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Textbook Site for:
Psychology Applied to Teaching, Eleventh Edition
Jack Snowman, Southern Illinois University
Robert Biehler
Debates

Throughout this Web site we have tried to provide instructors and students with a variety of different strategies to better understand the information provided in Psychology Applied to Teaching. One such strategy is the use of debates. Debates allow instructors and students to 1) articulate their views on controversial issues, 2) justify their views with relevant and supportive information, and 3) compare and contrast their views with others.

Debates can be used in a variety of different ways. As a result, we have included two different sets of debates on this site. The first set contains six general debates that apply to one or more chapters from Psychology Applied to Teaching. These debates are more formal in nature and are designed to take at least one class session—as a one-time in-class activity or as part of an instructional assignment. If they are used as an assignment, students could conduct research on the debate topic and then write a paper, building their argument for the debate. Another assignment option could follow an in-class debate session with students writing a reflection paper on both the pro and con positions plus a personal position on the debate topic. The second set contains chapter-specific debates. These debates, which consist primarily of controversial topics, are designed for brief, in-class discussions that support lecture and text information.

General Debates Chapter-Specific Debates

SET 1: GENERAL DEBATES 

With the first set of debates, we provide some additional resources to assist in their use. We present a student template (see below) that can be used by both instructors and students. Instructors can use this template as an assignment for students to complete prior to a debate while students can use this template to help them prepare their positions for a debate. 

Student Template
  1. Pose a statement identifying the two sides of the debate. [List one or two statements that reflect the main topic(s) for debate.]
  2. Choose one side of the debate. [Write down the position — side 1 or side 2 — that you choose or are assigned; include any notes or ideas that might help get you started.]
  3. Prepare an argument for your side of the debate. [List your main arguments in order of importance and then outline the main areas of support for each argument.]
  4. List your resources. [List the resources (textbook, journal articles, Internet resources, etc.) that you used in your arguments; then evaluate the resources as to their value for your argument.]
  5. Present your argument. [Orally or in written form present the main points of your argument, making sure you cite your resources for added support.]
  6. Reflect on your presentation and the presentations of others. [Evaluate your presentation as to its effectiveness; also, if possible, think about how the arguments of others might challenge or support your arguments.]

Second, we provide an outline to assist in the actual presentation of the debate (see below). Obviously, there are many different ways to present a debate. This is just one option.

Debate Outline
  1. Begin the debate activity by presenting the chosen debate statement. [The topic(s) for the debate statement can either be student-generated or selected from those topics already prepared by the teacher.]
  2. Two groups, side 1 and side 2, should be created to assist in the construction of arguments. [Students can choose or be assigned to the two sides of the debate. Once this decision has been made, students can either be put into several small groups or two large groups, per class.]
  3. The two groups should be given time to prepare their statements for the debate. 
  4. The two groups should present their initial arguments, allowing each group to completely present their argument before the next group presents.
  5. The two groups should be allowed time to construct rebuttal arguments. [Depending on time and how formal the debate is, this time could either be several minutes or several days.]
  6. The two groups should present rebuttal arguments.
  7. The entire class should then do a debriefing session. [This is where the instructor engages the class in discussion about the points made. It also gives the instructor an opportunity to bring out critical content that may not have been addressed in the student debates.]

In addition to the two templates provided above, the formal debates include: a list of the relevant chapters, a list of objectives, some supplemental materials, and a list of suggested debate topics. Below you will find the six formal debates.

DEBATE 1: The Value of Educational Psychology

Relevant Chapters
  • Chapter 1: Applying Psychology to Teaching
  • Chapter 16: Becoming a Better Teacher by Becoming a Reflective Teacher
Objectives
  • Students will develop an understanding of the breadth of content included in the field of educational psychology.
  • Students will develop an understanding of the relationship between educational psychology and the teaching profession.
  • Students will exchange their views of the value of educational psychology in teacher education programs.
  • Students will construct pro and con arguments regarding the value that educational psychology provides for the teaching profession
Materials

This is a conversation between Lucy and Craig who are two undergraduate students in the teacher education program. They are discussing their introductory educational psychology course.

