Content Area Reading #7 – Singer says…

Social Studies for Secondary Schools by Alan J. Singer. 4th edition. Chapters 4 (What are our goals?) and Chapter 5 (Is social studies teaching political?)

I chose to read these chapters to switch up my weekly content area reading – I have been reading articles from the NCSS lately, so I decided to return to Singer’s work.

Summary/Important Points:

Chapter 4 – What are our goals?

  • Goals are there related to social studies
  • Transmission model (“banking concept”) v. inquiry-based approach (centers on student questions/research and student-student/student-teacher interaction)
  • Start unit and lesson planning with: What is important to know about the topic and why? How will I make important content and concepts available to students in a way that is meaningful to them? (54)
  • Integrating goals into classroom practice – overplan lessons, know that no rules guarantee consistency
  • Social studies skills – literacy, numeracy, chronological thinking, historical comprehension, historical analysis and interpretation, historical research, historical issue analysis and decision making
  • State learning standards – each educational organization has its own list of what children should know, every city/county/state has its own ideas too.

Chapter 5 – Is social studies teaching “political”?

  • Everything is political
  • Debate on “National History Standards” was heated – some didn’t want to be confined by the standards, but they were mostly just classroom suggestions
  • Should teachers express their own opinions in class? Sometimes it is not appropriate, but it can be beneficial for students
  • Academic freedom – “the right and responsibility to study, investigate, present, interpret, discuss, and debate relevant facts, issues, and ideas in fields of the teacher’s professional competence” (78)
  • Teachers can encourage students to work for social justice, but it is up to the community
  • Teachers can empower students by listening and encouraging them to take risks

3 Things I Want to Remember:

  • 1. Different kinds of goals for social studies teachers: broad pedagogical goals (reflect teaching philosophies), conceptual goals and content goals (understanding history and social studies), skills goals (social studies, general academics, social skills), personal goals (for own professional growth).
  • 2. John Dewey’s key concepts of his progressive educational philosophy: experience (connect subject matter to existing experiences of students), freedom (allowing students to achieve individual and social goals), community (shared experiences, joint action), habits of mind (intelligence, judgment, self-control)
  • 3. Everything is political, especially social studies – “Our main choice as social studies teachers is whether we allow political forces to dictate to us, or we become activists who shape what takes place in our classrooms and who influence broader policy debates.” (71)

2 Controversial Ideas

  • 1. “Should the view that there is an evolving national consensus  be assumed, or should multiple views be presented to students so they can sift through evidence and explanations to formulate their own interpretations?” (75) – I think multiple views should be presented so students can come to their own conclusions about events. If we only present one side of history, then we are leaving out important perspectives and stories that add to the full picture. For example, if we teach students about racial discrimination in the American South, and not in the North, then we are not giving students the whole story of what life was like for blacks in the 20th century.
  • 2. As a teacher, sharing your opinions with the class can be controversial – many say you shouldn’t do it at all. But, sharing your opinions can be a good thing: it can open up discussion, set an example for students, encourages students to take intellectual risks, and teach students that there should be a tolerance of diverse ideas.

1 Question

  • 1. Do colleges/universities create content standards? Or is it up to individual professors to develop their own?
Content Area Reading #7 – Singer says…

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