Social Context

Education 3603                               Course Guide                                   Spring 2003


Instructor:     Robert Runté      Office: B-850        Phone: 329-2454         email            

Secretary:     Barb Krushel      Office: B-868        Phone: 329-2260         Fax:  (403) 329-2252

Schedule       Mondays/Wednesdays 1-4 PM       Room B730

Class listserve:                    Instructor Website:

Kid Culture website:



Course Goals


By the end of the module, students will be able to:


1.     Identify examples of how the social context influences the type of schooling we offer, the way we perceive and treat the student population, and the way we perceive ourselves as teachers.


2.     Identify examples of how television, advertising, (rock) music, video games, the World Wide Web, toys, comic books, sports, shopping malls, and other elements of popular culture influence what and how children learn (that is, contain their own “implicit curriculum”).


3.     Recognize that knowledge is socially constructed by identifying examples of how both popular culture and the schools function to create a consensus that reinforces the status quo. 


4.     Identify examples of how schools — in spite of our stated intention to help every child develop to his or her fullest potential — may actually serve to perpetuate gender, ethnic, and class inequalities.


5.     Recognize that sufficient contradictions exist within popular culture, the schools, and the other institutions of society to allow teachers and students opportunities for an education that is liberating and fulfilling, and that teachers therefore have a responsibility to eschew indoctrination or training which is limiting and constraining.


6.     Examine the assumptions underlying their approach to teaching, to think through the wider implications of their beliefs and actions, and so become reflective practitioners.


7.     Refine, redefine, and articulate their own unique vision of teaching, their subject matter, and their purpose in light of the ever-changing context, new knowledge, and their own experiences.


8.     Be prepared as professionals to continue to function in the face of uncertainty, rather than to seek simplistic solutions to complex issues.


9.     Recognize that many of their colleagues will be operating on the basis of different values, that these differing beliefs may lead to different approaches to teaching, and that the teaching profession and the school system need to accommodate a variety of philosophies if the needs of all students are to be met.


10.   Understand the role and importance of the Foundation disciplines (sociology, history, and philosophy) in professional development.


11.   Demonstrate certain of the provincially mandated technology outcomes (as listed on next page) including web page composition.


Provincially Mandated KSAs Related to Education 3603


The Minister of Education has established a list of knowledge, skills, and attributes (KSAs) required for Interim Certification as a classroom teacher in Alberta.  Graduates may be asked to document that they possess these KSAs, and to this end, the KSAs applicable to the Education 3603 module of Professional Semester II are listed below


1.     Teacher’s application of pedagogical knowledge and abilities is based on their ongoing analysis of contextual variables (Course objectives 1-4)


2.     Teachers understand the legislated, moral and ethical framework within which they work (Course objective 1).


6.     Teachers create and maintain environments that are conducive to student learning            (Course Objective 5).


10.   Teachers establish and maintain partnerships among school, home and community, and within their own school. (Course objectives 5 & 9)


11. Teachers are career-long learners (Course objectives 6, 7, 8 & 10).


[For detailed descriptors, see “Relevant Excerpts from Appendix A: Descriptors of Quality Teaching”,  An Integrated Framework to Enhance the Quality of Teaching in Alberta, the second reading in the course manual.]



Provincially Mandated Technology Outcomes in Ed 3603


Foundational Operations, Knowledge and Concepts

F. 4 Students will become discerning consumers of mass media and electronic information

(Ed 3603 Topic II).


Processes for Productivity

P. 1 Students will compose, revise and edit (all assignments).

P. 2 Students will organize and manipulate data (all assignments)

P. 3 Students will communicate through multimedia (class presentations and web assignments)

P. 5 Students will navigate (most assignment options) and create hyperlinked resources (web page assignment).

P. 6 Students will use communication technology to interact with others (web page assignment)


Communicating, Inquiring, Decision making and Problem Solving

C. 1 Students will access, use and communicate information from a variety of technologies (most assignment options).

C. 2 Students will seek alternative viewpoints, using information technologies (all assignments)

C. 3 Students will critically assess information accessed through the use of a variety of technologies (all assignments)

C. 4 Students will use organizational processes and tools to manage inquiry (most assignment options).

C. 5 Students will use technology to aid collaboration during inquiry

C. 6 Students will use technology to investigate and/or solve problems (most assignment options).

C. 7 Students will use electronic research techniques to construct personal knowledge and meaning (most assignment options).


Introductory Statement


Getting The Big Picture



There is a natural tendency for beginning teachers, preoccupied with the demands of their practicum placements, to focus almost entirely on the “how to” knowledge necessary for survival in the classroom. Important as this craft knowledge is, it is not sufficient. Just as there is a difference between “training” and “education”, there is a difference between the teacher who is satisfied to remain a technician and the teacher who goes on to become a fully autonomous professional.


The teacher-technician simply applies his “how to” knowledge to train students as directed by the central bureaucracy. Because the teacher-technician limits his attention to the isolated context of the classroom,


he is ill equipped to anticipate, understand, and address those issues that constantly press in on him from the “outside”. He often complains, for example, that he cannot understand where his students are coming from, but sees this as the students‘ problem rather than his own.  Because he conceives of teaching as the application of a series of “how to” formulae, he seldom thinks to question the curriculum (Why these particular skills? Why this particular knowledge and not some other?) or the status quo. Unwilling or unable to explore the implications of his actions beyond the classroom, he is vulnerable to the manipulation of those in power, such that instead of educating, his teaching can easily degenerate into indoctrination.


