An Official Website of the Commonwealth of Kentucky
June 2015 Status ReportBy A. Gwynn Henderson
Kentucky State Project Archaeology Coordinator
Linda S. Levstik
Project Archaeology: Investigating Shelter Teacher Training and Classroom Implementation Project Co-Principal Investigator
In July 2014, Kentucky Project Archaeology held a week-long teachers academy,
Making History Local: An Inquiry-Based Approach, for 14 elementary and middle
school teachers and three archaeology/anthropology educators in Somerset,
Kentucky Old dwellings bring new understanding of world). Of the participating
teachers, four went on to pilot Project Archaeology: Investigating Shelter (https://projectarchaeology.org/shop/investigating-shelter) during
the 2014-2015 School Year using the revised draft of the Kentucky-based case
study, “Investigating A Shotgun House.” Its development was funded by the
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet as part of the Davis Bottom History
Preservation Project (https://anthropology.as.uky.edu/kas/kas-projects/davis-bottom-project).
We are nearing the end of the project’s implementation phase, so
we thought now would be a good time to provide you with a brief status
All of the teachers who volunteered to pilot the curriculum
attended the 2014 Academy. Although one of the teachers from Laurel County was
interested in participating, in the end, only one out of the eight Academy
teachers representing the originally targeted Lake Cumberland counties
(Clinton, Laurel, McCreary, Pulaski, Russell, or Wayne) participated in the
pilot project. She taught at Nancy Elementary in Pulaski County.
These volunteers were experienced teachers (their careers as
educators range from nine to 35 years), well-established in their schools/school
districts. Although they had taught social studies for between four and 15
years, none had taught the Investigating Shelter curriculum before. They were
trained in its use during the 2014 Academy. Each teacher entered the pilot with
the full support of their district curriculum specialist/school
principal/school district superintendent.
All of the schools within which these teachers taught are located
in rural or small-city/town locales. Two of the schools are part of independent
school districts (Barbourville and Burgin are small towns in Knox and Mercer
counties, respectively). The other two schools are part of county school
districts: Nancy is an unincorporated community in Pulaski County; Liberty is
the county seat of Casey County.
Notwithstanding the similarities of teacher experience and school
context, the four schools provide diverse teacher instruction approaches,
student population profile, and local cultural context.
Context 1: Barbourville Middle School, Knox County.
Independent city school district. Slightly more than sixty percent of the
students in the school district are eligible for free/reduced lunch. Ethnic
makeup of the district is 96 percent White and 4 percent Other. Instruction
started at the beginning of the school year as part of an eight-week “pull out”
program for gifted and talented (GT) 6th-grade students. Classes met daily for
a full 55-minute period. Despite the GT designation, the teacher assessed
students as ranging from high to low on academic achievement. Instruction
lasted from September 2014 to November 2014. Out of 22 students, 13 chose to
participate: 6 boys and 7 girls.
Context 2: Jones Park Elementary School, Casey County. County
school district. Slightly more than seventy-five percent of the students in the
school are eligible for free/reduced lunch. Ethnic makeup of the school is 96
percent White and 4 percent Other. Instruction started after the school year
was well underway and was carried out during daily social studies instruction
intensively over the course of three weeks. All students in the 5th grade were
instructed. As assessed by their teacher, a wide range of student performance
was represented. Instruction lasted from November 2014 to December 2014.
Out of 46 students, 22 chose to participate: 13 boys, and 9 girls.
Context 3: Nancy Elementary School, Pulaski County. County
school district. Almost two-thirds of the students in the school are eligible
for free/reduced lunch. Ethnic makeup of the school is 99 percent White and 1
percent Other. Instruction started after the school year was well underway and
was part of an enrichment class for high achieving 5th-grade students. The
class met three days a week for a half hour each day (as time progressed, the
class met for four days a week for a half hour). As a result, instruction
extended for 30 weeks over several months (October 2014 to April 2015). This is
the only school located within the initial target counties. Out of 24 students,
13 chose to participate: 7 boys, and 6 girls.
Context 4: Burgin Independent Middle School, Mercer County.
