Summary of Instructional Problem

In the state of Kentucky Social Studies education focuses on five big ideas that all topics can fall under. These topics are government and civics, cultures and societies, economics, geography, and historical perspective. (Kidwell, 2012) Geography is one of the big five ideas and is extremely important. One of the foundations of geography is the use of map skills. Map skills can include simply reading a map, using visual literacy to decode information represented on a map, tracing a route from point A to point B, and using the information on a map to problem solve and make inferences.
At Conway Middle School students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades have problems with map skills. Specifically, students do not know how to correctly read a map, identify the different types of maps, locate information on a map, and when given a starting point and directions could not correctly trace/navigate to a disclosed or undisclosed end location. For example, when given the starting point for the exploration of the Louisiana Territory by Lewis and Clark on a map and basic directions students could not correctly follow the path using geographic tools such as maps, atlas, globes, and photos.
These are skills that students will need as they progress through their academic pursuits and in life. Based on data collected and a needs analysis there is a need for interventions to help resolve this instructional problem. Goal Statement Students in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade at Conway Middle school after successfully completing the instructional unit will be able to apply the map skills that have been learned in the real world. Conway Middle School is an inner city, title 1 school. A reality of this is that many students rely on riding public transportation to get to and from school.

One of the real world goals for instruction is that students will be able to look at a road map and navigate from Point A to Point B without the need for electronic devices to assist with mapping. The students will be able to correctly give someone directions to get from their present location to another location. The students will examine a map of the bus routes in the city of Louisville and be able to correctly pick the buses they would need to get on to get home from any location serviced by the Transit Authority of the River City.
Students will use their learned map skills to problem solve using maps, graphs, and charts in other subject areas such as math and science. In addition to these real world applications students will be able to perform at a level greater or equal to 80% correct on a summative assessment given by the teacher that encompasses all the topics from the unit of instruction. The summative assessment will include topics from the desired conditions of this needs analysis. While map skills are a social studies topic they have many applications in other core content areas and within the real world.
Many people use them on a daily basis and do not even realize their importance. While the goal of middle school social studies education should be to provide students with the skills to become good citizens and prepare them with the content knowledge and skills necessary to lay a foundation for college and career readiness that will lead to successful high school academic endeavors. The reality is that we must also meet state standards and often loose site of the most important part of the social studies content. The part of social studies content that I am referring to is the preparation of students to become good citizens.
Learner Analysis Before beginning the learner analysis needs, the researcher feels it important to take moment to introduce the instructional setting of the group. For this learner analysis the instructional setting is Conway Middle School in Jefferson County, Kentucky. Conway Middle School is an inner city, title 1 school. The school is located in the Pleasure Ridge Park community of Louisville, Kentucky. Pleasure Ridge Park is located on the south side of Louisville. Like many other major metropolitan areas the south side of town is not the most sought after area to live in or be from.
Some students are bused into the area from other sections of town. Conway Middle School is home to almost 1000 students of various genders and ethnicities. The instructional unit will be taught in a 6th grade social studies classroom. The average amount of students in the classroom on a daily basis is 120. The 6th grade is made up of three teams of teachers. Each team has a social studies, math, language arts, and science teacher. Throughout the course of a normal school day a group of 130 students will rotate into each content area for seventy minutes.
Now that the setting has been discussed let’s talk about the learners. Requisite Knowledge and Skills In the state of Kentucky middle school social studies has no prerequisite social studies skills or knowledge needed to be successful. However, there are certain requisite skills and knowledge that will help all students succeed. First, students need to have reading comprehension skills. The students must be able to read and write within one or two levels of the current grade. Second, the students need math comprehension skills.
Math skills might sound funny as a requisite knowledge for social studies but it is true. Without math skills students would be ill prepared to understand the numbers on a map, the dates of events, cost of wars, and even the reasons behind the migrations of millions of people to new areas seeking better jobs, economic success, and untold fortunes. The reading skills are essential because what we know about social studies is made up from artifacts. Many of those artifacts are journals, diaries, declarations, newspapers, books, and interviews that in order to understand them a person would need reading skills.
