Study Guide

Professional Knowledge: Middle School
Sample Questions

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Competency 0001
Understand processes of human development, variations in student development, and how to apply this knowledge to provide instructional environments and experiences that promote all students' development and learning.

1. According to the theoretical framework developed by Urie Bronfenbrenner, adolescent development is most strongly influenced by which of the following factors?

  1. encounters with conflicting ideas that lead to disequilibrium and motivate the adolescent to change
  2. stages of moral development that shape an adolescent's increasingly sophisticated appreciation of morality
  3. genetically programmed characteristics that unfold gradually from early adolescence to adulthood
  4. interconnections between the adolescent and socially organized subsystems in the environment
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Correct Response: D. Urie Bronfenbrenner argued that understanding human development entails understanding the entire ecological system in which growth occurs. Bronfenbrenner's theory of development is based on the idea that there is a significant relationship between a developing adolescent and the adolescent's immediate environment, which includes school, family, economy, customs, and culture.

Competency 0002
Understand learning processes, factors that can affect student learning and performance, and how to apply this knowledge to provide instructional environments and experiences that promote all students' learning and achievement.

2. A middle school science teacher wishes to use scaffolding to promote student learning. Which of the following is the best example of this strategy?

  1. prompting students to identify personal goals that they hope to achieve whenever they are preparing for an upcoming project
  2. giving students charts labeled with relevant variables on which to record data they gather during classroom science experiments
  3. holding weekly content bees with students to review important information covered during recent lessons
  4. marking errors in students' lab reports and then having the students rewrite the reports correctly
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Correct Response: B. Scaffolding is a method of supporting students' learning by providing them with clues, examples, step-by-step instructions, or partially completed learning tasks. Adapting instructional materials to students' current skill levels is one type of scaffolding. In the example given, labeling a chart with relevant variables helps ensure that students record experiment data accurately and independently.

Competency 0003
Understand student diversity and how to provide learning opportunities and environments that are responsive to diversity, promote all students' learning, and foster students' appreciation of and respect for diversity.

3. A middle school student who has a mild cognitive impairment is likely to experience the most difficulty in which of the following areas?

  1. generalizing learned skills to new contexts
  2. following classroom routines
  3. working with a peer on a class activity
  4. identifying personal interests
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Correct Response: A. Cognitive impairment is defined, in part, as a disability characterized by significant limitations in intellectual functioning. While students with average cognitive abilities can be expected to generalize new knowledge or skills from one situation to the next, often with minimal support, students with cognitive impairments need explicit instruction in this process of generalization. To learn most effectively, students with cognitive impairments need frequent opportunities to practice, with guidance, newly acquired knowledge and skills in appropriate and relevant educational or real-world settings.

Competency 0004
Understand assessment instruments and practices, the relationship between assessment and instruction, and how to use assessment to guide instruction and monitor students' learning progress.

4. A significant challenge for teachers in using essay tests to assess student learning is that such tests:

  1. tend to be difficult to align with instructional objectives.
  2. are ineffective in measuring certain types of thinking skills.
  3. tend to encourage guessing in student responses.
  4. are difficult to score fairly and objectively.
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Correct Response: D. Since essay tests require students to create their own answers, subjectivity in judging the quality of the answers becomes a critical consideration. Teachers must develop and apply consistent criteria to evaluate essay tests objectively. In addition to the content of students' answers, variation in their communicative effectiveness and the mechanics of their writing (e.g., neatness, spelling, punctuation) are factors that teachers may consider when evaluating essay tests.

Competency 0005
Understand principles and procedures of curricular and instructional planning and how to use effective planning to design instruction that promotes all students' learning and achievement.

5. A teacher is planning lessons for a new instructional unit. The teacher can best ensure the effectiveness of these lessons in promoting student learning by considering which of the following questions first?

  1. What is the fairest and most efficient way to evaluate students' achievement of unit objectives?
  2. Which unit activities are best completed individually and which activities are best done in a group?
  3. What background knowledge and experience do students already have with regard to the unit topic?
  4. In what ways does the unit support the achievement of state standards in this subject area?
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Correct Response: C. The extent of students' prior knowledge and experience with a topic helps determine a teacher's approach to a new unit. If most students have a good foundation of information with regard to the unit topic, the teacher may only need to provide a brief review before beginning the unit. Conversely, if students have had limited or no experience with a unit topic, the teacher will need to help students acquire foundational knowledge of the topic before proceeding with planned instruction.

Competency 0006
Understand principles and practices associated with various instructional approaches and how to apply these principles and practices to promote all students' achievement of instructional goals.

6. Which of the following strategies would likely be most effective in improving the quality and effectiveness of cooperative learning experiences for students in their first year of middle school?

