Kathy Checkley notes that, unlike most other fields of study, social studies is difficult to define (2008). This is because of its multi disciplinary and interdisciplinary nature. As an area of research, social studies is differenced by two characteristics; the first being that it is designed to promote civil competence while the second distinguishing feature is that it is integrative, incorporating many fields of study. In promoting civic competence, the analyzed notion purposes to make individuals fit for the office of citizen. Although promoting civil competence is not the social responsibility of the indicated concept only nor is it its sole goal, it is more entrenched in social studies than any other discipline. The scientist observes that this scope of social studies is what informed the definition that the Board of Directors of the National Council gave to Social Studies (Marzano, R & Pickering, D. (2011). It defined it as the integrated study of social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence.
It purposes to create people who are responsible citizens in their country. It attempts to create a caring and courteous person from the children. By teaching social studies to school going children, they are very likely to emerge well rounded and knowledgeable beings. The field also increases the propensity for adherence by such personalities to the ethical and moral values of life. For the future to be bright, social studies are central and a necessary educational discourse. It draws from disciplines such as anthropology, archaeology, economics, geography, history, law, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, and sociology as well as the relevant contents from natural sciences and mathematics (Marzano & Pickering, 2011).
According to Marzano & Pickering (2011), Language Arts is part of the curriculum that focuses on teaching children a wide range of skills to enable them to be proficient in a language. They notice that, “Language arts is the medium through which we interact and facilitate our social co-existence in our daily lives” (2011). It also determines how we conjure up ideas and understand our present lives while providing a platform upon which we look back into our past and make projections of the future. The two state that it is through it that we learn to appreciate new things then integrate and apply their contents in our daily interactions in schools, homes, or communities. The authors further claim that for a language art program to be successful, it should be potent in the content as well as in its process of delivery. The process of language arts entails the strategies used in listening, reading, viewing, speaking and writing. By Marzano & Pickering, the content of a language art will likely focus on ideas, issues, ideas, probes, and other conflicts found in literary works as well as on the visual or audio-visual medium (2011). They concluded by noting that the knowledge we get in such literary work sculptures our view of the world and enhances appreciation of cultural as well as lingual heritages.
Language is critical in interactions. As Marzano & Pickering point out, it enhances a sense of belonging among the people involved (2011). He adds that the ability to communicate thoughts and/or feeling is only actualized by an effective language use. They also stress that while communication can occur in other ways like gestures, it is impossible to solve the importance of language. In the researcher’s words, it creates what is known as unity of minds. This unity of mind enhances peace and unity while helping eliminate the possibility of experiencing extreme misunderstanding in the process of communication.
According to Marzano, et.al, “Assessment is an ongoing process of gathering, analyzing and reflecting on evidence help in making informed and consistent judgments meant to improve future student learning” (2001). It is normally conducted to show the effectiveness of an educational program and hence the results established are used to improve on the educational programs. Three types of assessments are identifiable. He determines the first as the formative assessment which is an ongoing process or a day to day activity where instruction givers modify their activities and directions with their students (2001). On the other hand, the second type of assessment which is summative one is used at the end of a program to test exactly what the students have or have not learnt. Finally, authentic assessment entails the application of the knowledge acquired over a time. It requires clear criteria and a student involving approach
Assessment is important for learning in that the teachers will use it to make inferences about their students’ progress (Marzano, et al., 2001). It is also instrumental in informing the teaching methods implemented by the teachers as well as student’s future learning goals. This is the assessment of learning. At last, assessment makes it possible for teachers to make judgment on student achievement against set goals and standards.
As noted by Marzano, et al., instruction process should be elaborate and introduced to children during the formative years to produce socially competitive citizens (2001). Marzano and others add that unless this is done at the formative years, it will remain difficult for the teachers at higher levels of study to succeed in this important induction. It is intended to equip the children with the skills enough to understand the current and cope with the future. It also enables students to become active participants of the world as it helps them appreciate diversity and opposing or different point of views. A good understanding of the instruction process also helps instigate and develop a problem solving mind among the students and enhance critical thinking to make sound conclusions.
Trend in the instruction of social studies is changing over time. Marzano, et al., also observe that the teaching time allocated has been reduced and more time allocated to reading instruction (2001). The content acquired through reading provides the platform upon which students make sense and develop comprehension of what they are reading.
An effective instruction strategy should focus on enhancing reading and comprehension skills (Marzano et. al, 2001). Various strategies have been developed to enhance the skills among the elementary students. According to them, these strategies include: collaborative processes, inquiry teaching, problem solving, direct instruction, as well as visual strategies. It has been found that students’ works best as group on shared goals. In a group, students are able to discuss and rely on each other’s strength in solving an issue and finishing tasks. Research has shown that, collaborative working leads to great retention of the subject matter, improves attitude towards learning, and enhances students’ ability to get on with each other.
Secondly, the mentioned above scholars point out that in inquiry teaching, students conjure up question and seek observations to respond to the questions and consequently draw conclusions. Marzano et al (2001) adds that, through this method, students are able to develop their knowledge and to easily discover responses to their question. This way, knowledge easily sticks in their minds while they also find it easy to develop creative thinking, evolved especially during the analysis and evaluation of data. Thirdly, direct instruction makes it possible for a lecturer to offer the foundation information on a particular issue or problem before the students set to go ahead with self-learning.
Fourthly, by using visual strategies, students are more able to develop visual analysis skills. This entails preparing visual slides and images from original sources. It can also be taken further by involving students in the collection of the slides. Other strategies as discussed by Marzano et al, include students debates, where students are able to appreciate different opinions and develop an on feet thinking ability and community based instruction, which is largely field visits (2001). These latter strategies expose students to a new locale and enhance their interactions in diverse geographical areas and people.
In conclusion, social studies is an integral field of study that should not be negated. It has been found to increase interactions and relational skills. It, therefore, becomes relevant in every discipline, including natural sciences.