HM - November 2018 - UCF

Classroom Applications


Straddling Borders: Using Value Clarification to Teach United States’ Immigration Policy?

by Kelsey Evans-Amalu, University of Central Florida;
Allison Sheridan, University of Central Florida;
and Dr. William B. Russell III, University of Central Florida

History textbooks often label the United States as the “land of opportunity” for immigrants. Immigration is, in fact, a huge part of the American story. Yet the topic of immigration also exists as a highly controversial issue and one ripe for discussion in the classroom. Since the inauguration of President Trump, whose platform included tightening security at the borders, immigration has remained a controversial issue, as new policy is advocated under the new leadership. The topic of immigration is not only especially relevant in contemporary politics, but also in classrooms which aim to ensure deep historical understanding and to prepare civically engaged students for a global society. To fully encourage students to develop their own understanding of immigration, however, there must be a critical analysis of the topic so that students can understand and evaluate their own positionality on immigration.
Value Clarification and Immigration
Students are taught issues of civics and human rights from an early age, ranging from complex to simple.[1] Students are also encouraged to examine controversial issues and themes that are relevant to their development.[2] Example topics are numerous, ranging from historical events involving minorities to contemporary American politics.
Value clarification is one useful theory to respectfully uncover student perceptions and move them at their own pace to a fuller understanding of controversial topics presented in the classroom. For this paper, value clarification can be defined as values that reflect a person's full understanding of attitudes and beliefs centered around a specific topic. The purpose of using value clarification in the classroom is for the student to become aware of specific values they may have due to the environment in which they were raised. A child’s youth is a time of cognitively constructing who they are and what they believe, and some believe that school is a place where students can examine these values from varied perspectives outside of their own to clarify their stance on specific topics presented. There is some evidence to suggest that children’s values are often developed throughout their educational career, and value clarification may assist an individual in further understanding their thoughts and feelings and help to clarify what their values are in the context of controversial topics encountered in the classroom.[3] When controversial issues such as immigration are presented in the classroom, it is important for students to have a fuller picture of what the issue encompasses. As the process unfolds, students have multiple options. To state it simply, students can either maintain their current values perspectives, or, as one alternative, assign new value and change their perspective completely once they have analyzed a topic from other angles.

Value clarification is relevant to teaching controversy in the social studies, as it encourages student participation and allows them to critically analyze the content under study.[4] Operationalized, the theory potentially empowers students and allows them to take greater ownership in their education as they construct new knowledge. In the lines that follow, value clarification is imagined through a lesson idea pertaining to immigration.
Through value clarification, students are encouraged to explore what they value, and why, and what their peers may value, and why.[5] Value clarification applied is very much student-centered, and critical thinking is encouraged throughout the process. We believe that the present discussion is of use to practitioners as Common Core State Standards encourage critical thinking, but do not fully describe how that should be done. Nel Noddings describes critical thinking as a search for meaning amongst a copious amount of ideas. Finding meaning does not necessarily equate with the student having to draw a conclusion immediately, however. For example, in the case of immigration, students must understand policy and positions from multiple sides of the political spectrum, not to mention the evolution of immigration in the United States over time, in order to develop a deep understanding of the issue and their stance on the topic at present. To facilitate the process, evidence is presented by the teacher and it is up to the students to wade through the evidence and to navigate their beliefs. With guidance and deliberation, students are able to make an informed decision on where they stand on controversial topics.[6]

According to Casteel, there are four phases of value clarification.[7] The phases of the value clarification strategy allow students to fully process content and opinion. In the first phase, students learn background information to comprehend the topic, idea or concept. Without comprehension, students will be unable to complete or accomplish the remaining phases as this fully establishes the practice of value clarification. During the second phase, students relate the topic introduced in the classroom to the concept at large. For example, to adequately assign value to the topic of immigration, students must understand what is happening with current policy and what has happened with past policy throughout the history of the United States. Upon examination of evidence, the teacher then guides students through a discussion of perceptions and beliefs that exist across the political spectrum. Once the students are better able to navigate the topic, in this case immigration, and how it exists or is perceived outside of their own personal worldview, students should be encouraged to elaborate on their understandings of their own personal views and why those positions are held. Moving beyond the relay of content information, students move into phase three with the intent to analyze their positions on the topic presented and to explain their opinion. Once students have clearly outlined their opinion on a given issue, the final phase asks students to reflect on the new information introduced. Further, students re-examine all sides of the issue that have been presented and re-address their personal viewpoint to see if their opinion on the topic has changed or remained the same.
Lesson Plan Example

To provide a more concise illustration, applying value clarification in the classroom could come in the form of the activities associated with completing a document-based question (DBQ). Not only do DBQs address the phases included in Value Clarification, but teachers can also address many Common Core Standards (See Table 1). To begin the DBQ, students are presented with a question, such as: Does current immigration policy in the United States reflect the attitudes and beliefs of the American People? Why or Why Not? Phase 1 is used to build background knowledge on the topic being presented. In this phase the teacher should “hook” the students into the topic by activating students’ prior knowledge on immigration. Presenting a question and providing a brief history of what immigration to the United States has looked like will help students build that foundational knowledge to form or strengthen their own opinion and feelings they may have towards immigration. Direct instruction is necessary during this phase as it ensures students have enough background knowledge on the topic being explored.

