Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Social Studies Instruction in Signing Programs for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students: An Ecobehavioral Assessment

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Social Studies Instruction in Signing Programs for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students: An Ecobehavioral Assessment

Article excerpt

SOCIAL studies is a devalued subject in public schools. Worse, apparently no research exists on social studies instruction for students in deaf education. The researchers investigated the allocation of time for social studies in 7 residential schools and 1 day school. Using an ecobehavioral assessment tool, they observed 30 deaf students (grades 3-5) and 17 teachers for 60 school days. Three questions guided the study: (a) How much time was used for social studies? (b) What activities were more prevalent during social studies instruction? (c) Were there differences in the target of teacher attention between high- and low-performing students? Results showed that yoking social studies and language arts resulted in a doubling of the amount of time devoted to social studies content. Hands-on activities were most prevalent across grades. Practices that meets the recommendations of the National Council for the Social Studies are suggested.

Ironically, in a period of extraordinary interest in politics, the time allotted for socials studies instruction is decreasing in American schools (Manzo, 2005, 2007; National Council for the Social Studies, 2007; Rothman, 2005; Willis, 2007), along with time for science and the arts (Rothman, 2005). Politics intersect with education in the No Child Left Behind Act (2002), with several unintended side effects. Although no child is supposed to be left behind, academic subjects are being left behind. Despite the goals, students with disabilities, particularly students with hearing loss, are often left behind. The pressure on school districts to meet the mandated goals and standards of equality is inexplicable.

Social studies is first and foremost designed to promote civic competence (National Council for the Social Studies, 1994). A reduction in the amount of time devoted to a subject on which the American system of government is based rather chillingly reveals the state of education and the state of politics. The devaluation of social studies knowledge is problematic for all students in public schools (Bailey, Shaw, & Hollifield,2006).

According to the National Council for the Social Studies (1994),

Social studies is the integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence. Within the school program, social studies provides coordinated, systematic study drawing upon such disciplines as anthropology, archaeology, economics, geography, history, law, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, and sociology, as well as appropriate content from the humanities, mathematics, and natural sciences. The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people 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, (p. vii)

The purpose of social studies is to support students in the development of the ability to make decisions that are reasonable. It takes time for students to learn to embrace diversity and learn what it means to be a citizen of the United States and how to become a good citizen. Unfortunately, administrators face numerous challenges with the allocation of time for school subjects, particularly those subjects with mandated testing.

Time is a school resource. Reallocating time can be an alluring way to make up for achievement gaps. Since there are no accountability expectations for social studies in the No Child Left Behind Act, many schools have reduced instructional time in social studies, science, and the arts (Merlin, 2005; National Council for the Social Studies, 2007). Even lunch and recess have lost their sacred standing in some elementary schools. Recess time is sometimes reallocated to other subjects and "working lunches" are common (Axtman, 2004; Yair, 2000). The result is an imbalance of instructional time.

The National Council for the Social Studies (2007) recommends that social studies receive the same amount of instructional time allocated to other subjects such as reading and mathematics. …

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