Thursday, May 15, 2014

Modeling in the Social Studies

I just finished reading this excellent text discussing an FLC (Faculty Learning Community, I assume) from the University of Indiana. This approach seems to be connected with an idea called Decoding the Disciplines.

Throughout the text, the concept of modeling is mentioned. I was first exposed to the idea of modeling via tweets among science educators, including Frank Noschese.

In fact, I even recall last summer seeing some articles and asking Frank about humanities teachers who may be employing concepts of modeling into their teaching.

I plan on reading and watching the videos on Frank’s site to learn more about Modeling Instruction and to consider how these concepts may apply in a social studies classroom.

So, for a few moments, at least, I am going to brainstorm a bit about what modeling might look like in a social studies classroom.

My students are expected to know a little bit about two events: the Russo Japanese War and Bloody Sunday.

Like so much of the content that my students are assessed on, what they need to know for the assessment can be taught rather quickly.

But, as most of us state repeatedly, just mentioning a topic is rarely the same as teaching it. And this is where Modeling Instruction might be a major change for the better.

Though, like most good teaching, Modeling Instruction will likely take a decent amount of class time, at least at first. I am ok with that, though the quantity of our department tests is always a legitimate concern. 

Once students have a handle on modeling an event, I think it will take less time. And, over time, modeling might be an ideal task for students to start outside of the classroom.

We know that just telling students what happened on Bloody Sunday is not adequate. When we treat history as events simply to be told to students, we are ignoring all of the nuance associated with the discipline.

Regarding modeling, start by talking to students about models in general: What is a model? Show students examples of a model airplane, automobile, or a skeleton. How are models used? What is the relationship between an object and a model of that object? How can we model a process? What are some examples of processes that have been modeled? How are models helpful? What are some of the potential flaws associated with models?  

Next, start to discuss how we might create a model for an event. What are some of the basics of any event? Events have actors/agents (primary/secondary characters), causes (immediate/long term), effects (immediate long term). Our event models must be based on evidence. And, depending on the evidence used, the model will look different. Also, depending on the evidence used, the model will have more or less credibility. These are important discussions to have with students. I will continue discussing this idea over the next few days. I may even try to create a model for an event that I will be teaching next week. At the moment, I anticipate that my model will be expressed on paper as a graphic organizer.

The medium, I think, is less important than the elements contained in the model.

And the model itself can be judged in a few different ways, including how helpful it is as a framework for understanding how historians think about the past and how the model helps us think about other events. 

More to come...     

1 comment:

  1. Link to Frank's page on Modeling