Lucy
Craig, I don't get it! I don't think the educational psychology course that we all have to take is doing me any good for my teaching. I think it's a total waste of time. I want to be a math teacher, so all I should be studying should be math. I think that if I had a good grasp of the content, and became an expert mathematician, then I'll automatically become a good math teacher. What do you think?

Craig
Well, since it is a required course it must be important.

Lucy
OK, what part of the course do you think is important? We are not even being taught how to teach. Instead, the course is all about theories of learning and development that I really don't see as related to my future classroom teaching. Besides, I'm a natural teacher. My mother is a teacher and she says that people are either born to be a teacher or they are not. People who become good teachers are just good at teaching. I've been a camp leader in the past and I have tutored younger children in math and they have all liked me, so I know that I am a good teacher.

Craig
I'm not sure, but aren't those theories in learning and development that we read about and discussed in our educational psychology course going to be somehow useful? Don't you think that they would become tools for us in the future to better understand students having difficulty in our classroom? For example, you know that I want to be a history teacher, right? So if a student of mine was having difficulty memorizing the dates of major events in World War II, maybe I could talk with him or her and create a series of mnemonics for the student to remember dates for his or her test. I didn't know about mnemonics until I heard about it in my educational psychology class when we were on the topic of cognitivism. I mean I knew that they existed since I learned ROYGBIV for the colors of the rainbow in middle school science. But I didn't know until much later that it was actually an effective method for memorizing information because of how our memory works. I think that this is a pretty neat thing to be aware of as a teacher.

Lucy
I don't know. It might be neat, but I think that I can still be a good teacher without ever learning educational psychology.

Suggested Debate Statements
  • Educational psychology is a scientific discipline that is concerned with understanding and improving how students acquire a variety of capabilities through formal instruction. It should help teachers to understand students' physical, social, emotional, and intellectual differences, as well as their motivational states, self-esteem, and test results. Therefore, it is a very important field for helping teachers become better at what they do.
  • Teaching is a dynamic decision-making process; teachers will be greatly aided by learning the systematic, objective framework for making decisions. Therefore, the research methods on teaching in educational psychology can provide that framework for teachers.
  • Many secondary students want to be content experts. Theory courses detract from the time available to become such experts. For the past hundred years, educators have continued to fail to find convincing evidence of why educational psychology is important. It is time for teacher education to become more practical.

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DEBATE 2: Constructivism, Behaviorism, and Information-Processing Theory

Relevant Chapters
  • Chapter 7: Behavioral Learning Theory: Operant Conditioning
  • Chapter 8: Information-Processing Theory
  • Chapter 10: Constructivist Learning Theory, Problem Solving, and Transfer
  • Chapter 11: Approaches to Instruction
Objectives
  • Students will develop an understanding of the differences in the theoretical approaches of constructivism, behaviorism, and information-processing theory.
  • Students will develop an understanding of the relationship between theory and instructional approach.
  • Students will exchange understandings of theory and approaches of constructivism, behaviorism, and information-processing theory.
  • Students will construct pro and con arguments related to theory and instructional approaches of constructivism, behaviorism, and information-processing theory.
Materials

This is a conversation between Peter and Alice who are two undergraduate students in the teacher education program. They are discussing their introductory educational psychology course.

Peter
Alice, so what do you think about Maggie [the instructor of their introductory educational psychology course] being a constructivist?

Alice
What do you mean? Are you talking about how different this course is from other courses?

Peter
Yeah. I mean the way Maggie emphasizes that there is no single correct answer as long as we can justify our thoughts on an issue.

Alice
Well, I think that her instructional approach is following her theoretical beliefs quite well. She wants us to become good problem solvers, and in order to do that she encourages us to do research to find multiple perspectives related to an educational issue, and develop our own perspective from them.

