Social Studies for Junior and Senior High Schools, 1950

What Are The Social Studies?

The Social Studies may be defined generally as the social sciences-history, geography, sociology, economics, political science, and psychology-when these sciences are functionally organized to facilitate related and meaningful presentation to students. The time is long past when any person-even a brilliant and studious adult-could master the whole content of all, or even any one of the social sciences. Consequently, for the young especially, a selection and organization of materials to be studies becomes imperative. Materials are selected from history because the story of a man’s past gives better understanding of the present; from geography because it reveals the influence of physical environments upon human progress; from political science because it reveals method of order; from economics because of its relationship to the livelihood of the individual and the community; from sociology and social psychology because they help to explain social relationships and human behavior; and from contemporary life because it is the perennial source of all problems which necessitate and justify the inclusion of the Social Studies in the curricula of our schools.

The Central Objective Of Social Studies Instruction

Stated in briefest fashion, the central objective of Social Studies instruction is the promotion of better citizenship. The pursuit of this objective begins in elementary school Social Studies with special attention to the home, the school, and local hearsay communities. In the Junior and Senior High Schools this emphasis upon better citizenship in home, school, and community must be continued in order that it may be extended to promote a higher quality of citizenship in the province, the nation, and the community of nations. The end objective is good world citizenship. Obviously this objective is not achieved without patient study and active, thoughtful participation in a social environment. It cannot be stressed too frequently that the central objective of Social Studies teaching is the development of worthy citizens. The insistence upon this objective, however, should not add converts to the illusory and socially dangerous notion that teachers, especially Social Studies teachers, are solely, or even mainly, responsible for the quality of the citizenship of our oncoming generations. Nevertheless Social Studies teachers must, it is thought, pay special attention to the development of better citizens, even though the business of building citizens of quality is a responsibility which they share with other teachers, the home, and many other social agents and agencies.

Some General Objectives Of The Social Studies Programme Of Instruction As A Whole

1. Knowledge

Strange to say, this objective of Social Studies instruction has been a focal point of persistent educational controversy. When the controversy began it is impossible to say. It was probably in process when the Ciceronians debated with the Humanists in the later middle ages. It flared up again in the 19th century with the publication of Herbert Spencer’s essay, "What Knowledge is of Most Worth." In the 1930’s it was a persistent issue whenever "Essentialists" and "Progressives" met on the public platform. There are, however, signs that the controversy is being resolved as more and more "Essentialists" are becoming agreed that the mastery of factual material is not the only educational objective of Social Studies instruction, and now agree that abilities, attitudes, loyalties, habits, skills and the like, must also be cultivated. (See General Objectives 2, 3, and 4, and Specific Objectives following.) Similarly, the controversy moves closer to solution as "Progressive" educators are now placing more and more emphasis upon the importance of content and organization in Social Studies instruction.1

Probably the question of the relative importance of the several Social Studies objectives is largely an academic one. Knowledge is herein listed first. Possibly it should come last, even after skills and techniques, as a final outcome of the programme. Relative ranking seems of no great import, since all the objectives of Social Studies are best served when they are pursued concurrently in an interrelated fashion.

The prior ranking of knowledge2 here among Social Studies objectives is intended to emphasize the fact that knowledge provides the only sure basis to understanding. It is intended to draw attention to the study aspect of Social Studies, to the substantial content of meaningful facts, well-documented generalizations, and even significant dates. These must not be neglected. Nor is it thought that they need to be neglected to achieve the social objectives of the course. All this is not to suggest, however, that the rote learning of unrelated facts, meaningless, dates and foundationless generalizations may pass as good Social Studies teaching. Indeed, such teaching only counterfeits Social Studies instruction and is truly a travesty on education.

The knowledge objective id thus believed to be an important one, though as pointed out earlier, knowledge is not the only important objective of Social Studies instruction.

2. Love of Truth

In objective 1, emphasis was laid upon the importance of social knowledge. It would be unfortunate if this knowledge were acquired without concurrently acquiring an interest in learning, a love of truth, and a desire to see things clearly and see them whole.

The physical sciences are said to promote a high regard for facts, for accuracy, for precise, observation and for correct interpretation. Doubtless the social sciences are less objective than the natural ones. Social truths seem harder to discover and evaluate than the "truths of the physical sciences." This relative difference in objectivity, however, only increases the need for critical thinking in the social sciences. Certainly Social Studies instruction will have failed in one of its principal objectives if students pursue it in a passive, credulous, unthinking subservience to all that is written and heard today about society and social problems. Surely all Social Studies students should receive constant training in critical thinking, in evaluating source material, and in detecting, analyzing, and appraising propaganda wherever and whenever it appears. Thus, though their Social Studies instruction, students should not only learn the facts or even merely acquire knowledge and understanding: they should also acquire an interest, even an intense determination, always to get to the truth of the matter.3 In short, they should be initiated into the life-long quest for "whatsoever things are true."

