E T S Praxis Series

Principles of Learning and Teaching: Grades 7-12 (0524)

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Current section: Essay > Case History

The sample questions that follow illustrate the kinds of questions in the test. They are not, however, representative of the entire scope of the test in either content or difficulty. Answers with explanations follow the questions.

Case History: 7-12

Directions: The case history is followed by two short-answer questions.

Mr. Payton


Mr. Payton teaches world history to a class of thirty heterogeneously grouped students ages fourteen to sixteen. He is working with his supervisor, planning for his self-evaluation to be completed in the spring. At the beginning of the third week of school, he begins gathering material that might be helpful for the self-evaluation. He has selected one class and three students from this class to focus on.

Mr. Payton's first impression of the three students

Jimmy has attended school in the district for ten years. He repeated fifth and seventh grades. Two years older than most of the other students in class and having failed twice, Jimmy is neither dejected nor hostile. He is an outgoing boy who, on the first day of class, offered to help me with "the young kids" in the class. He said, "Don't worry about me remembering a lot of dates and stuff. I know it's going to be hard, and I'll probably flunk again anyway, so don't spend your time thinking about me."

Burns is a highly motivated student who comes from a family of world travelers. He has been to Europe and Asia. These experiences have influenced his career choice, international law. He appears quiet and serious. He has done extremely well on written assignments and appears to prefer to work alone or with one or two equally bright, motivated students. He has a childhood friend, one of the slowest students in the class.

Pauline is a withdrawn student whose grades for the previous two years have been mostly C's and D's. Although Pauline displays no behavior problems when left alone, she appears not to be popular with the other students. She often stares out the window when she should be working. When I speak to Pauline about completing assignments, she becomes hostile. She has completed few of the assignments so far with any success. When I spoke to her counselor, Pauline yelled at me, "Now I'm in trouble with my counselor too, all because you couldn't keep your mouth shut!"

Mr. Payton's initial self-analysis, written for his supervisor

I attend workshops whenever I can and consider myself a creative teacher. I often divide the students into groups for cooperative projects, but they fall apart and are far from "cooperative." The better-performing students, like Burns, complain about the groups, claiming that small-group work is boring and that they learn more working alone or with students like themselves. I try to stimulate all the students' interest through class discussions. In these discussions, the high-achieving students seem more interested in impressing me than in listening and responding to what other students have to say. The low-achieving students seem content to be silent. Although I try most of the strategies I learn in workshops, I usually find myself returning to a modified lecture and the textbook as my instructional mainstays.

Background information on lesson to be observed by supervisor


  • To introduce students to important facts and theories about Catherine the Great
  • To link students' textbook reading to other sources of information
  • To give students practice in combining information from written and oral material
  • To give students experience in note taking

I assigned a chapter on Catherine the Great in the textbook as homework on Tuesday. Students are to take notes on their reading. I gave Jimmy a book on Catherine the Great with a narrative treatment rather than the factual approach taken by the textbook. I told him the only important date is the date Catherine began her reign. The book has more pictures and somewhat larger print than the textbook.

I made no adaptation for Burns, since he's doing fine. I offered to create a study guide for Pauline, but she angrily said not to bother. I hope that Wednesday's lecture will make up for any difficulties she might experience in reading the textbook.

Supervisor's notes on Wednesday's lesson

Mr. Payton gives a lecture on Catherine the Great. First he says, "It is important that you take careful notes because I will be including information that is not contained in the chapter you read as homework last night. The test I will give on Friday will include both the lecture and the textbook information."

He tape records the lecture to supplement Pauline's notes but does not tell Pauline about the tape until the period is over because he wants her to do the best note taking she can manage. During the lecture, he speaks slowly, watching the class as they take notes. In addition, he walks about the classroom and glances at the students' notes.

Mr. Payton's follow-up and reflection

Tomorrow the students will use the class period to study for the test. I will offer Pauline earphones to listen to the tape-recorded lecture. On Friday, we will have a short-answer and essay test covering the week's work.

Class notes seem incomplete and inaccurate, and I'm not satisfied with this test as an assessment of student performance. Is that a fair measure of all they do?