Volume 5, Issue 1 2016

Volume 5, Issue 1 2016


Humanities and Social Studies education are undergoing significant changes in terms of classroom practice: the firm centrality of inquiry methods, authentic fieldwork experiences, the greater use of discussion, the focus on controversial issues, greater attention to students' ideas, and a conceptual focus for teaching and learning have gained greater traction in classrooms. The articles in this issue of HSSE Online address and support these changes.

What are our purposes in these efforts? Why should we use these approaches with our students and in our professional learning? These efforts serve greater, more important purposes than exam preparation or the transmission of knowledge; they are designed to help people think carefully and critically about issues, understand different views, discuss and deliberate problems, and develop a shared sense of humanity with commitments to tolerance, open-mindedness, cooperation, compassion and justice. They are intended to help people become active, concerned and participatory citizens who can lead meaningful and productive lives.

In this issue of HSSE Online, several articles point the way towards these goals by offering practical suggestions for classroom practice. Suhaimi Afandi and Eulalia Han provide specific strategies for helping students develop historical habits of mind through inquiry and the use of historical concepts. They show how historical concepts, such as significance, diversity, causation and accounts, can be used in inquiry to help students understand key topics in the Secondary History syllabus.

Sim Hwee Hwang offers two articles to help Primary Social Studies teachers think about using classroom discussion as a shared inquiry approach. Her first article highlights the Walsh and Sattes’ (2015) framework for quality discussion and guides teachers through the selection of issues for discussion in primary classrooms, how to frame high quality questions for discussion, and how discussions can be effectively organized and facilitated in practical ways. Her second article draws on three other models of classroom discussion and demonstrates how they can be utilized with specific content in the Primary Social Studies syllabus.

Karthikeyan Rajah Jefferson’s article on causal layered analysis provides the lenses of litany (precipitating causes), social causes (systemic causes), discourse/worldview (ideational causes) and myth/metaphor (core narratives) to analyze the 2015 General Election in Singapore. These lenses can easily be modified and used with Secondary and JC students to push their analytical thinking about social, economic and political issues and events. They provide a useful toolkit to help students probe deeper levels of causation and meaning.

Tharuka Prematillake Thibbotuwawa’s article, “Shifting Scales of Time and Space: Establishing Connections Across the Humanities,” encourages History and Geography teachers to think more about the interdisciplinarity of their subjects and suggests the use of common concepts and perspectives to help students make connections across time and space. To make sense of the world, the past, present and future, she suggests a more integrated toolkit for building knowledge and thinking about the world.

Siew Fong Ng’s article addresses students’ ideas in economics and helps us understand why students might think about economics in these ways. She highlights the role of students’ prior knowledge, their learning preferences, challenges related to reading and understanding graphic representations in economics, and the role of language in shaping students’ ideas. Each of these is important for teachers to consider in order to address misconceptions students may have in understanding economics.

I hope you find these articles enriching and useful.

Mark Baildon
Editor, HSSE Online
June 2016

Developing Historical Habits of Mind through Inquiry

"Teaching history is not simply about getting students to learn “the right stories” or getting them to absorb transmitted knowledge about the past; it requires teachers to find means to develop students’ historical understanding and to help these students make sense of the knowledge imparted through daily classroom instruction. As many of us already recognize, the knowledge we have about the past is never “given” or “just there” for the taking; the manner in which we come to know what we know about the past requires questioning, imagining, contextualising and (re-)constructing. History education researchers across many national contexts would agree that students need to be taught to understand the nature of historical knowledge – how such knowledge is constructed, how evidence is used to develop interpretations or support claims, how evidence/interpretation is adjudged as valid or credible, etc. "

Learning about Issues through Discussion in the Primary Social Studies Classroom: A Shared Inquiry Approach

"This article looks at how primary school children can learn about issues in their social studies lessons through discussion. It first spells out the importance of introducing issues in the social studies curriculum for the development of students to be informed, participative and concerned citizens. It focuses on the selection of suitable issues for primary school children and discussion as a pedagogy for shared inquiry to help teachers achieve academic understanding and citizenship outcomes for their learners. The Walsh and Sattes’ (2015) framework for quality discussion is described as a useful guide for teacher planning and implementation. Research findings on teacher belief and practice of using discussion of controversial issues and the implications on teacher professional development are also discussed. The article concludes with how to be skilful in the facilitation of discussion of issues for shared inquiry."