3. Humanitarian Sentiments

In this objective, reference is made to the social and altruistic sentiment which give point and purpose to the whole process of the Social Studies. It encompasses an appreciation of the meaning of the French triad, "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity", the American devotion to "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness", and the British insistence on "Justice and Fair Play." Objective 3 indicates the contingent relationship of the enjoyment of personal rights and privileges with the acceptance of the personal responsibilities and duties. It is the "brotherhood" objective.

4. An Understanding of the Rule of Law

This objective refers to the necessity for leading children from the repeatedly observed fact that man is a social animal to a realization of the need for government, the preferability, but not necessarily inevitability of self-government. In short, students should acquire an appreciation of the democratic ideology with its past struggles and achievements, its unsolved problems, its future possibilities and its ever-present challenge. Students should come to realize that democracy is not a framework for anarchic liberty and license, but is rather a form of government wherein law and authority are imperative. It is not that democracies lack authority. It is rather that the source and nature of democratic authority differs from that of all other forms of government. This point is well stated in a Canadian Youth Commission Publication, Youth Challenges the Educators:
"Democracy is an authoritarian form of government. That is a rather redundant observation since government has to be authoritarian in order to be at all. The various steps which have brought about democracy as we know it were not attempts to throw off law, but to keep the governing power within the law. Control of the exchequer, of taxation, of the armed forces, of the judiciary, of foreign policy-all have been wrested from irresponsible hands and placed in the hands of Parliament; and a long series of franchise reforms is in process of making Parliament truly representative of the people. The point is that the controls were not thrown away, but were gradually taken over by the people, of whose sovereignty the Crown and the Monarch became the symbols."4

The source of democratic authority is less prosaically set forth in the New York Times editorial quoted in the earlier edition of the Programme of Studies:

"So long as the English tongue survives, the word Dunkerque will be spoken with reverence. For in that harbour, in such a hell as never blazed on earth before, at the end of a lost battle, the rags and blemishes that have hidden the soul of democracy fell away. There, beaten but unconquered, in shining splendour, she faced the enemy.

"They sent away the wounded first. Men died so that others could escape. It was not so simple a thing as courage, which the Nazis had in plenty. It was not the result of careful planning, for there could have been little.

"It was the common man of the free countries, rising in all his glory out of the mill, office, factory, mine, farm, and ship, applying to war the lessons learned when he went down the shaft to bring out trapped comrade, when he hurled the lifeboat through the surf, when he endured poverty and hard work for his children’s sake.

"This shining thing in the souls of free men Hitler cannot command or attain, or conquer. He has crushed it, where he could, from German hearts.

"It is the great tradition of Democracy. It is the future. It is victory."

Attitudes, Appreciations, Allegiances

In the foregoing consideration of general objectives, some of the specific objectives of Social Studies instruction have probably been obscured in the attempt to be brief. A more thorough coverage of objectives of Social Studies is achieved if one uses the analytical approach. Indeed, this approach is so through that its results are almost intimidating to those who are responsible for Social Studies instruction. Certainly an analysis of Social Studies objectives makes it seem that Social Studies teachers are to be made to carry the whole educational responsibility. This, of course, is not implied, yet it is doubtless true that they must share, with all other teachers, educational objectives that are omnipresent in all educational ventures.

Probably the analysis of Social Studies objectives presented in Part 7 of the Report of the Commission on the Social Studies is the most complete and authoritative that has appeared to date. This report, summarized, adapted and revised where necessary, has served as a basis for the following special or more limited objectives of Social Studies instruction.

  1. Acquisition of attitudes that promote welfare of individuals and the commonwealth:
    1. General life attitudes
      1. Respect for rights and opinions of others.
      2. Recognition of and respect for the ethical standards or values of individuals, communities and mankind generally.
      3. Faith in human powers for improvement of individuals and communities.
      4. Vivid sense of social responsibility.
      5. Interest in contemporary social problems ad a desire to participate in their solution.
      6. Religious and political tolerance.
    2. Patriotism
      1. Reasoned affection for Canada, as distinguished from tribal prejudices.
      2. Appreciation of national achievements-material, social and ethical.
      3. Recognition of national and local shortcomings.
      4. Sympathetic understanding of national powers and ideals.
      5. Critical fairness in partisan politics.
      6. Understanding of the use and the misuse of patriotic phrases and labels.
      7. Discrimination between special and national interests.
    3. University of spirit in world affairs
      1. Appreciation of other communities and nationalities.
      2. Willingness to examine fairly proposals of other national governments.
      3. Recognition of values inherent in peaceful relations of nations.
  2. Cultural allegiances
    1. The worth of human life-apart from pecuniary and class standards.
    2. The worth of work-efficient and creative craftsmanship and conditions favorable to it.
    3. Right to individuality in life-freedom from needless mass and standardizing pressures.
    4. Effective and wise use of money and leisure.
    5. Community values and obligations.
  3. Esthetic appreciation-for the enrichment of life
    1. Appreciation of the arts in their various forms.
    2. Appreciation of letters in their various forms.
    3. Sympathetic understanding of the manifold relations of esthetics to life and labour.

