Recent Trends in the Social Studies

By Ediger, Marlow | Journal of Instructional Psychology, September 2004 | Go to article overview

Recent Trends in the Social Studies


Ediger, Marlow, Journal of Instructional Psychology


There are selected trends in the social studies which teachers need to understand and analyze. These trends are relatively stable with the realization that changes and modification do occur. New ideas in teaching and learning must come forth to keep abreast with changes in knowledge involving related social science academic disciplines and duties/responsibilities of individuals in society. Also, methods of teaching change due to new research results which indicate modification do occur. Which trends should then be in evidence in the classroom for the teaching of social studies?

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Diverse trends to consider in the instructional arena need to be studied and implemented as the need arises.

First, The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) has provided guidelines for teaching which assist the teacher in the school setting to make decisions in developing quality in the curriculum. These standards are not mandatory but reveal the thinking of top social studies educators and may well provide a foundation for teaching social studies. In theme form, the following are identified by NCSS for the purpose of teachers emphasizing balance among the different social science disciplines as well as duties/responsibilities faced by individuals in society:

* culture

* time, continuity, and change

* people, places and the environment

* individual development and identity

* individuals, groups, and institutions

* power, authority, and government

* production, distribution, and consumption

* science, technology, and society

* global connections and interdependence

* civic ideals and practice.

The above named ten themes stress subject matter from different academic disciplines such as anthropology and sociology when emphasizing the concept of culture. Thus, people dress in different ways, but all societies have the same need for clothing. One has only to notice The Old Order Amish In society to reveal that women wear long dresses which extend to the ankles, long sleeves on the dresses extending to the wrists, and a very high neck line. The baptized men wear beards, blue denim trousers, with suspenders including either a home made or tailor made shirt purchased in a store. Plain colors only are worn, not stripes nor checks on the clothing. Then too, Old Order Amish travel in carriages pulled by a riding horse, not a draft horse. These described differences among Old Order Amish are quite different from those of individuals in general American society. Pupils need to study and learn how cultures differ much from each other but all have the same essential needs of food, clothing, and shelter. Balance in the social studies is necessary so that pupils study subject matter involving people from diverse academic disciplines and diverse points of view (See Hostettler).

Second, state mandated testing, a federal law coming from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) which replaced the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), appears to be and is the law of the land. With state mandated testing in reading and mathematics, pupils are tested annually in grades three through eight. Selected states are holding pupils back from promotion to the next grade level due to having a test score deemed to be too low. Neill (2003) wrote the following:

   "The federal law should be amended
   from one that uses punishment to control
   schools to one that supports teachers and
   students; from one that relies primarily
   on standardized tests to one that encourages
   high quality assessments. Elected
   representatives should listen to educators
   and parents to determine the real needs
   of schools. Congress should work with
   the states to ensure that all schools are
   adequately funded and that all children
   have the food, housing, and medical care
   necessary to their success in school. … 

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