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DanBurgerLenehan

EDUC554:Teaching&LearninginUrbanContexts
8/12/16

NarrativeforUnderstandingByDesignEconomicsUnitPlan

Myunitplanisforaoneweek(five47minuteclassperiods)introductoryunit
fora12thgradeeconomicselectivewith33students.UsingWigginsandMcTighes
BackwardDesignmodelasdescribedbyTomlinsonandMcTighe(2006),Ibeganwith
theenduringunderstandingsIwantedstudentstofinishtheunitwith:economicsisthe
studyofhowscarceresourcesareusedtosatisfyunlimitedwantsandneedsscarcityisa
constantinhumanexistenceandhumansweighcostsandbenefitswhenmaking
decisionsabouthowtousetheirresources.Thesearecoreprinciplesofthediscipline
thatpeopleneedtounderstandiftheyaregoingtoexplorethesubjectfurther.Outof
theseunderstandingsIdevelopedmygoalsandessentialquestionsfortheunit,then
identifiedevidenceIcouldusetoassesshowwellstudentsgainedtheseunderstandings
(thoughIwouldcomebacktoaddandreviseassessmentsduringthewholeprocess).
Lastly,Idesignedthelearningactivitiesfortheunitthatis,eachdayslesson.Basedon
theenduringunderstandingsIchoseandmyknowledgeofthediscipline,Idecidedto
followathematicprogression:scarcity,opportunitycosts,marginalanalysis,different
economicsystems,andsupplyanddemand.Days1and2aredevotedtotheideaof
scarcityday3toopportunitycostsandmarginalanalysisday4todifferenteconomic
systems(specificallymarketandcommandsystems)andday5tosupplyanddemand.
Economics,likealldisciplines,isfullofcontent,concepts,andvocabularythat
arespecifictoit,andinplanningtheunitItriedtobalancedeliveringthenecessary

contentwithcreatingopportunitiesforstudentstoapplytheirexistingknowledgeand
bringtheirownexperiencesintotheclassinordertobothmakethematerialmore
relevanttothemanddeepentheirunderstandingoftheseconcepts.Oakesetal.(2013),
discussJohnDeweysphilosophyofeducationin

TeachingtoChangetheWorld:thatit
beganwithexperiencesfamiliartothechildren,thenmovedstudentstomoredistant
andabstractideas,andfinallyledthemtograpplewithbroadsocialthemes(p.72).I
wasstruckbythepowerofDeweysthinkingaboutteachingandlearningandaimedto
structuremylessonsinawaythatprovidedexperiencesforstudentsinwhichtheycould
learnconceptsorthatinvitedthemtoconnecttheirlivedexperienceswiththesubject
matter,andthenmoved[them]tomoredistantandabstractideas.Soforinstance,in
days1and2,beforeIhaveintroducedanysubjectspecificcontent,Iaskgroupsof
studentstocomeupwithwaysofdistributingalargecookieamongthestudentsinthe
class,then(onday2)eachgroupsharesitsideas(whichastudentvolunteerwriteson
theboard)andthestudentsvoteonwhichdistributionoptiontouse.Afterward(and
afterIvedistributedthecookieaccordingly!),wediscusswhatwasdifficultaboutthe
exercise,whetherpeopleweresatisfiedwiththeoutcomeornot,andwhattheactivity
hastodowitheconomics.OnlythendoIusethewordscarcity,intalkingaboutthe
purposeoftheactivity.Inthisway,thestudentsgetanimmediate,easily
comprehensibleillustrationoftheproblemofscarcityandthewaysthatindividuals,
communities,andsocietiestrytoaddressit,likelymakingmyexplanationofthe
conceptmorerelevantandunderstandabletothem.

