Thursday, November 30, 2006

Spatial Dynamics: An Alternative Teaching Tool in the Social Studies

Spatial Dynamics: An Alternative Teaching Tool in the Social Studies. Do you use models to teach students history? For example, if you teach about the Battle of Gettysburg have you placed a large scale model of the battlefield on the floor so students can visualize it? Do you use ship models to demonstrate pirate navigation?

If not, you may want to consider trying it. This ERIC Digest by Carl L. Siler from 1998 discusses the concept of spatial dynamics and how it can be used to teach social study lessons to students. There are some good tips here for lesson planning.

From the site:

Spatial dynamics is an instructional strategy wherein students create large-scale models that capture their interest by allowing them to participate in learning. That participation is maximized because students help design and construct the models. Spatial dynamics activities motivate and enhance the learning of students of all ability levels and grade levels. Learning styles not accommodated by more traditional teaching methods are addressed by spatial dynamics. For example, concrete sequential learners prefer direct, hands-on activities; a spatial dynamics classroom activity provides abundant opportunities for such learners. Spatial dynamics activities also demonstrate a teacher's enthusiasm and commitment to the subject, which further motivates students and yields high-level cognition and learning.

Teachers who use only one teaching style day after day are denying opportunities for achievement to their students who may learn more effectively through a variety of teaching approaches. Furthermore, those teachers quickly become stale and boring to students. The students then perceive the subject matter as uninteresting when it is not the subject matter that is boring, but the teacher's instructional style. Teacher creativity is essential to enhance the educational experience in the classroom, but it is also needed to keep teachers and their students active as learners. Spatial dynamics activities enhance student learning in ways that traditional classroom instruction does not.

In 1994, the National Council for the Social Studies published EXPECTATIONS OF EXCELLENCE: CURRICULUM STANDARDS FOR SOCIAL STUDIES as a statement of purpose and standards for the social studies. In a section of this document on teaching and learning, a "powerful" social studies curriculum was advocated--one that would maximally enhance student achievement. A "powerful" social studies curriculum was identified as one with solid content, containing various instructional approaches and active learning experiences. Spatial dynamics is part of this "powerful" social studies curriculum because it is based on sound social studies content, involves a unique instructional approach, and allows for active learning. "Powerful" social studies teaching, then, requires teachers who can create and implement various creative curriculum plans that actively involve students in the learning process. Finally, exemplary teachers use a variety of instructional techniques, including physical examples. Using spatial dynamics, classroom teachers can easily develop activities which provide physical examples. Spatial dynamics, therefore, is one aspect of a "powerful" social studies curriculum.

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