O2—Offer appropriate challenge in the content area . My understanding of offering an appropriately challenging curriculum includes providing units and lessons that present students with opportunities to develop and practice authentic, higher-level thinking skills. According to Bloom, cognitive complexity is arranged according to a hierarchical structure where evaluation and synthesis require more complex mental operations such as formulating or composing an argument, making judgments about the validity of a source, or supporting and defending a position on a topic than the rote memorization of facts or mere comprehension of a concept (Borich, 2007, p. 92-96) . As part of my internship, I have created a course rationale that explains why the debate unit I have designed is not only cognitively complex and academically challenging, but also socially responsible.
My rationale claims that the preparation and practice of debate requires the use of higher level thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation, and has far-reaching social implications by teaching students about their roles as citizens of a democratic society, such as requiring that students research and understand both sides of an argument before they are able to debate. John Dewey considered the school a primarily social institution, a concentrated form of community life, a vessel for social progress and knowledge created in a community centered on unity and individual accountability (Dewey, 1897, p.2) . A debate unit provides students the opportunity to construct new knowledge in community, with partners and in teams, while also cultivating a respectful, open-minded environment where students are accountable and must logically and articulately defend the opinions they possess, but also an environment where differences of opinion is accepted, and learning is constructed by thoughtfully considering both sides.
Figure 1 shows a screenshot of my course rationale and explains the ways in which this unit on debate will push students to practice the more advanced and challenging critical thinking skills from Bloom’s taxonomy while engaging in authentic, meaningful activities that will better prepare them to participate as socially responsible and informed members of a democratic society.
This figure shows evidence that I have learned how to plan challenging curriculum by designing activities and instruction that promote higher level learning behaviors . For example, students will practice evaluation as students “assess the credibility of source material, judge the credibility of an argument based on specific criteria, and defend and support their position on a topic or issue” . In creating this evidence, I was reminded of the importance of planning units and lessons that are not only relevant but also appropriately challenging for my students. Additionally, this activity was beneficial because I had never written a course rational before and after doing so, I recognize the importance of planning in such a way that I am able to articulate and defend my reasoning and purpose for teaching any given lesson or unit . I must always be metacognitive and reflective in my thinking about my teaching choices and techniques—this is a way of doing so, before I teach. This assignment is a key exercise and way of self-assessment, ensuring that in the future, I continue to plan lessons and units purposefully in order to provide a justified and challenging curriculum for my students .
Next steps I can continue to take might include taking the time to write a rationale for each unit of study I choose to teach. While I recognize that this may be a time consuming “extra” step, I need to maintain metacognitive practices throughout my teaching career and I want to be able to justify my teaching with evidence-based practices, theories and state standards without a second thought; consequently, increasing my effectiveness in providing a relevant and challenging curriculum may include writing rationales for each unit I choose to teach .
Borich, G. D. (2007). Effective teaching methods: research-based practice (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Merrill/Prentice Hall.
Dewey, J. (1897). “My Pedagogic Creed,” The School Journal, 54, (3), pp. 77-80.