Inthinkingabouttheunit,IconsideredDelpits(2006)argumentthatschools
andteachersshouldteachstudentswhoareoutsidethecultureofpower(inmost
cases,poorand/orminoritystudents)discoursepatterns,interactionalstyles,and
spokenandwrittenlanguagecodesthatwillallowthemsuccessinthelargersociety(p.
29).Shewritesthatsuchinstructionshouldbeexplicitsothatstudentsknowwhatis
expectedofthemandwhywhattheyarebeingtaughtisworthwhileforthemtolearn.I
agreewithDelpithereandtriedtomakemyinstructionexplicitwhilealsogivingspace
forstudentstoexploreanddiscoveroruncoverknowledgeontheirown.Ifoundthisto
beatrickybalancingact,though,anditfeltattimeslikeaneither/orpropositionyou
followDelpitorDewey,notboth.IamadmittedlyoversimplifyingDelpitsargument,
andIdobelievethattherecanberoomforbothteachercenteredexplicitinstructionon
thecodesofpowerandstudentcenteredintellectualexplorationIdontthinkIfoundit
inthislesson,though,andthatwillbesomethingIdevotemoreattentiontowhenIstart
planningactualcurriculumunits.
AsIformedtheunitplan,Ibecameincreasinglyawareoftheculturalvaluesand
assumptionsimplicitinmainstreamAmericaneconomics.Forinstance,afundamental
principleofeconomicsasitistaughtandunderstoodintheWestisthathumansmake
decisionsoutofrationalselfinterestthatis,weconsidertheprosandconsofour
optionsandmakethechoicethatwethinkwillbenefitusmost.IntheresourcesI
consultedasIdesignedtheunit,Ifoundnocritiqueofthisidea,whichcomesstraight
fromEnlightenmentthoughtandAdamSmith.Hirsch(2010)mightfindnoproblem
withthatthatoursocietyisacapitalistoneandwhyshouldntallstudentsbetaught

thebasicsofcapitalistthoughtbutsurelythereareotherwaysofconceptualizing
individualchoice,andIwouldguessthatthereareeconomistswhohaveoffered
alternativeinterpretationstothisone.Outofaconcernfortime(bothmyownindoing
thisassignmentandthelimitedhypotheticalclasstimeIhadtoimplementtheunit),I
decidednottopursuesuchalternatives,butwereItoactuallyteachtheunitIwould
wanttoexplorewaystoincorporatesuchcritiquesandalternativeviews.
LadsonBillings(1995)writesthatthedevelopmentofasociopoliticalorcritical
consciousnessisakeycomponentofculturallyrelevantteaching(p.483).AsIteacher,
Iwanttopracticeculturallyrelevantteaching,sofindingsourcestodevelopacritical
consciousnessbothinmyselfandmystudentsshouldbepartofmycurriculum
planning.
IalsofoundinspirationinDwecks(2010)notionoffixedandgrowthmindsets
asIdevelopedthecurriculumunit.ThoughIdontmakeexplicittheideaintheunit
plan,IapproachedeverydecisionImadewiththeideathatmystudentsbrainswere
malleable,thattheywereintelligentandwouldbecomeevenmoreso,andthatIwould
encouragethemthroughmytoneandthroughcelebratingboththeireffortandoutput
todevelopagrowthmindsetforthemselves.
InadditiontodrawingontheauthorsIvementionedincreatingthiscurriculum
unit,IalsodrewonmysummerfieldworkexperienceinLeadersofChange.That
programprovidedmewithagoodmodelforcombiningdirectinstructionontopicssuch
aswritingathesisstatementwithstudentcenteredactivelearningthroughcollaborative
andmultimodalactivitiessuchasjigsaws,gallerywalks,andpairorsmallgroup

discussions.EachreinforcedtheotherandprovidedwhatIthoughtwasanidealbalance
ofknowledgetransfer(fromteachertostudent)andknowledgecreation/discoveryby
thestudents.Ialsoincorporatedaroleplayactivity(themockdebateonday4)intothe
unitbecauseIwassoimpressedwitharoleplayactivitythatwedidinLeadersof
Change,whichIdescribedinthisblogpost(BurgerLenehan,2016).Tosummarize
whatIwrotethere,Iwasamazedbyhowthestudentsrespondedtothisroleplay
activityandthoughtitwasaveryeffectivewaytogetstudentstoconsidermultiple
perspectivesonacomplexissue.WhileImnotcompletelysatisfiedwiththepremiseof
themockdebateIplanned,Istillwantedtoincludearoleplayactivityintheunit
becauseIbelievesostronglynowinitseducationalpower.
Iincorporatedseveralmodesofdifferentiatedinstructionintotheunit,whichI
identifiedinmyday3lessonplan.Theseincludecombiningtextandvideoinhomework
assignmentsthroughtheuseofatextbookandtheCrashCourseEconomicsvideos
withquizzesonEDpuzzleusingbothpairshare,groupwork,andwholeclass
discussiongivingdifferentstudentsthechancetobethescribewhenrecordingonthe
boardisneeded(potentiallybeneficialforstudentswhoneedtomovearoundor
perhapsdonotidentifyasstronglywithschoolasotherstudentsintheclass,asitmight
givethemagreatersenseofownershiporauthorityintheclassroom)theintentional
heterogeneousgroupingintheopportunitycostworksheetactivityand,thoughIgiveit
toallstudents,theKeyVocabularysheet,whichisreallyintendedforstudentswhohave
ahardtimetakingandorganizingnotesinclass.Ialsoidentifiedsomepossiblesupports
ImightimplementforEnglishlanguagelearnersintheclass,includingmodificationsof

