History, science, social studies to be taught in new way

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Application-based learning will replace memorization of dates, facts

Beginning with the 2016-2017 school year, Missouri students will be learning history and science in a different way than their parents and grandparents learned it.

When the state dropped the federal Common Core initiative and created its own learning standards apart from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), it decided to change the way history, social studies and science classes were taught.

Traditionally, schools have taught students to memorize dates, events and facts on tests to pass courses. Now, they will be learning the subject material within an application-based learning model.

"It's not that memorization is not good, but, limiting learning to just memorization severely hinders students from fully understanding the context of each historical event," said Leslie Hubert, Exeter social studies teacher. "Memorization should be a small, but important element of applying the information gleaned from primary and secondary sources. The goal of a social studies instructor should be to teach students to understand the significance of the facts learned, and what those facts teach us about the world in which we live. The newest standards clarify many issues found in the grade-level expectations, but still allow for local control of curriculum and process."

Students also tend to remember history better in story form, but it's the application that makes it stick, Hubert said.

"The application of history to their own lives is what inspires them to dig deeper, which is any teachers' ultimate goal for his or her students," she said.

"I believe applying application-based learning in science and history is important," said Angel Christy, Exeter English teacher. "History should be interesting and taught in an engaging way. Memorization is an important aspect of teaching history, but should be only a portion of the instruction."

Brandon Burns, Southwest High School communication arts and social studies teacher, said understanding historical events' impacts is key.

"When students understand societal trends and the impact of different types of leadership on our nation, they become more educated and responsible citizens," he said. "As social studies educators, we want students not only to understand that pivotal events occurred at a specific place and time, but also to be able to answer questions such as, 'How do the effects of this event impact our lives today?' and 'What lessons can we learn as a society from the decisions people made in response to historical events?'

"The state's decision to replace Common Core with more focus on application-based learning reinforces the philosophy we have at Southwest: that when students make personal connections to the lessons we teach and understand the purpose of the information they are required to learn, we are successfully preparing students to apply that knowledge to decisions they make in their personal lives and communities in the future."

"When considering application-based learning, I would have to agree that students learn better when they are given the opportunity to demonstrate what they are learning, rather than just regurgitating facts from rote memorization," said Dr. Ernest Raney, Exeter superintendent.

Karen Huffman, whose children attend the Southwest school district, shared her thoughts from a parent's perspective.

"As a parent of six children ranging from 24 to 10, I have seen many changes in education through the years," she said. "I am very excited to see a move toward application in science, history and math. Memorization is important and can never be abandoned completely, but in the days of Google and with the rapid advances in technology, students need to learn how to think, process and use information as much as they need to memorize random facts. Memorization develops the brain and a quick recall will always be useful, but being able to find and synthesize information has to become a priority since the job my 10-year-old daughter will be working has most likely not even been invented yet."

The Cassville school district reported it already teaches history and science in a non-traditional manner.

"Our science has been application-based for years," said Jill LeCompte, assistant superintendent. "Many social studies classes are project-based learning as well. Andrew Hoskins, our high school history and social studies teacher, just won a grant to purchase literature sets for his social studies classroom so he can show students a broader view of the curriculum than just a text. We even teach reading in the primary and intermediate schools by embedding non-fiction books that are social studies-and-science based. So, the new Missouri learning standards will be a welcomed tool that we can use to continue our instructional practices."

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