Using Investigation and Discussion to Inquire about Issues in Primary Social Studies

"This article begins with the inquiry teaching approach for primary social studies and the rationale for its inclusion in the 2013 syllabus by the Ministry of Education, Singapore. It compares traditional instruction and inquiry-based teaching and describes the two types of inquiry that can be implemented in the primary classroom – discussion and investigation. Three useful inquiry models for primary children - Colin Marsh’s (2001) investigation model and two discussion models - Diana Hess’ (2009) town meeting model (TMM) and David Johnson and Roger Johnson’s (1999) structured academic model (SAC) - are elaborated. The application of these models is illustrated in two issue-based, inquiry centred packages designed for primary children by student teachers from the National Institute of Education. The article also discusses the challenges teachers may face when implementing such inquiry-centred packages and suggests ways of how they can be overcome. "

Causal Layered Analysis: Deconstructing Singapore’s 2015 General Election

"In explaining social phenomena, students are taught to explicate the causal mechanism between independent factors and a dependent outcome. However, this could lead to a superficial analysis of the phenomenon if students were to focus on precipitating factors. Hence, this paper contends that JC students should be exposed to complementary analytical approaches in order to transcend conventional frames of analysis. Inayatullah’s (2004) “Causal Layered Analysis” (CLA) could be an appropriate method to encourage students to unpack surface-level factors by drawing out their underlying and deeper causes. The CLA comprises four levels of analysis: the litany (precipitating causes), social causes (systemic causes), discourse/worldview (ideational causes) and myth/metaphor (core narratives). This can be illustrated by applying CLA to Singapore’s GE2015, which would suggest that the electorate’s voting patterns are not just the outcome of varied precipitating factors, but also the product of the existing political system and ideas about the nation-state."

Shifting Scales of Time and Space: Establishing Connections Across the Humanities

"Meaningful understanding of history and geography involves being able to identify and establish connections across time and space scales (An et al., 2015; Bain, 2005; Baker, 2003; Foskett, 1999). Nonetheless, one key problem in the history and geography curricula of schools today is this lack of connectivity and sense of scale. Thus, it is appropriate to find out how to help teachers and students expand their disciplinary thinking towards a more holistic (or interdisciplinary) approach that encourages them to shift scales and make connections across time and space. To answer this question, this article proposes a potential conceptual framework in which History and Geography, as interdisciplinary subjects, can conduct meaningful dialogues with each other so that students and teachers can extend their thinking to deepen their understanding of both disciplines and to identify connections across scales of time and place. This framework will be introduced through two initiatives, The Historian’s Lab (HL) and The Sustainability Learning Lab (SLL), funded by an EduLab grant, and currently being developed by the staff in the Humanities and Social Studies Education Academic Group (HSSE AG) in the National Institute of Education (NIE), (Singapore). However, it is important to note that this framework is a work-in-progress and will be further modified and developed as the project moves forward."

Sources of Students’ Misconceptions in Economics

"Misconceptions in learning can arise from a variety of sources. This article examines the five sources of misconceptions that may be relevant for understanding learners’ misconceptions in economics classes in junior colleges in Singapore: students’ prior knowledge, their perceptions of what economics is about, their “linguistic mindset”, the influence of student learning preferences, and their perceptions of how graphs are used in economics. Understanding the origin of students’ misconceptions can help junior college teachers anticipate and correct their students’ misconceptions. "

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An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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