Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Seeing Is Believing: Promoting Visual Literacy in Elementary Social Studies

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Seeing Is Believing: Promoting Visual Literacy in Elementary Social Studies

Article excerpt

Well-resourced classrooms are beneficial for students and points of pride for schools, but simply having the right "stuff' is insufficient for ensuring learning. Students need time and instruction related to using those resources in productive ways. Similarly, when it comes to professional development (PD), teachers need the trifecta: adequate tangible resources, time to try out and refine instructional techniques, and professional content and pedagogical knowledge (Shulman, 1986). However, many teachers with whom we have worked lament that this ideal is far from their reality, echoing Shulman's conclusion: "There are lots of ideas but no time to figure out how to use them and no materials [e.g., books, lesson or unit plans] to implement"; and "[We] often don't get to see how the PD will work for us." In addition, in elementary schools, the PD time and resources available are typically spent on tested content areas (i.e., math and language arts), leaving little time for PD on untested subjects, such as social studies. In fact, when we asked the participants in this study about PD related to social studies, we were met largely with blank stares--it simply did not exist in their experiences.

For some time, this narrow curricular view may also have been due to the adoption of new language arts and math standards (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers [NGACBP & CCSS], 2010). However, in 2013, leading organizations in science and social studies also released standards documents (National Council for the Social Studies [NCSS], 2013; NGSS Lead States, 2013) that have since been widely adopted. According to the inservice teachers with whom we work, these standards have simply been handed to teachers, who perhaps received a day of PD on them. Many teachers have been given little support to learn about, teach, and assess four new sets of standards released in the last 6 years--each of which merits ongoing, focused PD.

It is not feasible to focus on one set of standards at a time when all need to be implemented. Engaging in token amounts of PD in each subject area would likely also be ineffective. One approach that could mitigate the drawbacks of these approaches would be to address areas of overlap in the standards. for example, between the social studies content and literacy skills needed to access that content. We cross-walked the social studies and language arts standards documents and saw a unique opportunity "double-dip." The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts (CCSS; NGACBP & CCSS, 2010) emphasize the use of literacy skills for the purpose of informational text comprehension and creation, particularly in the content areas, whereas The C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards (C3; NCSS, 2013) focuses on the inquiry are that can be used to comprehend social studies concepts from a variety of sources, including informational texts, and to create new knowledge. The purpose of this article is to explore the impact of a PD model focused on these areas of overlap, closely examining its impact on both teachers' instruction and students' learning.

Theoretical Framework

This research is grounded in two interconnected theoretical frameworks: pedagogical content knowledge (PCK; Shulman, 1986) and situated learning (Lave & Wenger, 1991). PCK includes teachers' understandings of specific content, the ways in which content can best be represented and shared to make it comprehensible to others, and knowledge of the most common conceptions and misconceptions that students bring to the content learning (Shulman, 1986). Situated learning posits that we learn best when we have opportunities to practice new skills in authentic contexts, progressing from newcomer to expert through authentic activities within a community of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Together, these theories served to guide our thinking about what teachers need to successfully teach literacy skills in the context of social studies instruction (PCK), and how we might to support them as their PCK, related to particular content and skills, moves from novice to expert. …

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.