MODELS OF TEACHING
Prof. Dr. Rodney F. Allen, M. A., M. A.
International Consultant/PPPG IPS dan PMP-Malang
Senior Secondary Education Project-Package 2
Ministry of Education and Culture
Republic of Indonesia
This morning the investigative groups were buzzing! Students finished their interviews with older adults in their community. They completed writing up rules for traditional games from the recent past of their village. The students edited their interview reports on the personal stories of adults who used to play these games. They wrote out the interview responses on the passing of so many games from the playful lives of young children still living in the village and those members now living in nearby cities. In the next phase the students agreed to interview a sample of children living in the village and then, during the Idul Fitri holiday, village children living in the city about the games they choose to play. Their Cultural Anthropology teacher was beaming with pride in their accomplishments.
In Democracy and Education (1916), John Dewey recommended that educators see schools as miniature democracies and then create, in each classroom, a number of democratic groups that define and attack real problems of social significance. Dewey knew that democratic citizens were not created by the use of sticks and switches, or by authoritarian classroom masters. Herbert A. Thelen (1960) seized upon Dewey's ideas and worked out a more systematic approach to the classroom application of Dewey's ideas. Thelen called his approach "Group Investigation." His major emphasis was upon the points that life is social, society creates and nurtures individuals, and democracy requires the creation of a democratic culture with appropriate norms and procedures. Education in a democratic society must, therefore, provide a democratic school culture and teachers must first be nurturers of democratic life.
The classroom oriented to democracy is one oriented to inquiry - cooperative group investigation -- whereby students develop the "house rules" for working effectively together, and they develop the methods and attitudes of the academic discipline appropriate to the problem or issue under investigation. The curriculum contains a series of investigations.
Thelen, after Dewey, concentrated on the overt classroom activities of the democratic process. There was no rote memorization of someone else's "knowledge." Each inquiry commences with a stimulus situation to which students "can react and discover basic conflicts among their attitudes, ideas, and modes of perception" (Thelen, 1960, p. 82). From these various entry perspectives --authentic to the students' experiences -- the students identify a problem to be investigated, analyze the roles required to solve it, organize themselves to take these roles, act, report, and evaluate these results. These roles are fulfilled by "reading, by personal investigation, and by consultation with experts" (Thelen 1960, p. 82). "Experts" are knowledgeable persons who serve as informants, sources of information and mentors on inquiry techniques. During this process, each group must monitor and manage its own effectiveness in terms of its investigation and its democratic dispositions.
As is the case with all meaningful social science and citizen education teaching and learning, the Thelen model opens with a "calling forth" - to bring out students' entry knowledge, beliefs, feelings, attitudes, and perspectives for links to the forthcoming issue or topic and for testing through dialogue and listening. Students' preconceptions are quite often misconceptions that are very resistant to change. Such an opening permits teachers to know the entry knowledge of their students, to establish set (mind set) focussing students' attention and to provide an advance organizer (idea structure) to assist students in organizing their thoughts for the forthcoming experience.
Potential Pitfall #1: Often teachers mistake activities for investigation. The heart of group investigation lies with the stimulation of the original encounter and with the stimulation of other persons in the group with their ideas and perspectives. Simply providing a problem will not generate the puzzlement that is the major energy charge of group investigation. Teachers may provide the stimulus, but it is the students who must identify the problem and decide upon its worth for an investment of time and energy in an investigation. Simply assigning a "problem to be solved" is the teacher behavior most antithetical to Thelen's conception.
Group investigation must emanate from the motivations and curiosity of students (Joyce and Weil, 1998, p.82). To separate mere classroom activities from genuine group investigation, simply ask:
Potential Pitfall #2: Knowing is a major outcome of group investigation, but it is not the mastery of someone else's knowledge, official knowledge established by government authorities, or merely the mainline knowledge of an academic discipline (for example, economics). Knowledge cannot be "given." Recall the importance of various perspectives, attitudes, assumptions, and claims during the initial stimulus situation. During group investigation these attitudes, perspectives, assumptions, and entry knowledge are used and tested. Perspectives are reconciled. Students re-interpret experience. They test the theories, which they bring to the investigation, and confirm or re-conceptualize them.
Potential Pitfall #3: Each student in every group should have a partner to work with. The partnerships, then, are collected into teams. Teachers should not permit groups to form, which consist of clusters of students of similar ability or backgrounds. Researchers suggest that student investigation groups of six students or less are most successful in terms of academic attainment and the development of democratic procedures. Research also demonstrates that heterogeneous groups -- with students of diverse abilities and dispositions -- are most effective (Joyce and Weil 1998, p. 86).
Thelen's group investigation model seems overtly simple, but it is deeply complex and demanding on teachers' mentoring and coaching skills. The model is not so much a series of steps, but a way of inquiring. Students in the groups may loop back to an earlier phase, as they deem necessary. The teacher only facilitates by posing helpful questions, suggesting potential resources, and intervening to keep energy focused upon the activity. The phases are as follows:
Telling is an anathema to the philosophy behind the Thelen model. The teacher must be competent in knowing when to remain silent and when to ask a positive, probing question. The teacher must be as committed to developing students' meaning and their democratic (mutual cooperation) dispositions and skills, as much as attaining academic knowledge. The teacher must not apply the model mechanically, but the teacher must learn to "read students' academic and social behaviors and respond creatively and appropriately to keep the process moving" (Joyce and Weil, 1998, p.88).