If a student has the requisite skills listed above the teacher can design an instructional unit that builds knowledge from the ground up. Now that the requisite skills have been discussed let’s take a look at the prior knowledge and skills of the learner group. Prior Knowledge and Skills The learner group has been assessed for prior knowledge and skills. A part of the assessment took place when the researcher administered a test/pre-test for the needs analysis in task 1. The teacher has also been assessing the students as the school year progressed.
It was found that despite the best efforts of the learner group’s previous teachers many of the students lack basic knowledge of map skills. The students were taught map skills in the 5th grade, but very little was retained. During other assessments the teacher found out that many students could remember some of the words related to map skill but were unable to define them or their importance. The data from the previous assessments showed that there was a foundation to build upon but essentially the teacher was starting from the ground up when designing the instructional unit.
Most students knew their directions but very little otherwise. When given an atlas to assist with the pre-test the students’ average score overall was 52%. The data gathered from the needs analysis and other assessments of prior knowledge and skills will drive the design and focus of the instructional unit on map skills. Now that prior knowledge and skills have been discussed let’s move on to the demographic information of the learner group. Demographic Information The demographic makeup of the learner group is diverse. There are a total of 130 students in the group.
62 of the students are male and 68 are female in gender. The ethnic makeup of the males is as follows: 49% African American, 40% white, 10% Latino, and 1% Asian. The ethnic makeup of the females is as follows: 53% African American, 41% white, 5% Latino, and 1% Asian. The females outnumber the males by almost 10%. 55% of the students come from single parent households. The ages range from 10 years old to 12 years old and are of varied maturity levels. With over half of the students coming from single parent households, parental support is sometimes at low level.
Having a majority of the students being female and/or African American influences the way in which the teacher must design the instructional unit. The demographics can sometimes make it difficult to design instruction in a way that is both relevant and interesting for all students. Along with taking into account the demographics of the learner group the teacher must account for the learner group’s attitudes towards the topic when designing instruction. Learner Group Attitudes Attitude is everything. When designing a unit of instruction a teacher must take into account the learner group’s attitudes toward the topic, education, and teachers.
That might sound like an easy task but it is not. Students bring past experiences and attitudes toward teachers and education into the classroom every day. This has a profound influence on the learning environment. For example, almost half of the students that this teacher sees on daily basis say social studies is their least favorite subject at school. Some of those same students attribute this to previous teachers and the experience that they have had. Other students like social studies but hate map skills calling it boring and useless. These students are the ones that make designing instruction a little more time consuming. To combat the
negativity towards social studies the teacher must go out of his/her way to build the relationships with students to foster a mutual respect and hopefully instill a lifelong love of learning. While building the relationships the teacher is able to design instruction in a way that is relevant to each student and interesting. Despite best efforts there will always be one or two students with a negative attitude towards the topic. One way that I have found to make learning fun and interesting is through the use of whole brain teaching. Whole brain teaching accounts for all learning styles and at the same time manages behaviors in the classroom.
Speaking of learning styles, let’s take a look at the unique characteristics of the students in the learner group. Unique Characteristics Within the teacher’s class there is a diverse group of learners. They are made up of various ethnicities from many different backgrounds. First, let’s take a look at the learning styles of the group. About halfway through the school year the teacher was introduced to a new to him style of teaching. That style was called Whole Brain Teaching. The teacher is bringing this up because of the variety of learning styles in his classroom.
Those learning styles are kinesthetic, visual, and auditory. When the program was implemented in this teacher’s classroom he surveyed the class to ask about their learning style. It was very informative. Over half of the class said that they learned best in more than one way. At first the teacher was worried. He thought to himself how am I going to teach to all of these learning styles? I will spend all my free time designing instruction. It really wasn’t that bad. The whole brain teaching method allowed the teacher to reach the students that were kinesthetic learners by incorporating movement in the classroom.