  1. allowing students to choose their own group members for group activities
  2. providing students with direct instruction and guided practice in group-process skills
  3. delaying group work until students have had a chance to get to know each other well
  4. giving students verbal feedback on their group work instead of assigning them a grade
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Correct Response: B. Successful cooperative learning experiences depend on group members' effective use of specific process skills. These skills include communicating appropriately, giving and receiving constructive feedback, coming to consensus, and encouraging participation by all group members. Providing students with explicit instruction in these skills and opportunities to practice them gives students the tools they need to achieve success in cooperative tasks across the curriculum and in the real world.

Competency 0007
Understand principles and practices related to motivation and communication and how to apply these principles and practices effectively to promote students' active engagement and learning.

7. Students in a middle school social studies class are completing a unit about how a bill becomes a law. Which of the following activities related to the unit would best promote the students' use of divergent thinking?

  1. having students design a flowchart illustrating the most important steps in the bill-to-law process
  2. having students research processes that led to the establishment of historically significant laws
  3. having students brainstorm ideas for laws that would be important to establish in their lifetime
  4. having students use presentation software to create a slide show depicting a bill in its various stages
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Correct Response: C. Divergent thinking is the ability to propose many different ideas or answers. Questions that promote this type of thinking are open ended, allow for many possible answers, and do not always have right or wrong answers. Activities that promote divergent thinking are generally structured so that students are prompted to elaborate on their own responses and offer additional thoughts to classmates' responses, thus adding depth to a discussion.

Competency 0008
Understand how to structure and manage the classroom to establish a safe, inclusive, and positive environment that is organized and productive; fosters excellence; and promotes learning, appropriate student behavior, and effective work habits.

8. A middle school teacher regularly holds brief class meetings with students. The teacher always begins these meetings by giving individual students an opportunity to recognize the efforts or achievement of a classmate or to thank a classmate for assistance with a difficult or challenging task. Beginning class meetings in this way is most likely to have which of the following outcomes?

  1. creating a learning environment that fosters excellence
  2. promoting students' self-monitoring of their own behavior
  3. building a supportive and caring classroom community
  4. communicating to students high expectations for their learning
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Correct Response: C. In a supportive classroom community, students feel cared about and are encouraged to care about each other. An important step in creating such a community is for the teacher to establish classroom rituals and routines that provide a foundation for positive and caring interactions among students. In the example given, the teacher helps provide such a foundation by adopting a routine for beginning class meetings that sets a positive tone.

Competency 0009
Understand how to establish partnerships and collaborate effectively with parents/guardians, colleagues, and members of the community to enhance and support student learning.

9. As a new school year begins, a middle school teacher is making plans to hold informal individual telephone conferences with the parent(s)/guardian(s) of each of his students. The teacher plans to begin each telephone conference by briefly explaining broad goals and expectations for all students in the class. Which of the following additional teacher actions during the telephone conferences would best help promote positive communication and a sense of partnership with parents/guardians?

  1. encouraging parents/guardians to share their own goals for their child's learning and development during the upcoming year as well as any concerns they may have
  2. providing a thorough review of the curriculum in the teacher's subject area and giving parents/guardians time to ask questions about the content to be covered
  3. soliciting from parents/guardians information about any problematic situations in the home that they believe may affect their child's learning and achievement in school
  4. sharing information with parents/guardians about the teacher's own personal and educational background and his professional credentials
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Correct Response: A. Efforts to create partnerships with parents/guardians should begin with the teacher's recognition that parents/guardians are knowledgeable, influential people who have contributions to make to students and their education. True partnerships between teachers and parents/guardians are balanced, with both parties seeing the other as having valuable knowledge and perspectives. When a teacher solicits input from parents/guardians about their goals for their children's learning and development as well as their concerns, it initiates two-way communication and helps set the stage for this balance.

Competency 0010
Understand roles and expectations for professional educators, legal and ethical guidelines, and strategies for continuous professional growth and self-reflection.

10. A new teacher has asked her mentor to observe instruction during several lessons and provide feedback on her teaching. These observations are likely to be most beneficial if the new teacher takes which of the following actions before they occur?

  1. identifying for the mentor specific aspects of her instruction, such as leading discussions, that she has particular concerns about
  2. explaining to her students ahead of time the purpose and intended outcomes of the observations
  3. providing the mentor with an overview of her students' current achievement levels, interests, and behavior patterns
  4. clarifying for the mentor key aspects of her own current philosophy of teaching and learning
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Correct Response: A. New teachers often have difficulty assessing their own teaching practices and an observation by a more experienced mentor can provide helpful insights. New teachers who are struggling with a particular aspect of teaching (e.g., class discussions) will benefit most from targeted feedback in that area. Providing a specific focus for an observation helps direct the mentor's attention and helps ensure that the post-observation dialogue between the mentor and the teacher addresses an identified need.