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The social sciences provide ways for people to understand humanity and themselves. A

solid social studies education supplies a student with the tools he or she needs to be an informed

and responsible citizen. Social studies can be taught in a dynamic way that embraces diversity

and encourages creativity and civic engagement, as is explained in this position paper and social

studies plan.

Despite a huge increase in the average level of education in American society, social,

political, and historical knowledge has remained stagnant for the last 50 years (Galston, 2011).

Recent research has shown that more effective, engaging social studies programs can change that

and provide the world with a populace that understands how to make responsible civic choices in

the modern world (Galston, 2011). This paper explains the need to teach social studies in a

dynamic way, rather than by a method of lecture and memorization.

Lesh writes that students should be taught to “do” history, as they are taught to “do”

science, math, and the language arts (2011). The position of this paper is that social studies

should not be taught in a way that is divorced from the creation of new understandings and

knowledge, but rather, as Lesh suggests, in a manner that encourages creativity and exploration.

The modern world is globally connected, culturally diverse and intermeshed, and is filled

with the conflicts and advantages of that connectivity. Those conflicts and advantages stem from

past events and present concerns. It is the job of an effective and responsible social studies

teacher to help students navigate this world with grace and respect. To do that, teachers need to

embrace different ways of knowing and teach not only about people who have been historically

disenfranchised, but as this paper suggests, be brave enough to actually teach from the

perspective of women, minorities, and other dissidents (Zinn, 2009).


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Despite how history texts often portray the world, every event can be and, this paper

posits, should be viewed from multiple perspectives. An educator’s job is to help students access

and understand those perspectives. Students are themselves diverse and have diverse

experiences: lessons about perspective will not be lost on them. Students are best able to learn

when they are able to connect new information to knowledge they already possess (Harvey and

Goudvis, 2007).

This paper explains that studying the social sciences is about asking good questions. An

effective teacher can help scaffold her students’ learning by designing and helping them design

the kinds of questions that they will be able to explore (Koechlin and Zwaan, 2014). The design

of the social studies plan is intended to display a culturally diverse and responsive curriculum

and activities that encourage students to be creative and explore the material through scaffolded

questioning. Cross-discipline designs, such as this one, have been shown to increase student

learning (Harvey and Goudvis, 2007).

In teaching social studies, one must be attuned to the interests of one’s students. Students’

varied understandings and perspectives lead to a richer discussion of the human experience. This

paper and study plan discuss and depict an approach to the social sciences that encourages

inquiry, exploration, and creativity.


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References

Galston, W. A. (2011). Political knowledge, political engagement, and civic education. Annual

Review of Political Science, 4: 217-234. Retrieved from

https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.polisci.4.1.217

Harvey, S. & Goudvis, A. (2007). Strategies that work: teaching comprehension for

understanding and engagement. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.

Koechlin, C. & Zwaan, S. (2014). Q tasks. Markham, Ontario: Pembroke Publishers Limited.

Lesh, B. A. (2011). Why won’t you just tell us the answer? Teaching historical thinking in

grades 7-12. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.

Zinn, H. (2009). A young people’ history of the United States. New York, NY: Seven Stories

Press.