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Frequently Asked Questions
Ideas for Society-Centered Units and Lesson Plans
Society-Centered Curriculum in Practice
Society-Centered Curriculum Overview
Society-Centered Curriculum Overview
What is a Society-Centered Curriculum?
Students will learn to become engaged in what is happening in the world around them through exploration and problem-solving of life problems, community affairs, and real world problems. Subject matter is viewed as a tool for helping to answer the questions but not as an end in itself. There are two types of curricula: integrated studies and project based learning. Integrated studies is a type of curriculum that focuses on problems. When the teachers and students are focused on a problem, they work backward and try to figure how or whether the subject matter disciplines can be of any help. For example, what do students need to know about basic science if they are going to gather useful soil and water samples? Project based learning is focused on teaching by engaging students in investigation. Within this framework, students pursue solutions to nontrivial problems by asking and refining questions, debating ideas, making predictions, designing plans and/or experiments, collecting and analyzing data, drawing conclusions, communicating their ideas and findings to others, asking new questions, and creating artifacts (e.g., a model, a report, videotape or computer program)" (371).
There is no need to have the students sit in the classroom and do never ending seat work. The teachers do not need to provide multiple textbooks to the student so that they can read the text, memorize it, and then be assessed on it. The role of the teacher in a society-centered approach is to facilitate group learning. Group oriented teaching is one way students develop social skills, create a climate of collaboration, and use team building to solve societal issues. The society centered teacher engages the students by having the students look and explore the local community to see what problems are present and to see to what extent they could focus on the problems and do something to make our world a better place.
In the society-centered curriculum you will not find an elementary class working on a science lesson in the classroom from a textbook. Instead, in the society centered curriculum, you will find the elementary class outdoors, working in the wildlife and trying to keep it ecologically clean, preserving the habitat, and maybe using a community helper such as a park ranger to guide them through the activity. This is project based learning in the community. Students are able to actively engage in real problems by investigating, proposing hypotheses, collaborating with peers and adults, and challenge ideas (Krajcik et al. 2002). Project based learning has shown to connect student motivation and cognitive understanding in academic work (Blumenfeld et al 1991). There are several strategies suggested for effective group work which emphasize the importance of leadership, structure, and holding groups accountable for their work (Blumenfeld et al 1996). Krajcik et al (2002) identify five key strategies of project based learning as:
Starting with a driving (essential) question
Students explore this question through inquiry using applied knowledge
Students along with teachers and community members participate in collaborative activities.
Project learning is scaffolded by supports such as technology based learning.
Students create tangible projects that address the driving question.
The society-centered teacher is interested in creating a classroom environment of democracy, participation and citizenship. Teachers take the students out of the typical classroom environment and get them out into the real world where they can use their problem solving skills to solve real world problems. Students are always paired with other peers to help solve the world problems. Students are given the skills they need in the classroom such as understanding the project content and the know how to solve the problems before the project begins. Then the students are able to take what they know and apply it outdoors with their peers to work through the problem and find a way to solve it or make it better.
The society-centered curriculum does not utilize static paper and pencil tests. The assessments in the society-centered model are gained through real world outcomes, citizenship and leadership development, applied knowledge and skills, group reflection, and social growth. Assessments may include multiple formats such as written work, observations, presentations, informal discussions and questions, project designs, and the final products. Students, peers, and the teacher are involved in the assessments. In this model, students may be given the chance to create their own rubric that details their own expectations of their assignment and then have the teacher use the student created rubric to assess their learning.
Ellis, A. K. 2004. Exemplars of curriculum theory. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.
Blumenfeld, P., Soloway, E., Marx, R., Krajcik, J., Guzdial, M., & Palincsar, A. (1991) Motivating project-based learning: Sustaining the doing, supporting the learning. Educational Psychologist, 26 (3 & 4), 369-398.
gravanbaksh (Poster). Society Centered Curriculum Promo [Video]. (November 18th, 2009).
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