Peter
That's not what I mean. Don't you think that it's such a hassle being a student in Maggie's class? I can never tell what she really wants us to do, and I don't know what to do to get an "A."I wish that she were a behaviorist or an information-processing theorist so she would be much clearer on what is right or wrong. I want to know what the right answer is in class and just practice that at home, so I can get a good grade on the test. Maggie does not even have objective tests in her class. I don't think that she is really doing her job if she does not even test us on what we know. Besides, when I become a classroom teacher, I don't think I would have time to wait till my students discover what is right or wrong. It is so much easier just to tell them and have them learn from reinforcements and memorization. I don't want my students to question what I say and start thinking that there may be alternative explanations to what I am teaching them.

Alice
But isn't that the whole point about constructivism. When students graduate from school they quickly learn that the world does not necessarily work in the way that they learned about it in school. That's why we want to try out instructional approaches such as project-based learning, problem-based learning, and cooperative learning, so that our students will learn that they are responsible for pursuing a plausible explanation of an issue through information sharing, research, and their own logical reasoning.

Peter
Oh well, I guess.

Suggested Debate Statements 
  • Constructivist instructional approaches are time consuming and too cumbersome to design and manage; therefore, it is far more beneficial for both students and teachers to use behaviorist or cognitive instructional approaches.
  • Theorists claim that constructivism, behaviorism, and information-processing theory are not compatible with one another. Thus, classroom teachers ought to choose which single theoretical position they are going to buy into, when designing their lessons and choosing what type of instructional approach to take.
  • Given that constructivism seems to be the wave of the future, teacher education programs would be better off if all teachers took the same approach as Maggie.

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DEBATE 3: Human Intelligence

Relevant Chapters
  • Chapter 4: Understanding Student Differences
  • Chapter 5: Addressing Cultural and Socioeconomic Diversity
  • Chapter 6: Accommodating Student Variability
  • Chapter 15: Understanding and Using Standardized Tests
Objectives  
  • Students will develop an understanding of traditional theories of human intelligence.
  • Students will develop an understanding of the relationship between human intelligence and standardized test scores.
  • Students will exchange understanding of intelligence and standardized test scores with other students.
  • Students will construct pro and con arguments on the implications of intelligence theories in the classroom.
Materials

Letter from the Jacksonville School Board

Dear Teachers of the Jacksonville School District,

The school board has been discussing the issue of our students' low standardized test scores for the past several years. The school board views this as a very serious issue, and we have now come to an agreement that we need to take desperate measures to provide students with an education that will enhance their achievement scores. Our schools must focus on educating intelligent students, and providing them with the opportunities to excel in various academic areas.

We will have to make changes in our schools. We need to emphasize the basic skills in math, English, and science. If our student test scores do not show improvement in the next two years, we may have to rethink our priorities and decrease the amount of hours our students spend in art, music, and physical education. Nurturing our students' intelligence is our top priority. The school board unanimously agrees that every minute that our students spend within a classroom for basic skills is extremely important and must be our primary concern.

We also need to become aware that each student has different needs. Students with great potential need to be given the best environment for their further academic development. We must refine our tracking system so that each student will be placed in the most appropriate level according to his or her intellectual potential.

This change may involve hard work, but we educators are responsible for providing school environments that will enable our students to excel, and provide remedial help for those who are in need. We will be hosting an open forum on February 16, 2003 on this issue at the Jacksonville Community Health Center from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. If you have an opinion on the planned reforms, please attend the forum.

Louise Chase

Jacksonville School Board Chair

Suggested Debate Statements 
  • Given that IQ reflects a student's ability to act purposefully, rationally, and effectively in academic tasks in a classroom, it is the most reliable and valid measure to use for tracking students into appropriate ability level classrooms.
  • IQ scores and standardized test scores are correlated; therefore, if students are suffering from low standardized test scores it is the school's responsibility to eliminate all extracurricular programs in their curriculum to support funding for the basic skills courses that are tested in the standardized tests.
  • Jacksonville Schools are located in a low SES part of the city with traditionally low standardized test scores; thus, teachers can use educational psychology theories to help teach children skills that would raise their test scores.

