Guiding principles used in the development of these units
The Council of Chief State School Officers, through its State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards social studies project, has been developing a series of online units for elementary and secondary schools that model long range planning strategies.
- Use national and state standards as tools of alignment
- Use essential questions to focus instruction on the understandings in the standards
- Identify essential content so that instruction is focused on the “need to know”
- Identify the 21st century skills that will be the focus of instruction
- Teach and assess for understanding through the use of extended transfer tasks
- Identify teaching strategies which scaffold instruction up to the level of the essential questions and the standards
- Use formative assessments as “checks for understanding” to measure student progress throughout the unit
Long range planning in social studies is a forgotten art in many K – 12 schools. Teachers may be provided with a curriculum guide, but they are given little information about how to structure the work within the year. In addition, most social studies units are topically driven and not standards-driven. The key to a strong alignment of instruction and assessment to standards is the understanding that standards and essential questions drive instruction and that units provide the context for teaching and assessing these standards.
This manual, along with the resources which accompany it, attempts to address this concern. It may be used in two different ways:
- Staff developers may want to help their teachers develop complete units for classroom instruction. This is a time consuming effort, but one which is well worth the effort. Staff developers would work with grade level teachers to help them create the first unit and then leave them on their own to develop the others, maintaining a supervisory role to ensure quality. This manual provides an eight step process for developing the unit.
- Staff developers and others may want to use the manual to model key elements of the instructional process. For example, a school system may want to focus on the writing of essential questions. The staff developer would then simply focus on this step of the process in the manual and use the online units as examples of good essential questions. Once the participants have mastered this process, they may request staff development in other components of the process, giving them a sense of self-direction in their staff development.
The manual is organized to give maximum support to the staff developer. Each section includes these components:
- An essential question to focus the staff development
- Content which will enable the group to better understand the process. In some cases, the staff developer will want to spend additional time on this content to ensure that all participants are knowledgeable about the process. For example, Dimensions of Learning is an essential model for understanding the concept of scaffolding student thinking. The staff developer will want to take the group online to learn more about this process if there are participants not familiar with the model.
- Suggested strategies for leading the group through the process. Staff developers will, of course, want to adapt these strategies to their own workshop style and may want to provide additional hands-on activities for the group.
- Tips for presenters are included to help staff developers profit from the experience of previous work with teachers in developing these units. Presenters will want to read these carefully to avoid pitfalls in presenting the material.
*Robert J. Marzano and Debra J. Pickering, Dimensions of Learning, A Teacher’s Manual, ASCD, 1997 Dimensions of Learning