Why do we study Social Studies?

“How important do you think it is for children to know why they are studying social studies. If you feel that it is important to know why you are learning something, then how might you go about ensuring that your future students could answer the question, What is social studies and why is it an important subject to study in school.”

When I remember about the subject of Social Studies that I have taken, I knew it was important information that I must have and I did enjoy learning most part. Although I wish I had taken them a little more seriously and paid closer attention,there were few areas that I convinced myself I did not need it for my future: citizenship, government system, and contemporary histories and issues. (Currently I am very interested in all those areas though.)

But why did I neglect these areas so much?  Perhaps, the ways it was taught; as well, the preconceptions I had on these areas from my experiences as a young person must have played a big part on it.

(It sounds very old to say this… but) Back in my days in mid 1980s to mid 1990s in Japan, all of my teachers used transmissive and authoritative style of teaching. Following the textbook, asking to memorize information/facts (as a textbook say, ignoring other of stories) for quizzes and exams. It was like information over load and I felt there was no real connection to my life. (Though, I did love geography and prehistoric part of history no matter what. Because I really wanted to travel the world and thought it would be cool to be an archaeologist like Indiana Jones.)

Let’s talk about my preconceptions of the government and contemporary histories and issues.
I think I was always skeptical and cynical toward the government to start with, not specifically one but the function of government itself, I suppose. I did not like the fact that there were still wars going on around the world although the people who run the government must’ve learned history. Moreover, the government asks the people to be patriotic and sacrifice for the country and the government really does not  compensate the people in the end. Why didn’t I want to make it better? I was never encouraged for any social change through my schooling. I played a role of conforming, compliant and passive student who would not get in a trouble. I played it safe.

Things changed for me when I came to Fort Qu’Appelle Elementary School in 2000. Students were encouraged to do community services and they were confident and proud doing so. Although some basic academic skills (especially in math) seemed a little bit lower at times, students appeared more mature and capable beings compared to when I was a student in Japan.

I think it is important for students to know that they are important part of community and they can contribute to better the society. And Social Studies can be a very practical subject to engage in society immediately. I want to provide authentic and relevant learning opportunities for students to engage in. I hope I can create a safe environment for students where we can learn and work together for social justice. I want students to feel confident and empowered, they have the opportunity to shape the future. For students to have a sense of themselves as active participants and citizens in an inclusive, culturally diverse, interdependent world. (Social Studies Aims and Goals, Sask. Curriculum)


#2 Social Constructivism

What experiences have you had with the theory of constructivism so far in your teacher education program? What do you know about constructivism based on that experience?

My experiences of learning within the theory of constructivism were very challenging at first. Perhaps because of my own learning experiences in institutions were based on transmission of knowledge and I was not challenged to share my own opinion as much. So in a way, it was simpler to get the marks as long as you memorize information. As long as you provide the answers teachers were asking for, you get your mark. However, I soon realized that it was not really good learning process after I experienced in the constructivism learning environment.

  1. Collaborative learning (group work) was very scary at first and did not do it well in a way that it should have worked. We just divided sections and each did individual portion, then put them together after. This wasn’t true collaboration. Then when the second year came, we started to have personal relationships with colleagues and learned each others’ strengths. And the collaborative learning process became much more meaningful. We discussed more in detail and thought about what the end result should be. Moreover, I learned many other strategies and tools that I would not used if I were to work alone.
    (And here are some of great tools I continue to use for collaborative learning: Google Doc and Drive to write and share your document instantly, Twitter to share your thoughts and resources, also ask questions and get answers from community of professionals (#saskedchat), WordPress let us become co-authors.)
  2. Inquiry Learning: I feel like we have been doing inquiry learning about ourselves many times. It took me a while to get comfortable to share myself, vulnerable at times. However, the thing that made me better at this is reflective thinking process. We were asked to reflect upon our own values and beliefs in critical ways, how they were constructed and how it affected our learning. Furthermore, how it will transfer into our teaching styles. I had a break through with one of my writing in ECS210 and I know this piece gave me opportunity to become confident and stronger in person.
  3.  Multiple intelligences: Many (not all unfortunately) of professors and instructors in Faculty have been honoring students diversity and allowing multiple interpretations and expressions of learning.

