features of the Saylor, Alexander, and Lewis (1981) model of curriculum evaluation is the model requires curriculum unit to have merit for society as well as for the individual classroom or school. Thus this model of evaluation seems a particularly appropriate schema to evaluate a unit on civil rights The name and subject area of the curriculum unit chosen to evaluate along the lines of this model one designed for a series of exercises for students of American government and history, specifically of the "Civil Rights Movement Beginnings in the 20th century." (Marsh, 2005)
The lesson plan made a strong commitment to reforming the social good of the larger context of society, as well as preparing children for the challenges of a society where African-American contributions of past and present have not always been recognized. The authorship component of the unit also gave students a sense of empowerment, of being able to rewrite history to include forgotten figures. In doing so, society will benefit as well, as important, lost periods of African-American history can be recovered and infused into the current civic discourse.
Saylor, Alexander, and Lewis evaluate each lesson plan upon the lesson's goals, subgoals, and objectives, upon the program of education in its totality as well as its specificity in relation to certain skills, and the instruction and the evaluation process. The model analyzes the success of the lesson relation to the groups being served by the lesson, students and society, as well as the lesson plan's designers, that of teachers. The comprehensive and multimedia nature of the lesson on "Civil Rights Beginnings in the 20th Century" involves the students in the learning process in a hands-on fashion in a way that is superior, in accomplishing the stated factual and technical goals of the unit, and also includes modification elements for special circumstances, such as older students or special education students. There is no specific critique, only suggestions to bring in further components to enhance an already superior unit.
Evaluation of Instruction
The curriculum unit designed for students in a parochial school in an inner-city district of Chicago both draws upon student ingenuity and community needs. It encourages students to sharpen their skills and draw upon resources of research they may not have known they possessed, as well as provides a historical and civic education. The instructor makes admirable and confident use of independent learning and student participation and allows students (and parents, if parents are consulted as resources at home) to shape the lesson as well as the teacher. This is important, as the lesson is civic and designed to create better citizens in a democracy who understand rights, and when their rights may be violated by others, or even by the state.
The curriculum unit overall, according to Illinois state standards, was supposed to convey historical information about the civil rights movement, as well as help students learn what the concept of 'unalienable rights' may be, in the context of American civic culture, specifically as it relates to minority rights. The lesson segments touches upon the fight and to a lesser extent the legal definition for civil rights through the use of biographies of individuals from the movement, as well as enhances student analysis and critical thinking skills.
Evaluation of Specific Segments
The first curriculum component (2005) involves the creation of a Children's Encyclopedia to the Civil Rights Movement, and is designed for grades 5-8. The creation of an biographical encyclopedia on the subject is designed with the goal of highlighting forgotten figures of the movement, and to create a contrast in the children's mind between an 'ordinary' encyclopedia, with its more limited scope of cultural literacy. It creates a new vision of history the students are striving to create, in their own lives, as well as through the scope of the assignment. Biography is also an excellent, specific and tactile way of communicating history in a way that younger children can more easily understand than abstract conceptions of rights.
Thus the first component of the civil rights unit begins with a discovery project, the creation of an collaborative work that requires students to sharpen and develop their research skills, as well as gain a sense that the history of the past is not complete, but must be uncovered -- by their own efforts. This gives students a sense of authorship, civic and community duty, and also enhances the students' ability to question assumptions with facts they find in research. Citation and fact checking of the entries are also part of the assignment, adding to the expressive language arts component in a formal way that will help students later on, with further research projects. Suggested modifications by the instructor include creating a computer database of biographies for older students, and the unit concludes with discussion questions to stimulate the student's motivation about subjects like racism, the reasons for the civil rights movement, and the legal status of Blacks during this period of history. A further, artistic as well as civic component involves the student discussion of the use of symbols, from the American flag, to the Star of David, to the symbols of the civil rights movement. Eventually, the component of this unit cumulates in the development and new presentation of an encyclopedic classroom resource that all students may refer to for later research, a unique classroom-generated product that chronicles both prominent and worthy-but-forgotten figures.
The goals of the student's sense of self-efficacy are thus met, the civic needs of society are met through the education of critical thinkers about American history and the struggle for civil rights, and the classroom specific objectives of enabling students to work together as a community, make use of current research and citation skills as well as add to these skills, and finally to meet the overall goal of creating a work to be proud of that stands as a legacy of the civil rights movement are also met.
The second part of the unit evolves an evaluation of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream speech," an excellent way to incorporate a language arts evaluation of rhetorical devices, as well as the civic content of the lesson. The lesson asks if King would still have a dream today, and evaluates students based upon their ability to understand King's speech, mission, and its applicability to the future. The goal of student-specific knowledge is thus met, as King's speech is a classic, one of the most formative moments of the civil rights movement. However, the lesson also meets the student's needs to learn to think critically on their own, and in their own societal and cultural context about what the speech means today. The teacher's objectives about teaching the specific, critical data revolving around this juncture of the movement are also met, as well as the need to incorporate a language arts element to the unit.
The only possible specific critique that comes to mind occurs in the last segment. Some individuals might suggest, in addition to the King speech, assigning students the task of finding a more obscure speech from a civil rights leader, perhaps one who was opposed to King, or finding a later or earlier speech of King's, to see how his rhetoric and thinking changed over the course of the movement. Lastly, the idea of civil rights could be further analyzed at the end of the lesson as a whole, through the use of a third segment which places the historical lesson in a modern context by discussing violations students may have witnessed in the local community. This might clarify the notion of what constitutes rights in America, the only small weakness of the lesson, and better draw some of the ambitious discussion questions into the lesson.
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