Understanding Social Studies: Student and Teacher Voices in Relation to Theoretical Orientations


  • Catherine A Broom University of British Columbia


social studies, citizenship education, social studies education, philosophy of social studies


Social Studies can be understood, or theorized, in a number of different ways as a consequence of its history (Evans, 2004).  This paper presents the findings of a research study of high school students’ and teachers’ conceptions of Social Studies in relation to four philosophical orientations, labeled the Classicist/Traditionalist, Essentialist, Progressivist and Reconstructionist frames.  These four frames are developed from literature in the field.  After describing these frames, the research methods of the British Columbia (BC), Canada survey study with teachers and students are summarized.  Participants included close to 200 students and teachers in three separate grades.  Findings and conclusions are presented next.  These findings illustrate that Social Studies is variously understood by participants and that connections exist between participants’ views of the subject and perceptions of its usefulness.  The paper also describes students’ knowledge of the Social Sciences and students’ and teachers’ comments on the subject.  The paper ends with recommendations, developed from the findings, which aim to improve teaching practice and student learning and engagement in the subject.

Author Biography

Catherine A Broom, University of British Columbia

Assistant Professor of Education