Habits and Skills

  1. Acquisition of habits making efficiency and stability
  2. Skills to be acquired as concomitant learnings while achieving other objectives:
    1. How to read Social Studies material with understanding.
    2. How to use a dictionary, an encyclopedia, a map, an atlas, a library card catalogue, an index, a yearbook such as the Canada Yearbook.
    3. How to read simple graphs, pictorial graphs and cartographs, percentages and statistical tables.
    4. How to outline Social Studies material to prepare good oral written reports.
    5. How to do committee work.
    6. How to take part in Social Studies discussion.
    7. How to use Parliamentary procedure.

Course and Instructional Objectives of the Programme as a Whole

Like the actual teaching of Social Studies, preparing programmes for Social Studies instruction looks relatively simple and straightforward until one becomes seriously involved and asks himself-and others who can give helpful general, technical, or practical advice-just what is specifically required of a Social Studies programme. Then advice pours in. It is all very helpful, too, provided one is not completely overwhelmed and overawed by so much good counsel. Here, as often in education, it is the apparently the easy little questions that will be satisfied by any simple one-dimensional answers. What should one try to do in a five-year programme of Social Studies prescribed for all Junior and Senior High school students in this province? "Make better citizens-better Canadian citizens of them." Granted. But how? How can one? How would you do this? Good altruistic counsel and good (or perhaps bad) biased counsel is freely given on all sides. In books, in briefs, in letters and in person, educational philosophers, psychologists, administrators, special-interest groups, laymen, parents, principals, teachers and pupils freely and helpfully contribute to the solution of the problem.

After you sift, classify, summarize, reclassify, and again summarize what appears to be a completely formless welter of good advice, your task appears clearer and perhaps somewhat easier on that account. Eventually it all seems to boil down to seven injunctions which can neither be denied nor further consolidated or reduced without loss of point. Perhaps there are more than seven-at least there are seven things which one should (must) do in a five-year programme of Social Studies prescribed for all secondary school students in this province. These appear to be:

  1. Proceed systematically
    Arrange your course topics and sub-topics in a chronological or some other orderly sequence and proceed with straightforward business-like singleness of purpose from one topic to the next according to plan. Remember that a course of studies should truly be a planned course of studies, not a maze of tangled trails designed rather to confuse than guide.
  2. Survey the course of history
    Do not leave any gaps-at least any serious gaps-in a time-line that is at least 6,000 years long.
  3. Survey the globe
    Do not overlook any part-at least any important part. And what parts are unimportant in today's small new world?
  4. Do not overlook any of the social sciences
    Make your course Social Studies-not just history or just geography. The Social Studies are built on all the social sciences. True, they draw heavily upon the insights of the historian, but they must not be limited to these. To so limit is neither legitimate nor defensible.
  5. Make the material interesting to students
    Remember that the logical or chronological order which adults find best for arranging or storing knowledge after it has been acquired is not necessarily the order in which students best acquire knowledge. Generally, prefer the psychological to the logical order. Children, like trees and other growing things, have their own ways of developing, determined more by interest than by logic or any overriding determination to be systematic. This may be an annoying characteristic of student learning, but it is nevertheless an important one. Proceed then in accordance with the findings of adolescent psychology rather than with those of good adult logic, otherwise "teach-ability" suffers.
  6. Do not make the course too heavy
    Do not attempt too much. Coverage should not be achieved at the price of understanding.
  7. Be democratic
    Remember at all times that you are educating for democratic citizenship-for self-government. Let yours then be a leadership of free men. Provide a Department-teacher-pupil relationship wherein authority and individual initiative are compatible.

Such then are seven uncompromising injunctions to those who frame and those who teach courses of Social Studies. They are not listed here to prove that the objectives are often incompatible, or that they make unreasonable demands. Such conclusions are all too obvious. No, these injunctions or objectives are listed rather to clarify the nature of the problem, and perhaps to provide some insurance against one's own and other's pat one-dimensional solutions. The listing of these often conflicting objectives should serve also to underscore the amount of responsibility which in the nature of things must be borne by teachers. After all, any programme is only a tool or instrument designed to help teachers attain certain objectives, such as those listed above. The course which follows has been designed in full awareness of all the objectives listed. The arrangements it provides and the suggestions it offers in the pages of print which follow still leave a great deal of responsibility and scope for individual initiative and mature judgment to the classroom teacher. Nevertheless, some arrangements and suggestions have been provided; these may be more helpful if they are summarized and listed together which they are designed to serve.