Although I was pushed expand my. learning to many directions in this teacher education program, I believe it have made me an engaged learner myself.

Is there anything missing that you feel would be important to add?

As third year program unfolded, the program focuses are now on curriculum, lesson plans and actual classroom management skills. And I do have a conflicting thoughts in my head: my ambition to have a student-centered classroom with the theory of constructivism but there is a necessity of traditional teaching, especially for younger students. I know from my experiences working with Kindergartners that they need structured environment and learn basic skills by repetition. I really think I have to find a good balance of both.

Reflections: SK Curriculum and Rationales of Social Studies

In this post, I will read and compare the Saskatchewan Social Studies curriculum and Four Rationales of Social Studies.

As I read the ‘Aim and Goals’ of SK Social Studies curriculum, I can see that it tries to cover all four rationales. Students with academic understandings and being initiated into society (by this curriculum), they are able to develop sense of self and move toward better future.  SKcurriculum social studies


#1 Social Studies Education -Does it include social justice?

Q: “How do you imagine teaching social studies classes?

I know how I don’t want to teach Social Studies: the way I was taught in classroom. I did not hate Social Studies, but it was all about information available at times and students were to memorize all of the information and facts (of how it was written), dates, places, … etc. for quizzes and tests. We had a few field trips and some group works, but my worldview did not expand beyond textbooks and what had been shared in the classroom. Transmission of knowledge was the main goal. The attitude was like must have knowledge first in order to think.

I want to give students genuine opportunities to think and relate themselves to the world surround them and beyond the classroom. As well, I want to foster students’ curiosity and eagerness to learn. I want to create a student-centered, collaborative, experiential and multicultural learning classroom. Definitely I will follow Constructivist views of learning.

What ideas and practices are central to your developing philosophy? Why?

My philosophy is always evolving as I live and learn each and everyday. I know that my families and childhood experiences are central to what I believed and valued ( and still do in some cases). However, those my beliefs and values had been overturned, or perhaps it’s better said to be shed new light on so many time as I started my journey of becoming an educator. I did not realize how hard but fascinating to think critically until I was challenged by instructors and professors here at U of R. It could be uncomfortable at times when I dig deep down to analyze social justice issues; but in the end, I have discovered myself – my beliefs and values, and how I see the world. So the practice of critical thinking and reflection is central to develop my philosophy. (And here is one I did in spring 2014. My Teaching Philosophy)

How do you define social justice in education? How will your social studies classroom reflect these values/beliefs?

It was really tough to define social justice in education myself. So I will quote from the book Social Studies for Social Justice by Rahima C Wade.

“First, we can teach about social justice, exploring the legacy of injustice and justice in our nation’s history and in the world. Second, we can teach for social justice, giving our students the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to live empowered lives themselves and to worked for the basic human rights of all people. ” (p.8)

I thought I can connect this teaching practice into my own classroom, especially for Treaty education. We must know the legacy of injustice our First Nations and Metie people faced and still do. And we must learn multiple perspectives, how to respect all and coexist in harmonious ways.


4 Rationales of Social Studies

  1. Social Initiation Rationale
    The Social Initiation rationale sees that the primary purpose of social studies is to initiate students into society by transmitting the understandings, abilities and values that students will require if they are to fit into and be productive members of society.
  2. Social Reformation Rationale
    This rationale sees the primary purpose of social studies is to empower students with the understandings, abilities and values necessary to improve or transform their society.
  3. Personal Development Rationale:
    This rationale sees the primary purpose of social studies is to help students develop fully as individuals and as social beings. Its direct purpose is neither to reform society nor maintain status quo, but to foster the personal talents and character of each student.
  4. Academic Understanding:
    This rationale sees the primary purpose of social studies is to introduce students to the bodies of knowledge and the forms of inquiry represented in the social science disciplines…the prime justification of this rationale is the value of understanding the structure and content of the social sciences.