Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Knowing the How and Why of History: Expectations for Secondary Students with and without Learning Disabilities

Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Knowing the How and Why of History: Expectations for Secondary Students with and without Learning Disabilities

Article excerpt

Abstract. This article reviews instructional approaches for students with mild disabilities in the domain of social studies with an emphasis on methods that provide meaningful access to the general education curriculum. Following an overview of reform efforts in history and the special problems that social studies instruction presents for students with learning disabilities (LD), we discuss research on general literacy and learning strategies in the context of social studies instruction. Next, we describe a small body of research that has used domain-specific instructional approaches to teach social studies concepts such as historical understanding and historical reasoning. We end with a call for special education researchers and practitioners to respond to new educational challenges by focusing on important concepts and ways of thinking that are particular to the discipline of social studies.

**********

Special education professionals interested in social studies instruction must deal with two simultaneous reform efforts: (a) demands for inclusion and meaningful access to the general curriculum by students with disabilities and (b) accountability based on higher achievement standards for all students. Since its beginning early in the twentieth century, the social studies curriculum has had as its overall purpose the development of an educated citizenry able to participate in a democratic society (Dunn, 1916; National Council for the Social Studies, 1994).

Certainly, this purpose is no less important for students with learning disabilities (LD) than for general education students. Yet, some evidence indicates that students with LD may be excluded from social studies instruction in order to provide additional time for teaching basic skills (Patton, Polloway, & Cronin, 1987). Moreover, students with LD who are included in general classrooms do not routinely receive effective accommodations (Passe & Beattie, 1994). These problems, if representative of today's classrooms, provide cause for alarm as special education reform efforts now stress meaningful access to the curriculum and participation of students with disabilities in statewide accountability assessments (IDEA, 1997).

At the same time, the social studies curriculum is in flux. Reform efforts in history and other areas of the social studies have been motivated in part by the generally disappointing performance of students on national tests such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in history (Lapp, Grigg, & Tay-Lim, 2002). The NAEP history test, given in 1994 and 2001, was an intellectually challenging assessment. Across four main themes (e.g., change and continuity in American democracy) and eight chronological periods, the test assessed students' knowledge and understanding of history from multiple perspectives and their ability to conduct historical analysis and interpretation. For example, under the theme of American democracy and the period of the Revolution and new nation, fourth graders were asked questions about the meaning and importance of the First Amendment, eighth graders were asked about the contents of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and twelfth graders were questioned about the arguments at the Constitutional Convention (National Assessment Governing Board, 2001). Despite slight improvements between 1994 and 2001 at the fourth and eighth grades, overall performance in 2001 was low. Specifically, at the fourth and eighth grades, about a third of students performed below the basic level, half at the basic level, and fewer than 20% at the proficient or advanced levels. In twelfth grade, 57% of students scored below basic, 32% at basic, and only 11% at proficient or advanced levels (Lapp et al., 2001).

Reform efforts in history and the social studies have been complicated by controversy over the goals of instruction (Stanley, 1985). History goes to the heart of who we are as cultures and people and can arouse intense passion and political argument. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.