In contrast, the fully professional educator realizes that her classroom does not exist in a vacuum, and that the ability to examine and understand the larger social context in which we operate is crucial to our success as educators. How can we hope to have any impact on our students‘ lives if we know nothing of the forces that influence their thinking outside our classrooms? How can we create an environment that will allow each individual to develop to their fullest potential if we remain blissfully unaware of the systematic but subtle influences that gender, ethnic origin, and social class still have on the education students receive? How can we even begin to address the problems facing the school system, such as the dropout rate, if we simply focus on (i.e., blame) the individual student without seeing the larger pattern that connects the dropout rate to changes in school policy, the economy, and peer culture?


Thus, the fully professional educator is not content with just getting her subject across to her students, but is informed about and actively involved in formulating a response to the social trends shaping her society, her school, and her students. While her background in the teacher's craft is as strong as that of the teacher-technician, she goes beyond mere mastery of technique to the broader and more fundamental step of goal setting. By refusing to lose herself in the day to day minutia of the classroom, by understanding the social context in which she functions well enough to identify the real needs and motives of her students, she is able to carve out a niche in which real education can occur.


This module, then, is an attempt to introduce you to the “big picture”.






The Role of Uncertainty in Reflective Practice


This course is deliberately designed (objective 8) to avoid providing pat answers to complex issues. When I say there are no right answers in this course, I mean that I have consciously chosen not to provide solutions to the problems posed. We will spend some class time brainstorming possible approaches to some of the issues raised, but I will consider this course a success if you leave with more questions than answers.  Some students find that this approach can be disconcerting or discouraging, but I hope to demonstrate that that a true professional is someone who is prepared to take a stand and act even in the face of uncertainty (objective 8). 


It is also important to remember that when I or others question your statements in this class, this is not intended as an attack on you or your opinions (objective 9). Rather, it is an invitation to expand on your initial statement. (Note that I said "when", not "if" I question your position — I will strive to continually challenge you to expand on your arguments and to reach deeper.) In other situations, when people ask you why you believe something, or ask you how you respond to facts that could be interpreted as evidence against your position, they are trying to get you to change your mind.  That is not usually the case in this class. Instead, the goal is for you to be able to formulate and articulate your own position more clearly. This module will strive to ensure that you have examined the underlying assumptions on which your philosophy of teaching is based, and that you have thought through the implications of your position (objective 6), so that you can become a more effective spokesperson for what you believe (objective 7). 


I believe that great teaching is always grounded in a personal vision: a commitment to a consistent set of ideas, skills, attitudes or approaches that constitute the individuals’ unique contribution to the growth of their students. One objective of this course (#7) is to help you to begin to articulate your own professional vision.



Professional Standards


For this class to be successful, discussion must be both professional and collegial. To ensure that every student feels safe to express opinions and to share personal experiences, please observe the following guidelines:


     Experiences shared and opinions expressed within this class are to be considered confidential;  colleagues' statements are not to be repeated outside the classroom.


     When sharing experiences, do not provide identifying details such as school, teacher, or community names. (Instead of "my practicum in Stavely" say "my practicum in a rural school"; instead of "Mrs. Dobson" say, "a teacher I once had"; etc...)


     Ensure that your responses to other's statements are directed at their arguments, rather than the speaker personally. Avoid judgmental comments. (For example, do not say, "That's stupid!" Instead, say, "I disagree. My concern with that approach would be...." or "One disadvantage of that approach might be..." and so on.)


     Avoid using non-inclusive language, or making statements which could be interpreted as racist, sexist, ableist, or otherwise stereotyping.


·      Just as you must not make statements that will undermine the self-esteem of your own students (KSA #6), you must respect the rights of colleagues to differing opinions (objective 9).


Topic Guide

*Canadian resources indicated by an asterisk



I.   Introduction:  Why Social Context?


1.  How Social Context Will Help You in Your Practicum


When an adolescent angrily confronts you in the classroom, should you always take it personally?  Remember that students have lives outside your classroom, and what happens to them out there will often affect how they interact with you. How do you keep things in perspective? Understanding the neighbourhood in which you are teaching, the values and backgrounds your students bring with them, and where school and your particular class fit into their lives, will help you be better prepared. (KSA s #1, & 11)


Videos:            Dead Poets Society

                        Lean on Me


2.  How Social Context Will Help You Become a Reflective Practitioner


What knowledge, skills and attitudes are necessary to be certified as a teacher in Alberta?  To be successful in the Faculty of Education? To become a reflective practitioner? Is there a difference between technical training and education? If the purpose of education is to make one more interesting to oneself and others, how interesting are you?


Readings:        Ed 3603 Course Guide (read and understand this document in detail) *

R. Runté, “Introduction” from Thinking About Teaching* (optional reading)

Alberta Education,  KSAs [Excerpt Relevant to Ed 3603]* (optional reading)

                        Susan Ohanian, “On-Stir-and-Serve Recipes for Teaching”

Linton Weeks, “The No-Book Report: Skim It and Weep"



II.  Students and the Media

(KSA #1, Technology Outcome F.4)


The average student spends more time in front of the TV then they do in school. What is the media teaching our kids? Understanding our competition may help us better understand our own role.


1.   Media Content: The “Hidden Curriculum”


      Case Study #1:  Advertising


Advertising is designed to sell products, but its images necessarily teach children (and adults) about the world — and it is not always clear that these are the lessons we want our children to learn. For example, all educators recognize that it is much more difficult to teach children who have low self-esteem, yet advertising often attempts to sell us products by playing on our insecurities and repeatedly emphasizing imagined inadequacies: are you an unsuspecting victim of static cling?  So aside from the obvious commercial message, what else is advertising teaching us? What is the nature of this informal curriculum?


