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Student Perceptions of Teaching: Assessing Their Mental Images of Teaching Social Studies

May 3, 2007

By Chiodo, John J; Brown, Terrell D

Abstract

Many educators agree that pre-service teachers bring into their teacher education programs previously constructed ideas and beliefs about students, teaching, and learning. They contend that it may be difficult for students to change these constructs when participating in a teacher education program whose views of instruction are not congruent with their own. This article attempts to assess the ideas and beliefs of pre-service students entering a social studies education program. Using drawings and written statements, the authors have developed an evaluation instrument that assesses pre- service social studies students’ beliefs regarding instruction in social studies. Fifty-two secondary pre-service social studies teachers took part in a study which explored the use of the evaluation instrument. We see the use of this instrument as a way for pre-service students to reflect on their personal beliefs about teaching social studies and also help faculty with understanding how their student’s attitudes and beliefs coincide with their instructional approach.

Introduction

Students who enter a social studies education program do so with a variety of perceptions of what it is like to be a good social studies teacher. Dennis (pseudonym) states:

Mr. Jenkins was my best social studies teacher in high school. I always enjoyed his lectures. He knew so much information about historical events; they just seem to come to life. I want to be able to teach just like him and really tell the class about what history is all about.

Jessica, (pseudonym) however, has some different perceptions of what it is to be a good social studies teacher. She doesn’t see herself as a teacher who lectures a lot; rather, she wants to engage her students in a variety of activities to promote their learning. She states:

I want to get my students involved in a variety of activities where they solve problems. My government teacher in high school always had us doing a bunch of fun learning activities. We did simulations like a mock congress and we were always doing surveys over political issues. During lunch, our class would always go around to the other students and conduct surveys on the issues we were studying in class.

These are just two of the many students who come to us wanting to pursue a career as a social studies teacher. They have some well defined attitudes, personal theories, and beliefs regarding the teaching of social studies. However, these views held by the students may not be congruent to those of the teacher education program they are entering or the views of professional associations such as the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS).

It is the view of NCSS that teachers should enable, guide, assist, and encourage students and have them explain information pertaining to the various disciplines related to social studies. Teachers are to facilitate and provide developmentally appropriate experiences as they guide learners in the study of culture and cultural diversity (NCSS, 1994). It is therefore important that we begin to examine the views of students entering our social studies education programs regarding teaching, so we will be better able to assist them in developing the teaching strategies that are necessary for effective teaching.

Within the social studies profession, we have had a long history of viewing the teaching of our subject matter with an inquiry orientation (Evans, 2004). This method of instruction fits into the current constructivist view of teaching and learning. Constructivism sees teaching and learning as a process where the students construct meaning both as individuals and in groups from a variety of forms of information presented to them in the classroom (Ullrich, 1999a). When we apply this to pre-service teachers, we see that they “pick and choose content they will respond to according to prior knowledge about teaching and learning developed while they were students in elementary, high school, and college classrooms” (Ullrich, 1999a, p.l). They have developed a schema that contains content and experiences related to teaching that they have embraced, while those that do not fit within their structure are discounted as being useless to their future profession (Ullrich, 1999b, p. 19). This prior knowledge of teaching acts as a lens through which pre- service teachers create their ideas regarding the instructional process. It suggests that when these individuals encounter experiences in a methods class that embrace their views on how to teach they will accept them, while those views that do not fit into their schema may be discarded (Bullough, 1994).

Literature Related to Student Perceptions of Teaching

The multitude of experiences that we have encountered in our schooling provides a basis upon which teachers develop views regarding instruction in social studies. This seems to be a common notion among researchers. Schon (1987) names this aspect of practical thought “reflection in action”. Czerniak, Lumpe, and Haney (1999) describe these experiences as personal convictions, philosophies, tenants or opinions about teaching and learning. They help shape our self concept of who we are as a teacher. Nespor (1987), states that images held by teachers are used as frames of reference for their own teaching practices. According to Pedersen and Finson (2001), teacher beliefs and practices are linked to previous experiences. They propose that learning experiences “powerfully impact the way in which elementary pre-service teachers understand the nature of science and come to believe how science should be taught” (Pedersen & Finson, 2001).

