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
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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
- 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?
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?