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The Disappearing Social Studies Curriculum: What Cost to Democracy? Margit E. McGuire, Ph.D. Seattle University Why teach social studies? To prepare students for living in a democratic society and interdependent world. To be informed and thoughtful To act politically

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slide1

The Disappearing Social Studies Curriculum:

What Cost to Democracy?

Margit E. McGuire, Ph.D.Seattle University

why teach social studies
Why teach social studies?

To prepare students for living in a democratic society and interdependent world.

  • To be informed and thoughtful
  • To act politically
  • To have moral and civic virtues such as concern for others, social responsibility and the belief in the capacity to make a difference.

Civic Mission of Schools, 2003

slide3

“Research suggests that students start to develop social responsibility and interest in politics before the aged of nine. The way they are taught about social issues, ethics, and institutions in elementary school matters a great deal for their civic development.”

Civic Mission of Schools, p. 12

knowledge of the social world

Knowledge of the social world…

Name the three branches of the federal government. (Executive, Judicial, Legislative) 41.2%

Name as many of the Three Stooges as you can. (Curly, Larry, & Moe) 59.2%

http://www.constitutioncenter.org/CitizenAction/CivicResearchResults/NCCTeens'Poll.shtmlNational Constitution Center, 1997 Poll

…and the trend continues

slide5

Decrease in Social Studies Instruction

James S. Leming, Lucien Ellington, & Mark Schug, Social Studies in Our Nation’s Schools, May 2006, p. 10

slide6

Social Studies in Our Nation’s Schools, May 2006

  • James S. Leming, Lucien Ellington, & Mark Schug
  • Telephone survey conducted by
  • University of Connecticut’s Center for
  • Survey Research
  • 1,051 randomly selected 2nd, 5th, and 8th
  • grade social studies teachers
slide7

The Washington State Council for the Social Studies, with assistance from several other groups, this past fall conducted a survey on the status of social studies education in the state. The primary goal of the survey was to find out whether social studies education is on the decline, as we have heard anecdotally, and if so, why.

slide8

Of those who felt social studies has declined, approximately 80% cited as the reason "state testing," "the WASL," "No Child Left Behind," "focus on reading and math," or some otheranswer that could be categorized as "a result of school reform." If we also included the comment "focus on other subjects," this percentage would be even higher.

  • Other reasons cited frequently for decline include the integration of social studies with language arts, less funding for professional development and materials, and lack of a standardized SS curriculum in the district or state.
  • These findings are consistent with the national survey and individual state surveys conducted throughout the country.
factor 1 testing

Factor 1: Testing

NCLB

National testing

State testing

Resulting in…

Narrowing of the curriculum

More focus on low level knowledge

Fear and threats

Public education under attack

factor 2 emphasis on literacy

Factor 2: Emphasis on Literacy

Literacy is the focus of the school day

Literacy is the focus of staff development

Resources are devoted to literacy

…and now mathematics

factor 3 curriculum integration at the expense of social studies

Factor 3: Curriculum Integration at the Expense of Social Studies

Published curriculum…

For example…

Open Court

Reading about the social world is not the same as teaching social studies.

examining integration approaches

Examining Integration Approaches…

Research on Science and Literacy Integration at

UC Berkeley

why integration
Why Integration?
  • Science provides an authentic and engaging context for literacy learning, especially informational literacy.
  • Literacy learning can support students in learning science.
  • Integration may strengthen the standing of science in the school day.
  • Integration may be our only hope in a policy context with a crowded curriculum and a distorted sense of curricular values.

Retrieved January 21, 2007

http://www.literacyinstitute.org/speaker_handouts.php

P. David Pearson 7-12-06.ppt

why integration16
Why Integration?
  • Social studies provides an authentic and engaging context for literacy learning, especially informational literacy.
  • Literacy learning can support students in learning social studies.
  • Integration may strengthen the standing of social studies in the school day…a curriculum fast disappearing from the school day especially in the elementary school.
  • Using literacy skills to learn about the social world provides authentic and meaningful application.
  • Acting politically, a hallmark of social studies, requires strong literacy skills.
social studies learning
Social studies learning

Using the skills of literacy are necessary for learners to access the social world, giving purpose and meaning to the use of such skills. They are not an end in and of themselves.