First Objective-Be Systematic

In overall pattern the course may be likened to an extended five-ribbed fan with the parchment covering only the upper two-thirds of the length of the ribs. Then Social Studies 7, the introductory or supporting course, entitled "Our Beginnings", is represented by the area below the parchment. Social Studies 8, 10, 20, 30, are modern courses, and are represented by the unbroken parchment band wherein four divisions are indicated by the supporting ribs yet wherein no real division exists. While all five courses must attempt to serve diverse purposes, still each has a distinctive pattern: for Social Studies 7 it is Ancient Times; for Social Studies 8 it is Canada among the Nations; for Social Studies 10 it is the effect of environment on Culture; for Social Studies 20 it is the non-government aspects of World Cultures today; for Social Studies 30 it is Modern Problems of Government, especially self-government.

Second Objective-Survey the Course of History

This objective is no doubt legitimate, but must be held within reasonable limits. Consequently, the story approach, well suited to a condensation of the findings of the academic historians, has been used in Social Studies 7 and Social Studies 8, and the chronological order has been purposely preserved in Social Studies 20 and 30, and in sections of Social Studies 10. Even when the story approach is used, however, its rapid pace must be broken for occasional leisurely and more intimate study of a few periods and a few selected personalities. Consequently, the course moves hastily often that it may proceed leisurely at times; that it may yield the overall perspective the "time-sense" desired and still serve other objectives too.

Third Objective-Survey the Globe

Here again we have an indisputable, legitimate aim, but again one whose demands have to be reconciled with those of other equally legitimate objectives. Consequently, geographic areas studied carefully while tracing the course of history are given only nominal geographic consideration in Social Studies 10, where the effects of the environment on the nature and development of regional cultures is specifically studied. Thus some time-saving is effected. Ten further, a classification of climatic-vegetation regions is built up in Social Studies 10, which enables all regions in a single classification to be treated with reasonable thoroughness by merely noting their special features. Likewise, it is partly to meet the requirements of the third objective above that maps and atlases are to be prominently featured in all courses and are commended as an invaluable tool for the consideration of current events throughout all courses. Likewise, films which may contribute generously to an understanding of the geography of other lands are consistently commended as instructional aids. Despite all this, however, further coverage may be justified. When it is and when it can be effected without encroaching unreasonably on the time required for other objectives it should be undertaken incidentally or specifically as the educational needs of specific times or classes require.

Fourth Objective-Do Not Overlook Any of the Social Sciences

The entire course is intended to be a true Social Studies programme-one where the findings of any or all the social sciences are adapted to the student level and employed whenever they afford additional insight into problems under consideration. For example, Social Studies 10 extensively employs the geographer's or environmentalist's approach. Nevertheless, without the contribution of historians, economists, sociologists, and others, Social Studies 10 would be inexcusably restricted. Conversely, other courses in the programme, not primarily concerned with geography, all require a certain amount of map work. Thus some "geography" is a part of every course. Likewise, some contribution form each of the social sciences should find its way into every course. Nevertheless, in the interests of the First Objective (Be Systematic) as well as the Fourth Objective, each of the principal social sciences is given prominence-but not monopoly-in certain of the courses.

Thus it is hoped that the interests of both "integration" and "concentration" may be served.

Fifth Objective-Make it Interesting

Wishful thinking to the contrary, "making it interesting" remains the teacher's prerogative and art. Courses of study can only provide the necessary tools, and perhaps suggest alternate ways and means of using them; the teacher alone can "finish the job." Many "tools" are provided: these are too obvious and too numerous to require specific listing. Indeed, perhaps too much assistance has been given or proferred. If so, this has been done to orient the beginning teacher and must not be regarded as a limitation on, or a substitute for, the initiative, resourcefulness, and adaptability of the more experienced teacher. Teachers make their programmes of instruction from the course. The course itself is only a framework for numerous instructional programmes which, under varying yet specific circumstances, best serve the general and special objectives5 of social studies instruction. Thus, topical outlines, textbook treatment, illustrative units, sample tests, and the like herein generously provided must be regarded as suggestive leads only. They are especially designed to aid the inexperienced, not to prescribe rigidly standardized pattern or routine for all instructional programmes for all teachers. To so limit the freedom of Social Studies teachers in the exercise of their professional judgment, within the framework of the course as prescribed, as to the best way of achieving the general and specific objectives of the course, would militate strongly against student interest, and consequently against the objectives which the course endeavors to achieve.

