By its very nature, history opens the door to questions about morality and ethics—questions about justice, about what is right and what is wrong; questions about how apply our understanding of the past to today and to the future. In their article, “Enriching Ethical Judgments in History Education,” authors Andrea Milligan, Lindsay Gibson, and Carla L. Peck explain that the majority of historians today view ethical judgments as a critical part of history teaching.
How Controlling Teaching Styles Affect Student Motivation and Sense of Self-Worth
Enter middle school. New teachers. New peers. New pressures. New challenges. In middle school, students experience numerous intellectual challenges and changes. And academic motivation is one of them. Many students who were motivated and curious during elementary school may find themselves less engaged as middle school progresses. Researchers Kimberley J. Bartholomew et al. note that for many students, “the adolescent years mark the beginning of a downward spiral in school-related motivation and engagement that often leads to academic underachievement” (50). While student family-life and physical changes may play a part in students’ changes in motivation during these years, Bartholomew et al. argue that teachers’ instructional styles also significantly influence student motivation and behavior. In particular, their paper, “Beware of your teaching style: A school-year long investigation of controlling teaching and student motivational experiences,” examines how students’ perceptions of controlling teaching styles is linked to not only a decrease in student intrinsic motivation, but also to student behaviors that hurt their academic performance.
In many traditional classrooms, teachers deliver lectures and students then work on problems or skill-building outside of school. The idea of flipping the classroom turns this structure around. In a flipped classroom, students watch lectures outside of the classroom and then engage in collaborative problem solving or critical thinking in the classroom. In their paper, “Applying ‘First Principles of Instruction’ as a Design Theory of the Flipped Classroom: Findings from a Collective Study of Four Secondary School Subjects,” authors Chung Kwan Lo et al. present empirically tested design methods for running a successful flipped classroom.
Increasing Student Engagement in Small Groups: The Role of Knowledge Diversity
When it comes to small group work, teachers approach grouping students differently at different times. Sometimes students may choose their own groups. Sometimes students are randomly assigned to groups. And sometimes teachers carefully choose group members. For authors Jian Zhao et al., an important aspect for teachers to consider when designing groups is the distribution of prior knowledge among students. In their paper, “Students’ engagement in a science classroom: Does knowledge diversity matter?,” Zhao et al. investigate how mixed-prior-knowledge grouping affects student engagement and group performance. They find that when a group has even one knowledgeable student, group members are more behaviorally and emotionally engaged in the task (6).
Controversial Topics and Limits on Teacher Free Speech
In their paper, “Broaching the subject: Developing law-based principles for teacher free speech in the classroom,” researchers Bruce Maxwell et al. explain that for many teachers, the decision to discuss controversial topics in class is both an important and fraught decision. On the one hand, engaging with controversial issues is crucial for the development of students’ critical thinking skills and allows them to demonstrate democratic values like tolerance, recognition of reasonable disagreement, and respectful political engagement. On the other hand, many teachers will avoid controversial political matters so not to create an uncomfortable classroom environment. There is a worry that students’ lack of maturity to handle some topics may result in insult or shouting matches; there is a worry that some students may voice socially unacceptable views that might upset other students; there is a worry that the teacher is unable to facilitate such heavy discussions; there is a worry that workplace sanctions will occur as a result of engaging with controversial topics (196-197).