      Video:    Still Killing Us Softly


Case Study # 2:  Television News


We tend to think of the news as educational, but there is a thin line between information and indoctrination. Is there a hidden agenda in our news? As future social studies teachers, do we have a responsibility to counteract media bias? Do we have a responsibility to teach media literacy? Do we have a role to play in helping students interpret and cope with traumatic events like those of Sept 11 or does our responsibility end with the curriculum?


      Video:        How To Sell A War (CBC) *


Case Study #3:      Television Violence


Do television (or other media) portrayals of violence contribute to the increasing number of violent incidents in schools? Does television teach our children that violence is an acceptable way to solve one’s problems? Does censoring Road Runner cartoons to eliminate the violence help promote a safer, saner society?


Reading:                Marcia Kaye, “Reel to Real Violence”

Gerard Jones, “Why Kids Need Violent Entertainment: Bring on The Toy Guns, Head-Bonking Cartoons, And Bloody Video Games”

                                    Henry Jenkins, [Testifies to Congress on Video Game Violence]

Video Excerpt:       Power Rangers




2.   The Media as Process: The Medium Is the Message


Canadian sociologist Marshall McLuhan became famous in the 1960s for popularizing the idea that simply by existing, the media changed everything. Forget the content, the mere process of television viewing or Internet surfing may change how our students interact with the world.


Case Study #1:      Viewing / Reading / Surfing


Readings:        Eleanor MacLean, “Television” and "Violence and Television" from Between

the Lines*

                        Marie Winn, “The Trouble With Television”

                        Daniel R, Anderson, “How Television Influences Your Child”

                        Don Oldenburg, Boob Tube and Children's Brain Drain

                              "Is AOL's Filter a Republican?"

Online:            Young Canadians in a Wired World (Not in the course reader; go to webaware/home.htm)*



Case Study #2:      Identify Formation


Much of growing up is figuring out who one is and how one fits in. How do the media shape or distort this process?


Readings:        Jocko “The Stickman Trial”*

Sheila Manohar, Dynamite! The Explosion of Teen Magazines In and Out of


Jane O'Dea, “Youthful Violence and the Quest for Identity in a Media-Saturated Age: Disturbing Thoughts for Educators”*


3.   Education and the Media


Can education and television peacefully coexist? Can educators use television to their own ends by producing programs that teach the alphabet rather than advertising jingles? Can educators safely invite cable television into their classrooms, or is even two minutes of advertising a betrayal of our mandate? And does the TV generation have different expectations for education — expectations that force teachers into a losing competition with television entertainers?


Readings:        Jane O'Dea, “Teaching as Entertainment: A Comment on a Twentieth Century Phenomenon” *



III. Students and Counter Culture

(KSA #1, Technology Outcome F4.)


Case Study: Rock Music


Is rock music a genuine reflection of adolescent culture and aspirations or merely a cynically manipulated commercial product? Should parents and teachers dismiss rock as a harmless expression of teenage rebellion, or seek to control and limit the negative influence some observers claim it has on our children's attitudes and values? What can we learn about adolescents and their view of the world (including school) by examining the hidden curriculum of popular music? 


Reading:          Simon Frith,  Youth and Music



IV.    Students and the Schools

(KSAs #1, 2, & 6)


Case Study #1: Gender


Few teachers deliberately set out to limit the learning of half their students, but subtle forces often operate to disadvantage females even in those classes where teachers value and promote gender equality. Can we identify and eliminate at least some of the factors which perpetuate sexism in the  classroom? How does the issue of gender equality in the school fit into the  larger picture of sexism in the society? Can schools make a difference?


Readings:        Myra and David Sadker, “Sexism in the Schoolrooms of the ‘80s”

June Larkin an Pat Staton, If We Can't Get Equal, We'll Get Even”*

Sharon Henderson, “I Wish I Had a Wife”*


Case Study #2: Ethnicity


The residential school system broke down native family structures by separating children from their parents generation after generation.  This policy was intended to integrate first nations peoples into “mainstream” Canadian society (though with the implicit assumption by many policy makers that the place of native people in Canadian society was somewhere near the bottom).  While the residential schools were partially successful in destroying native family life and culture, we now realize this policy was not only immoral and oppressive, but the root cause of many of our current social problems.  To what extent are schools still perpetuating these problems today?  What do we have to do to undo the damage done by our predecessors?


Readings: BBC News "White Schools Lack Interest in Racism"

                  Evelyn Hanssen, "A White Teacher Reflects on Institutional Racism"

Video:        “Betrayal of Trust” Fifth Estate episode  //  “Teach Me to Dance”

Case Study #3: Social Class


What role do the schools play in reproducing the current social inequalities in our society?  Is there a hidden social class agenda in public schooling?


Case Study #4: Disability


The Atypical module will have provided some background for addressing students with special needs, but for many of these students the greatest barriers to achievement are not their disabilities but the social context in which they find themselves. What are we doing that makes schooling harder for these students? What can we do to make things better?



