Top Concerns of Social Studies Teachers

Teacher and kids looking at a map on a light table

KidStock / Getty Images

While all curriculum areas share some of the same issues, social studies teachers have some concerns and questions specific to their discipline. These issues can range from skills needed to teach social studies to what websites might fit in best with an interactive curriculum, which are important when developing a plan of study for students. These teachers also face issues common to all educators, such as determining the best methods to present and teach the material. A list of the most important concerns social studies teachers face can help these educators hone their teaching practice.

01
of 07

Breadth vs. Depth

Social studies standards are often written so that it is virtually impossible to cover all the required material in the school year. For example, in world history, the standards published by the National Council for the Social Studies require such breadth of material that it is impossible to do more than just touch on each topic.

02
of 07

Controversial Topics

Many social studies courses deal with sensitive and at times controversial issues. For example, in world history, teachers are required to teach about religion. In American government, topics like abortion and the death penalty can sometimes lead to heated debates. In these instances, it is important for the teacher to maintain control of the situation.

03
of 07

Making Connections to Students' Lives

While some social studies courses like economics and American government lend themselves well to making connections to students and their lives, others do not. It can be tough to connect what was going on in ancient China to a 14-year-old's daily life. Social studies teachers have to work very hard to make these topics interesting.

04
of 07

Need to Vary Instruction

Social studies teachers may find it easier to stick to one method of instruction. For example, they may generally present information to students through lectures because it can be difficult to cover the material without relying on such direct instruction. By contrast, some teachers may go to the other extreme and have mainly projects and role-playing experiences. The key is to balance the activities and find a way to use different teaching methods to present the material.

05
of 07

Avoiding "Rote-Memorization" Teaching

Because much of teaching social studies revolves around names, places, and dates, it is very easy to create assignments and tests that do not move beyond the recall level of Bloom's Taxonomy. This level of teaching and learning generally involves rote memorization but does not force students to engage in the kind of advanced critical thinking skills needed for true learning.

06
of 07

Presenting Differing Points of View

Social studies texts are written by humans and therefore are biased. An example might be two American government texts that a school district is considering adopting. One text might have a conservative bent, while the other may have been authored by a liberal political scientist. Whichever text the district adopts, a good social studies teacher will need to work to present alternative points of view. Further, history texts might describe the same event in a different way based on who wrote them. This can be a challenge for teachers to deal with at times.

07
of 07

Dealing With False Knowledge

It is common for students to come to class with inaccurate historical—or even current—information that they were either taught at home or in other classes. This is a problem for the teacher, who will need to work to help students overcome preconceived notions. In social studies—and indeed in any subject—a major hurdle in overcoming this kind of bias is getting students to buy into what the teacher is conveying. For a good social studies teacher, this requires knowing the subject well, showing enthusiasm, and using different teaching modalities to keep the subject interesting for students.