Many educators agree pre-service teachers bring to teacher education programs previously constructed ideas and beliefs about students, teaching, and learning, although they are not always aware of their ideas or able to articulate them (Anderson & Holt- Reynolds, 1995: Bird et.al., 1993: Florio-Ruane & Lensmire, 1990; Hollingswoith, 1989). Calderhead and Robinson (1991) believe that students entering teacher education programs have developed vivid images of teaching. They state:

Students derive an image of good teaching, from one or more teachers they know, sometimes linking positive images to particular attributes of their own…. This was the kind of teacher they could see themselves becoming (p.4).

Bullough and Knowles (1991) support this view of pre-service teachers. They contend that these students entering teacher education programs are seeking to confirm their own personal knowledge and images of teaching and are not interested in changing their views of what it is to be a good teacher. Lortie (1975) refers to this as the “apprenticeship of observation”. Therefore, this previous research suggests that students enter our teacher education programs with well defined constructs of teaching and it may be difficult to change these constructs if they are not congruent with the current views of teaching social studies.

A second area of research that impacts this study is episodic memory. Episodic memories are personal memories that are based on experiences that happen in an individual’s life. They are further broken down into knowledge and beliefs, where knowledge information is semantically stored and beliefs are part of episodic memory drawn from experiences (Nespor, 1987). However, Murphy (2000) asserts, “it is not so much that knowledge differs from beliefs, but that beliefs themselves constitute a form of knowledge”. The importance of this is further elaborated by Nespor (1987) who asserts that episodic memories of pre-service teachers later serve as templates for their teaching practices. This notion that beliefs significantly influence the judgments and actions of teachers has been documented by other researchers (Calderhead, 1988; Calderhead & Robson, 1991; Clandinin and Connelley, 1987; Clark, 1988; Elbaz, 1981; Goodman, 1988: Larsson, 1987). Therefore, understanding pre-service social studies teachers beliefs about teaching will assist us in teaching our social studies methods classes.

Taking a Vygostskian viewpoint, exploring the nature of students’ beliefs involves an understanding of the individual’s social world that is simultaneously interpersonal, cultural, and historical. To separate these is virtually impossible and so renders attributing the development of a particularly held belief to a single factor or event unlikely (Tudge & Winterhoff, 1993).

There is however, a general consensus that people filter and interpret knowledge and experience through their belief systems and that their beliefs function as a stronger factor in change or lack of change than does knowledge (Abelson, 1979; Anderson & Holt- Renolds, 1995; Florio-Ruane & Lensmire, 1990; Hollingsworth, 1989; Nespor, 1987; Pajares, 1992; Schommer, 1990; Snider & Fu, 1990: Wilcox, Schram, Lappan & Lanier, 1991). Keeping this in mind, many teacher education programs which seek to influence teacher practice start with an attempt to assess the beliefs that pre-service teachers hold in order to work more effectively to assist the learner in merging knowledge and beliefs into a professional knowledge landscape (Anderson & HoltReynolds, 1995; Nespor, 1987).

To achieve this goal, it is imp\ortant to give students opportunities to present their beliefs about teaching in a non threatening manner. Abell, Bryan, and Anderson (1998) suggest the process of reflection as a way for pre-service teachers to confront their “beliefs, knowledge, values, and assumptions that form their personal theories about teaching and learning” (p.493). Elaborating on the process of reflection Ullrich (1999a) used the metaphor of a jigsaw process. “We are asking prospective teachers to create a picture out of a set of jigsaw pieces, with no picture to guide them, and no guarantee that the pieces would even make a picture” (p.3). It is from these ideas of preservice teachers reflecting on their past beliefs regarding teaching and using drawings to express these beliefs that our current research is grounded.

Research Problem

If we are to improve the teaching of social studies, we need to understand what knowledge and mental images our students have of teaching in this area of the curriculum. Mental images that are part of our episodic memory provide a schema that organizes the knowledge of teaching social studies into some type of understandable structure. This study is a preliminary effort to assess the cognitive status of university students (juniors) who have been recently admitted into a social studies credential program.

The research is based on our belief that the long exposure that these students had to instruction in elementary, middle, and high school social studies classes has created a mental image of teaching social studies. The following questions were designed to guide our research.

* What are the beliefs and perceptions of pre-service teachers entering our credential program regarding instruction in social studies?

* Does the Draw a Social Studies Teacher (DASST) evaluation process act as a valid measure of these images?

