Resource-Based Learning: What is It?
Resource-based learning is an approach to learning which a) actively involves the student in the center of all learning activities, b) is dependent on the articulation of process and content objectives and c) requires deliberate planning so that multiple resources and varied teaching strategies are incorporated in all plans (Brown, 82). The teacher is not the source of all knowledge but rather a facilitator. This unit was designed using this philosophy.
Applying Content and Process (or Performance) Standards as a Framework for Learning
The Christmas Campaign of 1776: Many Voices
integrates the content and performance standards for tenth grade American history students as presented in the Board of Education document "Higher Standards for Social Studies,"
New Haven Public Schools Academic Performance Standards
. Expectations are that students will "gain a basic knowledge of American culture through a chronological study of major issues, movements, people, and events." More specifically the content standards state that "students will discuss key battles, military turning points, and strategic decisions" and "students will discuss …the individuals who provided leadership in the Revolution." In addition tenth grade American history students should demonstrate competency in a variety of performance standards such as the ability to "gather historical information from multiple primary and secondary sources." New Haven's Information Literacy Curriculum also expects students to become "information literate," able to access, evaluate, and use information.
Using Multiple Resources in History Teaching
Students typically see history as the study of "what happened way back then" and "just give me the facts, ma'am". Robert Darnton, professor of history at Princeton University, states that "students arrive in class with the illusion that we've got history pretty much under control. It's in books they think: hard facts bound between hard cover" (Darnton, 15). Through using multiple sources primary and secondary print, non-print, electronic and human students can better understand why "what really happened" can be furiously debated, both at the time of the event and even now.
Today's history textbooks do not look like the text-heavy editions of the past. They feature more illustrations and more references to primary sources. Reproductions of maps, engravings, prints, portraits, money, as well as excerpts from journals, diaries, documents, etc. are common. Photographs of artifacts such as weapons, tools and food are also featured. There are references to historic places, architecture, music, stories, folklore the building blocks of history.
Primary sources materials created by people who were witnesses or participants are no longer found only in reference libraries, museums, and historical societies. Many documents have been digitized and accessible on the Internet, including audio and video clips. Students can visit virtual museums and libraries, historical sites, archives, etc. and find primary source materials in abundance. Diaries and journals, maps, photographs, and other images and words from the past are important, and too often underutilized sources for students.
Secondary sources like monographs, reference materials, chronologies, atlases, videos, magazines, etc. are also important to history students. An overview in a general encyclopedia is a good place to find basic information who, what, where, when, why about a topic. A book about the topic will probably include a list of works cited or a bibliography that identifies additional resources.
Movies and videos are useful sources, especially for visual learners. Teachers using videos, however, must present thoughtful and structured activities that reinforce viewing as another way of gathering information and not just a means of entertainment.
As we can see, the materials useful in a history curriculum are varied and history instruction should reflect it. In this unit students will use history paintings, portraits, maps, videos, journals, letters, digitized books, a virtual museum, general and reference books about the period, biographies, websites, magazine articles, and other resources both primary and secondary. See Resources for Classroom and Student Use.
The teacher/s must make the decision as to whether these resources will be organized and available to students (photocopies of articles, printouts of webpages, reserved book collections, a list of possible Internet sites, etc.) or located by the students independently. This is in part a time management issue. There are occasions when class time is better spent in working with materials and other times where "location and access" are important skills to be taught and applied.
Primary sources fascinate students because they are real and they are personal; history is humanized through them. Through using original sources, students touch the lives of the people about whom history is written. They participate in human emotions and in the values and attitudes of the past.
Students can use primary sources to study and interpret the past just as historians do. By doing so, they will do more than just absorb information; they can learn to analyze, evaluate, recognize bias and contradiction, and weigh the significance of evidence. They can also better understand that there can be multiple perspectives on issues. Working with primary sources helps students develop knowledge, skills, and analytical abilities. Students learn to ask questions, think critically, make intelligent inferences, and develop reasoned explanations and interpretations of events and issues in the past. Constructing their own understanding of people, events and ideas can bring history alive.
Students who use primary sources must learn new skills in order to unlock these witnesses from the past. See the lessons for some ideas.
Using History Paintings and Portraits
Reproductions of many paintings and portraits are now included in American history textbooks. Three of the texts used by students in New Haven pubic schools include Paul Revere's engraving of the Boston Massacre in full color with the red of the British uniforms repeating in the blood of the fallen patriots. John Trumbull's
The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker's Hill, June 17, 1775
The Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776
The Surrender at Yorktown
are found in most texts. And it is a rare textbook that does not include one of the most famous history paintings of all,
Washington Crossing the Delaware
by Emanuel Leutze.