Sixth Objective-Do Not Make the Course Too Heavy

After being urged to trace the time-line, cover the globe, sample all the social sciences, high-light things Canadian, and above all make it interesting, one cannot help feeling that the injunction "do not make the course too heavy" comes as something of an anti-climax. Yet this sixth objective must be met fully or all suffer-the other objectives, the teachers, and the pupils; and verbal glibness about many topics poses as a training in citizenship.

Consequently, throughout the programme a variety of devices have been used in an attempt to keep the course from becoming overloaded. For example, it was felt that the substantial body of material of Britain's development normally provided for Canadian scholars should be retained, even augmented. Yet it was not possible to do this in conventional fashion with a separate course or course on British history. And, since such isolated treatment of national cultures is further condemned, as militating against integration, there is no single course in the programme devoted exclusively to Britain's history and culture. Instead, Britain's history and cultural achievements have a prominent place in every course.

As a part of Social Studies 7, Britain's story begins in pre-Roman times and is carried forward to about 1500. In Social Studies 8 it is carried forward in chronological survey fashion to modern times. This overview treatment is provided in Social Studies 8 as an introduction to the integrated study of Canada Among the Nations, and as a preview for the more detailed study of special facets of British culture undertaken in later courses. In Social Studies 10 the geography of Britain is studied, and the environmental approach is used to bring the British Commonwealth and Empire into focus that it may be studied from other aspects as well as the geographical one. In Social Studies 20 the non-governmental aspects of Britain's culture are studied; Literature, Art, Music, Economics, and so forth. Herein Britain's industrial development, her co-operative movement and her labour unions come up for careful attention. In Social Studies 30 Britain's contributions to the art of government-notably democratic government-are carefully reviewed and studied. Thus by using the integrated approach, it is hoped that little if anything has been lost in "coverage" while something has been gained in economy and educational effectiveness by displaying Britain's development along with that of other nations-notably Canada, of course-and not as a n isolated phenomenon.

Other techniques as well as the foregoing have been used to keep the programme from being "too heavy"-survey treatment, sampling, multiple purpose treatment (as for Britain and Canada), choice of synoptic texts and the like. Nevertheless, the sole responsibility toward the Sixth Objective cannot be discharged by any printed outline. Insofar as possible the courses published herein have been tried out in sample classrooms. It was found they were not too heavy if the teacher took his full share of responsibility for making professional judgments as to the amount of detail to be included and the number of topics that should be treated in survey fashion that others might be treated in greater detail. If these judgments are not assumed by the teacher, all courses are obviously too heavy in the sense that they can be made so. Any topic, The French Revolution, The Industrial Revolution, or what you will, is too heavy for a whole year's work let alone a month's work, if one's perfectly natural-and commendable-desire for thoroughness is not carefully scrutinized and brought within reasonable limits.

Unfortunately, the programme may even have increased the teacher's difficulty with the Sixth Objective by endeavoring to provide plenty of outlines, suggestions, references, flexible time limits, and so forth on many topics in an endeavor to invite students and teachers to make occasional interest-directed excursions from the beaten track. If these leads prove too inviting, if the teachers try to follow all or too many of them, overloading is inevitable. Consequently, the Sixth Objective requires that teachers are fully appraised of their freedom to adapt topical outlines, detailed suggestions, unit plans and the like to secure the greatest possible returns from the particular social studies classes in which these courses are employed. With this freedom, of course, goes an equal amount of professional responsibility. It is earnestly hoped, therefore, that teachers will not lightly regard this freedom to exercise their professional responsibility, within the framework and objectives of the programme, to keep the following courses from becoming too heavy. No other safeguard against overloading seems adequate.

Seventh Objective-Be Democratic in Leadership

From its very beginning, in public meetings called by the Minister of Education in Victoria and Vancouver to its classroom trials in representative classes of teen-age students, this programme has been throughout a venture in co-operation.

Herein no attempt could be made to acknowledge by name all those persons whose suggestions, submissions, sample units and the like were used in building this course, because of the space such a listing would require. Nor is it felt that any such listing is necessary because of the spirit in which the contributions of time and effort were made. Herein, regrettably from the point of view of the Seventh Objective, only the conventional listing of those most directly concerned could be included. Even this listing, however, speaks clearly of the wide variety of talents drawn upon in building this programme. Probably the prominence of teachers among the curriculum personnel is one of its most notably and noteworthy features. It is especially noteworthy by the teachers themselves for it displays not only a rightful share of recognition to teachers of their work in building the curriculum, but also emphasizes the continuing nature of their responsibility that the programme may be progressively improved and effectively adapted to meet the varying class room needs of particular classes. Thus the following course is not regarded as a project completed, a fait accompli as it were, but only as the co-operative beginning of a co-operative process. The little paragraph which appears on the title page of the programme must not be regarded as being merely routine or formal. It is rather framed to convey a specific invitation to all teachers who work with this programme. This paragraph will thus bear repetition:

"This programme of Social Studies has been published in experimental form n order that teachers may be given the opportunity of offering constructive suggestions for improvement before the course is published in its final form.

