Social Education 57(2), 1993, pp. ?-77
1993 National Council for the Social Studies
This paper describes the beginnings of a joint effort between Butler University and Junior Achievement of Central Indiana Incorporated. This program attempted to provide a concrete laboratory for our students to experiment with social studies teaching (the Junior Achievement Business Basics Curriculum offered a natural social studies contact), to integrate social studies methods with other parts of the curriculum, and to serve the community.
In the fall of 1991, we engaged forty-eight upperclass elementary methods students in an experiment to work as Junior Achievement consultants in local public elementary schools. Junior Achievement is a national organization with regional affiliates that offers basic economic education to children. The Junior Achievement Business Basics Curriculum (1991) provided our students with a chance to share their teaching skills with the community. This was one of the first attempts to link JA Business Basics with a teacher education program.
Background of the Students
The semester before student teaching, the students were enrolled in a block of classes that included children's literature, math, science, social studies methodology, and effective teaching strategies including Teacher Expectations and Student Achievement. Through this practicum, we wanted both to model the integration of content and allow students to integrate content themselves. We used the social studies content inherent in the Business Basics Curriculum. We then incorporated the other methods content into the Business Basics Curriculum.
We wanted the students to understand the importance of community service beyond the classroom. We hoped this would help them understand that the school is part of a larger community and recognize the possibility of involving their students in service to others.
We held initial discussions with the local Junior Achievement organization to combine all of these elements into one practicum experience. The Business Basics Program provides 5th and 6th grade students with information and experiences about the organization and operation of businesses in a free enterprise system. This process consists of four components. The first involves discussing the skills necessary for starting a business and the common forms of business organization. The second concerns the role of business management. The third incorporates various production strategies. Finally, in the fourth component the students learn the importance of marketing a product. These lessons involve many hands-on activities, including exploring mass production through the construction of a product.
Business Basics was designed to be taught by high school students, local citizens, and businesspeople. That is, the materials were designed in great detail for people with no teaching background. In creating this new model, we had to allow our students to modify the materials based on their professional knowledge.
Through the content integration in our preservice program, students learned about understanding content in an interdisciplinary manner and reflected on practice, effective lesson planning, and using appropriate teaching strategies.
The faculty worked as a team in planning and implementing the methods sequence. Their assignments in the courses reinforced the concepts taught. The faculty met to create a singular experience that would combine Business Basics with methods courses.
Implementation and Methodology
Early in September, the local Junior Achievement coordinator visited our social studies methods course to explain the Business Basics program. He described the background of Junior Achievement, showed a videotape of the program being used in an elementary classroom, and presented a demonstration lesson.
Students had until December to organize, plan, and implement the following JA practicum assignment:
1. Turn in a journal describing your experience, focusing on what you learned about yourselves as teachers, in terms of both technique and attitude.
2. Turn in one children's literature lesson integrated, and taught, in your Junior Achievement practicum.
3. Turn in one mathematics lesson integrated, and taught, in your Junior Achievement practicum.
4. Teach four Business Basics Lessons in your assigned Junior Achievement classroom. Arrange four visits any time that is convenient for both you and your teacher (so that you can finish your practicum in time to turn in your assignments). Feel free to modify these lessons, so long as they retain the concepts intended.
5. Interview the classroom teachers about their philosophy and strategies for teaching content.
6. Prepare one Teacher Expectations and Student Achievement coding and reflective paper on the class climate and the tone of the classroom.
The challenge for our students was to find a way to fulfill our requirements in a manner congruent with the Business Basics Program and the individual classroom in which they would be working.
As with any first attempt at change, not everything went as planned. We gained feedback on the Business Basics/College of Education experience from student reflection journals. In addition, a Junior Achievement business intern made a formal evaluation summary on behalf of JA and the College of Education. Students responded orally and on paper to a series of questions regarding their experiences.
In the summary, we found that "communication between Butler faculty, Junior Achievement, the elementary education majors, and the participating schools was a barrier" for some students. In a few cases, classroom teachers and students had a different understanding of the practicum procedure. In one extreme example, a substitute teacher cut into the student's instructional time and then left the classroom.
Scheduling problems arose for some. Some students found it challenging to find a time to teach that was agreeable to both them and the classroom teacher. To promote responsibility, student consultants arranged their JA practicum times themselves. Many students also felt that this experience took too much time. This was viewed as an extra assignment, in light of the intensity of the methods block.