V.  Students and The Curriculum

(KSAs #1, 2, 6, 10, & 11)


Case Study #1:  Relevance, Special Interests, and the Curriculum


One of the most annoying questions teachers get is “Why do we have to learn this?” But it’s a good question. Who decides which knowledge and skills become part of the provincial curriculum, and which topics will go unmentioned? For example, should schools teach only the theory of evolution, or include lessons on creationism? Similarly, there is always tension between those who believe that schools are primarily to prepare individuals for the job market, and those who believe that schools are about helping kids become fully rounded human beings. In the mid-1990s, this balance shifted in Alberta when the Minister announced a greater emphasis on math and science in the curriculum at the expense of courses like drama and art. Is science more relevant than art? Who decides? Who should decide? How can schools be responsive to a changing society (e.g., computers) and yet not be suckered in by every passing fad? How do schools respond to the legitimate demands of the local community, without giving in to special interests, or being pulled apart by competing lobby groups?


Readings:        Ruby Ausbrooks, “What is the School's Hidden Curriculum Teaching Your Child?”

John W. Herbert, “Wash the Glasses First”*

                        Dave Barry quote; Arshad Ahmad quote*

                        Excerpt, “One CEO’s View of Computers”*

                        Jennifer Barnett, “History Textbooks to Include Sept. 11”

                        Connie Willis, “Ado”


Case Study #2: Big Business and the Curriculum


One provincially-mandated KSA asks teachers “to establish and maintain partnerships among school, home and community”, but it increasingly appears as if “community” has been interpreted as synonymous with “business”. Are school-business partnerships in the best interests of our students? Should we resist further intrusion by business in the curriculum? Or is the anti-business hysteria of some critics harming our students by cutting off the one source of revenue left in these days of declining school budgets?


Readings:        Heather-Jane Robertson, Big Business Targets Children*

                        Bruce Grierson, “Brand names in Text books”*

                        Allan Casey, "Make Your School an Ad-Free Zone"*

Video:              Len Grant, “Taking Care of Business” *

Case Study #3: Curriculum of Conformity


Do schools enforce conformity on students? How much of our energies go towards teaching our subject, and how much to enforcing class discipline, to ensuring that students do not talk back, question authority, or step out of their neat rows?


Video: Pink Floyd, The Wall


Case Study #4: Peer Culture as Resistance


When students skip classes, does that indicate that they are bad students — or bad classes? When a foreign government attempts to oppress its people, we tend to admire the resistance fighters more than the collaborators. By analogy, perhaps we need to reassess the root causes of disruptive student behaviour. 


Video Excerpt: Pump Up the Volume


Case Study #5: Curriculum, Censorship, and School Violence


Readings:        Guly & Boswell, “The Boy and the Monologue: Was Classroom Reading A

Criminal Act?”*

                        Vonarburg, Valdron, et al, “Commentary from the Arts Community”*

                        Oziewicz, “Showcasing Boy Inappropriate Teachers Say”*

                        Paula Johanson, “A School Council Member Comments on School Violence in

Rural Alberta”*



VI. Teachers and the Curriculum 

(KSAs #1,2,6, 10, 11)


Does recognizing the problems and challenges facing our profession mean that we are doomed to depression and defeatism? Is idealism always dependent upon naiveté, or can the reflective practitioner maintain a personal vision and the optimism to pursue it in the face of the many obstacles to teaching and learning discussed in this course? Course goal #8 says that we should “be prepared as professionals to continue to function in the face of uncertainty, rather than to seek simplistic solutions to complex issues”. Goal #5 asks us to “recognize that sufficient contradictions exist within popular culture, the schools, and the other institutions of society to allow teachers and students opportunities for an education that is liberating and fulfilling" But is either goal realistic? How can teachers avoid indoctrination or training that is so narrowly focused that it places limitations on students?


Case Study #1:  One Alternative Approach to Curriculum


Is there an alternative to promoting the status quo in school? Does this approach serve students better than the curriculum now in place? How well would this new approach work in Alberta? 


Readings:  Paulo Freire, Excerpt from Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

                  Louis Schmier, Random Thoughts. (three excerpts)

Video:        Starting From Nina *



NOTE:     In addition to the above outline, a number of supplementary topics may be introduced

                  by student presentations.






Required Readings: Ed 3603 Coursepack reader, available from the UofL Bookstore. 


[Make sure you buy the Group A version!] *




Recommended Background Reading:  Sandro Contenta, Rituals of Failure: What Schools Really Teach  (Toronto: Between The Lines, 1993. ISBN 0-921284-70-5)  210pp.*


Contenta is a Canadian journalist who combines interviews with students, teachers and administrators with a sociological analysis to produce a highly charged and highly readable account of Canadian schooling. This book touches on many of the issues discussed in this course and is highly recommended. Five copies of this book are available for two day loan from the reserve section of the University Library.




The videos listed will be viewed during class.






For the first half of the course, you are to compose a web page to an assigned format (see below).


For the second half of the course, you have several options: you may give a class presentation, write an examination, write a traditional term paper, write a response to the Contenta book, keep a weblog, or choose some combination of these options.


You may, within limits, set your own weightings and the number of assignments you wish to submit. You must, however, commit to an evaluation contract by the January 15. Failure to submit a valid contract by the due date could result in your not receiving credit for one or more assignments, ultimately leading to a failing grade in this module.


All written assignments (other than the course examination, which is written in class) must be word-processed and spell checked. You are also encouraged to retain a computer file or photocopy of your submissions in case of loss or mishap. (At least one or two papers go missing each year.)