Independent city school district. Slightly more than one-third of
the students in the middle/high school are eligible for free/reduced lunch.
Ethnic makeup of the middle/high school is 91 percent White and 9 percent
Other. Instruction started after the school year was well underway. The unit
was piloted in the 7th-grade social studies class daily for a standard class
period (about an hour) over the course of four weeks. All 7th-grade students
were instructed. Instruction lasted from December 2014 to March 2015. Out of 29
students, 19 students chose to participate: 8 boys, and 11 girls.
Out of 121 students who received instruction, 67 (55.4 percent)
students received parental permission/chose to participate in the pilot study.
Of these students, 65 were interviewed (two were absent during interview days).
We have 58 pre- and post-unit instruction surveys to analyze to assess student
Based on teacher assessment of student academic performance, the
sample of interviewed students included
INSERT GRAPH HERE
Classroom piloting would take place
simultaneously in the four schools. However, due to the specifics of teacher
scheduling, school schedules, and weather, this did not happen. Instead,
instruction began as early as September 2014 and extended through April 2015.
Our pilot study has generated a variety of datasets. Interviews
with teachers (individually and as a group) and students in small groups has
generated the bulk of our data. We also have collected information about
students through written pre- and post-unit instruction surveys, visits to the
classroom during instruction, teacher-submitted student work, and information
about piloting and the curriculum from teachers through post-piloting written
Pre- and Post-Unit Instruction Surveys
Identical four-page written surveys were administered to all
students in each classroom so that the teachers could assess all students’
learning. These surveys were administered immediately before instruction began
and (usually) immediately after instruction ended.
Among other things, the survey asked students for their opinion
concerning ten statements about archaeology, history, and culture. In short
essays, they were asked to describe the work archaeologists and historians do
and to contrast that work; to consider what could be learned about people
through the study of their shelters; to provide examples of important
archaeological concepts (like observation and context); and to answer questions
about their views on site protection and preservation. Only surveys completed
by study participants are included in our data set.
Classroom Visits During Instruction
In-class visits during curriculum instruction occurred in three of
the four schools (scheduling issues did not permit visiting the fourth school
during instruction). The goal of these visits was to assess student
participation/involvement in unit instruction.
Student Interviews: We conducted 45-minute
interviews with students in groups of two or three, depending on the amount of
time available to us to interview students and the number of pilot project
participants at the school. Each student was assigned a pseudonym that appears
on transcribed interviews to preserve their anonymity. The questions in the
IRB-approved interview protocol were designed to elicit student responses that
would help us assess what students had learned, and their thoughts about the
past and the value of learning about the lives of the working poor/residents of
Davis Bottom, but also elicit their opinions of the overall curriculum.
Teacher Individual Interviews: We conducted interviews
with each of the participating teachers at or near the conclusion of their
instruction using an IRB-approved interview protocol. The goal was to capture
their immediate assessment of student learning, the appropriateness of the
curriculum for their teaching experience, and any particular affordances or
constraints they noticed as they implemented the pilot.
Teacher Group Interviews: Once all teachers had completed
instruction, we met as a group to discuss their piloting experience using the
IRB-approved group interview protocol (one of the teachers was unable to make
the rescheduled meeting. We interviewed her on the phone on June 14). This
protocol was intended to capture more specific teacher evaluations of the
inquiry-based instruction, the civic action phase of the program, and a page-by-page
review of the curriculum. Also, in preparation for the meeting, we asked the
teachers to answer a series of questions on a written questionnaire, focused on
the goals of the group meeting. This was intended to generate deeper reflection
to bring to the group assessment of the unit.
