Social Studies Interview and Standards Investigation

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Interview and Standards Investigation
Sarah Woods
Grand Canyon University
EED 465 Curriculum, Methods, and Assessment: Social Studies
Leah Barley
December 8, 2011

Interview and Standards Investigation
Social studies is a complicated subject for teachers to teach and for students to learn because it encompasses so many different disciplines. On top of that, society is characterized by increasingly rapid social and technological changes that affect what social studies content is being taught to students (NCSS, 1988). For many years students have been forced to learn low cognitive level information that lacks meaning and fails to transfer to real life situations. For these reasons Social Studies is the subject that students love to hate (Hope, 1996). Rather than dwelling on what has gone wrong in the past, it is best to look to the future and learn from past pedagogic mistakes to determine what can be done to energize social studies instruction in order to restore respect by students and teachers alike for such an important field (Hope, 1996). The implementation of state and national standards has been an important step in making this happen. This assessment will evaluate the state of Arizona’s Social Studies Standards for sixth grade for thoroughness, clarity, user friendliness, and comprehensiveness. It will go on to provide a well-supported, objective, academic response to the interview conducted with Ms. Traci Smith, a sixth grade social studies teacher at Will Rogers Junior High in Claremore, OK, and the standards investigation by analyzing how social studies is taught today.

The Arizona Department of Education website contains five sixth grade history strands that emphasize World history from its earliest cultures through Enlightenment, including the early cultures of the Americas. The Arizona State Standards for sixth grade are extremely thorough containing strands for American History, World History, Civics/Government, Geography, and Economics each with well-defined concepts and performance objectives for students at the sixth grade level. According to the NCSS definition of Social studies, each of these topics plays a vital role in social studies education. The thoroughness of these standards helps guide lesson planning and learning because teachers know exactly what they are supposed to teach and students know exactly what they are supposed to learn in order to achieve mastery. The Arizona State Standards for Social Studies are very clearly defined by topic. This makes them easy to read and understand. This reduces confusion and frustration and promotes integration with other subject areas. Each strand is broken down further into concepts that explicitly say, where applicable, which other strand(s) they connect with in order to further student understanding. This characteristic makes the Arizona State Standards for Social Studies extremely user friendly. Finally, the Arizona State Standards for Social studies are very comprehensive. They cover a large scope of information in order to help Arizona students develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world (NCSS, 1993).

According to Ms. Smith, social studies instruction has come a long way since she began teaching fifteen years ago. When she started it was common practice for students to read the sections in the social studies textbook, answer the questions at the end, and then take a test to demonstrate what they learned. This seemingly meaningless busy work compounded by the implementation of NCLB led to a dramatic reduction in social studies content as teachers became more concerned with high stakes testing in the primary subject areas. High stakes testing has contributed to the trend of moving away from constructivist learning and student centered teaching approaches such as...
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