thewrittenreflectionassignment(whichcouldmeanoneparagraphinsteadof12
pages,astructuredoutlinethattheyfillin,and/oraconversationwiththestudent)and
alternativeoptionstotheopportunitycostworksheetsuchasagame,audiorecording,
orvideothatgetsstudentstothesamelearningoutcome.
AsIhavesuggestedatacoupleofpointshere,Iamnotentirelyhappywithmy
curriculumunit,andIstruggledwiththeassignment.Forme,thiswasanillustrationof
howmuchthought,time,andworkmustgointoagoodcurriculumandthemyriad
variablesandelementsofteachingandlearningthatmustgointoit.Ialready
mentionedthechallengeIhadfindingabalancebetweendirectinstructionand
studentcentered,activitybasedlearning,andteachingthedominantcurriculumand
offeringalternativeviewsandcritiquesofthedominantcurriculum.Anotherchallenge
wassimplynotknowinghowmuchtimealessonorcomponentofalessonwouldtake.I
didscalebackthecontentIinitiallywantedtocoverinthelessons,butIimagineIm
stillunderestimatinghowlongmylessonswilltake.Anotherbigchallengewasnot
knowingwhomystudentswere.Thishascertainlybeenavaluableexercisein
developingcurriculumdesignskills,butitisdifficulttocreatesomethingthatshouldbe
tailoredtoitsuniqueaudiencewhenthereisnoaudience(oratleastnotanaudienceof
students).Thatsaid,Iwillnotknowmystudentsonthefirstdayofschoolandwillneed
tohaveacurriculumthen,sothisismostlikelyjustarealityofteaching,atleastatthe
startoftheschoolyear.
Ihaveseveralquestionsabouttheimplementationofthiscurriculumunit:
HowwouldIsetuptheclassroom?
WhereandhowwouldIpositionmyselfphysicallyinrelationtothestudents?
Whatresources(technology,schoolsupplies)wouldIhaveavailableintheclass?

WhatstatestandardswouldIneedtoaddresswiththisunitandthecourseasa
whole?
Witheachclassperiodbeingjust47minutes,howwouldIactuallyfindwaysto
gettoknowmy33studentswhilealsotryingtodeliveracontentrichlesson?
Isthefourthdayofschooltoosoontostageamockdebate?Woulditbebetterto
waituntilthestudentsandIhavehadmoreofachancetogettoknoweach
other?
HowcanIevaluatemyselfasIteachthisunitwhilebeingfullypresentasa
teacher?
Morebroadly,haveIpacedtheunitappropriately?Isittoofastortooslow,oris
thatsomethingIwouldneedtoreadorlearnfromthestudents?

Someofthesequestionsmighthavestraightforwardanswers,othersnot.SomeI
wouldntbeabletoansweruntilIactuallystartedteachingtheunit,andtheanswermay
bedifferentfromonegroupofstudentstoanother.Askingthequestionsandthinking
aboutthepossibleanswersreinforcesformetheneedasateachertobeflexible,opento
change,observant,andagoodlistener.
WorksCited:
BurgerLenehan,Dan.(2016,August4).ThePowerofRolePlay.Retrievedfrom
http://danburgerlenehan.weebly.com/blog/thepowerofroleplay.

Delpit,Lisa.(2006).OtherPeoplesChildren:CulturalConflictintheClassroom.New
York:TheNewPress.

Dweck,CarolS.(2010).MindSetsandEquitableEducation.PrincipalLeadership,Vol.
10,Iss.5,pp.2629.

Hirsch,Jr.,E.D.(2010).CreatingaCurriculumfortheAmericanPeople:Our
DemocracyDependsonSharedKnowledge.AmericanEducator,pp.638.

LadsonBillings,Gloria.(1995).TowardaTheoryofCulturallyRelevantPedagogy.
AmericanEducationalResearchJournal,Vol.32,No.3,Fall1995,pp.465491.

Oakes,Jeannie,Lipton,Martin,Anderson,Lauren,&Stillman,Jamy.(2013).Teaching
toChangetheWorld.4thedition.Boulder,CO:ParadigmPublishers.

Tomlinson,CarolAnn,&McTighe,Jay.(2006).IntegratingDifferentiatedInstruction
andUnderstandingbyDesign.Alexandria,VA:AssociationforSupervisionand
CurriculumDevelopment.