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DEBATE 4: Information-Age School

Relevant Chapters
  • Chapter 11: Approaches to Instruction
  • Chapter 12: Motivation
Objectives
  • Students will develop an awareness of the current trend in education to build information-age schools.
  • Students will develop an understanding of the interaction between the use of technology and learning.
  • Students will construct pro and con arguments regarding information-age schools.
Materials

The following is a transcript of the first two minutes of a lecture that Professor Linda Techgood made when she was invited to the University of Alpha to speak on Information-Age Schools. She is a well-known professor and has spent the last three years of her career working with K-12 schools that are interested in incorporating technology into their curriculum.

Lecture Transcript
Lecturer: Professor Techgood
Title: Information-Age Schools Possible

Currently, the need for information-age schools has been documented by educational researchers such as Hancock (1997). It is said that only 22% of people entering the job market possess the technology skills for 60% of the new jobs in the year 2004. There is not only a societal and economic need for use of technology in schools, but some claim that the use of technology in the classroom enriches the learning environment by introducing more student interaction, diversity of learning resources, and opportunity for students engaging in an inquiry process.

However, bringing a computer into the classroom does not automatically assure teachers and students extensive benefits of learning with technology. Therefore, many teachers and instructional designers are reassessing their teaching-learning philosophies and advocating specific instructional tactics that would be most effective when used with technology in the classroom. They also realize that there are new activities and tactics to use in a technology-rich classroom that they did not have in a traditional classroom (e.g., the keypals project, the buddy system, the Jason project, adventure learning, WebQuests, etc.)

Currently many educators agree that constructivist learning environments complement technology-rich classrooms well (Mehlinger, 1996). In these classrooms, students are encouraged to take initiative for their own learning. Teachers are not primarily knowledge disseminators, but rather, are guides who mentor their students' learning process. Classrooms become more activity/project based rather than simply a series of lectures. Therefore, information-age schools are not only schools that invest in purchasing hardware and software technology, but are also schools where teachers and media specialists work together to design instruction incorporating technology to offer the best learning experiences for students.

As K-12 schools are preparing to become "information-age schools,"numerous logistical, economic, and societal issues arise. It will not be easy for traditional schools and school districts to transition to an information-age school.

Suggested Debate Statements
  • Given that information-age schools are going to prepare students for the twenty-first-century job market and promote an inquiry-based learning environment, incorporating technology into the curriculum will benefit both the teaching experiences of teachers and the learning experiences of students.
  • Currently there is a perception that schools are not good enough if they are technologically behind; therefore, schools ought to first focus the use of their resources and funding on technology-related purchases, then address professional development and teaching.
  • Technology purchases by schools are an addiction that needs to be fed every few years as technology changes. There is little proof of the value of technology changing student achievement. Why waste taxpayer money?

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DEBATE 5: Computer-Scored Essay Testing

Relevant Chapters
  • Chapter 14: Assessment of Classroom Learning
  • Chapter 15: Understanding and Using Standardized Tests
Objectives  
  • Students will increase their awareness of the impact of computer-scored essays in education.
  • Students will develop an understanding of the validity and reliability of essay tests.
  • Students will construct pro and con arguments regarding computer-scored essays.
Materials

The following is what a school principal announced to her teachers at the Johns County High School. The principal is considering having her school become a test school site for PEG, a computer system that scores student essays. She needs at least four teachers to agree to use PEG in their classrooms over the year to be admitted into the program for testing PEG free of charge. The principal has invited the faculty of her school to share their thoughts on whether they think that using PEG in their classroom would be a good or bad idea. She has also brought in a consultant to talk about technology like PEG.

The principal's announcement:

"Computer technology became a tool that some teachers and administrators claim makes life easier with common spell checkers, grammar checkers, word processors, and electronic gradebooks, and now electronic portfolios, computer conferencing, distance learning, and Web-based testing. Others counter that such technology tools make teaching much harder and student learning more difficult to interpret. One person who has tried to make the task of teachers easier, especially those who emphasize writing in their classrooms, is Ellis Page at the Duke University. Dr. Page worked for thirty years to create computer software that can score student essay papers as well as human judges. His software is called Project Essay Grade (PEG). While early versions of PEG looked at simple things like length of paper written, PEG now looks at content, organization, style, mechanics, and creativity. In addition, it could do so more rapidly and economically efficient than human raters. In anticipation of more essay portions on the SAT and GRE examinations, Educational Testing Service recently compared the scores of PEG with pairs of human judges and the computer scores surpassed the accuracy of the average score of two or three humans. In effect, PEG, is more accurate, faster, economical, and perhaps even more informative than humans.

