series of conversations taking place at the same time. The debate therefore disintegrates into chaos.

There are several strategies for creating meaningful discussions in the classroom. One is to see it as a long-term approach. It will take time for students to adjust to this teaching method. You will need to convince them that you really are interested in their ideas.

You also need to persuade them to listen to each other. In many ways, this is the most difficult problem of all because this will depend to a certain extent in the quality of the contributions of the students.

I have found the best way to deal with this problem is to make sure that students get plenty of time to prepare what they are going to say. I think it is a good idea to give the topic that is to be discussed as a homework research assignment. Although the task will be to express an opinion about the subject, it will now be based on the evidence available.

#13 John Simkin

John Simkin

    Super Member

  • admin
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 16,097 posts

Posted 19 March 2005 - 12:36 PM

(3) this is the accepted way of teaching amongst colleagues - i.e. peer group pressure;

I don't feel peer pressure from my colleagues to teach a certain way.  As stated earlier I feel pressured by the schedule of the day to make sure that the basics are covered, and then much of the time for a subject I want to cover has been used up.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Psychologists and sociologists claim that we are not always the best judges of why we do the things we do. The teaching methods we use in the class are influenced by a combination of factors. Depending on the individual, some of these are more important than others:

(1) You are influenced by the lessons you experienced as a student.

This is probably the most important factor of all. We have all been influenced by people we consider to have been “good teachers”. My schooling provided no role models (they all used the “chalk and talk” approach. However, I did encounter some good teachers at university. These had a major influence on my approach to teaching.

(2) You are influenced by your experiences during your teacher training course.

I had a couple of good PGCE tutors who not only used interesting teaching methods but encouraged me to consider the impact on the students of the different methods available. This was reinforced by my two week period of observing experienced staff teaching in my placement school. This, more than anything else, exposed the limitations of the “chalk and talk” approach.

(3) You are influenced by your colleagues at school.

As a young teacher you come under considerable pressure to teach in a particular way. The vast majority of the staff are convinced that the “chalk and talk” approach is the best method available. How else can they justify the fact that is what they do for most of the time? Young teachers are told (well I was) that you will only get through the syllabus, get good exam grades for your students, keep the children in order, etc. is if you use these methods. To use the methods that I used I had to ignore this advice. However, to continue to do this I had to deliver those things that had been specified were of importance, exam results, good discipline, etc.

As you move up the hierarchy you come under less pressure to change. You also get into a position where you can influence other members of staff.

#14 Dan Lyndon

Dan Lyndon

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 353 posts

Posted 25 March 2005 - 11:55 AM

I probably wrote and delivered the best lesson of this term this tuesday which was a roleplay on the July Bomb plot:
http://www.comptonhi...om/julyplot.htm.

There are a number of reasons why it was so good: the material was engaging and stimulating for the students - I started off by saying that we were going to look at the July plot, deliberately avoiding any mention of the bomb/assassination as I wanted to get a bit of mystery going. Secondly I know, having done similar roleplay style activities (such as the reichstag fire mock trial: http://www.intst.net...hstag/index.htm) that my students 1) respond well and 2) are well trained in these kind of activities.

Thirdly I knew that the majority of their lessons at the end of term would be watching videos/playing quizzes etc and I wanted to finish the course in a positive way which would also be memorable and different from their usual diet. I also recently did a survey of students about their preferred learning style and not surprisingly they gave an average of 75% of their lessons being worksheet/textbook led.

Fourthly I wanted to make the activity kinaesthetic and involve empathy and decision making.

The activity took about 40 minutes to work through the different stages - firstly a whole class discussion about why there was little opposition to the Nazis, this was followed by dividing up the class into the Kreisau Circle (whom I had selected by surreptitiously handing them a small card with a German eagle with a cross-fire target across it, followed by a wink and a 'shhhhhh mum's the word'), and the nazi officials at the Wolf's Lair including one pupil taking on the role of Hitler. I stayed in the classroom asking questions about how Hitler could protect himself from assassination whilst the plotters were left on their own with a briefcase containing their brief. After 10 minutes I brought the Kreisau group back into the classroom gave them centre stage and asked them to debrief the rest of the room, warning them all that the information they were about to receive would result in certain execution should the plot fail. The final part of the activity was to 'walk through' the actual events of the bomb plot and I had a full screen image of the aftermath of the explosion on my whiteboard. the students then had to write a speech either as Hitler having survived, or as Stauffenberg unaware that the plot had failed. The specches were amazing.

I was fortunate as well to be able to have some excellent opportunities to debrief and evaluate the lesson afterwards. I had an EAL teacher in the second lesson (it was a double period) and she was able to feedback how impressed she was with the quality of work that the students produced in their speeches (she missed the actual role play) and the ease and comfort in which they were able to contribute. She also commented on their ability to reflect on why the activity worked well. The second chance I had for a debrief was with 2 of the students during an Academic Review Day the next day. they were asked which lessons they enjoyed recently and why and both chose (without prompting!) this lesson. they said that they thought it was fun and interesting and made them understand what happened much better than if it was on a worksheet. I would certainly agree with them.

#15 John Simkin

John Simkin

    Super Member

  • admin
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 16,097 posts

Posted 27 March 2005 - 08:25 AM

The activity took about 40 minutes to work through the different stages - firstly a whole class discussion about why there was little opposition to the Nazis, this was followed by dividing up the class into the Kreisau Circle (whom I had selected by surreptitiously handing them a small card with a German eagle with a cross-fire target across it, followed by a wink and a 'shhhhhh mum's the word'), and the nazi officials at the Wolf's Lair including one pupil taking on the role of Hitler. I stayed in the classroom asking questions about how Hitler could protect himself from assassination whilst the plotters were left on their own with a briefcase containing their brief. After 10 minutes I brought the Kreisau group back into the classroom gave them centre stage and asked them to debrief the rest of the room, warning them all that the information they were about to receive would result in certain execution should the plot fail. The final part of the activity was to 'walk through' the actual events of the bomb plot and I had a full screen image of the aftermath of the explosion on my whiteboard. the students then had to write a speech either as Hitler having survived, or as Stauffenberg unaware that the plot had failed. The specches were amazing. 

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


This definitely sounds an excellent activity and fits into my idea of “active learning”.

Did you look at the motivation of the people behind the July Plot? You will find biographies of the people involved in the plot here:

http://www.spartacus....uk/GERjuly.htm

When I used to teach the resistance to Hitler I focused on two incidents. As well as the July Plot I looked at the activities of the White Rose Group in the earlier part of the war. The fact that the group was made up of young people usually interests the students. As pacifists they make an interesting comparison to the July Plotters.

http://www.spartacus...ERwhiterose.htm

The other case I used to feature was that of the Jews who resisted Hitler. I think it is important not to show them as just victims.

http://www.spartacus...ERholocaust.htm

To really have an impact on the students tell the students the story of Masha Bruskina.

http://www.spartacus...2WWbruskina.htm




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users