Phase 2 would involve students analyzing resources to help connect and relate to the question posed in the DBQ. Teachers should provide quotes, pictures, and documents for students to analyze and continue to build or strengthen the understanding as to why people immigrate to the United States and how the process and policies have changed over the years. See Figure 1 and Figure 2 for examples. Teachers should also provide guiding questions to help students get comfortable understanding the perceptions others may have and compare them to their own understanding and feelings. Teachers should implement a gradual release model and analyze the first few documents with the students to model for students how to pull information and details from the documents before releasing them to analyze on their own.

Figure 1: Example of a political cartoon that can be used.[8]
The United States must adopt an immigration system that serves the national interest. To restore the rule of law and secure our border, President Trump is committed to constructing a border wall and ensuring the swift removal of unlawful entrants. To protect American workers, the President supports ending chain migration, eliminating the Visa Lottery, and moving the country to a merit-based entry system. These reforms will advance the safety and prosperity of all Americans while helping new citizens assimilate and flourish.
Figure 2: Example of a quote that can be used for analysis.[9]
Phase 3 would involve students taking their position on the question presented and using facts from the documents to make their argument stronger. Teachers can implement many instructional strategies to get students to share their positions such as an essay, debate, Socratic seminar, or academic controversy.
After an activity of this nature, it is beneficial to debrief and reflect on the activities presented in the DBQ in order to further clarify what students’ values on a topic are post-experience. This could come in the form of an exit ticket, think-pair-share or survey.
Sample of Common Core Standards Addressed During DBQs.
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author's point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).
Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author's claims.
Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.
Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 6-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
Table 1: Sample of Common Core Standards addressed in a DBQ activity.[10]
Teaching immigration must be tackled with poise and care, as the topic can breed more controversy if not handled appropriately. Thus, keeping critical thinking and moral commitment at the forefront of a topic is necessary in delving deeper into a more controversial topic like this one. Ultimately, there is a need to unpack a student’s assigned value ratings, and to better understand the feelings and emotions felt around a given issue. Once students evaluate what their positionality is on a given issue, including immigration policy, then they can apply their learning and participate more fully and ethically in their relationships in and out of the classroom. For our students to grow into knowledgeable, participatory, global citizens, it is imperative that they learn how to identify and develop their positions and values, perhaps especially when it comes to current events that are relevant in contemporary society.[11]

[1] Llewellyn, Kristina R., Sharon Anne Cook, and Alison Molina. 2010. “Civic Learning: Moving from the Apolitical to the Socially Just.” Journal of Curriculum Studies 42 (6): 791–812. 
[2] College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards." Public Works: The Legacy of the New Deal. June 12, 2017. Accessed September 29, 2018.
[3] Lawrence J. Walker. 1982. “The Sequentiality of Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development.” Child Development, no. 5: 1330. doi:10.2307/1129023.
[4] Bradford, Jennifer, Denise Mowder, and Joy Bohte. 2016. “You Can Lead Students to Water, but You Can’t Make Them Think: An Assessment of Student Engagement and Learning through Student-Centered Teaching.” Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning 16 (4): 33. 
[5] Raths, L., Harmin, M., & Simon, S. 1973. Teaching for value clarity. In B. I. Chazan & J. F. Soltis (Eds.), Moral education (pp. 170-182). New York: Teachers College Press
[6] Noddings, N., & Brooks, L. (2017). Teaching controversial issues?: the case for critical thinking and moral commitment in the classroom. New York?: Teachers College Press, [2017]. 
[7] Casteel, J. Doyle, And Others, and Inc., Ft. Myers. Florida Educational Research and Development Council. 1974. Value Clarification in the Social Studies: Six Formats of the Values Sheet. Research Bulletin
[8] "Welcome to All!" Home. January 01, 1880. Accessed October 26, 2018.
[9] "Immigration." The White House. Accessed October 26, 2018.
[10] National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers. "Common Core State Standards." 2010.
[11] "The National Council for History Education- Habits of the Mind." NCHE. Accessed September 29, 2018.

About NCHE

The National Council for History Education provides professional and intellectual leadership to foster an engaged community committed to the teaching, learning, and appreciation of diverse histories.