The Draw A Social Studies Teacher (DASST) Evaluation Sheet and Score Sheet was based on the previous research conducted in science education. In 1926, Goodenough developed the Draw-A-Man-Test (Goodenough, 1926), which was an open-ended projective test to provide information regarding children’s intelligence. The pictures drawn by the children were assessed according to seven basic image elements. This was further developed by Chambers (1983) and Schibeci and Sorensen (1993) who discovered that as children progressed through successively higher grade levels their images of scientists became more stereotypical. By fifth grade, the students “image” of a scientist is fully developed. In 1995, Finson, Beaver, and Crammond developed the Draw-A-Scientist-Test Checklist (Finson, Beaver, and Crammond, 1995) to further consider alternative images and to facilitate the assessment process. Pedersen and Thomas (1998, 2000) further modified the Draw-AScientist-Test Checklist to create the Draw-AScience-Teacher-Test Checklist (DASTT-C). This test was designed to analyze the perceptions and beliefs of elementary pre- service teachers prior to course work in an elementary science methods course.

In our study, we have modified the DASTT-C to create the Draw a Social Studies Teacher Evaluation and Score Sheet. Where the DASTT- C uses only a picture drawn by preservice students, we have incorporated both visual images and written comments to assess the student’s perceptions of social studies teaching. The pictures and written comments give the researchers more depth in understanding student perceptions and ideas related to teaching. We also used a Likert Scale for our evaluation rather than the yes-no rating scale used in the science test (see Appendix A). This provided opportunities to more fully interpret the student pictures and comments. In addition, we incorporated a score sheet somewhat similar to the design that was presented by Barth, (1977) in the Social Studies Preference Test (see Appendix C). By incorporating a structure of sub scores and a total score we were able to assess the students’ perceptions on the three sub areas (teacher, students, and class organization) of the evaluation as well as an overall view of teaching social studies. By assessing the students’ drawings and writing related to the three areas as well as a final overview, we were able to see if there were consistencies across all three areas. Finally, Likert ratings were taken from the DASST Evaluation form and put on the Score Sheet to determine the student’s perceptions related to direct and indirect teaching hi social studies.

Procedure

Fifty-two secondary social studies education majors (certification for grades six to twelve) who were attending a large southwestern university participated in this study. Their ages ranged from 20 to 38 years old and they came from a wide range of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Approximately sixty percent of the students were males, while forty percent were females. All students had at least a 2.75 grade point average on a 4 point scale.

Students interested in becoming middle school and high school social studies teachers enter the credential program during their junior year at the university. Part of the admission procedure is a general meeting of all social studies applicants to discuss the program requirements. At this initial meeting, students were asked to complete the draw a social studies teacher activity. Students were simply told to “draw a picture of yourself as a social studies teacher, teaching students.” In addition, they were told, “On the backside of the paper, explain in writing what is going on in the picture.” The students completed this activity in approximately twenty to thirty minutes.

Once the pictures were completed they were evaluated on the Draw a Social Studies Teacher – Evaluation Sheet (DASST Evaluation Sheet) by the two researchers (see Appendix A). Each researcher completed the evaluation sheets independently and then compared their scores. If a difference in a score arose, the researchers discussed the item and came to an agreement regarding the score. In no cases were there any differences larger than one point on the Likert scales.

Thirteen behaviors were surveyed in order to determine the pre- service teachers’ perceptions of teaching social studies. These were based on the Draw a Science Teacher TestChart (Pederson and Thomas, 1998, 2000). The behaviors were put into three categories: teacher, student, and environment. In the teacher category, the behaviors surveyed were: 1. giving directions/demonstrating an activity; 2. lecturing; 3. using visual aids (chalkboard, overhead, maps, etc.); 4. engaging in discussion; 5. conducting an activity. The behaviors surveyed in the student category were: 6. watching and listening (or so suggested by the teacher behavior); 7. responding to the teacher; 8. responding to other students. Finally, in the environment category, the behaviors surveyed were: 9. desks/students are in rows; 10. teacher is centrally located (head of class); 11. multiple positions/teacher movement; 12. desks in groups/circle; 13. presence of social studies materials (written materials, artifacts resources, etc.) (see Appendix A).

