Methods Courses

Building on what students have learned in foundations courses, methods courses tend to focus more closely on processes and procedures for teaching specific student populations or for teaching specific disciplines. This report details how faculty are using TT materials in two major types of methods courses: in a course supporting work with English language learners (ELLs) and in a social studies methods course. This report includes case studies that show how faculty worked with pre-service teachers and with teachers already in the classroom, using TT resources to incorporate cutting-edge practices throughout their coursework. While each of the practices detailed here might be adapted to suit other methods courses, the section also includes comments from faculty incorporating TT materials into their preparation for future STEM and ELA teachers.


Supporting Teachers of ELL Students

Claremont Graduate University (CGU) is a small, private school on the eastern edge of Los Angeles County. It is part of the Claremont Colleges Consortium, a group of collaboratively organized but independent undergraduate and graduate schools. CGU is unusual in that it is not directly affiliated with an undergraduate program. Its teacher education program is part of the School of Education Studies, which also has M.A., Ph.D. and Ed.D. offerings. CGU provides credentialing for new and experienced teachers.

Danielle Centano is the coordinator of CGU’s teacher induction program. (Under California’s two-tier credentialing system, educators with a bachelor’s degree can begin teaching after completing a preliminary training program and passing examinations. After a few years in the classroom, they return for an induction program, like Centano’s, to clear their preliminary credential.) She is also a coordinator for the preliminary program, providing substantial support for clinical work, ensuring school site support and working with master teachers.

Centano uses TT resources and publications in both CGU’s preliminary program and its induction program. In the preliminary program, TT’s film kit and documentary Bullied feature prominently in the program’s sections on mental health and school climate. Centano also reports that she shares the Social Justice Standards with candidates and with support providers at school sites. “I give them the Teaching Tolerance website resources and specifically ask them to look at the anti-bias curriculum,” she said, “so that they will think about how that might be something that they can work with their candidates on applying to their curriculum.”

TT materials feature most prominently, however, as support for educators working with English language learners. CGU claims a diverse group of teachers who teach at some of the nation’s most diverse schools and serve a large population of ELLs. According to Centano, it is essential the program infuses social justice into the ELL curriculum:

Studies show that our English language learners really are trailing behind their English-proficient peers. There’s a wide gap in achievement. We might not be giving all students the access to be successful that they need. To me, that is absolutely a social justice issue when we have students who are here and want to learn but don’t have access to the curriculum in order to be successful. That’s a big problem. I want our teachers to be aware that that is indeed the fact that these students, while they might be sharing resources and curriculum with them, these students don’t have access to it. It’s their job to provide the scaffolding and to provide the supports and resources so that every student that they work with does have access to the curriculum and can be successful.

In 2016, Centano taught ELD Rigor and Relevance, a class designed to help teacher candidates support ELLs. As the course title suggests, using these materials helps her students refuse the false dichotomy between rigor and relevance. This example shows how TT materials may be integrated into a methods class focused on reaching English language learners. The readings list features several TT publications as required and recommended texts. Centano’s students read The Trump Effect, “10 Myths About Immigration” and Critical Practices for Anti-Bias Education. They began the class with exploration of hidden bias, engaging in a conversation about how bias affects the ways teachers plan, approach instruction, and think about their students. Centano included The Trump Effect (TT’s report on the effect of the 2016 election on schools and classroom culture) because she expected her students would need to be able to engage in difficult conversations with children from immigrant families or who might be immigrants themselves.

The ability to navigate these core social justice questions is at the heart of how CGU envisions its teacher education programs. “We don’t just prepare teachers,” said Centano. “We prepare socially just teachers. That means our mission is aligned with Teaching Tolerance’s mission.” Centano says she and the teachers she works with have come to rely on TT as a reliable source for timely information: “I find that Teaching Tolerance is a place that I know is going to help to further our mission,” she said, “and provide us the tools and the resources that we need to provide timely and current social justice resources to our students.”