There are many objections to the use of PEG. First, the humanists assert that certain essay scoring choices require human wisdom and knowledge and computers can only do what they are programmed. Others argue that a computer cannot know when a student is toying, joking, or attempting to trick it by writing a bizarre or nonsensical essay. Third, some maintain that the computer only measures statistics that are not really related to good-quality writing. Fourth, some argue that this is the first step of administrators trying to get rid of teachers in schools; other technologies are on the way. Of course there are many other arguments."

Suggested Debate Statements 
  • Essay tests are difficult to score reliably. Thus, using a computer-based system such as PEG will boost the accuracy of scoring and encourage teachers to use essay questions in their classroom tests more regularly.
  • Instructional objectives need to be aligned with the instruction itself and student assessment; therefore, when teachers are using computer systems such as PEG they need to be able to program the objectives of a lesson into the computer system.
  • A key barrier to including more writing in the curriculum is time for evaluation; tools like PEG may promote important changes in schools and help emphasize the writing process more.

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DEBATE 6: Gender and Technology

Relevant Chapters

Chapter 4: Understanding Student Differences
 
Objectives
  • Students will increase their awareness of existing gender differences in technology use in schools.
  • Students will generate ideas about what teachers can do to lessen the gender gap in technology usage.
  • Students will construct pro and con arguments regarding gender differences in technology use in the school.
Materials

The following is an article that appeared in Technology and Classrooms, a monthly journal published by the Association of We Think a lot about Schools and Technology (AWTST). Technology and Classrooms is distributed to all AWTST members, and the November 2000 issue was a special on technology and gender issues.

Much research shows that girls are treated differently than boys by their parents, teachers, and society starting at a very young age. In fact, these differences are often seen even before birth, when parents and others buy pink clothes and blankets for girls and blue clothes and blankets for boys. This gender differentiation continues into childhood when girls are typically given dolls and cooking sets, while most boys are given balls and trucks to play with. Further, these are the toys that society expects girls and boys to play with and any crossing over is often considered socially unacceptable and dealt with through criticism and mockery.

Many studies conducted during the 1980s and 1990s show that the field of technology is not immune to the gender gap prevalent in so many aspects of our society. Indeed, the field of technology is dominated by men (just think of the CEOs of major technology corporations, e.g., Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak, etc.), leaving little room for female role models within the field. What is troubling for educators is that girls' lack of interest in computers and technology often develops (and/or is reinforced) in school (Koch, 1994). Here are a couple of examples of how this may happen:
  1. If computers are being shared within a classroom or lab, it is often the boy who is controlling the mouse.
  2. Teachers often ask technical questions of only the boys.
  3. Teachers will often give boys instructions for how to fix a technical problem but will fix the problem for the girls (Koch, 1994).
Additionally, many of the popular computer games on the market are shoot-em-up, adventure games that appeal mainly to boys, thereby further discouraging girls from using computers.

Suggested Debate Statements 
  • Children from a very early age are conditioned into gender-related behaviors; the use of technology would become just another obstacle that differentiates girls and boys into their stereotypical roles.
  • There is a lack of female role models who are leading figures in the field of technology, with the overwhelming likelihood of female employees in technology areas "hitting the glass ceiling"; female students would be better off if teachers discouraged them from pursuing technology-related careers.
  • Given the gender gaps related to technology, females might be better off if they were placed in same-gender schools.

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SET 2: CHAPTER-SPECIFIC DEBATES

This second set of debates provides chapter-specific topics that are ideal for short, in-class discussions. For the first 15 chapters, there is a brief description of the issue or topic related to the debate and suggested arguments for two potential sides of the debate.

CHAPTER 1: Applying Psychology to Teaching

DEBATE TOPIC: How Personal Should Teaching Be?

