Preparing Democratic Students

H5 – Honor student potential for roles in the greater society.
Teacher candidates prepare students to be responsible citizens for an environmentally sustainable, globally interconnected, and diverse society.

To me, this means that teachers are providing opportunities for students to become democratic, creative, accepting individuals who are prepared to use their skills in contribution to society, despite what that society may look like in 10 or 15 years. Students don’t just learn to be democratic on their own. If we teach all students in a box, then release them after fourteen years of schooling into the public, can we expect these students to have the skills they need for cooperating with society, either  locally or nationally (or internationally)? The answer is probably not, though of course it may widely vary depending on the student in question. Instead, what schools should be aiming for is developing “ideal citizens who could live in and enhance their society, who could fulfill themselves in and through it, and who would even e able to help create and revise it” (Joyce, Weil, Calhoun, 2015). In this, we need democratic problem-solvers, or people who can work together to come up with a solution to any given problem, regardless of its type or complexity.

In Classroom Instruction that Works, Dean, et al. (2012) discusses how “the best companies are the best collaborators.” In the real world, those who succeed are those who can work with others to come to the best solution. This is what we want to lead our students to. One possible method to achieving this is by using cooperative learning in the classroom. By grouping students together to use their individual talents to accomplish a learning task, not only are we giving each student a chance to shine, but we are also fostering a sense of responsibility and accountability to other members of the group while also encouraging students to work together in a productive and meaningful way. It provides ways for students to “interact in ways that enhance and deepen their learning” (Dean, et al., 2012), and that will push them toward using principles of democracy in their problem-solving. Cooperative learning also allows students to be more engaged with one another, and lets them experience the information they are gathering more. In the example of Mr. Washington’s social studies unit, instead of having students read a chapter and discuss it, he assigned a role to each member of a group of three: one student would read aloud, one student would take notes, and one student would ask a list of questions at the end. During this process, students could ask questions and work through things they don’t understand together (Dean, et al., 2012). This exercise led to a more in-depth discussion and gave students a toolkit that they will use for the rest of their lives.

Dean, C., Hubbell, E., Pitler, H., Stone, B. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Denver, CO: McRel.

Joyce, B., Weil, M., Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of teaching. Boston, MA: Pearson.