A typical response to art is to make a quick and personal judgment. In this unit students will learn to examine a painting or portrait (as they would other sources) in a thoughtful and productive way. One approach to studying art and artifacts is "object analysis", a technique developed by Dr. Jules Prown and explored in this seminar "Art As Evidence: The Interpretation of Objects."
"Object analysis" is a three step process. In step one "description" the viewer observes the evidence presented within the object itself. The viewer does an inventory or list of all subject matter, large or small. This is the time to be totally objective, with the purpose being to record all visual information. In the following steps, this information may or may not be informative. The viewer next analyzes the painting in terms of its formal structure (two- and three-dimensional) as well as color, light, texture.
In step two "deduction" the viewer examines the evidence in order to support deductions. Here the focus moves from the object itself to the relationship between the object and the viewer. The viewer imagines what it would be like to be "in" the picture, sensually, intellectually and emotionally. It is not at all unusual to find that the emotional response is shared among a painting's viewers. Again, the viewer should identify those descriptive elements that cause the response.
The third and last step is "speculation" which moves completely to the mind of the viewer. After reviewing the information developed in the two preceding steps, the viewer develops theories and hypotheses. From these theories and hypotheses research questions can be developed (Prown, 9).
In this unit, students will examine three history paintings related to the battles at Trenton and Princeton (including the crossing of the Delaware) and two full-length portraits of General George Washington. The teacher/s will model the process and then students will apply it.
Object Analysis Applied to
General Washington at Princeton
by Charles Willson Peale.
This example of object analysis is in narrative form in order to give the reader a sense of the painting and also what the intellectual process would look like. In the classroom the teacher and/or students would begin by listing objects in the painting. From that list deductions would be made and questions developed.
In the foreground, General George Washington, in full uniform, looks directly at the viewer as he stands casually with his left hand resting on a cannon barrel on a gun carriage. Behind him is a military figure holding the reins of a brown horse and a flag with thirteen six-pointed white stars on a blue field. In the dirt in the left foreground is a crumpled red flag and in the right foreground two multi-colored flags drape off the cannon and into the dirt.
In the middle ground two male military figures in blue uniforms approach on horseback. In the background a column of fourteen military figures (each in blue has an upraised sword and there are nine in red) march from left to right. Behind them are a wooden fence and seven buildings of which one is large and with a distinctive projecting porch and cupola.
The scene portrayed is after the conclusion of a battle. The evidence is this: three captured flags tossed or dragging on the ground while another flag waves proudly; a small group of soldiers in blue uniforms and with swords drawn surround and guard another group of soldiers in red uniforms as they march out of sight. We see the victors and the vanquished.
We can also deduce that the time of year is late fall/winter/early spring (bare tree branches) and that the background with its setting of large building with its distinctive cupola and porch depicts an actual place.
Speculation/Questions for further research
Keeping in mind that our objectives for this unit are to identify key battles, turning points, strategic decisions and learn about the leadership abilities of General George Washington and others, here are some questions that can focus further research:
Questions about the Military Operation
• What was the strategic role of cannons and other artillery in this battle?
• What was the strategic role of the cavalry in this battle?
• What were the personal armaments (swords, musket, handgun, bayonet, pike, etc.) and uniforms of an officers and enlisted men like and did these change/improve during the war?
• Which of the nine Principles of War (mass, objective, surprise, economy of force, maneuver, unity of command, security, and simplicity) (9 Principles of War) favored the Americans in this battle? Which favored the British?
• Did the building with the distinctive architecture play an important or interesting role in the battle?
Questions about the artist and painting
• Why was this portrait painted? What was Charles Willson Peale's relationship with Washington?
• When was this portrait painted and is that of significance?
• What was the response to this painting?
The unit will be team-taught by an American history teacher and a library media specialist. The benefits of team teaching are well-known. Students have access to a "bigger brain." The classroom teacher brings an in-depth knowledge of curriculum content and of the students; the library media specialist contributes an understanding of the research process, particularly in regards to accessing, evaluating and using information, especially primary sources.
There is also an improved student/teacher ratio, always helpful in supervision. Different groupings become possible. One of the adults can work with a smaller group, introducing or reinforcing skills. Or the library media specialist can help students with Internet research while the classroom teacher assists with the other resources. Team teaching also makes continuity more likely, especially in the event of teacher or library media specialist absence the show goes on. And the adults can support each other!
Team teaching requires collaboration. From initial planning to final assessment of the students and the unit, collaboration between the library media specialist and teacher is very important. The planning process begins with a discussion of objectives, content, possible products, potential resources and technologies, learning activities, a timeline, skills needed (including skills to be taught), instructional arrangements (large, group, small group, individual, for example) and assessment. They create an essential or "big" question that will guide the research. The teacher and the library media specialist divide responsibilities. For example, the classroom teacher might group students and communicate with parents while the library media specialist locates and organizes resources. Both teach skills and supervise.