As a new teacher, you are still trying to determine how personal you want to be with your students. Yesterday, a group of students asked you to join them for a bowling party that one of the students was having for his birthday. As you think about your relationship with your students, you contemplate whether you should attend. 

Side 1: Teachers should try to develop personal relationships with each of their students. One way to accomplish a personal relationship is to be involved in activities outside of the classroom. It shows students that you care.

Side 2:  Teachers need to maintain a certain relationship with students where they are seen as the leader. If teachers go to non-school related events, students might bring the party-like atmosphere back to the classroom.

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CHAPTER 2: Theories of Psychosocial and Cognitive Development

DEBATE TOPIC: Does Development Really Occur in Stages?

Chapter 2 presents a number of different stage theories. Stage theorists believe that children in one stage are qualitatively different than children in another stage (i.e., there is a major change or shift in previously acquired knowledge and skills). Not everyone agrees that development occurs this way. For example, some theorists, like Vygotsky, believe development is more of a gradual progression.

Side 1:  Development is best explained by stage theories. If you observe children of different ages, you will notice distinct differences in the way they think and act.

Side 2:  Development, in general, is much more gradual and not as abrupt as stages would imply. Watch children as they gradually gain knowledge in different subject areas.

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CHAPTER 3: Age-Level Characteristics

DEBATE TOPIC: What Role Do Parents Play?

There is little disagreement that parents have a pivotal role in the lives of young children. Young children depend upon their parents for many things. There is less consensus, however, on the influence of parents as children enter middle and high school. Many people argue that during these years peers become the primary influence and parents have little to no influence.

Side 1:  During adolescence, youth become more interested in the views of their peers. Just look at adolescent clothing, hairstyles, and body piercing. Adolescents look to their peers, not their parents, for advice and guidance.  

Side 2:  Although peers do become important during early adolescence, they do not take the place of parents. Youth look to their parents for advice when making important decisions. They also tend to model their parents' values.

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CHAPTER 4: Understanding Student Differences

DEBATE TOPIC: What is Intelligence?

People argue over the definition of intelligence. Some people believe that intelligence is one general ability while others believe that there are multiple types of intelligence. Most current intelligence tests assess a rather limited number of abilities that are highly predictive of school success.

Side 1:  If you look at those people who the general public considers to be intelligent, they are people who have strong linguistic and mathematical skills. It seems when we look beyond these areas we are talking more about coping and talents, not necessarily intelligence.

Side 2:  The traditional view of intelligence is too limiting. People show their intelligence in a number of different areas. People who have book intelligence, which is often exemplified in linguistic and mathematical skills, do not necessarily have "street smarts." In order for people to be truly intelligent they must have both.

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CHAPTER 5: Addressing Cultural and Socioeconomic Diversity

DEBATE TOPIC: What is the Best Approach to Bilingual Education?


Traditionally, bilingual education programs have taken either a transition or maintenance approach. In both cases, non-English-speaking students are provided instruction separate from their English-speaking classmates. In recent years, a third approach has gained popularity. This program, called bilingual/immersion, involves providing all students, English-speaking and non-English-speaking, instruction in both English and the minority language.

Side 1:  Non-English-speaking children should be instructed separate from their English classmates so that they can receive the extra support they need. This instruction should focus first on their native language and then move to English.

Side 2:  Non-English-speaking students should not be taught in separate classrooms. Rather, they should be taught with their classmates. Children of all languages can benefit from exposure to and instruction in multiple languages.

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CHAPTER 6: Accommodating Student Variability

DEBATE TOPIC: Is Ability Grouping an Effective Strategy?


Ability grouping is popular practice among educators today. The idea is that children of similar abilities will be taught together as one group rather than trying to teach the same information to multiple ability levels. The most common types of ability grouping are between-class and within-class. Although ability grouping is a common practice, research has shown that the academic effects are minimal and the social effects are negative.

Side 1:  Ability grouping is a valuable instructional method because teachers can plan their instruction to be appropriate for students of similar ability levels. Teachers do not have to try to present curricula to multiple ability levels at once. In addition, ability grouping may also benefit the students because they are working with other students who are experiencing the same types of accomplishments and challenges.