"Suggestions and criticisms are earnestly invited and should be addressed to the Division of Curriculum, Department of Education, Victoria."


One of the persistent difficulties of all Social Studies teachers is to preserve a wholesome even enthusiastic, interest in methodology without at the same time regarding it as an end it itself. All too frequently methodology has tended to monopolize the center of the stage while the general and specific objectives of Social Studies waited in the wings with only fleeting opportunities to make their voices heard. "Faith in method", declares the Commission on the Social Studies, "divorced from knowledge, thought, and purpose, has long been the besetting sin of pedagogy".6 Further it asserts, "…there is no device or instruction that can raise the quality of the educative process above the purpose, the knowledge, the understanding, the vision of the teacher who employs it."7

It must be granted then, that regard for method divorced from a prior and continuous consideration of the general and special objectives of Social Studies instruction lads only to an unfortunate loss of perspective. Yet method, considered concurrently with objectives and yielding priority of place to them whenever there is a conflict, is as Wesley states, "one of the most fundamental aspects of education, and the central problem of teaching".8

From the foregoing it is evident that there is no one rule of thumb method can be given as a universal solution for all problems of Social Studies instruction. "It should now be apparent that there is no such thing as a method of teaching that is good for all subject matter at all times and in all places. Rather, there are methods by which, in a given situation, for a definite purpose, at some specified grade level, and with such instructional equipment as is available, a specified unit of subject matter organized in a specific way and placed in a certain sequence may be taught to students of a given kind and distribution of ability and background of experience. In short, methods are instrumental and must be chosen and appraised in view of the ends to be reached and in the light of conditioning circumstances."9

Any good reference on Social Studies methodology10 will yield a score or ore techniques, devices or methods for teaching Social Studies. Among those commonly listed and considered are the following:11

Socialized Recitation and Discussion

This method is of an informal nature. The teacher may lead the discussion and a pupil may serve as chairman. Sometimes a committee may take charge of a discussion. With direction and training, a class will be able to carry on discussions and projects with little direct interference of the teacher. The teacher must see, however, that time is not wasted in worthless talk. Careful planning of assignments, a clear understanding on the part of the class as to what is expected of them, and proper experience and training will make this method of procedure worth while.

Informal Lecture

The lecture method is not recommended for general practice in the secondary school, but there are times when it may serve a particular purpose very well. One such time may be when the class is beginning a new unit or chapter. The teacher may arouse interest by talking over the new unit with the class, pointing out the high spots.

Project Method

The project method refers to activities which aid in the learning process. Various projects are construction, collecting, writing, making trips, dramatizing. The teacher must see that the projects are purposeful and not mere activity. Some of the following projects might be used:

Problem Approach

By this approach the solution of a pertinent problem is undertaken, in the main, by the students themselves.

The Contract Method

The contract method provides a method of individual instruction. Under this method the pupils are given contracts or detailed assignments covering a unit of work to be completed within a certain length of time. The contract method may well serve as an excellent means of motivation if handled carefully.

Supervised Study

Supervised study provides periods for study under the guidance of the teacher within the time when the class meets.

Source Method

Through the use of source books and readings, pupils may develop an entirely new attitude toward the study of history. Probably the most stimulating use of source is in the study of problems.

Creative work in various media; voice, line, colour, clay, wood, etc.

Creative work such as modeling clay figures, doing wood work, drawing original pictures, maps, and cartoons will make subject matter more real and interesting.

Probably the teacher of the Social Studies in the secondary school is not justified in spending a great deal of time in the construction of models, but a few simple ones may serve as a useful project.

The drawing of original maps is a desirable experience for pupils.

Charts may serve as an excellent means of arousing and sustaining interest. Various types of charts are picture charts, map charts, graph charts, organization charts, chronological charts.

Pupils should be encouraged to draw pictures and cartoons of their own.


The utilization of specimens provides reality to material taught. Many types of specimens might be used: old letters, old newspapers, old coins, stamps, uniforms, gas masks, etc.

Field Trips

Field trips provide an excellent means of motivation. Trips may be taken to local industries, banks, museums, courts, stores, police station, city water plant, telephone exchange, hydro-electric plants, historical sites, art galleries. The successful field trip must be carefully planned.

Visual Aids

Motion pictures, film strips and slides provide a very effective means of teaching. They are available on a great variety of subjects. (See section on Visual Aids.)

Debates, Open Forums, Panel Discussions

These may serve as a means of motivation. Both formal and informal types can be used very profitably in the Social Science course.


Political elections, local, provincial and national, are excellent means of motivating teaching. Mock elections can be held in the classroom with all the colour and glamour of real elections.

Court Trials

Mock trials in the classroom may prove interesting to civics classes after a visit to a local court.

