ETAP 512: Teachers in Context
Fall, 2009
Guidelines for the Final Group Project:
The Contexts of Teaching

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Overview

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Additional Guidelines

Schedule

Grading



Overview

For this assignment, you will work in a group of five or six classmates to explore a specific scenario related to teaching and consider how the contexts of teaching come into play in that scenario. Your group will be asked to solve a problem that reflects a controversy or ongoing issue in education. In trying to solve this problem, your group's primary task will be to answer the question,

How do the various contexts of teaching help us understand and negotiate this specific situation?

The main purpose of this assignment is to examine how various factors influence teaching and shape our understanding of teachers and schools. A secondary purpose is to provide experience in collaborative inquiry into relevant professional issues affecting teaching.

Your group will devote much of the second half of the semester to this project.


Content

Your group will be assigned its scenario in class during the 4th week of the semester. (Scenarios will also be available online after Week 5 at this link: Final Group Project Scenarios.) Scenarios will be related to important issues or controversies in education such as standardized testing and diversity.

Drawing on a variety of resources, including course readings and assignments, your group will explore its assigned scenario and try to develop a reasonable solution to the problem that emerges from that scenario. In doing so, your group will analyze the role of various factors in that scenario to try to come to a better understanding of what is involved and how to address the problem. In exploring your assigned scenario, your group will pose the following questions:

  • What specific contextual factors seem to play an important role in this situation?

  • In what ways do these various contextual factors influence this situation?

  • How are teachers, students, and others affected by contextual factors in this situation?

  • How can these factors help us understand and explain this situation?

  • What can we learn about teachers and teaching from this situation?

Among the various contexts your group might consider in analyzing your assigned scenario are the following:

  • racial & ethnic context

  • gender context

  • political context (including the political climate, political conflicts or controversies, etc.)

  • socio-economic context (social class, related economic issues)

  • institutional context (including matters related to the administration and governance of schools)

  • community context (the local and regional community, other kinds of communities affecting schools)

  • ideological context (including issues related to knowing and learning as well as religious/spiritual matters)

  • professional context (including working conditions, labor and employment issues)

  • social context (including teacher-teacher relationships, student-teacher, student-student, peer culture, family, etc.)

  • historical context

  • governmental context (including state and federal mandates, mandated curricula and standardized tests, school boards, etc.)

Your group's scenario will present you with a specific problem to address and ask that you make recommendations for how to solve that problem. Your group's solution to the problem should be informed by your analysis of the contextual factors that come into play in your scenario. (More information about the specific nature of the group tasks is available at Final Group Project Scenarios.)

There are three main components to this assignment:

  1. a collaborative paper or document that is the equivalent of 1200-1500 words in which a careful contextual analysis of your group's scenario is presented;

  2. an in-class presentation/performance in which you present to the class the results of your group's inquiry into its scenario; and

  3. an individual written reflection of approximately 500-700 words in which you present your own perspective on your group's work and what you learned about teachers and teaching by doing this assignment.

Each component is described in more detail below.

Collaborative Paper/Document. Your group's paper/document should present the results of your collective inquiry into the specific scenario you examined and how contextual factors played a role in that scenario. It should explain your solution to the problem presented by your scenario and justify your solution based on what you have learned about your specific issue or problem as a result of your group's research. In your paper/document, you should also draw conclusions about what it means to be a teacher in view of what your group learned about the role of context in teaching.

Your paper/document should include references to course readings and related assignments as well as to any other relevant and appropriate resources that your group identifies in its research. You may incorporate into this project any of the course assignments you have worked on during the semester.

The format of this component of your final project is up to your group. You may decide to submit a conventional paper of 1200-1500 words; you may decide to submit a multi-genre paper or some other alternative kind of document; you may decide to construct a website, hypertext, or multi-media presentation. The only requirement is that the nature of the document your group chooses to create should be appropriate to your inquiry and should be the equivalent of a 1200-1500 word paper.