Side 2:  Research on ability grouping has found limited academic benefits. In addition, the benefits are generally found with only the higher ability groups. In contrast, there is considerable research and anecdotal information about the negative effects ability grouping has on the self-esteem of children in low ability groups.

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CHAPTER 7: Behavioral Learning Theory: Operant Conditioning

DEBATE TOPIC: Is Rewarding Students for Learning Appropriate?


Operant conditioning theorists argue that all behaviors are influenced by the consequences that follow. Consequences that strengthen a behavior are called reinforcements. Consequences that weaken a behavior are called punishments. Based upon this research, many educators reinforce or reward their students to motivate them to learn.

Side 1:  Rewards are powerful motivators. Everywhere you look people do certain things for the rewards they bring. This is also the case in education. Teachers often find themselves faced with students who are not interested in learning. By using rewards, such as praise, teachers can often motivate students to learn.

Side 2:  Rewards produce nothing more than short-term compliance. When rewards are removed, students often revert back to old behaviors. In addition, rewards have the potential to undermine interest. Students may become so focused on the rewards that they fail to see the value and interest of what is being learned.  

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CHAPTER 8: Information-Processing Theory

DEBATE TOPIC: What Role Should Memorization Play in Education?


Much of our education system emphasizes memorization. For example, in elementary school students are expected to memorize spelling words and multiplication tables. In high school, the students memorize historical dates and element tables. What does this memorization teach our students about learning? Is memorization equivalent to understanding?

Side 1:  There are many basic facts that students must learn in order to develop higher level thinking skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving. Without these basic facts, the skills that students learn are relatively useless. One of the most efficient ways to learn many of these basic facts is through rote memorization.   

Side 2:  Rote memorization often results in short-term effects. That is, students often forget information that is learned through rote memorization fairly quickly after it is used. In contrast, students who augment their rote memorization techniques with strategies such as elaboration and organization remember the information much longer and are able to apply the information to a variety of settings. 

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CHAPTER 9: Social Cognitive Theory

DEBATE TOPIC: Should students be encouraged to regulate their own learning?


Self-regulated learning is a growing area in social cognitive theory. The idea that students can regulate their own learning and behaviors is one that is highly relevant to formal education. Although often viewed as a positive way of getting students involved in their own learning, there is no consensus on how self-regulated learning should be incorporated into class instruction.

Side 1: Students must be encouraged to regulate their own learning. Since our classrooms are full of students with different learning styles, we should not expect our teachers to be able to meet the various learning needs of their students on their own. If students are able to recognize their own needs and to seek out the appropriate resources, teachers will not have to rely on a one size fits all approach to instruction.

Side 2: Students are not the best ones to regulate their learning. The teacher is the expert in the classroom and to take this responsibility out of the teacher's hands is detrimental to student development. If students are left to regulate their own learning, they will ultimately resort to what is safe and familiar rather than experimenting with different skills and learning styles.

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CHAPTER 10: Constructivist Learning Theory, Problem Solving, and Transfer

DEBATE TOPIC: Is Discovery Learning an Effective Instructional Technique?


Discovery learning as an instructional approach has been around for many years, however, in recent years, teachers have tried to incorporate the technique more in their instruction. Discovery learning is based upon the theory of constructivism. Constructivism is based upon the idea that meaningful learning occurs when people actively create a personal interpretation of their experiences. Discovery learning is designed to support that active personal construction.

Side 1:  In discovery learning, children are given problems to solve. The idea is that they will discover the answers to their problems either independently or by engaging in group discussion. The teacher's role is largely that of a guide. Through children's active involvement in discovery learning, children are making learning more personally meaningful.

Side 2:  Discovery learning is a rather time-consuming approach to instruction. Children can learn the same types of information in a shorter amount of time if a more direct approach to instruction is utilized. In addition, since children are largely in control of their learning, they may learn inaccurate information, which would be counterproductive.

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CHAPTER 11: Approaches to Instruction

DEBATE TOPIC: Is Cooperative Learning an Effective Instructional Method?