Book Reports

Oral or written book reports may serve as an incentive for pupils to read widely if they are given extra credit for it.

Dramatic Sketches

Dramatic sketches may serve to make the material to be studies more real and interesting.

Radio Programmes and Recordings

The radio in school and at home can be of use in the motivation of teaching.


Discussion clubs will serve as a means of interesting pupils in the study of current affairs.

Student Government

The maintenance of a well-organized and efficient student government in a school would be an ideal way to teach citizenship and government.

Student Publications, Newspapers, Local Histories

Doubtless each of the above methods has particular merits which commend it for adoption under special circumstances. Rigidity in methodology is, however, precluded by the variety of objectives which must be served by the method or methods chosen. There are at least seven criteria which, it is thought, a teaching method should meet before adopting:

Some Criteria of Good Methodology

  1. It must promote orderliness of instruction. It should at least suggest, if not outline, business-like sequences of procedures for the learning process.
  2. It must give unity, focus, or centrality of purpose to educational undertakings. It must facilitate integration or connectedness both within subjects (vertical integration), and among subjects (horizontal education).
  3. It must sponsor interest in the educative process. (Interest here means inter-esse and implies that students should not be passive recipients, but rather should be active participants in educational undertakings.)
  4. It must facilitate student contacts with many avenues for achieving valuable insight or understandings, attitudes, appreciations, allegiances, habits and skills.
  5. It must facilitate socialized teaching so that students may learn co-operation, group thinking, democratic processes, etc., in more than mere academic terms.
  6. It must provide for the co-ordination of learnings and the evaluation of achievement.
  7. It must be sufficiently flexible or adaptable to permit the use of various techniques to meet special teaching conditions and sufficiently liberal to accommodate individual differences in pupils, classes and teachers alike.

The Unit Method

Because the unit method of instruction has stood up well in the light of the above and other ad hoc criteria, it is proposed herein. This does not imply, however, that the other methods listed earlier may not be employed within the unit organization. Indeed, properly conducted, the unit method comprehends a variety of specific techniques.

Probably one should not speak of "the" unit method, as there are a rather large number of distinguishably different unit methods. Yet as Bining and Bining observe:

"…while there is no exact agreement as to a definition of the term (unit), there is general agreement in so far as the idea that the unit emphasizes the organization of material in related groups, each large enough to be significant but small enough to be seen as a whole by the pupil."12

In like vein, Burton contends:

"The trained and earnest teacher knows that the difference (in unit methods) are almost wholly of wording; that there is wide agreement on the essence of the definition. He knows that the unit is not merely 'another device', not 'theoretical', not the arbitrary invention of some professor. He knows that it is, instead, the latest development in the long, orderly, procession of improvements in teaching."13

Consequently it is believed that a definition of the unit can be formulated which will reflect points of agreement among present-day Social Studies authorities, and yet preclude differences of emphasis that are found desirable to meet specific teaching problems and conditions, and objectives.

"A social studies unit, whether for teacher or student, is an organization of information and activities focused on the development of some significant understanding, attitude or appreciation which will modify behaviour."14

The above definition of a unit, however, only carries one part way toward full comprehension. Understanding will probably be increased by a consideration of the constituent parts of a teaching unit. Again points of general agreement among kinds of units is being sought.15 The following unit headings or unit framework is no more authoritative or categorical than many other attempts which have been made to delimit the essential parts of a teaching unit.16 It is included herein because it was the framework developed by members of the Revision Committee to achieve a reasonable degree of uniformity and straightforwardness in the illustrative Source or Teaching Units prepared and presented for one or two units in each of the Social Studies courses which follow.

Constituent Parts of a "Typical" Teaching Unit

  1. Statement of Unit for teaching purposes
  2. Objectives:
    1. Knowledge
    2. Skills, abilities, etc.
    3. Attitudes.
  3. Division of the Unit (commonly stated as problems)
  4. Development of problems as stated above in 3 under the heading:
    1. Specific objectives
    2. Scope of subject matter
    3. Class and pupil activities.
  5. Suggestions re introduction to:
    1. Orient
    2. Motivate
    3. Indicate plan or sequence.
  6. Co-ordinating and culminating activities.
  7. Evaluation and testing.
  8. References.

Such, in general terms, is a Teaching Unit-it is paper and pencil creation at best. It can only become vital as, in the hands of a competent teacher, it guides and leads students toward new insights, appreciations and the like.

The professional literature abounds with exhortations to Social Studies teachers to teach via rich, meaningful experiences. Doubtless the point is well taken; learning is an active rather than passive process. Concurrently with this advocacy of activity and function in Social Studies, enthusiasm for the "experience unit" has grown apace. Consequently some teachers think they are confronted with an "either-or" question: Are they to use "subject-matter" units or "experience" units? The answer to this must be-both! All teaching must be grounded in subject matter. Good teaching builds it into meaningful student experience. The nomenclature "experience unit" may be new, but the problem it implies is as old as education itself. Indeed, it is the problem of teaching.