The DASST-Evaluation Sheet was created to measure to what degree the student drawings and explanations expressed direct or indirect teaching. It contained the thirteen descriptors hi order to determine the teaching behaviors expressed by the students. There were five descriptors in the teacher category, two of which were focused on direct teaching, one descriptor was neutral and could be utilized as either direct or indirect, and two descriptors were focused on indirect teaching. Three descriptors were present in the student category: one descriptor was focused on direct teaching, one was neutral and could be categorized as either direct or indirect and the third descriptor was focused on indirect teaching. Lastly, there were five descriptors in the environment category: two were focused on direct teaching, one descriptor was neutral and could be utilized as either direct or indirect, and the last two descriptors were focused on indirect teaching.

A set of criteria was also constructed to provide some guidance on how the student pictures and comments would be applied to the Likert scale evaluations by the researchers (see Appendix B). In order for the pre-service student’s picture and written comments to receive a rating, it had to meet the following requirements: if the category was present in the picture as well as mentioned in the written comments, a score of a one or a five was recorded; if the category was present in either the picture or written comment, a score of two or four was recorded; if the category was implied in some way via the picture or written comments, a score of three was recorded; and if a category was not present, an N/A score was recorded.

When the evaluation sheets were completed the scores were transferred to the Draw a Social Studies Teacher – Score Sheet (DASST-Score Sheet). The DASST- Score Sheet is separated into three categories, teacher, student, and environment. The scores were totaled in each category and the pre-service students were either categorized as expressing direct or indirect instruction in each category. In the teacher category, a three to six score was classified as direct teaching and a twelve to fifteen score was classified as indirect teaching; for the student category, a two to four score was classified as direct teaching and an eight to ten score was classified as indirect teaching; lastly, in the environment category, a three to six score was classified as direct teaching and a twelve to fifteen score was classified as indirect teaching (see Appendix C). The three sub scores were totaled, and if a score of eight to sixteen was achieved, it was considered direct instruction, while a thirty-two to forty score was categorized as indirect instruction. If a score lie in between direct or indirect, it was determined that the preservic\e teacher perceptions about teaching was a mixture of direct and indirect teaching.

The research design used in this study incorporated the use of mixed methodology as tools for interpreting the data (Merriam, 1998). Mixed method studies are designed to incorporate the use of both qualitative and quantitative approaches to more fully describe the data being collected. Creswell (2003) states that by using this approach, the researcher “bases the inquiry on the assumption that collecting diverse types of data best provides an understanding of a research problem” (p.21). By allowing for qualitative and quantitative data to be gathered and relying on varied strategies for analysis, a richer and more balanced picture of the process, practices and events is more likely to emerge. The quantitative data consisted of the scores that were assigned to the student drawings and the percentages used to express this data, while the qualitative data consisted of the student writings and follow-up interviews. Finally, the data was triangulated to strengthen the reliability of the information (Merriam, 1998). This consisted of the scores associated with the drawings, the students written comments, and selected interviews with students.

Ten students volunteered to participate in an oral interview. All the students agreed to discuss their written comments and picture that they drew as part of the activity. These discussions ranged from twenty to twenty-five minutes and were very open ended. There were no set questions related to the interview other than asking the student to explain their drawing and the written comments. This process is recognized by Marriam (1998) as a way of gathering more information, opinions, and feelings. The interviews were audio taped to provide a process of checking for similarities in student comments. As the students explained their work, the researcher probed the students to clarify what they meant. These questions varied somewhat for each student as the researcher and student dialogued about the student’s work. Once a student finished explaining his/her picture and written comments, the researcher then discussed with them the ratings on the score sheet.

Results of the Study

The Draw a Social Studies Teacher evaluation analyzed students’ drawings and written comments related to their perceptions of themselves teaching social studies. An analysis was conducted in three areas: the teacher; the students; and the teaching environment. The following information presents a summary of the findings.

Teaching Category

In order to be evaluated as using direct instruction in this category, the pre-service students were assigned a score of 0 to 3 on questions one through five on the DASST Evaluation Sheet. Therefore, their cumulative score would be in the range of one to six. To be evaluated as indirect in the teaching category, the pre- service students were assigned a rating from 3 to 5 on each question of the DASST Evaluation Sheet. Their cumulative score was in the range of 12 to 15. Finally, to be evaluated as a combination of direct and indirect teaching, the pre-service students were assigned a ranking on each question of a 0 to 5 rating. This category displayed the most freedom of numerical distribution, meaning that the complete range of numbers was assigned when drawings and written comments were being evaluated.

