Top 10 Concerns of Social Studies Teachers

Teacher and kids looking at a map on a light table

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While all curriculum areas share some of the same issues and concerns, individual curriculum areas seem to also have concerns specific to them and their courses. This list looks at the top 10 concerns for social studies teachers.

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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 National Standards require such breadth of material that it is impossible to do more than just touch on each topic.

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Dealing With 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.

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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.

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Need to Vary Instruction

It can be very easy for Social Studies teachers to stick to one method of instruction. There is a tendency to give a great deal of lectures. It can be very tough to cover the depth of material without relying on lectures and whole group discussions. Of course, there are some teachers who go to the other extreme and have mainly projects and role-playing experiences. The key is to balance the activities.

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Staying at the Lower Level of Bloom's Taxonomy

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.

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History Is Interpretation

There is no such thing as "history" because it is truly in the eye of the beholder. Social Studies texts were written by humans and therefore are biased. A perfect example is two American Government texts that my school was considering adopting. It was obvious throughout that one was written by a conservative and the other by a liberal political scientist. Further, history texts might describe the same event in a different way based on who wrote them. This can be a tough one for teachers to deal with at times.

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Multiple Preps

Social Studies teachers are often faced with having to teach multiple preps. This can be especially tough for the newer teachers who have to prepare so many new lessons from scratch.

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Too Much Reliance on Textbooks

Some social studies teachers rely too much on their textbooks in class. Unfortunately, there are ditto masters out there who basically assign the students to read from their text and then answer a particular number of questions.

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Students' Dislike of History

Many students come into a Social Studies class with a particular dislike of history. Some will complain that it has nothing to do with their lives. Others will just say it's boring.

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Dealing With False Knowledge

It is not rare for students to come into your class with inaccurate historical information that they were either taught at home or in other classes. This can be hard to combat. One year I had a student who swore that Abraham Lincoln had slaves. There was really nothing I could do to dissuade the student from this belief. The student had learned in seventh grade from a beloved teacher. This can be difficult to handle at times.