Social studies instructors know why understanding the foundations of civic life is important. But demonstrating that to students isn’t always easy.
Our new white paper, “Developing Responsible Citizens with Social Studies Techbook,” examines research-based classroom practices to show how modern social studies instruction that leverages a digital platform can engage students, helping to prepare them to participate in American society.
Read a preview of the white paper below, which can be downloaded for free.
“The vital task of preparing students to become citizens in a democracy is complex.”
This is the opening sentence of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) 2016 position statement on the characteristics of powerful social studies instruction. The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards also emphasizes the importance of civic responsibility in social studies curriculum and instruction.
C3’s introduction notes, “active and responsible citizens are able to identify and analyze public problems, deliberate with other people about how to define and address issues, take constructive action together, reflect on their actions, create and sustain groups, and influence institutions both large and small.”
C3 encourages social studies teachers to embrace the challenge of preparing students to participate fully in our democracy by providing students with multiple opportunities to participate in social science inquiry. In other words, students should learn social studies by doing the kind of investigations that social scientists do.
Although every content area had teachers who provided the kind of instruction envisioned by new standards documents prior to the release of the standards, the rationale for the big standards projects is to promote an instructional vision that will encourage many teachers to change their instructional practices in ways that result in improved instruction for students. Focusing professional learning on key shifts in instructional practice is one way that mathematics and English Language Arts teachers successfully navigated the change to new standards in their content areas.
How Social Studies Techbook Supports Meaningful Teaching And Learning
By organizing its content delivery and many activities around complex and important Essential Questions, and then using these questions to facilitate student inquiries into social studies topics, Social Studies Techbook supports the implementation of instruction that is meaningful for students. Instruction also has the inquiry focus recommended by the C3 Framework.
Techbook divides “chunks” of content into segments known as concepts. All Techbook concepts, which are designed to provide content and resources to support roughly a week’s worth of classroom instruction, have a single Essential Question appropriate for students and teachers to pose at the commencement of instruction and revisit throughout the concept. Examples of concept Essential Questions include:
- “Why did the colonists risk their lives to fight for independence from Great Britain?”
- “Was the 1950s a decade of progress?”
- In what ways did the agricultural revolution change human life?”
- “Have global contact and migration created a more culturally united or divided world?”
Each concept also features a “Social Studies Explanation” organizer, which provides students with opportunities to test preliminary responses to the concept Essential Question and to document examples of evidence they encountered in support of their responses. The concept Essential Questions, therefore, bring meaning and importance to the content by helping to transform traditional content coverage into a student investigation that reflects the nature of the discipline.
Social Studies Techbook’s organization of resources in each concept around the “5E” instructional model brings further meaning to social studies teaching and learning. Within each concept, resources have been categorized according to how they will be used by students and placed behind one of five different digital tabs: ENGAGE, EXPLORE, EXPLAIN, ELABORATE, and EVALUATE.
Researchers concluded that this 5E model can positively impact both achievement and equity in science. Applied to social studies, this format’s emphasis on problem-solving and novel challenges will help teachers and students organize classroom experiences to match the learning patterns that come naturally to students.
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