Anatomy of a Lesson: Women’s Roles and Rights in Pre-Revolutionary U.S.

Posted by Rob Reynolds on Jan 22, 2018 6:00:00 AM
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[Our Anatomy of a Lesson series provides an in-depth view into the thinking and learning design decisions that go into TEL Library lessons for different topics. The primary content contributor for our "Women’s Roles and Rights in Pre-Revolutionary U.S." lesson was Jay Reynolds. Rob Reynolds served as course designer and Laura Pople is the Editorial Director for all TEL Library content. Click here to learn more about our U.S. History to 1877 mediabook.]

Background Thinking and Conversations

ROB: So, Jay and Laura, what was the thinking behind this lesson?

LAURA: First, it’s important to remember that, in addition to the traditional historic periods normally covered in a U.S. History course, we have identified specific themes that we want to address throughout our course -- immigration, the role of women, social reform, and religion. These themes provide narrative lenses for viewing the tapestry of U.S. History as a whole.

JAY: That’s right, Laura. Our goal is to highlight the contributions of women in the U.S., and also to show the victories, struggles, and failures of the women’s movement in U.S. History. It’s important that we discuss the theoretically egalitarian culture we have created and to mark legitimate progress that we’ve made. We want to show where we, as a society, have resisted and accepted change. I think this gives us an important picture, a self-portrait really, of who we have become and who we are becoming.

LAURA: I also like the way that discussing women’s issues and the changing role of women in U.S. history provides such a nice backdrop for discussing the attitudes and beliefs of our societal system as a whole.

JAY: Agreed. As I began writing this particular lesson, I was struck again by the tireless energy and effort that women contributed in the settling and shaping America, efforts that were mostly nameless and without any recognition. It seemed important to point out the inequality under which the women labored. And yet, still they came and still they worked, anonymously and tirelessly to build a new country and a new society. I wanted to recognize some of the women -- names most of us have never geared and women who made a difference -- who broke the ice for others seeking equal treatment, and not just women. That’s why I included the short biographies, to bring some of these women out of the shadows.

ROB: I notice that, in the Expand section, in which we generally explore a specific event or sub-topic, you chose to focus on Salem witch trials.

JAY: The Salem witch trials were an unforgivable American tragedy that we mustn’t forget lest we repeat them our of ignorance. The reliance on fear and mass hysteria to give credence to obvious lies is a great temptation. I would say that today, more than ever, we must guard against allowing ignorance and prejudice to dictate right and wrong, truth, or justice. I am always intrigued by the fact that the people of Salem seemed to go back to life as normal after the trials, with no repentance to mea culpas. I find it heartbreaking and frightening.

Designing the Lesson

TEL Library uses a common learning design template for all of our lessons. This template incorporates a prescribed learning progression or experience that is designed to promote learner agency.
TEL Library Learning Design Model

The lesson begins with our Overview, in which we work to create both context and relevance for the learner. We focus the introduction for this lesson on the anonymous or unrecognized contributions of women in U.S. History. We make it clear that this lack of recognition is something that persists in societies and civilization in the 21st century. This is something that is relevant to individual learners and is also a concept that is easy to demonstrate. Ideally, this will serve as an anchor of sorts for learners as they progress through the lesson and the remainder of the course.

You can see here that we highlight this at the beginning of our “Watch” section.

Role of Women-1

Our learning video style, which uses moving images and text call-outs, also provides a nice example of how to structure information in a presentation. In this video, we use our text call-outs to list the rights that women did not have in pre-revolutionary America while, at the same time, displaying the names of important, yet relatively unknown women who made significant efforts during that time.

Role of Women-2

In the “Read” section, we provide an overview of the role and impact of women in the period, as well as brief biographies of women who made important contributions.

Role of Women-3

In the ”Reflect” section, we ask learners to think about which right was most important to women in the period. This is a recurring theme in our course, as we challenge to learners to look beyond the obvious.

Role of Women-4

After this reflection, we continue our topic elaboration by narrowing our focus on a specific event that helps us illustrate the role of women in the period and how they were perceived. For this lesson, the author chose to discuss the Salem witch trials.

As we move from Relevance to Agency in our learning progression, we use the Explore and Discuss sections to transition learners from information to application.We accomplish this by asking ;earners to complete additional web research, and taking positions related to specific scenarios.

Using This Lesson in a Class

All TEL Library lessons are designed to be used within a variety instructional delivery models. In a traditional, face-to-face class, the core content will most likely be assigned as outside reading. The “Reflect” poll could be used as an out-of-class or an in-class activity to stimulate class discussion (learners can complete these via their mobile devices or computers), and there is also ample flexibility with regards to the journaling and discussion activities. These can be used as homework assignments or as in-class group activities. This flexibility is also valuable in flipped or hybrid classrooms, allowing instructors to pick and choose which content sections and activities to have students complete on their own, and which ones to bring into the classroom experience.


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