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Summaries of Current Research and Literature > Program Rationale and Philosophy

Program Rationale and Philosophy

Vision, Definition, Role

The literature emphasizes the following:

  • It is very important to articulate the role that social studies as a school subject has to play in the overall educational experience of children.
  • There continues to be an emphasis both nationally and globally on the preparation of children for democratic citizenship as the primary goal of social studies.
  • Citizenship education is envisioned in different ways. Each of these alternative ways of thinking about citizenship education represents differing views of what constitutes a good citizen, what that citizen needs to know, and the roles of teachers and students in acquiring that important knowledge.
  • The literature outlines seven views of how social studies curriculum should contribute to citizenship education: social studies from a cultural conservation orientation, social studies from a disciplines orientation, social studies from an inquiry orientation, social studies from a cultural transformation orientation, social studies from a personal development orientation, social studies from a respect for diversity orientation and social studies from a global orientation.
  • The two models of citizenship education most evident in the new Alberta Program of Studies are: a) an inquiry oriented and issues centred model that is based on the belief that democracy necessitates a citizenry capable of identifying problems, collecting, evaluating and analyzing information and making reasoned, defensible and intellectually well-grounded decisions, and b), a social action model that requires the involvement of students in meaningful, active participation on a local, provincial, national and international scale in order to hone the skills and attitudes essential to participatory democracy.

Values and Attitudes

The literature emphasizes the following:

  • Students must be given opportunities to examine their attitudes and values about how individuals should be treated and understood and to assess the adequacy of their reasoning.
  • Social studies should endorse the importance of teaching care and concern for others.
  • It is important to acknowledge both the importance of the cognitive and the affective development of students by addressing the roles that values and morals play in the life of a citizen.
  • Students need to learn to work together to achieve a common objective while acquiring various participatory skills and the virtues associated with them.
  • Civic education is not morally neutral; successful civic education involves moral education.
  • Social studies needs to explore the rule-bound world in which children live.
  • Students need opportunities to develop an ethical framework from which decisions may be derived in order to adjust the balance between rights and responsibilities.
  • Social studies programs should contribute to a child's knowing about what is good, however, in a multicultural, multiethnic nation it is difficult to come up with a shared vision of the good person.
  • Moral education programs need to be sensitive to context and culture and an appreciation of the centrality of social interaction in moral development as moral functioning is a cultural practice.
  • Children need to have values modeled for them.
  • The three cornerstones for teaching values are caring, citizenship and conscience.
  • To promote socially responsible behaviour children need to be educated to think beyond self-interest to the broader public good.
  • Character education is intended to focus on good citizenship, increasing civic responsibilities, skills related to conflict resolution, work ethic, respect, responsibility for our well-being, and social and personal skill development.

Knowledge and Understandings

The literature emphasizes the following:

  • Knowledge alone does not lead to good citizenship.
  • Social science knowledge can no longer be presented to students as a body of facts that are not to be questioned.
  • The search for knowledge is recognized as an open-ended, continuous process.
  • Students generally express feelings of alienation and lack of efficacy. Social studies content must be relevant to students' lives in order to address these concerns.
  • There must be careful consideration of what vision(s) of Canada and the Canadian experience are to be conveyed to students.
  • The literature supports a better balance between teaching for understanding and teaching for content acquisition.
  • There is some evidence that children learn the major understandings from anthropology and sociology when they are systematically taught.
  • The modeling of teachers , the resources used, and the overt and hidden curricula are very powerful for shaping students' understandings.

Skills and Processes

The literature emphasizes the following:

  • Students should play a more active role in learning about citizenship as they practice the skills needed for their future roles.
  • The inquiry approach is skill-based citizenship education in which students are provided with experiences that approximate reality in order to acquire competence in skills such as inquiry, communication, critical thinking and decision making.
  • The inquiry approach to social studies emphasizes students investigating, inquiring and thinking for themselves.
  • The process of inquiry begins with the interests of the students, as the examination of problems that directly affect their lives within a specified socio-political context are critical.
  • Students should play an active role in conducting investigations into problems with teachers acting as facilitators. The outcome of these investigations should not be known ahead.
  • The reflective inquiry model of citizenship education is based on constructivism.
  • There is a call for greater emphasis on the development of core social engagement skills (the development of good relationships and the ability to deal with the breakdown of those relationships [conflict] and the ability to deal with emotions involved in the development of empathy) as well as communication, cooperation, critical and creative thinking and problem solving skills.
  • Approaches to teaching that are directed toward open-ended inquiry and that encourage creative reflection on events, cultural experience and objects are compatible with constructivism.
Last updated: February 15, 2007 | (Revision History)
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