Centering Social Justice in Social Studies Methods

A few time zones away, Teaching Tolerance materials were used to structure a different type of methods course at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. The institution has a large teacher education program dedicated to placing teachers in diverse schools across the islands. In Hawai’i, new teachers can earn a credential without a graduate degree, although many new teachers are also in graduate coursework after pursuing subject-specific majors.

Amber Makaiau, a faculty member, is a long-time supporter of TT who has served on the program’s advisory board. In 2016, she made TT resources the heart of a professional development course for teachers districtwide. She also helped the UH Mānoa Institute for Teacher Education design its Secondary Program around the Social Justice Standards. For their culminating project, all students must now complete a final portfolio assignment that is assessed using the standards.

Makaiau integrates TT materials into all of her classes. But she made the program’s resources the centerpiece of her class Teaching in the Subject Field: Social Studies, a class that reaches graduate and undergraduate students alike. This methods course is designed to teach cohesive unit planning, provide a solid foundation for an anti-bias, social justice teaching experience, and prepare teachers for the broad array of topics they will encounter in the social studies. She explained:

Basically, how I structure my methods class is that I start with looking at this idea of building community and what does it mean to be a culturally responsive teacher, and that’s at the heart of where you’re starting in your work as a social studies teacher:  creating an intellectually safe environment, creating strategies for building community, getting to know who your students are, and then building these relationships with the students. From there comes curriculum design. That is the art of balancing, taking standards and national standards, knowing who your students are, and then creating curriculum from there.

Makaiau found that TT materials met her pedagogical and practical goals as an instructor. “Perspectives for a Diverse America was the perfect marriage of all of these theoretical foundations for the purpose of social studies that is related to culturally responsive teaching and cultural and social justice education,” she said. “We have to teach students how to backwards-plan understanding by design. Perspectives brought those two worlds together and it was the perfect activity for me to do introductory lessons with my students.”

A closer look at Makaiau’s syllabus reveals her investment in teaching the significance of planning units, rather than individual lessons. In place of what can be a piecemeal approach to lesson planning, she wants her students to leave her class with the ability to plan in broad arcs that serve multiple learning objectives. Because TT encourages educators to begin with essential questions and plan backward through culminating activities, the program’s materials serve this goal—a goal that Makaiau thinks should be at the heart of social studies instruction writ large.

TT’s resources and tools stand out from other online curricula—particularly among free resources—because they serve as a bridge from the more mechanistic aspects of instruction to the more applied and activist aspects. Makaiau’s experience shows that professors could use the program’s collection of texts, strategies and tasks to teach the entire suite of social studies methods up to and including “taking informed action”—for her, an experience “at the heart and soul of social studies education.” Makaiau’s methods class shows how faculty can use TT’s resources to scaffold their students’ learning from the elementary (e.g., designing essential questions) to the advanced (e.g., constructing complex culminating tasks). Although Makaiau’s students relied on Perspectives, the resources and Learning Plan Builder now housed on preserve these essential capabilities.

For Makaiau, the purpose of the methods course is to provide new teachers with opportunities to learn about effective strategies and approaches to their subject matter. This involves more “nuts and bolts” teaching, providing guidance and methods for teaching vocabulary, running a community inquiry, leading a close and critical reading of a text and encouraging students to take informed action. It is difficult to expose students to all of these strategies in just one semester. For Makaiau, the resources available through TT’s website provided one way to do so. “It gives them multiple strategies and activities that students can do to do vocabulary and word work, or how to read close and critical reading of text,” she says. When students express concern about how to lead discussions in their classes, Makaiau refers them to the “community inquiry” section of the teaching strategies outlined on, so her students can immediately have time-tested tools at their fingertips.