Twelve students (23.5%) scored a three to six in this category which indicated direct teaching behaviors. There was no evidence in the pictures and written comments related to teacher demonstration; rather these students tended to draw teachers who lectured and used little to no visual aids. In addition, there was little evidence of the teacher engaging the students in some type of activity or using cooperative groups.

A second group of 18 students (35.3%) were evaluated as having predominantly indirect teaching behaviors. There was strong evidence in the drawings and written comments of teachers modeling/ demonstrating and using visual aids while giving directions. There was also strong evidence that showed the teacher engaging the students in discussions as well as the presence of group activities in the drawings.

The remaining 21 students (41.1%) received a score from 7 to 11 in the teaching category. These students were evaluated as having a mixture of direct and indirect teaching behaviors. The student pictures and written comments indicated teachers modeling and demonstrating while giving directions. They tended to draw teachers who lectured and to some degree used visual aids or a combination of the two teaching behaviors. There was some evidence present in their drawings of the teacher engaging the students in discussions as well as group activities.

Student Category

The second area on the DASST Evaluation Sheet analyzed the pre- service students’ pictures and written comments related to students. Three areas were analyzed. These were the aspect of students watching and listening to the teacher, students responding to the teacher, and students responding to other students. In order to be evaluated as direct teaching in this category, students were assigned a score of 0 to 3. A cumulative score for all three questions for direct teaching would be 2 to 4. For indirect teaching the scores ranged from 3 to 5, with a cumulative score from 8 to 10. A combination of direct and indirect teaching generated a combined score on all three questions from 5 to 7.

Seventeen students’ (33.3%) drawing and written comments fell into the direct teaching mode of instruction. The pictures indicated that the students were watching and listening. The drawings showed few students responding to the teacher and there was little to no teacher response to students. In addition, there were no students responding to other students.

On the other side of the instructional continuum, 15 pre-service students (29.4%) submitted drawings and written comments that were evaluated as indirect instruction. The pictures revealed students that were engaged in activities that were related to the topics being taught. A high degree of teacher/student and or student/ student interaction was present.

Finally, 19 of the pre-service students (37.3%) had scores from 5 to 7, which indicated a combination of direct and indirect teaching. The pictures and written comments indicated a combination activities from watching and listening to students engaged in group or individual activities. Written comments revealed that this group of pre-service teachers viewed teaching as a very broad array of instructional activities.

Environment Category

The final area of teaching that the DASST evaluation analyzed was the classroom environment. Five areas were addressed in this category of the evaluation. These included desks in rows, central location of the teacher, multiple positions of the teacher, desks in groups/circle, and the presence of social studies materials.

For each area, a score of 0 to 5 was assigned, with low scores representing direct instruction and high scores being indirect instruction. A cumulative score of 3 to 6 in this category was classified as direct, while a cumulative score of 12 to 15 was considered indirect. Scores ranging from 7 to 11 were considered as being a combination of direct and indirect instruction.

In this category, 24 pre-service students (47%) were evaluated as direct, 9 pre-service students (17.6%) were evaluated as indirect, and 18 pre-service students (35.3%) were assessed as having mixed responses in their pictures and written comments. For pre-service students who were evaluated as being direct in third category, their drawings indicated that the desks were in rows (not in groups) and the teacher was usually centrally located with no written indication of teacher movement around the room. On the other hand, pre-service students whose pictures and written comments in this category that were judged to be indirect, seldom had desks in rows or had the teacher centrally located. Their pictures showed students sitting at desks in groups and the teacher involved with the groups. There was also the presence of social studies materials and comments about the students working with the materials.

As with the other two categories, 18 pre-service students’ (35.3%) pictures and written comments were evaluated as having elements of both direct and indirect instruction. These pictures and comments revealed desks in rows, but there was the presence of social studies materials. In addition, the teacher was not always centrally located. Many times the pictures showed the teacher working with one of more students.

Summary of all three categories

The final analysis on the DASST Score Sheet was the combined scores of the three categories: teacher, students and environment. Scores in the range of eight to sixteen were categorized as direct teaching. Thirteen students’ (23.3%) total scores were in this range. For indirect teaching, a total score of thirty-two to forty were categorized as indirect instruction. Nine students’ (17.6%) received scores that were recorded in this range. The remaining twentynine students (56.8%) were classified as falling between direct and indirect instruction. These students were labeled as having a mixture of both direct and indirect perceptions of teaching.