For example, using the skills of driving a car are important but you also need to know where you are going.

factor 4 the quality of early social studies education

Factor 4:The Quality of Early Social Studies Education

Social studies at the early grades is superficial at best and boring at worst or as Brophy and Alleman claim “…trite, redundant, and unlikely to help students accomplish significant educational goals” (p.13).

Brophy & Alleman (2007). Powerful Social Studies for ElementaryStudents.

Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth

factor 5 commitment to teach social studies

Factor 5: Commitment to Teach Social Studies

Teachers (especially primary teachers)

focus on literacy

Administrators focus on literacy

Staff development focuses on literacy

You can’t teach what you don’t know

Policy makers focus on literacy…and now math

preoccupation with the what to teach

Preoccupation with the WHAT to teach

Social studies at all levels focuses on what to teach

National and State Standards

Testing agendas

Social Education Articles

Scope and sequences

too much to teach

Too much to teach

In the context of standards and testing, no one is willing to challenge the issue of an overcrowded curriculum…

highly political

textbook traditions

resources to rethink how we teach social studies

less time to teach for understanding

Less time to teach for understanding

Teaching what matters most is critically important for teaching for understanding

Enduring--value beyond the classroom

At the heart of the discipline not kibbles and bits

Needing uncoverage

Engaging to learners--especially for those we do not want to leave behind

Wiggins and McTighe (1988).Understanding by Design, Alexandria, VI: ASCD

reduced creativity

Reduced creativity

Less experimentation with new ideas and ways of teaching

More standardized curriculum

--”one size fits all”

Less attention to learning needs of individual learners

Less attention to engaging learners in authentic learning

what about children in poverty

What about children in poverty?

Less opportunity to learn social studies

Continued issues of school failure and dropout

Disengagement from school

Can we create dispositions towards democracy and the belief in the capacity to make a difference if we deny these children access to social studies education?

bright spots

Bright Spots…

Storypath Strategy

a powerful narrative structure for curriculum integration the storypath strategy
A Powerful Narrative Structure for Curriculum Integration: The Storypath Strategy

The Storypath strategy uses the components of story--scene, character and plot--to organize curriculum into meaning and memorable learning experiences.

It is more than reading a story, it is living the story guided by the teacher as learners create the scene, become the characters and solve the problems presented through the plot.

slide28

“A clear and compelling narrative helps us find meaning, not just scattered facts and abstract ideas. Stories help us remember and make sense of our lives and the lives around us….A story is not a diversion; the best stories make our lives more understandable and focused” (p. 48).

Wiggins, G & McTighe, J. (1998). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VI: ASCD.

And others…

Bruner, J. (1990). Acts of meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Egan, K. (2001). Imagination. in Turning the perspective: New outlooks on education. Enschede: CIDREE/SLO

Egan, K. (1990). Romantic understanding: The development of rationality and imagination, ages 8-15. New York: Routledge.

Downey, M. & Levstik, L. (1991). Teaching and learning history. In J. Shaver (Ed.). Handbook of research on social studies teaching and learning (pp.400-410). New York: Macmillan.

the questioning process
The Questioning Process

Problematizescontent, encourages substantive conversations

and

guides students’ thinking about important concepts and values.

episode 5 6 critical incidents
Episode 5 & 6: Critical Incidents

Graffiti in the Park

Bullying in the Park

fair go model of student engagement
Fair Go Model of Student Engagement*

Centralizes

Student Engagement

…to enhance both

learning and social outcomes

students need to “buy into” the educational experience

*http://www.psfp.nsw.edu.au/projects/index.html#Fair%20Go

features of engaging classrooms
Features of Engaging Classrooms
  • High cognitive, high affective and high operativetasks
  • Quality instructional practices
  • “Insider classroom” interactions

In the Storypath students receive messages that they are knowledgeable and able, have classroom control, have a place in the classroom, and their voice is valued.