Of course, both the teacher and the students will need to learn the process over time. Begin slowly! Once students have their groups, their problems, and their investigation plan, the teacher takes a place convenient to observe one group closely. Monitor that group. Did they understand the plan? The problem? The process? Did they appear to know how to cooperate? To share? To correct one another as a feature of the academic inquiry process? Who emerges as a leader? How do others respond to this leadership?
Practice is the simplest and most powerful way to build skills in cooperative group investigation. When the teacher circulates around the room to monitor group productivity, the teacher may praise groups proceeding well. The teacher may offer probing questions to assist others' thinking. At times, the teacher might sit in on a group having difficulty. The teacher can then show students how to work together (Joyce and Weil 1998, p.408). The teacher may use a brief written checklist so that students may evaluate their group's performance while the investigation is in progress.
Depending upon the problem and students investigation plan, the Thelen model permits development of at least five of the "intelligences" in Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences (Gardner 1983):
One history teacher in a small, American town used a walking field study to evoke a puzzling situation. She marched her junior secondary school students down the street to the old railroad station, now the offices of the chamber of commerce. Together they examined the architecture and plan for the building, taking notes and making sketches. Then, they walked to the hospital, also an old building, but still used as a medical center. At the hospital, the students became aware of its two entrances. They quickly recalled the two entrances and two ticket windows and two sets of restrooms and two waiting rooms at the old train station. Why two of everything? Using nearby park benches, the student teams organized their group investigation plans to explain this unique architectural style.
Another puzzling situation is Fatima's Story (Earth Matters 1998):
"Fatima is a mother with five children--the son, Aziz, and four daughters. Her husband, Jalal Din, is a reliable man and a good father. He and Fatima are farmers and they work hard together in the fields.
"They all live together with Jalal Din's mother, who is a widow. She is a good woman, but she is always critical and nags at Fatima. In fact, she talks from early morning until she goes to bed, "When are you going to light the fire? It is broad daylight already!" And, "Wives should obey their husbands." Sometimes she criticizes Fatima for work not done, sometimes for spending too much money. And she always complains that Fatima has produced only one son and burdened her dear Jalal Din with one daughter after another!
"Fatima has learned to live with her mother-in-law and to keep her mouth closed. In this way, she is a very dutiful wife and daughter-in-law. But she did do something in secret last month --well, it was a secret between her and Jalal Din which they did not tell Jalal Din's mother. Fatima started practicing family planning. The big reason she made this decision was that she wasn't feeling very well. As you know, having five children in nine years can make a woman feel unwell. She has a backache and is tired most of the time. But she has so much work to do--finding firewood, carrying water, preparing food, washing the family's clothes, working in the fields--when can she rest?
"But there was another reason Fatima started using family planning. It was because of her eldest daughter, Zarin. She is the first child --and a lovely little girl, a joy to everyone.
"Zarin goes to school along with Aziz. Every afternoon she brings her exercise book home and proudly reads to her mother what she has written. She is so happy in school! But Fatima knows that if she has another baby, Zarin must leave school to care for the new baby while Fatima works in the fields. There is simply no other way all the work can be managed. In a way, Zarin knows this too -- because she has seen this happen to her little friends. Almost all of them no longer go to school, but instead care for younger brothers and sisters.
"Today, there is a terrible scene in the house when the family gathers to eat. The old woman is wailing and pulling her hair. The family is alarmed and gathers around her where she sits on the floor. Between sobs, she finally tells them what is wrong. At the village well this morning, she talked with an old friend who told her someone had seen Fatima at the family planning clinic.
'"You are very bad!" she shouts at Fatima. "And you will pay! You will pay for such wickedness. Now you will have no more sons. And who will care of you in your old age? Aziz is a good boy, but he is only one. A family needs many sons. Think of our name. Who will help Jalal Din in the fields? Who will take care of me if, God forbid, something happens to Jalal Din?"
"Jalal Din sits next to his mother and comforts her. And he looks at Fatima as if he doesn't know what to do. Zarin is also looking at Fatima. She knows what this is all about --at least she knows what it will mean to her. There are tears in her eyes."
In their investigative groups the students discern and define a problem from Fatima's Story. Different groups define different problems! Then, they proceed with the investigations.
In another example, a senior secondary school history teacher wants her students to experience the process whereby persons believe themselves to be knowers of the past. She asks her students to tell how they could find out exactly what happened in their classroom last night between the hours of 2 and 3 AM. The students then labor to spell out a process for such an investigation. Who are the sources? What evidence is required? How can the evidence be gathered? In the middle of this process, two local police investigators arrive, as arranged by the teacher. The police offers discuss the students' ideas and then recount their process of investigation used in a well-known local crime a year or so ago. The students write up their conclusions about investigations, as information gathering and conclusion drawing. The teacher then has the students turn to Chapter #10 in their history textbooks. The teacher has predicted that students will connect the police investigation to the history textbook account of the September 30, 1965, execution of the six generals. If they do, she can turn this puzzling situation into a group investigation. Just how do historians and the textbook author know what happened? How do they know the past?
