Justification of the Day

As teacher candidates will have an opportunity to justify (e.g., to prove or show to be just, right, or reasonable) the following situations which are, ostensibly, justifiable. The solution to each problem might not be clearly evident, and you might have to spend a bit of time reflecting on each situation before discussing the situation in class. You might have to do some background work, and review some of the materials provided to you in the teacher preparation process here at ISU.

  1. It's the first week of class, and you are having an open house for parents. You explain that you intend to teach using inquiry, and that this will result in a strong emphasis on depth of understanding. You also mention that you probably won't rely too much on a textbook, and that your students will construct knowledge from experience. Lastly, you note that you won't be covering the entire 454-page textbook. A parent asks, "My daughter won't be getting the coverage she needs to do well on college entrance exams." How do you justify your action?
  2. You have given your students a "research project" to carry out at home. You have asked them to create an experiment to determine how air speed affects pressure. You have suggested the use of paper, straws, thimbles, and so on which students will blow through, over, or between. You then ask students to write up a report of their findings. You provide the students with a rather detailed rubric for the report -- lots of dimensions and descriptors for "unacceptable, poor, fair, and acceptable." A parent calls you at home that evening, complaining about the rubric. "It's too complex, and asks for too much." How do you justify your action?
  3. In your high school physics course you have created a syllabus that includes a number of alternative assessments --research project, essays, Rube Goldberg competition, trebuchet competition, group presentations -- in addition to several more traditional assessments such as tests, quizzes, and labs. A student complains to you that you are making them work too hard and asks, "Aren't tests, quizzes, and labs a good enough basis upon which to determine a grade?" How do you justify your action?
  4. At a parent-teacher conference you are speaking with the parents of a student who is doing poorly in your physics course. The student, according to the parents, is doing a good job in his other courses. The problem with your course, according to the student, is the lack of the use of a textbook. You have chosen to teach using a constructivist approach, and have completely de emphasized the use of a textbook. According to the student, if you used a textbook, he would do much better. He would then know how best to prepare for a test. According to one parent, the student had remarked, "If he just told me what I need to know, I'd do much better on my tests." How do you justify your action?
  5. After class one day a male student makes the following statement and asks a question, "I'm trying as hard as I can in this class, and you rarely call on me when I raise my hand to answer a question. My hand is up before everyone else's, and sometimes it's like you don't see me. You always seem to call on one of the girls. I know my stuff, and want to show it. Why don't you call on me more?" How do you justify your action?
  6. One of your very best student's parents unexpectedly appears at your classroom door at the end of the school day. The first half of the semester has just ended, and you recently sent home interim grades. Her son has just earned a B. She is concerned about the way you have chosen to determine grades. In your course syllabus you state, "A criterion-based grading system will be used in this course." The mother says that her son is probably your best student -- top of his class -- but that a norm-referenced grading policy would be more fair. "After all," she remarks, "Johnny should be getting an A since he's the best student in your class." How do you justify your action?
  7. You are at a school special event -- a "class night" -- where you are trying to recruit students for your physics course. The school only requires two science courses to graduate, and most students take general science and biology or chemistry to satisfy the requirement. A parent wanders by along with her junior-level daughter. They are searching for a course to fill up the schedule. You say, "Have you considered taking physics? The course will really do you some good." Justify this claim.
  8. You have just described a physics project to your high school students in which that have to use small-group processes to achieve the goal. You have told them that you will select the groups, "ensuring a good mix of abilities" After school a group of your better students comes in to ask you if the approach you are intending to use is fair. "When we get stuck in groups with dummies, our grades suffer" quips one of the students. Another notes, "When I'm in such groups, I end up doing all the work because I don't want my grade to suffer. It's just not fair." How do you justify using "mixed groups"?
  9. You have just returned to your students a physics examination. The examination had a mix of questions dealing with physics and the nature of science. A student who has done poorly on the remains after class to complain."I did okay on the physics portion of the test, but my grade suffered from all those questions about the nature of science. Why am I being penalized for doing poorly on this nature of science stuff? After all, this is a physics course, not a nature of science course. Why did you have to include this nature of science stuff in the exam? It's just not fair!" How do you justify your action?
  10. Your school superintendent has asked you to visit with her, along with your principal, one day after school. It seems that the school is encountering some rough financial times, and there is a question about whether or not physics should still be taught in light of the fact that only 23% of the kids in your school take the course. Justify the inclusion of the physics course in the school curriculum.
  11. Near the end of the year, your required freshman-level physical science course includes a bit of astronomy due to the presence of the Illinois Learning Standards, section 12. It appears that much of this subject matter is not addressed elsewhere in the curriculum, so the school administration has asked you to include it. You do. You choose to deal with the creation of the universe, and teach about the "big bang" creation of the universe from a purely scientific basis. One day a parent, a church minister, makes an appointment with you to talk about what he perceives as a godless approach to creation of the universe. When visiting with you, he intends to speak with you about the possibility of including some aspects of guided evolution. You are philosophically opposed to doing so on a number of grounds - separation of church and state; the nature of science, the fallacy of pseudoscience. How will you justify this stance?
  12. One day in class you note to you physics students that science and religion are in many ways different, and many ways the same. You mention that "science is based on faith as well. While scientists claim to be entirely empirical in their approaches, they depend upon certain non-provable assumptions." A student is skeptical. He wants to know what these assumptions are, and you are asked to justify your statement. Please do so.
  13. A student of yours, not a terribly gifted student -- academically challenged really -- has come to you to complain about a failing score on an exam. "I really do know my stuff, and I studied so hard for this exam. I re-read my textbook, I studied all night before the exam. I'm going to fail this course, and it's all your fault. Your tests are so hard. It's just not fair. Is there any way you can give me extra credit? I'll try really, really hard in the future to do better. Just give me one more chance." You tell the student, "No, I'm sorry, but a score is a score, and the test was fair. Other students did quite well on it." The student continues to harangue you. Justify your "no" statement.
  14. A parent has called the school administration to complain about you as a teacher. You have, according to the parent, singled out his son for punishment. It is true that this student has received numerous detentions, and that this has interfered with his after-school activities. Now, there is going to be a meeting between the parent, the principal, the science department chairperson, and you. How would you be best prepared to justify your actions?