Web Page Assignment (Compulsory)                     Weighting: 50-80%


Class discussion will explore the “hidden curriculum” of television, advertising, and the evening news. For your assignment, choose some example of youth popular culture not discussed in class and examine its influence on children. Some examples of topics students have chosen in the past include: Barbie dolls, the products of a leading toy manufacturer, video games, educational computer games, TV wrestling, skateboarding, playground games, Goth subculture, television soap operas, youth fashions, music and dance fads, raves, a popular book series/author (E.g., Harry Potter, Sweet Valley High,  etc.), current comic book series, shopping malls/student hang outs, popular TV series, and so on.


However, rather than produce yet another redundant term paper for an audience of one (the marker), in this case we are going to combine our efforts to produce a class collaborative project: the Kid Culture web site ( The objective of this web site is to provide a real service to classroom teachers and parents who might otherwise have difficulty keeping up with the latest youth fads. Confronted in the classroom or at the dinner table with some reference to Harry Potter or Pokémon, adults are often at a loss to know how to react. By providing a brief overview to the phenomenon in question, a list of the pros and cons, and an in depth analytical essay for those readers who want to dig deeper, we will help parents and teachers keep better connected to what their children are doing, reading, watching, listening to, and thinking about.


To ensure that all contributions follow a consistent format, a template has been provided. Using the template may also simplify the work of producing a web page for those unfamiliar with the process. The template will be emailed to everyone the first week of classes.


You may work individually or in groups of up to five on this assignment. Groups are free to divide the work as they see fit (e.g., by subtopic or by function) as long as everyone who contributes to the project is acknowledged, and everyone involved assigns the project the same weighting. Everyone whose name appears on the project will receive the same grade. (Note that signing your name to a project to which you did not contribute constitutes plagiarism.)


There are two benefits to Ed 3603 students of collaborating on this site: First, the primary assignment in this course has always been about examining some aspect of popular culture — hopefully you will have a more successful practicum if you recognize that how your students respond in the classroom is often influenced by forces outside the school. As a future teacher, you are soon going to be expected to be an expert on everything related to children; learning how to identify and respond proactively to various emergent trends in youth culture is therefore an important professional skill. Second, superintendents are often favourably impressed by graduates who demonstrate familiarity with any of the new communication technologies, such as the ability to produce a web page. Any student whose submission is subsequently published on the Kid Culture site will be able to cite that fact on their résumé.


Note that although you must complete the assignment for credit in this module, you retain copyright over your work and do not have to submit it for publication on the Kid Culture web site. To have your submission considered for publication on the web site, everyone who contributed to that submission must complete and sign the permission form at the end of the Course Guide.


Note too that successful completion of the course assignment does not automatically guarantee publication on the web site; there may be multiple submissions from different classes on any one topic, or the editor may simply feel that a particular submission is not consistent with the editorial stance of the Kid Culture site. Your grade is not related to that decision, but is determined entirely by how well your assignment meets the scoring criteria below:

Web Page Scoring Criteria: Content

     web page content is relevant and appropriate to the course goals and the topic of the "implicit curriculum" of some aspect of youth culture

·       web page content is primarily original with only brief excerpts from, or occasional links to, other web resources

     topic chosen and content presented is likely to be of interest to a broad cross-section of the public; education or technical jargon and unexplained specialist assumptions have been avoided.

     a comprehensive grasp of the subject matter is demonstrated, including an in-depth understanding of the relevant concepts, theories, and issues related to the topic addressed

·       content and format follow the submission guidelines for the Kid Culture web site

     content is factually accurate and up to date [timeliness is one of the great advantages of the WWW so it is important to ensure that information is the latest available]

     an awareness of differing view-points is demonstrated and a rigorous assessment of these undertaken where relevant; differing opinions are treated respectfully

     an ability to think critically is demonstrated in the analysis, synthesis and evaluation of relevant information

     a thoughtful statement of position is presented and defended through logical arguments and carefully selected supportive detail; the arguments presented build to a consistent conclusion or recommendation(s)

     The highest grades are reserved for those whose synthesis demonstrates both thoughtfulness and originality and that demonstrate insight and creativity; the content goes beyond repeating what others have said and contributes something new to our understanding of the topic

     content adheres to highest ethical standards

- in reporting original research involving human subjects, confidentiality of participants has been protected

- in conducting research through interactive web pages (e.g., survey forms), the principles of informed consent, confidentiality, and that the participant will be kept from harm, have been adhered to

-language usage is inclusive: sexist, racist, agist, classist, and ablist language has been avoided; content is free of inappropriate biases

-copyright has been respected. Copyrighted materials have been used only with the explicit written (or e-mailed) permission of the creator. (Students in violation of copyright may be asked to withdraw from the faculty. See the University of Lethbridge Calendar's section on plagiarism, pp. 63-66)

     the content is referenced in the correct format (APA, Chicago, or MLA formats are acceptable) (Students are reminded that since their contributions may be published, it is crucial that credit is correctly given for any copyrighted material used on the site. Since even isolated cases of plagiarism would undermine the credibility and usefulness of the entire site, there will be zero tolerance for plagiarism on this assignment.)

     a clear, fluent, and concise style highlights a well-written, tightly argued, and logically structured discussion

     a virtually flawless mastery of all aspects of grammar, structure, and style is demonstrated


Web Page Scoring Criteria: Mechanics


     web page functions as intended in a variety of browsers, including Netscape and Internet Explorer.

     instructional design takes full advantage of hypertext links to enhance learning: linear material is presented linearly, but non-linear material uses lateral and vertical linkages to allow readers to direct their own learning

     instructional design incorporates elements that enhance the site's attractiveness, reader interest, and learning; graphic design or interactive elements engage the learner and demonstrate creativity and sound aesthetic judgment; however, form serves substance: irrelevant or gimmicky elements have been avoided

     layout is consistent with the Kid Culture web site template and format

·       the layout is clear, uncluttered, and facilitates quick scanning for specific information