Please note that, whatever format you choose, your final project must include the document described in your group's scenario. For example, if your scenario defines your group as a school-wide committee whose task is to submit a recommendation to the school board, your final project must include this recommendation in some form.

In-Class Presentation/Performance. This component of the final project should be a substantive, engaging, and creative presentation or performance to the class in which you convey the results of your group's inquiry into the scenario your group examined. The specific format or nature of this presentation is up to your group. You should think creatively and don't be afraid to be innovative or unconventional. Use of participatory activities, multi-media, visual aids, and musical or physical performance is encouraged. Humor and enjoyment are also encouraged. Please keep in mind that the purpose of this presentation/performance is to effectively convey to your classmates what your group learned as a result of its inquiry. In effect, your group will be teaching the rest of the class about the educational issues relevant to its scenario.

Expect to use approximately 25-30 minutes for your presentation/performance. Be sure to consult with your instructors about any necessary technologies you may need for your group's presentation/performance.

Presentations will be scheduled for the final two class meetings of the semester.

Individual Written Reflection. For this part of the assignment, each student will submit a written reflection on the group project. In this reflection, you should offer your own thoughts about what you learned as a result of your group's inquiry into its assigned scenario. You should also offer an evaluation of your group's work and your own role and participation in that work. This written reflection should be 500-750 words in length.


Additional Guidelines

  • This assignment requires your group to do research. The library and the Internet will be important resources in this research, but bear in mind that this is a somewhat unconventional topic that may require you to be creative in your research. You will not likely find published articles and books that are specifically about your group's topic. So you may have to look more carefully and widely to find the sources you need. Consider sources other than conventional published sources; for example, you might interview teachers, parents, students, administrators, and legislators who might have insights into the specific aspect of context that your group is examining. Your own observations in classrooms or your own teaching can serve as sources. Also, any of the course readings can be considered sources for this assignment.

  • How your group assigns and shares responsibility for the research and writing required for this assignment will be negotiated among your group's members. Please keep in mind your responsibilities as a member of the community of ETAP 512, as described in the course requirements.

  • Try to make your document and presentation as relevant and engaging as possible to your audience (members of this course, all of whom, like you, are preparing to become secondary school teachers).

  • Please submit any documents your group creates in MS Word or rich-text format or a similar digital format.


Schedule

Project groups and scenarios will be assigned in class during the fifth week of the semester. Your group should begin work on the project as soon as possible after receiving its assigned topic.

Groups will be given class time to work on this project during most class meetings after the 5th week of the semester, but you should expect to meet outside of class to complete the project.

Key deadlines for this project are as follows:

Interim Report October 29
Group presentations November 19 and December 3
Group collaborative paper date of your group's presentation (either November 19 or December 3)
Individual written reflection one day after your group's presentation (either November 20 or December 4)

Please see the Guidelines for the Interim Report that is due on October 29th.


Grading

This assignment is worth 30 points. Your group project will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Thoroughness. Your group's report and presentation should provide a reasonably thorough examination of the scenario it was assigned. The report and presentation should convey the impression that your group carefully and extensively examined its scenario and the issues and problem presented in that scenario.

  • Substance. Your group's report and presentation should offer a thoughtful examination of its assigned scenario and convey insights into the issues or problems presented by that scenario in a way that can help illuminate teachers and teaching. The report and presentation should offer a thought-provoking answer to the question or problem presented in your scenario.

  • Quality of the In-class Presentation. Your group's presentation should be engaging, substantive, and organized. It should effectively convey the insights your group gained from its inquiry and should effectively teach the class something important about teaching and teachers.

  • Quality of the Individual Written Reflection. Your individual written reflection on your group's work should be thoughtful, well-written, and clear and should offer a careful and honest assessment of your group's work and your own role in that work.

Please note that because each student will submit an individual written reflection as a required part of this assignment, grades for all group members may not be the same for this assignment.