Social Studies Teaching Methods

Social Study embraces those disciplines which studies society and how people live. Hence, subjects of geography, history, civics, etc are encompassed within its fold in case of elementary and secondary education.

In discussing effective teaching methods for social studies, the point of difference it has with other subjects has to be understood. Unlike other structured disciplines like Mathematics or Science, the aim of Social Studies is not skill development, but knowledge expansion. It requires thorough understanding of content but not memorizing factual data. The ultimate purpose of any social study subject is to answer 'how' or 'why' instead of 'what' so that students can learn from 'how it happened' or 'why it happened' so that in future they develop into well educated, rational individuals able to distinguish what is right and wrong and able to take good decisions under pressure. Virtues of being just, ethical, far sighted, compassionate or in other words positive values is what social studies are meant to develop. Thus, constructivist ideas in teaching as in a subject like Mathematics does not hold good for something like history. In this case it is the sheer competence of teachers that matters.

In talking about the methods of effective teaching one tends to stick to only the pedagogical resources. But the method that is most effective in case of Social Studies is threefold in nature. It involves understanding a topic, translating its content and thereafter focusing on the pedagogy of it. Firstly, a teacher should explore the subject matter in depth and analyze more than one way of explaining it. For example, in case of a historical event, say reasons of a war, if you only state 'to build a bigger empire' as the sole reason, it means that you do not possess in-depth knowledge about the topic. Even more important is the activity of explaining it to the students in an understandable and interesting manner. You may have read several books about it but if you are not able to translate the content to a 6th grader then all is in vain. Thus, storytelling ability and the ability to explain the real issues underneath the story is what social studies teaching is all about. Lastly, effective pedagogy refers to having the right teaching skills, adjusting and delivering content as the situation demands. Various pedagogical techniques like case studies, concept formation (where three correct and three incorrect examples are given and students have to understand the concept), Think Pairing (students individually think and write about a topic question and discusses it in pairs), Double Exposures (taking a person or event and forming two groups for competitive descriptions about the same thing), KLW (Student writing about what they 'K'now, 'W'ant to learn and have 'L'earned about a topic), debates and mock trials are the most effective tools of teaching social studies.