·       color scheme is aesthetically pleasing, aids readability, and is mindful of browsers who may be color blind (black text on white background is usually best)

     appropriate images enhance the topic’s content and visual appeal, but without slowing document loading unduly; unnecessary images have been avoided; text alternatives have been provided for incompatible or text-only browsers

     sound, movie, and large image files are used only sparingly, if at all

     internal linkages connect individual web pages within the topic in a logical, easily navigated pattern; the topic pages use the Kid Culture navigation bars appropriately providing links to home page, index, etc.

     individual web pages are not overly dependent on the pages before and after, above and below them in the structure; readers can enter the topic at any page and still understand the content at that point

     in dividing the topic into pages, an appropriate balance is achieved between too many and too few separate documents

     individual subtopics are not split between pages; layout groups related ideas visually as well as with headings and subheadings

·       where text fills more than a single screen, internal linkages are supplied to facilitate quick movement to specific information without having to resort to scrolling

     external linkages connect the web site to other relevant sites; but trivial and irrelevant linkages have been avoided; external linkages are thoroughly annotated so reader can decide whether linked site is likely to be of interest without having to jump there to discover their content

     web documents are clear and concise

     web documents are free of spelling, grammatical, and other mechanical errors (Since the class is “going public” on this assignment, there will be “zero tolerance” for such errors.)

     a colophon or signature block is included on each page (or by a link to a separate credit/copyright page) The  colophon includes the names and e-mail addresses of all who contributed to the topic; the date the page was last revised/updated; a link to the Kid Culture homepage; and, where applicable, a link to each contributor’s homepage.

     each page links to the top of the topic site and to the Kid Culture home page and index

     emphasis is used only sparingly; heading commands are used for headings only and not for emphasis

     copyright has been respected. Cartoons, illustrations, icons, and other visual material have only been used with the explicit written (or e-mailed) permission of the creator



Research Paper Option                                                    Weighting: 20% to 50%


Any topic related to the second half of this course (Topics 4-6) and approved in writing by the instructor. Your analysis should include a thorough discussion of the implications of your paper for the coming practicum. In other words, how has what you have researched changed or strengthened your own understanding, vision, teaching philosophy, or practice?


There is no page limit as such, but most students typically write between five and ten pages. (If you intend to go over ten pages, it had better be really interesting.)


Some research projects may lend themselves to collaborative efforts. You may request permission to undertake this option as a group work assignment, provided you work out the details and criteria with your instructor ahead of time. ('Retroactive collaboration' will be regarded as plagiarism and dealt with accordingly.)


It may also be possible for this paper to overlap with work you are submitting to another module in PSII. For example, if you are conducting an analysis of the curriculum in your curriculum class and you are interested in addressing gender issues from Topic 4 in this class, you may be able to undertake a gender analysis of the curriculum in your major and submit the resulting paper to both instructors. PLEASE NOTE, however, that you will need to negotiate any such arrangements with both instructors ahead of time. Failure to obtain prior authorization could result in your being in violation of Section A3 ("Duplication") of the University's Student Discipline Policy (page 64 of the Calendar) and could result in an "F" in one or both modules, and subsequent expulsion from the Faculty. (Note too that you will still have to meet the specific scoring criteria for the assignment in each course.)


Class Presentation Option                                 Weighting: 30% to 50%


Class lesson presentations are limited to a maximum of 30 minutes and must be on a topic related to some aspect of the course. Student presentations will be scheduled for the week of. The content may overlap with your web page or term paper assignments (i.e., you may present your findings to the class). You may work in groups of up to five but everyone in the group must assign the same weight to the presentation and will receive the same grade.


Presenters will be graded on:

Presentations will be evaluated to the same standard as term papers and examinations (see criteria below, pages 17-18), except that presentation skills will replace writing skills, and will include a peer evaluation component:

·      Relevance: Your presentation must relate to the course goals, and the learning needs of your classmates.

·      Thoroughness: Your classmates should come away from your presentation with a sufficiently thorough grasp of the material to be able to discuss the topic intelligently on the final examination

·      Depth of Analysis: an awareness of differing view-points is demonstrated; originality, insight, and creativity are demonstrated; the presentation goes beyond repeating what others have said and contributes something new to our understanding of the topic

·      Argumentation: You should be able to take and defend a position using logical arguments and carefully selected supportive detail

·      Clarity and interest: As prospective teachers, it is important that you not only master the content of your presentation and have something significant to say, you must also be able to say it in a way that will engage, challenge, and influence your audience. Avoid over-reliance on lecture or oral reading.

·      Discussion: The degree to which you have achieved the above goals should be reflected in the liveliness of the subsequent discussion

·      Peer Evaluation: a peer evaluation component worth 10% of your presentation grade will be included.  Your peers will be asked two questions concerning your group’s presentation, and a score calculated out of 10:


Content: I found the presentation informative.  I learned something new; saw this topic in a new light and/or was able to more clearly articulate my own thoughts about this issue.


1. Strongly Disagree           2. Disagree         3. Neutral           4. Agree      5. Strongly Agree


Delivery: I found the presentation interesting and stimulating.  It kept my attention throughout.


1. Strongly Disagree           2. Disagree         3. Neutral           4. Agree      5. Strongly Agree





NOTE:  All comments on peer evaluation forms are forwarded to the presenters. Consequently, comments must be kept professional and constructive. 