After reading "Dhaka Kids Face Pollution Threat" from The Jakarta Post (1999), senior secondary school geography students became curious about lead in their environment. Investigative teams were established and plans made to systematically collect soil samples in neighborhood near the school. A child neurologist was invited to speak to the entire class on he grave dangers posed by lead in our environment.. The chemistry teacher visited the class too and she discussed the ways levels of lead in the environment (topsoil) and in children's blood are determined. At last report, the teams were contacting the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health to learn lead levels deemed to be unsafe for children.
A geography teacher told the follow in story to his students, as a potential puzzling situation (Jangira 1986):
ASSESSING STUDENT UNDERSTANDING
Every teacher wants to know what students have learned in a teaching-learning encounter. Three central questions reflect this desire: 1) How do we know when our students have achieved the desired results?, 2) What do we do to find out whether or students have achieved the desired results?, and 3) What counts as evidence of learning?
The Thelen Model presents special concerns since it does not begin with a specific list of educational objectives. Thelen has two general concerns: a) the development of democratic, cooperative group learning skills, and 2) the development of investigative skills while developing more democratic value commitments and more reliable knowledge about the social world. Short-answer tests with "right answers" are of no use here. Rather, the teacher needs to observe students' performance closely, listen to what they say, and examine the products of their individual and group endeavors.
Probing questions, asked to individuals and to groups, serve the teacher well throughout the process: What are the consequences of this? From whose point of view? Should that statement be qualified? This is an instance of what? So what? What is its significance?
Expecting student outcomes to involve a product or a performance provides an opportunity to assess students' growth. Some suitable products might be posters, cartoons, essays, short stories, opinion survey results, focus group reports, letters to the media or leaders, models, plans, drawings, maps, etc. Some suitable performances may be plays, speeches, demonstrations, presentations before interested community groups, panel discussions, and street theater.
If students can show teachers how they have accomplished the following, then the teacher has evidence of learning. If they can "explain it, solve it, correct it, modify it, adapt it, adapt it, demonstrate it, verify, defend, justify, or critique it, connect it to other ideas and issues, and make qualified and precise judgments," then they probably know it and can do it (Understanding 1997, p. 2).
A CHECKLIST FOR TEACHERS TO ASSESS THEIR PERFORMANCE*
Reactions and Discussion
4) Did the puzzling situation provoke students to identify and define a particular problem or issue?
5) Did students discuss the diversity in #3 in the context of the problem identified in #4?
6) Did students respond to and build upon each other's ideas?
7) What role did the teacher play? Did students talk to one another or to the teacher?
Formulation of the Problem
8) Was a problem or issue for investigation identified?
9) Did the students discuss alternative problems?
10) Did the problem require students to offer explanations, make predictions, or build hypotheses?
Organization for Investigation
11) Did students break the investigation tasks and responsibilities down into roles for one another?
12) Did their investigation plan require independent and cooperative performance for students?
13) Did the students review their performance, revise plans, or reassign roles?
14) What role did the teacher play in the group investigation?
15) Did most students engage in independent and group investigative tasks?
16) Did students collect, report, analyze, and interpret information as they gathered it?
17) Did the group pause to discuss new information and perspectives in light of their initial knowledge, assumptions, perspectives, and feelings?
Conclusion and Assessment
18) Did the investigation reach a conclusion?
19) Did the investigation produce a product(s) or a performance(s)?
20) Were these products or performances shared with others in the class? The school? The community?
21) Were these products and performances assessed as expressions of academic development? How?
22) Were these products, performances, and group processes assessed as expressions of the development of academic inquiry and democratic value development? How?
*[This CHECKLIST was adapted from Marsha Weil and Bruce Joyce, Three Strategies for Teaching (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1975)]
"Dhaka Kids Face Pollution Threat," The Jakarta Post, Thursday, January 14, 1999, p. 2.
Gardner, Howard. Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic Books, 1963.
Jangira, N. K. Source Book on Environmental Education. New Delhi: UN Environmental Education Program, 1986.
Joyce, Bruce, and Marsha Weil. Models of Teaching. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1986.
Joyce, Bruce, and Marsha Weil. Models of Teaching. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1998, Fifth Edition.
Thelen, Herbert A. Education and the Human Quest. New York: Harper & Row, 1960.
"Understanding by Design," ASCD Education Up-date, Volume 39, no. 8 (December 1997), 1-3.
Weil, Marsha, and Bruce Joyce. Three Strategies for Teaching. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1975.
"A Woman's Place," in Earth Matters: Studies for Our Global Future. Washington, DC: ZPG, 1998. Second Edition.
Yamin, Kafil. "Sundanese Games in Several Big Cities Are Dying," The Jakarta Post, Sunday, January 3, 1999, p.3.