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Researchers seek input from social studies teachers

May 26, 2015 ATA News Staff


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Have you recently taught a social studies class (in elementary, junior high or senior high) this school year as part of your teaching assignment? Or are you a social studies specialist? Do you want your voice heard in decisions about the future of social studies curriculum and teaching in the province?

If you answered yes, then the Alberta Teachers’ Association’s Social Studies Council wants to hear from you.

While there has been plenty of talk in the past few years about major curriculum change coming in the province, there has been relatively little effort to fully assess the views of teachers in many of these discussions. That is why the Social Studies Council has decided to undertake a comprehensive survey of Alberta teachers who teach social studies in K–12 classrooms in order to draw on their experience. We need to know their views about the current curriculum and the contexts of their current teaching and learning conditions.

The survey will be part of a research study that will be headed by two people who are no strangers to the Alberta social studies community: Larry Booi and Hans Smits, two well-recognized experts in the field who have been curriculum writers, practicum instructors and researchers. J-C Couture, associate co-ordinator of research for the Alberta Teachers’ Association, and Joel Westheimer of the University of Ottawa will act as advisers to the team.

As the research team suggests, “We need to know what teachers are experiencing regarding the current program of study in the context of current teaching realities.”

In their view, and one shared by the Social Studies Council, “it is therefore essential that practicing teachers play a key role in contributing their views to curriculum development, the content of social studies and to the development and implementation of instructional approaches that reflect the best that is possible in our classrooms.”

The last major study of the state of social studies teaching was conducted in 1997, at a time when promises of major impending curriculum change in social studies were also circulating. At that time, the ATA’s Social Studies Council led the way through a major research project, and the resulting study provided valuable insights into social studies teachers’ views, helped to shape the ATA’s advocacy efforts and informed the whole process of change.

This latest study will carry on that strategic leadership of the council.

“The Alberta Teachers’ Association acts as the voice of the teaching profession, and the ATA Social Studies Council is well placed to play a central role advocating for social studies teachers in particular,” said Aaron Stout, outgoing council president. “Unless teachers express their views, we will not be able to advocate for the profession with ­respect to curriculum change.”   ❚

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