Student Interviews

The last area of analysis used in the research process was personal interviews of students who participated in the draw a social studies teacher activity. The results of these interviews indicated that the researchers’ analysis of the students’ pictures and written comments on the DASST Evaluation Sheet accurately represented the students ideas presented. Students were not familiar with the terms direct and indirect instruction, however, they understood instructional terms such as lecture, simulations, and group activities and were able to relate them to the categories of direct and indirec\t instruction. In all cases, the students interviewed felt that the researcher’s interpretation on the DASST Evaluation Sheet accurately represented what they put down in writing and in their drawing. Their comments were focused on how we categorized the pictures and written comments. Typical responses were: “Yes, that category fits my picture” or “I think you chose the right category.” All the students interviewed were very interested in their DASST results and were anxious to discuss the results with their peers and the faculty researcher.

Discussion

The findings in this research revealed that the students who took part in our study had some strong beliefs and perceptions regarding social studies instruction which were based on their previous classroom experiences. The Draw a Social Studies Teacher evaluation process uncovered a wide variety of student images of what teaching social studies was perceived to be. Generally, about a quarter of the students developed images and commentary related to teaching social studies that would be considered direct teaching. Another one fourth of the students saw social studies teaching more oriented to indirect teaching. Finally, the majority of the students viewed social studies teaching as a combination of different methods of instruction that varied from lecture, to group discussion, to such things as games, simulations, and individualized projects.

Assigning sub-scores to the areas of teacher, students and environment on the DASST Evaluation Sheet also revealed some interesting insights. There were differences between how students’ viewed each of these subareas. Some pre-service students were consistent in how they viewed all three areas (ex. all direct or all indirect), while others had a mixture of approaches. For example, some students viewed teaching as indirect while their perception of the classroom (the environment) was very structured or direct. Pictures and writings revealed teachers engaging their students in problem solving activities with the desks in rows. On the other hand, there were pictures and descriptions of students in groups (indirect) with the teacher lecturing (direct instruction).

The personal interviews revealed that the student drawings of social studies instruction were directly related to classroom experiences that they encountered in both junior high and high school. The details in their pictures regarding the position of the teacher, the arrangement of the room, and the activities the students were engaged in, all had a direct relationship to memories of their previous experiences in elementary and secondary schools. It seems that throughout their formal education these students had developed a very detailed image of what it means to be a social studies teacher.

Throughout the interviews students continually used the phrase “I want to be like” in reference to previous teachers they had encountered in junior high and high school. Whether their DASST score indicated direct, indirect, or some mixture of both, this phrase was used. This seemed to be a powerful force in determining what they would be like as a social studies teacher.

For students who received scores that indicated direct teaching, a common phrase mentioned in the interview was “I want them to know.” Certainly all teachers, no matter what their instructional approach, want their students to know some information. However, for this group of students, knowing was strongly related to their image of a good teacher. There were no common phrases specifically related to students in the indirect or mixed categories.

Students also commented on the DASST evaluation process in a positive way. All ten students said they learned a lot about themselves and their views regarding teaching social studies. Comments such as ‘This activity showed me what my image of teaching is,” or “I knew I wanted my classroom to be organized and I drew my picture that way” reflected what students’ learn during the activity. One student was amazed how much their DASST score reflected direct teaching. “I thought as a teacher I would do different stuff in the classroom, but when I drew my picture I was just lecturing.”

The DASST evaluation process gave the students in this study the opportunity to explore their mental images and personal beliefs regarding instruction in the social studies. This type of exploration is important in the development of pre-service teachers. Previous research suggests that educational beliefs of preservice teachers are an important factor in their acquisition and interpretation of knowledge and subsequent teaching behaviors (Calderhead & Robson, 1991; Clandinin & Connelly, 1987; Clark, 1988; Goodman, 1988; Nespor, 1987). In addition, as Pajares (1992) states, unexplored beliefs of pre-service teachers may be responsible for the perpetuation of antiquated and ineffectual teaching practices.

As teacher educators, we must be aware of the beliefs and experiences that our students bring into our classrooms regarding social studies instruction. Calderhead and Robson (1991) caution us that pre-service teachers might be prone to use episodic images as recipes simply because they are novices – lacking knowledge and experience. Similar concerns were expressed by Goodman (1988), whose research determined that students tended to be most easily influenced by people and experiences that legitimated their “intuitive screen”. He worried about students’ not being an active participant in the development of their own occupational identity.