The other difficulty detailed in the summary was the placement of the practicum in the students' professional sequence. Several students felt that this experience would be better suited to the sophomore year. In addition to the time factor, some were disappointed that they did not have the opportunity to teach in all the content areas represented by the methods sequence.
Although some pitfalls occurred, many successful outcomes characterized this experience. For example, the students gained valuable experience in the classroom. The following response typified what a majority of the students felt:
I thought that this experience was great. It was really gratifying to me and allowed me to feel a bit more comfortable in the classroom. I know the experience that I gained will definitely go with me next semester in student teaching. Furthermore, the students were able to include successfully the required content areas that were not originally part of the JA curriculum. As one student wrote in her journal:
At first I was a bit concerned about how I was going to incorporate math and especially children's literature. But, it actually turned out to be easy and a lot of fun. The students really seemed to enjoy and understand the concepts presented in the book I read and the activity we did with it. They became very excited with the math lesson because they were going to get to use calculators and each have their own.
Other content areas were also integrated successfully: graphing, addition, ratio and proportion, cooperative learning, using children's literature to teach production costs, and the use of a variety of quality literature.
The students also gained considerable pedagogical knowledge from their JA experience. This was an element not built into the JA curriculum, but one that we tried to emphasize. Many students, for example, found the vocabulary in the manual too difficult for the children and were forced to adapt the lessons. Other students made other modifications. For example, one student did not use the manual at all. Instead, she internalized the concepts and then taught the entire curriculum in her own style. Another student taught the concept of production using a higher level exercise than described in the consultant manual. Finally, another student began the Business Basics Program with a lesson on understanding basic mathematical computations using money. She felt that this would prepare them for the work they would be doing later in the program.
Many students were not initially confident with intermediate grade children. "I think my initial feeling was because of fear of sixth graders. I found it much easier to teach sixth graders than I had anticipated." Another student said: "I do not feel as intimidated by the older students and now feel ready to teach the higher grades."
Many students gained insight into classroom management. In reflecting on her experience, one student commented: "If I could do my practicum over again, I would set my rules the first day and state that these rules will not be broken if I am to continue to teach these lessons." Another said: "I learned to be much more assertive."
Students also gained a better awareness of the abilities of intermediate grade students. One reported that she learned about modifying practices to fit the developmental needs of particular students. Another noted: "They were able to answer questions intelligently and carry on a good conversation. This was my first experience with an upper elementary grade." Yet another commented: "With older students I really need to work on proximity. I also learned that with older students I had some problem thinking on my feet."
Finally, the majority of the students noted that they would save their curriculum materials and make use of them in their classrooms in the future.
At the conclusion of the experience, Butler College of Education faculty and JA staff met to evaluate the program. Prior to the meeting, we had a chance to digest the various reflections and evaluations. We concluded that the potential for further partnerships existed. Although we noted a need for better organization and greater communication with the schools, we also recognized the power that this experience generated.
We decided that we needed to develop a new consultant's manual, specifically for preservice teachers, that could be used all over the country. That way the program would be serving both Junior Achievement and teacher education programs. This new manual would have to include a less cookbook-like orientation to allow the students to have more practice in developing their own teaching materials and style. The manual must also include information on effective pedagogy for the teacher educator and student teacher, further helping other institutions to develop working relationships with Junior Achievement and other community service organizations.
Our experience suggests that it is important to keep the following in mind when building a program that brings together preservice social studies educators and community service agencies:
1. a high level of participation must exist between all the parties involved;
2. the program might be better suited to the sophomore/junior level;
3. the practicum must be organized carefully, especially between students and elementary schoolteachers and administrators;
4. preservice teachers must have considerable freedom to modify curriculum to fit the needs of individual children and to heighten their learning experience as a new teacher;
5. college faculty need to bring out pedagogical elements in a community service collaboration;
6. the integration of other content areas into the social studies must be encouraged;
7. additional practicum experiences are available for elementary preservice students to inspire confidence, particularly with older children, that stretch the preservice teacher's abilities; and
8. materials and programs should be designed for teachers, especially preservice teachers.
We witnessed a powerful way to teach preservice students about participatory citizenship and economic education. We hope they will share these experiences with their future students. Our students learned about new ways to teach economics to children, but more importantly they were actively involved in the community. If social studies is to have an effect beyond the classroom, we must take it beyond the classroom and into the real world, which is the concrete experience of the social studies.
Douglas Roebuck and Arthur Hochman are Assistant Professors of Education at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana 46208-3485.