The visual learners learned by watching the teacher teach, other students teach, reading, and by watching short video clips incorporated into the lessons. The auditory learners heard the teacher teaching, listening to other students during the turn and teach portion of the lesson, by listening to the oral reading of exerts, and by listening to the video clips incorporated into the lessons. The unique characteristics of the learners means that the teacher must design lessons that incorporate visual, auditory, and kinesthetic pieces into the instruction.
At times it can be very difficult to design a lesson that reaches all learning styles. This only takes into account the unique characteristics of a little over three quarters of the class. Almost 15% of the class were/are ECE or Special Education Students. The special education students have a variety of diagnoses that range from Attention Deficit Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Other Health Impairment, Learning Disorder, Behavior Disorder, to Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Those are a wide range of diagnoses and they must be taken into account as well.
In addition to those diagnoses one student suffers from seizures that can be triggered by flashing lights. What does all of this mean? It means that a great attention to detail must be used by the teacher when designing the instructional unit and the learning environment. The teacher has a binder with all of the Individual Education Plans and a spreadsheet to make instructional design easier. When designing the instructional unit and assessment the teacher must take into account the accommodations that these IEP’s allow.
Accommodations As stated above 15% of the class is made up of ECE or Special Education students. These students all have IEP’s that allow for accommodations. The accommodations are as follows: extended time, paraphrasing, the use of a reader, the use of a scribe, prompts and cues, redirection, preferential seating choice, and a special behavior plan. When designing the instruction the teacher accounts for extended time by creating fill in the blank note sheets for all students. This way the students aren’t singled out by others.
Paraphrasing is allowed for when the teacher is reading the text or lecturing. Usually it is qualified for the students with a statement that starts out with “in other words it means this. ” The reader is allowed for during the lessons and during assessments. During assessments the teacher reads each question out to the class. When that is not possible a qualified special education profession will take the students that require reader to another location to administer the test. The one student that is allowed a scribe has a special electronic device that he carries with him each day.
The lessons are scanned into a document for him to complete on the device. Assessments are handled in the same fashion. The students that are allowed prompts and cues receive them throughout the lesson. Sometimes it is just a matter of walking by and pointing something out to the student. At other times it requires a verbal cue or redirection. Two students have IEPs that allow for preferential seating because they have very poor eyesight. At the beginning of the school year I asked the two students in private which seat they would prefer in the front row.
Those two students pointed out their seats and have been in them ever since. When the lesson or classroom is moved around these students get preferential seating. One student has a special behavior plan. He is a very smart student. This student only has an IEP because his disruptive behavior sometimes requires removal from the stimulus of the class. All students that are allowed accommodations based on their IEPs receive them. Performance Context The performance context in which the students are expected to use the new skills and knowledge has several locations.
Based on the real world instructional goal the students will go be able to go out into the city and do certain tasks but for the class the students will practice these in a safe and controlled environment. For example, one of the goals discusses being able to read a map and give directions to from Point A to Point B. Before this will be applied in the real world students will apply it in the classroom. Am I saying that all the students are going to go give someone directions or ride the bus home? No, what I am saying is that at the completion of the instructional unit the student will be prepared to do these tasks if needed.
The teacher has an instructional lesson that involves the students using only a map and or atlas to route a family vacation to another state. Through demonstration of using the atlas to correctly route a family vacation the students will have simulated part of the real world goals in a controlled environment. In light of the fact that many students use public transportation to get to and from school the teacher has designed a lesson that again allows the students to practice this real world activity in a safe and controlled environment.
For that lesson all the students will have a copy of the Transit Authority of the River City, the city bus company, TARC for short’s routes. The assignment requires the students to examine the bus routes and correctly list the buses that they will need to ride to get from Conway Middle School to their house. When the students complete this assignment they will also have to account for the bus schedule and determine what time to leave, how long they will be at each bus stop, and the amount of time it will take them to get from school to home.
One of the performance contexts is in the current classroom and future classrooms. What I mean by this is that after the successful completion of the unit the students will have better map skills that can be applied in this social studies classroom and in other classrooms both in the present and the future. Through a thorough learner analysis the teacher is better prepared to design the unit of instruction to meet the needs of all of his students and prepare them to be successful.

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