To address this problem, Bames (1992) proposed that the most effective teachers have multiple interpretive frames to help them see more alternatives and make better choices. If we are to broaden or change pre-service teachers’ beliefs regarding instruction in the social studies they need to discover that their existing frame for understanding instruction is only one frame of several possible frames. We need to help our students make explicit their personal theories about teaching social studies. As researchers, it is our belief that the DASST evaluation is a way for social studies methods instructors to begin this process.

Implications and Conclusion

Pre-service social studies students must be able to draw on their own knowledge base that they have developed and they must incorporate it into the current theories of teaching and learning. Thus, we must be willing to guide our students in helping them define their personal theories about teaching social studies and help them to reconstruct these theories based on our professional knowledge and the recommendations of our national association (NCSS) as to what are the best practices of teaching and learning.

Those of us who teach courses in methods of teaching social studies can help students reflect upon their own notions of good instruction and those of their peers. Goodman (1988) found that this reflection must necessarily go beyond what students “believe”. He states that, “If their (students) beliefs were challenged in a non- threatening manner, most students seemed willing to seriously consider alternative points of view” (p. 130). When the students in this study completed their drawings and written comments they were asked to share their work with other members of the group. One of the researchers acted as a facilitator for this process. Students were very interested in seeing each others pictures and hearing about the written comments. We feel that this type of discussion using the DASST evaluation gives students multiple perspectives on instruction in the social studies.

Marso and Pigge (1991) found that teacher educators need to pay more attention to how pre-service students’ feel about their prospective students, teaching area, and teacher training experience if they wish to impact these prospective teachers’ attitudes. A common thread that seems to run through many of the documented reports of teacher preparation programs and their efforts to influence change in pre-service teacher beliefs is the need for selfassessment strategies that promote reflective thinking practices (Anderseon & Holt-Reynolds, 1995; Britzman, 1986; Cole & Knowles, 1995).

Considering the need for this type of reflection by pre-service teacher education students, we see the DASST evaluation as a valuable tool that can be used by social studies instructors to help students reflect on their personal beliefs about teaching social studies. By using the DASST evaluation, social studies instructors can begin the process of having their students clarify some of their personal beliefs about teaching. Students can complete and score their own pictures and comments. Then, the teacher can have the students compare the results and engage in a dialogue on what they think the instructional process may look like in social studies teaching.

However, we are also aware that this is only one technique that can be used in the process of reflection. Opportunities for reflection in field placements, readings, class discussions, and conferences with faculty can all encourage students to explore their beliefs. We also know that some instructors already use some types of pictures and written comments to have their students explore their personal ideas regarding teaching. However, we feel that the DASST evaluation process is much more precise in gauging students’ notions of teaching social studies. Finally, we realize that viewing instruction from only direct verses indirect is limited. Viewing instruction from an academic, social reconstructionist, or social efficacy approach is not considered in our evaluation instrument.

We also see another way the DASST evaluation can be used by faculty to gain an understanding of how their students’ attitudes and beliefs coincide with the faculty members’ instructional approach to teaching social studies. The device can be used as a gage to see how the students relate to the faculty mem\ber’s philosophical approach to teaching social studies. If a faculty member’s students already view teaching in the same philosophical construct as he/she does, then you may be preaching to the choir. On the other hand, if students attitudes and beliefs regarding teaching social studies are opposite of a faculty member’s views related to instruction, one may need to think about how one should proceed with such opposition. It may also be interesting to use the DASST at the beginning and at the end of a methods course to see if there are any changes in the students’ perception of teaching social studies. Finally, in our research study there were three groups that emerged when the drawings and written comments were scored. This may not be the case when the DASST evaluation is applied to other groups of students at other universities.

In conclusion, we are also aware that the DASST evaluation is a preliminary attempt on our part to develop a systematic way to assess students’ attitudes and belief about teaching social studies. More work needs to be done in testing the evaluation tool that we have developed, and we encourage our colleagues to experiment with the use of this evaluation tool. We remain cautiously optimistic that this evaluation device may be able to help us with the education of future social studies teachers.

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John J. Chiodo, University of Oklahoma

Terrell D. Brown, John Marshall High School, Oklahoma City, OK

Copyright Journal of Social Studies Research Spring 2007

(c) 2007 Journal of Social Studies Research. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.




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