TT resources economize time, Makaiau reports, and they help her achieve the broad coverage required by a methods course. But they also allow her to foreground anti-bias education in her class. Often, anti-bias and social justice work is sidelined into elective courses rather than integrated across the teaching curriculum. But in Makaiau’s classes, students learn that this work is foundational to their pedagogy. “You’re going to need to show how to teach in a diverse classroom; you’re going to need to have a multicultural lens,” she said. “Why don’t you just start there? Teaching Tolerance materials allow you to begin with social justice approaches to topics like classroom management, and that should just be the way that teachers learn how to teach, not something extra that gets added on.” Makaiau said that incorporating TT resources makes her “feel like I’m doing a better job as a methods instructor because they hit every single thing that I’m responsible to teach my students.”

Makaiau notes that the higher education environment is different, and often more siloed, than the K–12 environment in which TT normally works. “University professors are their own entities,” she said. “If you can reach them, you’re lucky.” She believes, however, that a number of university professors would use a variety of Teaching Tolerance tools if they saw them. “They would be, like, holy mackerel! I want to use this in my course!”

These methods classes show that Teaching Tolerance tools allow faculty to bridge rigor and relevance, foregrounding diveristy and anti-bias work while also providing detailed instruction in subject- or student-specific teaching methods. Access to free texts and strategies, combined with planning tools that allow teachers to build lessons online, provides substantial benefits to new teachers who may be uncertain about how to prepare rigorous units for their classes.

Many schools of education require enrichment courses designed to help future educators build diverse and inclusive classrooms and school communities. These classes, addressing topics such as multicultural education or culturally responsive teaching, typically work to equip teachers to engage with diverse student populations. The majority of the courses profiled in this report are enrichment courses.


Teaching Tolerance for STEM Teachers

At Fairleigh Dickinson University, Khyati Joshi uses TT resources to reach out to students across disciplines. Working to support future STEM teachers, she has them crosswalk, the next-generation science standards and The Social Justice Standards to identify overlap and map science curriculum to anti-bias education goals and outcomes. While this work is in its early stages, she plans to continue finding ways to incorporate TT resources for future teachers, describing the materials as "quality I can count on."


Teaching Tolerance in English Methods Courses

At Southern Connecticut State University, Meredith Sinclair uses TT materials in her Secondary English Methods classes. Sinclair reported that students appreciate the practicality of the materials and that TT resources help her move from theoretical conversations to K–12 application with her pre-service teacher candidates. She said her students appreciate the articles featured on the site, which provide concrete examples of activism and which are easy to include but still offer big take-aways. The ability to provide concrete examples of classroom practice is a critical component of her teacher preparation program, and Sinclair noted that TT is a trustworthy source of those examples.

Sinclair hopes to develop a module for other SCSU education faculty around social justice pedagogy, which will explicitly include The Social Justice Standards as well as tools that prepare students to incorporate the Learning Plan Builder into their lesson planning. Recognizing that educators work in a standards-driven climate, Sinclair knows that teachers feel pressure to be accountable to academic standards. She appreciates how TT materials align with Common Core standards. “Perspectives also aligns to what [National Council of Teachers of English] is doing around equity and inclusion,” Sinclair noted, “and accreditation requires the university to think about equity and inclusion not only in practical ways but also in concrete ways. Teaching Tolerance materials help us do this.” At California State University, Fresno, Selena Van Horn incorporates a range of TT resources in her K–8 Writing class. Self-reflection is a key instructional goal for Van Horn, and one she sees as central to strong instruction. Before a teacher can facilitate an open dialogue about gender identity with students, for example, they must already understand their own gender identity. Van Horn uses TT materials to help veteran and pre-service educators explore their own identies in preparation for classroom discussions about marginalized identities and identity groups.

Van Horn also uses TT materials to support her students as they learn to navigate systems and honor student identities. She aims to equip future teachers with ways to make change in public education for the good of all students and student identity groups. She said she looks to Teaching Tolerance because the resources are not centered on whiteness, but reflect and respect all identities. 

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