Social studies is a collective term used to describe a number of subjects, primarily consisting of history, geography, civics, economics, and sociology. The subject of social studies might also deal with elements of other subjects as well such as certain elements of psychology, philosophy, ethics, anthropology, art, and literature, among others. Even if they are not taught as separate subjects in schools, all of these subjects offer their contributions to the same. However, when talking about teachers with a social studies background here, we will be focusing mainly on the primary subjects mentioned above, namely civics, economics, geography, history, and sociology.
Role of a Social Studies Teacher
The sole purpose of a teacher with a social studies background is not just to impart subject knowledge to the students. Of course, that would be their primary functions but their secondary functions are also as important.
One such secondary function would be imparting knowledge about current affairs to students. Current affairs refers to the sociopolitical happenings taking place in and around an individual as a part of living in society. Keeping up to date with current affairs is a very important aspect of education, especially since it is an integral part of competitive exams today. It is the responsibility of the social studies teacher to cultivate an interest in keeping up with the current times and explaining its importance to the students. However, the teacher should also be careful not to include their personal biases when doing so because that would not be fair on the students, in addition to being ethically wrong. Ethical and moral relativism is not a standpoint to be taken when dealing with children at an impressionable age.
The teacher can also use current events taking place in society and use anecdotally to convey a moral message to students. This makes sure that the students get a clear picture of what is happening around them while also helping them understand why something was right or wrong. The same thing about professional ethics for teachers applies here as well.
Tips for Teachers with a Social Studies Background
Having a social studies background is not the only requirement to be a good social studies teacher. There are a lot of things that can help teachers enhance their teaching skills in social studies, a few of which are given below.
Teach with the Help of a Story
A social studies background would give teachers a plethora of stories to tell from history, current affairs, and other world affairs. This is very useful while teaching because students, especially young students, are very interested in stories. For example, let us take a particular topic about history that children would normally find boring, like the economic policies of a certain ruler. In a traditional setting, the teacher would explain what each particular policy was and how it was enacted. However, teaching using a story would go something like this:
The nature of the ruler is explained first
Their general attitude and lifestyle are explained
The teacher can emphasize how the ruler treated their subjects and how the people consequently viewed the ruler
Then, the teacher can detail the circumstances that led to the implementation of those policies, following which the teacher can explain each of the policies in relation to these circumstances.
Now, this whole storytelling aspect of teaching will not be considered at the time of curriculum development and hence might not have all those details. So, the teacher will have to do a little bit of reading to teach them in this style. However, this is an extremely effective way of teaching as it is always easier for students to remember something in the form of a sequence of events.
This is also one of the more effective ways of getting through to all students irrespective of learning style. Multimedia teaching involves using an audiovisual medium for teaching, i.e. using pictures and videos. While teaching something like the terrain of a place in Geography, instead of telling students what the terrain is like and how it looks, the same can be conveyed in a much more understandable way if it can be shown visually, preferably with a narration. Using such a technique has three main advantages:
- It helps give the learner a visual representation of what they are studying
- It gives a chance for students who prefer a particular learning style like kinesthetic or visual learners to grasp better
- Since such learning takes place outside of the traditional classroom setup, usually in a separate audiovisual room in the school, it will be a good experiential learning activity for the students and will also serve as a welcome change of place.
Making Use of Active Learning
This has proven to be truly beneficial when it comes to teaching any subject, and it can be equally useful in social studies as well. In fact, it can be especially useful in subjects such as history and civics where multiple counterpoints of one particular topic in a subject coexist in tandem with each other, hence paving way for opportunities to organize student lectures and debates within the classroom, hence promoting active learning.
Connecting Unfamiliar Concepts with Familiar Ones
There may be a lot of concepts that are new to students, making it difficult for them to understand them initially. Certain topics in a subject might be objectively more difficult to understand because of the inherent complexity it possesses as a concept. However, as someone with a social studies background, the teacher can string together the unfamiliar concepts with contemporary ones that students might have seen, heard, or experienced in their lifetimes, which makes it easier for them to understand them.
Social studies is a subject that is easy for some students while easy for others. It is, however, the teacher’s responsibility to make sure that every student understands all the concepts taught in the class, and so they must use all means necessary to make the learning process fun and interesting. These tips can help social studies teachers give their best and more in the classroom.