Student Work Samples
We collected samples of students’ work from each classroom as
Photographs of participants’ work displayed in each
Completed worksheets from “Investigating A Shotgun House,” the Davis
Bottom Shelter Investigation
Student essays and final papers
Class feedback sheets
One of the teachers prepared a YouTube video showing her students
presenting and conducting classroom activities as part of in-class learning
(the school had secured parental permission for student photography). Here is a
link to her video, Project Archaeology Movie 2015:
Some of the insights we have gained from this pilot project, based
on student interviews and individual teacher interviews transcribed to date:
It is crystal clear that the subject of archaeology in general,
and the Investigating Shelter curriculum in particular, are powerful tools for
student learning. The Investigating Shelter curriculum can serve as a vehicle
for modeling inquiry-based teaching for deep conceptual understanding of
diverse humanities subjects. Archaeology is the engine that drives instruction.
The drive shaft is inquiry-based teaching and learning. And the car is
Our preliminary results suggest that our teacher colleagues were not really
doing much inquiry or were not using inquiry to its full potential. They did
not appear to be comfortable or familiar with inquiry-based instruction
techniques. This is not necessarily a problem with the Investigating Shelter
curriculum. Inquiry is hard to do. It supposes a question that grows out of
some experience in the world, and it requires content, data, analysis,
thinking, and drawing conclusions to answer the question.
To ask established teachers to change their teaching style means
they have to move out of their comfort zone and learn a completely new way of
conceiving of teaching, as well as learn to teach in a whole new way. In
retrospect, we realized that the Making History Local academy had provided
“hard scaffolding” - the instructional outline and examples, even some practice
- but not the “soft scaffolding” - the expert on-site/in the classroom to
support or intervene in the moment. Teachers need both kinds of scaffolding to
“do” inquiry well and confidently.
Drawn from our student interviews and our individual and group teacher
interviews, below are some preliminary observations we can make and some
important themes and issues that our study has raised.
enthusiasm for inquiry-based exploration of a “working poor” community.The challenges
of instruction in inquiry-based units.Time constraintsAdministrative support for and recognition of the academic benefits
of this kind of instructionThe benefits of
the Investigating Shelter platform.Teachers could use it easily, adapt it to various needs, identify
fit with academic standardsThe combination of hard copy and on-line resources worked very well
for these teachers. The video interviews with Davis Bottom residents on
the Davis Bottom History Preservation Project webpage and in the hour-long
video documentary, “Davis Bottom: Rare History, Valuable Lives,” were
particularly powerful for teachers and students. Students wanted to meet
the people from the community.The scaffolding for inquiry worked at each grade level. Neither
students nor teachers reported serious intellectual stumbling blocks. In
fact, students repeatedly asked if they would get to do this kind of thing
again, and if the students coming in next year could be part of this kind
identification of similarities and differences between their own lives and
those of people in Davis Bottom. Strong empathetic response: “I can
understand these people. I know what it is like to be poor.”Strong
civic/preservation response. Students identify the value of preserving
aspects of ordinary people’s lives, of recognizing histories that might
otherwise be invisible. Responses: Several students talked their parents into driving through what
remains of Davis Bottom and brought back pictures. Overwhelmingly positive response to preserving aspects of this
community: “Keep one shotgun house as a museum. Maybe the smallest museum
in the world!”Students perceive a moral/ethical component to preservation and
civic response to tearing down a historical community, though they are not
entirely sure how the people might have been able to advocate for
strongly identified with an integrated community, with a close-by civic
issue, and with the importance of civic leaders having a better
understanding and familiarity with this historic community.
What Comes Next?
Our teacher colleagues now know how to adjust and modify the
instructional materials, having been through the curriculum. Three of the four
pilot project teachers hope to be able to teach Project Archaeology:
Investigating Shelter again. However, one has been moved from teaching social
studies to teaching technology in the 2015-2016 School Year, and may not have
an opportunity to include any of the Investigating Shelter curriculum. Another
is now teaching 3rd grade and also may not have an opportunity to use the
One teacher attended the 2015 Project Archaeology Leadership
Academy held in Bozeman, Montana at the end of June. She is now a trained
Project Archaeology: Investigating Shelter teacher facilitator and has agreed
to facilitate future Kentucky workshops as part of the Kentucky Project
Transcribing interviews is nearly finished. Initial analysis of
the pre- and post- instruction survey instruments is now in process.Stay tuned for further updates! And thanks for your interest in
Kentucky Project Archaeology!