Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

"I Want to Use My Subject Matter to ...": The Role of Purpose in One U.S. Secondary History Teacher's Instructional Decision Making

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

"I Want to Use My Subject Matter to ...": The Role of Purpose in One U.S. Secondary History Teacher's Instructional Decision Making

Article excerpt

In this study, we explore the instructional decision making of Charlotte, a graduate of an intensive social studies teacher education program. Charlotte articulated a sophisticated conception of historical thinking and appeared to possess exemplary pedagogical content knowledge. Her classroom practice did not incorporate the approaches to historical thinking and inquiry that were discussed in her methods course. She possessed a clear view of her purpose of history teaching, which was to impart a particular set of moral values; her practices were consistent with her purpose; and she controlled her class to accomplish that purpose.

Key words: instructional decision making, history teaching, social studies, historical inquiry, document-based instruction, methods courses, beginning teachers Dans cet article, les auteures analysent une decision pedagogique de Charlotte, diplemee d'un programme de formation a l'enseignement specialise en sciences humaines. Charlotte, qui a developpe une conception avant-gardiste de la pensee historique, semble posseder une connaissance exemplaire du sujet. Ses pratiques pedagogiques n'incluent pas les approches discutees dans son cours de methodologie quant a la pensee et a la recherche historiques. Elle a une notion claire du but qu'elle poursuit en enseignant l'histoire, a savoir la transmission d'un ensemble precis de valeurs morales. Ses pratiques vont de pair avec ce but et elle controle sa classe de maniere a atteindre son objectif.

Mots cles: decision pedagogique, enseignement de l'histoire, sciences humaines, recherche historique, enseignement a l'aide de documents, cours de methodologie, jeunes enseignants

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We conducted a case study of Charlotte, a vivacious, popular second-year high school history teacher who had graduated from an intensive masters/certification program that emphasized historical thinking and historical inquiry. The strongest student in her class, Charlotte could articulate a sophisticated conception of historical thinking and appeared to possess exemplary pedagogical content knowledge. Nonetheless, her classroom practice revealed that Charlotte did not incorporate the historical inquiry and historical thinking approaches that were discussed in her methods course, including the use of multiple perspectives and sources. Charlotte's understandings about the interpretive nature of history were not evident in her instruction. Rather, Charlotte's instruction was highly self-oriented; she lectured in a narrative fashion that allowed her to present her own interpretations of history and to control the conclusions she thought her students should draw from the material.

Implicit in the data on Charlotte were intriguing questions about her goals and purposes for history instruction. Thus, this study explores the following research questions: What did the notion of purpose mean to this secondary U.S. history teacher, and how did her sense of purpose or her goals influence her instructional decision making? We discovered that Charlotte possessed a clear view of her purpose of history teaching, which was to impart a particular set of moral values; that her practices were consistent with her purpose; and that she controlled her class in accomplish that purpose.

BEGINNING TEACHERS AND INSTRUCTIONAL DECISION MAKING

Several key issues underpin our research. First, teachers are decision makers, and we need to better understand what influences their decisions. Second, previous research has identified a wide variety of factors that influence teachers' practice; this research has been summed up in the concept of pedagogical content knowledge. Third, methods courses typically focus on pedagogical content knowledge, but this focus does not always result in practices that are consistent with what is actually taught (for example, in a history classroom). Fourth, perhaps the strongest influence on practice is not pedagogical content knowledge but purpose. …

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