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The traditional K-3 social studies curriculum has focused on food, clothing, shelter, communication, transportation, and other cultural universals. Very little information exists about children's prior knowledge and thinking about these topics. This study was designed to provide such information with respect to the topic of transportation, and in the process to assess claims that primary students do not need instruction in the topic because they learn what they need to know about it through everyday living. Individual interviews were conducted with 96 K-3 students, stratified according to grade level, achievement level, and gender. Students were asked about transportation as a universal human need and the functions it fills. Overall they were asked to talk extensively about many and diverse aspects of transportation. Although inability to respond to the question was a frequent problem, the answers generated by the students who were able to respond tended to be accurate and relatively free from misconceptions. Their responses, however, were restricted to the micro-level of the activities of individuals and families, without addressing the macro-level of society in general or the world at large. Sophistication of responses showed statistically significant relationships with grade level. Findings suggest that instruction in cultural universals belongs in the primary grades social studies curriculum, but curricular treatments should be more powerful than those typically offered by textbook series. Contains 39 references. Appended are the transportation interview and a table of distributions and correlation coefficients showing relationships of coding categories to grade level, achievement level, and gender. (Author/BT)

Descriptors: Cultural Education, Curriculum Development, Educational Research, Interviews, Primary Education, Prior Learning, Social Studies, Student Reaction, Transportation

Autor: Brophy, Jere; Alleman, Janet


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