Contenta Paper Option                                        Weighting: 20% to 50%


Compare and contrast Sandro Contenta’s analysis in Rituals of Failure: What Schools Really Teach  (Toronto: Between The Lines, 1993. ISBN 0-921284-70-5) with your own experience in Alberta, either as a former student or as a student teacher in Ed 2500 and PS I classrooms. How will your analysis influence your interaction with your students in the coming practicum (or your own class after you graduate)? Page limits and scoring criteria are the same as the research paper (above).  (This is a personal assignment and is not suitable for collaboration.) Five copies of Rituals of Failure are available on reserve in the university library.



Weblog (On-Line Journal) Option                      Weighting: 20% to 50%


Set up a weblog (i.e., a web-based learning log or on-line journal) and use it to discuss course related content. The weblog must be kept current throughout the class-based portion of the term (January 13 to March 3) and must include discussion of assigned readings. You must share your weblog address with the instructor to obtain credit for it in this course; you may if you wish also post the address to the course list serve so that others in the class may read your reflections but this is optional. Note that any reference to in-class discussion must conform to the guidelines of professional standards on page 4 of this course guide. Scoring standards are otherwise the same as for research papers and web pages.


A weblog or blog is a frequently updated webpage that serves as an online diary or journal. These are often subject specific (someone's particular field of expertise, current events such as the impending war , etc.) or simply personal (one's top ten movies of the year list, relatives visited, etc.) Many blogs are of interest only to the author or a small circle of friends; others attract a wide readership; others are intended to facilitate the development of networked communities of individuals with similar interests or expertise.  Although the originator's voice remains dominant, many blogs encourage comments from readers and post feedback and discussion; almost all blogs make reference to and link to other blogs. The end result is a dispersed conversational exchange, similar to that found in on-line "chat rooms", but with the significant difference that unwanted comments are screened out by each individual web log author or "blogger". Since bloggers generally only reference other blogs they find useful, stimulating, or insightful, readers are able to follow a trail of references from one interesting site to another without ever having to deal with the high volume of less interesting or relevant material that often plagues chatroom discussions. Consequently, blogs have become increasingly popular, and may well be the "next big thing" on the internet. 


In the context of this course, a blog provides the opportunity to extend class discussion and create a community of learners.


More information on weblogs is available at:





Weblog software:



Final Examination Option                                   (Weighting 20% to 50%)


The examination is scheduled for 1:00 PM –3:00 PM, March 6th. You will have a maximum of two hours to respond to this question: 

Preamble If Canada's young people were educated, they would be a troublesome lot, always rocking the boat, and wanting to change things, and questioning the infinite mercy and wisdom of the authorities. Accordingly, the authorities prevent Canada's young people from getting an education by keeping them locked up in institutions called schools, where they are bored, bullied and brainwashed into total apathy. —Richard J. Needham

None of us become teachers to oppress kids. But many critics suggest that — whatever our good intentions — schools systematically limit student opportunities on the basis of gender, ethnicity, and social class. They claim that instead of teaching students the knowledge, skills and values children need to become self-actualizing human beings, our curriculum is designed to perpetuate the status quo and to protect the dominant groups in society. They complain that instead of trying to educate students, schools in Alberta are becoming increasingly preoccupied with mere vocational training; that we view graduates as a kind of factory product rather than as human beings. In other words, some critics ask why we force kids to adjust to society, rather than trying to make society more just. Few students are able to resist the relentless effort to grind down their personalities in preparation for the world of meaningless work that awaits them, and those few who try to fight back or remove themselves from the oppression of the schools are labeled vandals, truants and dropouts, and so singled out for especially harsh treatment.


Question: As a prospective teacher, how do YOU respond to these critics?




Use information from the readings, the videos, class discussion and your own experiences as either a student or preservice teacher to provide concrete examples and illustrations of the points you are making or refuting. Be sure that you go beyond description and assertion to interpretation, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Be especially cautious of platitudinous arguments. Many students find making explicit reference to the various course readings helps to document and focus their arguments, and so avoid platitudes. Note also that the readings in the second half of the course reader and the Contenta text are likely to be the most relevant in answering this question

Although the question is provided above, you will not be allowed to bring anything into the examination with you. (A fresh copy of the question will be provided.) This is an individual, closed book examination.




Criteria for Assignments


For all assignments in this module, it is expected that you will take a position and defend it with a logical argument.  Be sure also to support your arguments with specific, concrete examples. The highest marks are reserved for those assignments that demonstrate insight and originality.


You are advised to adopt a clear, concise style and to avoid “academese” — that is, to avoid inflated diction, unnecessarily complex sentence structure, or an obtuse style — in your term paper.  (Pomposity will cost you marks.)  Students are encouraged to use inclusive (e.g., non-sexist, non-stereotyping) language in this course.


