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Social Studies

For many students, social studies is learned as an isolated list of facts and events to be

crammed into the short-term memory, merely to receive a passing grade on an upcoming test.

Little information is remembered once the test is past. For many, personal connection and

interest, along with lessons to be learned from the success or failure of a people never really

enter the process by which the material is learned. The results from this method of instruction are

disastrous. Student engagement plummets. Success is debatable. No one wins. The ​Passion

Project​ submitted with this paper is an example of the type of learning and outcome that I want

for each of my students to engage in, which I believe will pave the way for student success.

At the start of the assignment, I was given certain parameters, but the topic and

presentation were mine to choose. This type of assignment allows students to choose topics

personal to them, and encourages them to make connections with the world around them. There

will also be times when I chose the topic to go along with the lesson in class, but will still give

the students a choice in the presentation of their learning. As Harvey (2007) says, “Any topic can

be engaging if we organize the learning in interesting, thoughtful ways. To make sure kids are

engaged with the topic, we seek out ways they can connect their own lives and experiences to

what we study.” This practice of engagement will be something I strive for daily as I seek to

make lasting imprints on the minds and hearts of my students.

At the center of any good social studies curriculum, are lessons learned from the past that

can be used to shape one’s thoughts and actions to affect a positive and brighter future in all

areas of life, including government, civics, and history. Lowden (2010) gives a compelling
reason to study history, saying that, “History is power…Student who do not know their own

history or how to think critically about historical assertions will be ignorant and helpless before

someone who does claim to know it. Students need to be able to fight back” p.12. Armed with

the knowledge of what has happened in the past, students are better able to think critically about

how the actions of people yesteryear shaped their lives today, while empowering them to make

choices today to affect the kind of change they want to see tomorrow. The topic of my Passion

Project is this type of example. A local man made a choice. He affected a change in the people

he worked with, and improved the lives of thousands. It is an inspirational story that has the

power to change lives, mine and my students’. I can see my students researching topics in their

own communities, and being impassioned themselves.

Instead of feeding students the answers to questions they may have about history, I

believe it is important to teach my students how to find the answers themselves, thus giving them

tools for life. Inquiry strategies, such as the research project that went into the Passion Project,

role play, debate, mini-society, case studies, and others offer students a chance to actively engage

in the learning process in both body and mind. In this way, students are be more actively

engaged in the process of their own learning and discovery. As Lesh (2011) says, “Simply put,

students can be more engaged in their study of the past when they are actively generating

evidenced-based answers to historical questions” p.208).

Assessments are often the cause of anxiety among teachers and students alike, but this

does not have to be so. The Passion Project is also an excellent example of a performance based

assessment that shows the the depth and breadth of learning in an authentic way. According to

Bloom’s Taxonomy (2010), recall and multiple choice tests utilize lower level thinking skills.
While this may be needed from time to time, I will be more focused on higher level thinking

skills and what students can apply, analyze, evaluate, and create from what they have learned. A

performance based assessments like the Passion Project will encourage students to buy into their

own learning. These methods will include visual, oral, or written presentations of their

understanding. Student will be are able to interact with the material in a deep and meaningful

way, while presenting what they learn in a way that allows their personal gifting to shine.

Lastly, but most importantly, I will encourage my students to reflect on their learning and

work by having them fill out self-assessment forms of their work. Rubrics will be passed out at

the beginning of an assignment so that students will know what is required from the start. They

will then be held accountable to that rubric and asked to score themselves with it when they are

done. I will also provide feedback on their project, and will require that students improve the

work using the feedback from me or from other students before a grade is assigned. “Grading

policies that stress learning and progress toward clear standards, coupled with encouraging

written and oral feedback on work that points out both strengths and weakness and suggest

strategies for improvement, support student task involvement” (Taylor & Nolan, 2008). I believe

student’s academic success is increased significantly when teachers give students both positive

and constructive feedback on their work, and then require the student to improve their work

accordingly.
References

Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (2010). ​Quick flip questions for the revised Bloom's

taxonomy​. Janesville, WI: Edupress.

Harvey, S., & Goudvis, A. (2007). ​Strategies that work: Teaching comprehension for

understanding and engagement​. Portland, Me: Stenhouse Publishers.

Lesh, B. A. (2011). ​"Why Won't You Just Tell Us the Answer?" Teaching Historical

Thinking in Grades 7-12​. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Loewen, J. W. (2010). ​Teaching what really happened: how to avoid the tyranny of

textbooks and get students excited about doing history.​ New York: Teachers College

Press, Columbia University.

Taylor, C. S., & Nolen, S. B. (2010). ​Classroom assessment: supporting teaching and

learning in real classrooms​ (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ:

Pearson/Merrill/Prentice Hall.