Cooperative learning is an instructional approach that utilizes small groups of students working together to accomplish shared goals. Over the last 25 years, a number of different cooperative learning approaches have been proposed. As teachers become more familiar with these different approaches, cooperative learning is being implemented in more classrooms.

Side 1:  Cooperative learning is an important instructional approach because it teaches students how to work together. Research has shown that cooperative learning increases student self-esteem, student motivation, and student relationships. In today's business world, people are expected to be team players. Cooperative learning helps train students for this role. 

Side 2:  Cooperative learning has the potential to result in overly dependent students. If cooperative learning is not run well, some students may come to depend on their classmates to do all the work. This may cause animosity between group members.

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CHAPTER 12: Motivation

DEBATE TOPIC: What Role Should Teachers Play in Increasing Student Self-Esteem?

There is a considerable body of research explaining the relationship between self-esteem and achievement. Students with low self-esteem tend to be less motivated in school and as a result they tend to have lower achievement levels. Self-esteem is obviously very important. What should teachers do to increase self-esteem?

Side 1:  Research has shown that students with low self-esteem typically struggle in school. Teachers have a responsibility to help those students with low self-esteem. Teachers should try to do whatever they can to support their students. They should make an extra effort to praise their students for effort and improvement. They should also find ways to ensure that all of their students are experiencing success in the classroom.  

Side 2:  Many students come into classrooms with a lot of emotional baggage. Learning is the last thing they are interested in doing. Teachers have a responsibility to try and help these children, however, there is only so much that teachers can do. Teachers are not trained to be counselors. Rather, they are trained to provide students knowledge and information and facilitate their learning.   

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CHAPTER 13: Classroom Management

DEBATE TOPIC: What is the Best Leadership Style?


Teachers utilize a number of different leadership styles in the classroom. Some teachers prefer having complete control over the classroom while other teachers seem to allow their students to run the classroom. There has been discussion as to which approach is best.

Side 1:  "Don't smile until December." A common phrase used among teachers in the past, the idea still holds true today. If you want to maintain control of the classroom, you need to get student compliance. Also, it is much easier to be strict at the beginning of the year and become more laid back later. If you use the laid back approach first it is difficult to get control.  

Side 2:  The best way to maintain control of the classroom is to gain your students' respect. You do not gain respect through student compliance. You gain respect by presenting your expectations, by respecting your students, and by getting them involved in the management of the classroom.

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CHAPTER 14: Assessment of Classroom Learning

DEBATE TOPIC: What is the Most Effective Assessment Technique?


There are many different types of classroom assessment. The most commonly used assessments include written tests and performance tests. Written tests typically test a person's acquired knowledge and skills while performance tests measure a person's ability to use his/her knowledge and skills to solve problems or create products. Both approaches have their advocates and their critics.

Side 1:  Written tests are more effective than performance tests. Written tests are efficient. They take less time for students to take, meaning there is more time for learning. In addition, they are easy to score and the scoring is both reliable and valid.

Side 2:  Performance tests are more effective than written tests. Performance tests emphasize active responding by students; they test the process as well as the product. Also, they are more likely to approximate everyday tasks; typically, there is a close relationship between teaching and testing.

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CHAPTER 15: Understanding and Using Standardized Tests

DEBATE TOPIC: What Role Should Standardized Tests Play in Education?


Almost every state in the United States uses some type of standardized test to measure student achievement. In addition, by the year 2005, a national test will also be in place. Standardized test results are used for a variety of purposes besides student achievement. Currently, there is much debate over the appropriateness of these purposes.

Side 1:  Compared to many European and Asian countries, students in the United States score significantly lower on standardized tests of achievement. This means that in some places our educational systems are not being effective. One way we can determine this effectiveness is by using standardized tests. Standardized tests hold teachers, schools, and districts accountable for student learning.

Side 2:  Standardized tests are designed to measure student achievement (which some people question) not teacher, school, or district effectiveness. How well or poorly a student does on a standardized test may or may not have anything to do with the student's teacher, school, or district. It may be that the student did not take the test seriously or was not feeling well. There are too many potential factors involved to place blame anywhere.




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