A - EXCELLENT (90 - 100)


     originality, insight, and creativity are demonstrated; the paper goes beyond repeating what others have said and contributes something new to our understanding of the topic

     a comprehensive grasp of the subject matter is demonstrated, including an in-depth understanding of the relevant concepts, theories, and issues related to the topic addressed

     an awareness of differing view-points is demonstrated and a rigorous assessment of these undertaken where relevant

     an ability to think critically is demonstrated in the analysis, synthesis and evaluation of relevant information

     a thoughtful statement of position is presented and defended through logical arguments and carefully selected supportive detail; the arguments presented build to a consistent conclusion

     a clear, fluent, and concise style highlights a well-written, tightly argued, and logically structured essay

     a virtually flawless mastery of all aspects of grammar, structure, and style is demonstrated



B - Good (80 - 89)


     a thorough grasp of the subject matter is demonstrated

     an awareness of differing view-points is demonstrated and an assessment of these attempted where relevant

     the paper goes beyond description to interpretation, analysis, synthesis and evaluation 

     a position is adopted and logically argued; appropriate supporting detail is supplied

     a clear style which communicates well (but may contain occasional or minor flaws in the mechanics of spelling, grammar, sentence structure, etc.) is evident in the logical presentation of a reasonable argument



C - SATIsfACTORY (70 - 79)


     a basic grasp of the subject matter is demonstrated

     accurate information incorporating relevant sources and references is conveyed

     a position is adopted and logically argued

     an adequate attempt at analysis, synthesis, interpretation or evaluation is evident

     an acceptable style demonstrates an awareness of, and attention to, the principles of paragraph development, sentence structure, grammar and spelling, etc.



D - POOR (60 - 69)


     a lack of familiarity with the subject matter is demonstrated through the omission of key material, or through the misinterpretation of important concepts, theories or issues    

     a lack of critical thinking is evident in a paper which is more descriptive than interpretive; or in which the analysis and synthesis are logically flawed; or in which there is a reliance on assertion; or in which the relevance of supporting detail is questionable

     a position is not taken, is hard to determine, or is inconsistent with arguments or information presented in the paper

     there is a lack of originality and an over-reliance on material presented in class or in the assigned readings

     written expression requires improvement in basic communication skills; or written communication is marred by inflated diction, overly complex sentence structures, or an obtuse style.



F - FAILING (0 - 60)


     a basic lack of understanding of the subject matter is demonstrated through gross misinterpretation or omissions

     there is little attempt to go beyond description; or interpretation and analysis demonstrates gross error in logic or supporting detail; or little or no factual material is presented; or material presented contains gross factual error; or is completely irrelevant

     written expression is disorganized, incoherent, poorly expressed, and contains unacceptably frequent or serious errors in grammar, sentence structure, and spelling


     an attempt is made to use others' work without providing proper acknowledgment

     an attempt is made to hand in a paper from another course

     an attempt is made to write a paper on a topic other than that approved in writing by the instructor


—marking criteria compiled by R. Runté and K. Mazurek




As with all Professional Semester II modules, attendance is compulsory in this course. If you are going to be absent for a class, you must email the instructor, or leave a message with the course secretary, Barb Krushel, at 329-2260. Failure to notify the faculty of an absence could result in your being asked to withdraw from the program. Note however that if you have not chosen the examination option, you do not have to come to Ed 3603 on March 5.



Grading System







97 - 100    A+

93 - 96      A

90 - 92      A-

87 - 89    B+

83 - 86    B

80 - 82    B-

77 - 79    C+

73 - 76    C

70 - 72    C-

67 - 69    D+

63 - 66    D

60 - 62    D-

<60       F



*Note that although a "C" represents a passing grade in any particular module, students are required to maintain a 2.5 average in their professional semesters.


**Note also that a "D" is an unsatisfactory grade for your professional semester and will likely lead to your being asked to withdraw from the program.

Learning Contract

Ed 3604                                                     Social Context                                               Spring 2002


Student name ______________________                  Student ID#________________________


Student email                                                               Student Phone #                                        _ 



Proposed Topic



Web Page






(If you wish to submit your web page assignment to the Kid Culture web site, you must fill in the form on the reverse)





List names of the others (if any) in your group:





On or before

Feb 5

50% to 80%

Research Paper



If you also wish to submit this paper to another module, give instructor's name here:










On or before

March 3.

20% to 50%

Contenta paper


Compare and contrast Contenta's analysis with your own experiences in Alberta.

On or before

March 3

20% to 50%

Class Presentation





List names of the others (if any) in your group:






On or before March 3


Note: available time slots assigned on first come first served basis.


30% to 50%

Weblog  / Journal

Topic: comments must be related to course content and include discussion of assigned readings; all comments must be consistent with professional standards (e.g., respect peer confidentiality.)

Minimum of 1 entry per class January 13 to March 3

20% to 50%

Final Examination


Question as presented in course outline

March 5

20% to 50%






Approved by ______________________                                     Date _____________________


Permission to Post

The Course Assignment to the Kid Culture Web Site


I ____________________________________________________________________________

(print full name)


hereby grant Dr. Robert Runté (hereafter "the publisher") permission to post________________



_________________________________________________________ (hereafter "the web page")

(print full web page title)


to the Kid Culture web site for a period of up to five years. I understand that I retain copyright to my original material and may repost or republish it elsewhere at any time; and that I may withdraw my contribution to the web site at any time by giving Dr. Runté two weeks notice in writing. I understand that there is no payment for publication on the Kid Culture web site, but that I may cite such publication in my résumé.


I warrant to Dr. Runté, the Faculty of Education and the University of Lethbridge that:


·   the web page is original;









The present warranties shall remain in force following the termination of the present agreement.




I shall indemnify the publisher (Dr. Robert Runté), the Faculty of Education and the University of Lethbridge against any claims, demands, legal proceedings, costs, losses and damages of any nature whatsoever arising from any alleged breach of the warranties or representations by me herein.


I consent to Dr. Runté making minor copy editing and formatting changes to my submission consistent with the Kid Culture web site guidelines, provided such changes do not misrepresent my views.


Signed                                                                    Date