Thus Teaching Units-sometimes called Source Units or Resource Units17-must inevitably be written up as subject matter units. Doubtless though, their subject matter should be functionally selected and arranged to facilitate rich, meaningful, varied student experiences.

Following the Outline of Courses list of "References on the Unit Method", a brief list of sample units from the professional literature is presented for the use of those who are interested.

The Log of a Unit

Many authorities commend the practice of writing up the progress of a teaching unit as it develops under actual classroom conditions into an experience unit. This account is called the Log of a Unit. Such logs provide a valuable basis for revising the original outline of teaching units so that they may be educationally more serviceable the next time they are required. These logs also perform a very beneficial function in focusing teacher attention on the important part which pupils, with their needs, interests and problems, play in the development and fruitful completion of a unit. Certainly, by a close attention to such needs, teachers may greatly increase their teaching efficiency, and may also more effectively secure the active and thoughtful participation of students in the education process. When this participation is co-operative, continuous and responsible rather than forced, sporadic or irresponsible, teaching becomes as it should be, a joint venture wherein teachers and students alike co-operatively complete their respective responsibilities. Such co-operative participation is one of the earmarks of education at its highest level of effectiveness.

Developing Teaching Units

In advocating the use of the Unit Method of Social Studies instruction it is not suggested that such instruction be deferred until the teacher has prepared a complete source or resource unit for each division of the course to be taught. This would be to advocate the reverse of the desirable procedure whereunder teachers develop and enrich source units from year to year as the instructional process goes on. If a beginning teacher merely gets started on the preparation of source units in the first year, and develops and revises in future years to complete the equivalent of one or two units per year, Billett,18 at least would contend that a teacher would be fulfilling his responsibilities very satisfactorily.

References on "The Unit Method"

Billett, R. O.: Fundamentals of secondary school teaching. Houghton Mifflin. 1940 (Nelson)
Chapters 7-15 contain general suggestions for teachers in several subject matter fields.
Chapters 17 and 18 display subject matter units in both academic and non-academic fields.

Bining, A. C. and D. H.: Teaching the Social Studies in secondary schools. Mcgraw-Hill. 1941
Pages 166-181 General description. The Morrison plan commended.

Burton, William H.: The Guidance of Learning Activities. Appleton-Century-Crofts. 1944 (Ryerson)
Part Two pp. 244-310 Good description of Subject matter and of Experience Units. Helpful suggestions on the planning and development of units. Theory-no sample units.

Douglass, Harl R. and Mills, Hubert H.: Teaching in high school. Ronald Press. 1948 (General Publishing)
Pp. 217-227. A brief but clear presentation with examples of the constituent parts of a unit.

Goetting, M. L.: Teaching in the secondary school. Prentice Hall. 1946 (General Publishing)
Pp. 327-423. A detailed description with illustrations of units in four subject matter fields.

Hopkins, L. Thomas: Interaction: The democratic process. Heath. 1941 (Copp Clark)
A consideration of kinds of units from the point of view of an "advanced" progressive.

Jackson, Doyle D. and Irwin, W. B.: The unit method of learning and teaching. (Distribution by Students Co-operative Store, Texas Technological College, Luback, Texas. 1942)
A very practical treatment with many excellent examples.

Jones, Grizzell and Grinstead: Principles of unit construction. McGraw-Hill. 1939
Full treatment with examples of different types of Units in a variety of subjects-Sample Subject Matter Unit is especially well organized.

Krug, Edward and Anderson, Lester G. (editors): Adapting instructions in the social studies to individual differences. Fifteenth Yearbook of the National Council for the Social Studies. 1944
Description of Typical Units of Work. Pp. 142 ff.

Leonard J. Paul: Developing the secondary school curriculum. Rinehart. 1946 (Clarke Irwin)
Kinds of units and examples of procedures well explained and illustrated-pp. 424-488

Peters, C. C.: Teaching high school history and social studies for citizenship training. University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida. 1948
A description of Social Studies experiment in Democratic-Action-Centred education in Miami, Florida.

Quillen, I. J. and Hanna, L. E.: Education for social competence. Scott, Foresman. 1948 (Gage)
Chapters 7 and 8 are two of the best in the modern professional literature. Sample units are presented in appendices.

Risk, T. M.: Principles and practices of teaching in secondary schools. American Book. 1947 (Gage)
An extensive consideration of the problems of unit construction with sample units.

Rivlin, Harry N.: Teaching adolescents in secondary schools
Chapter V. A descriptive narrative of the development and culmination of a Unit "Is the United States likely to be more successful than the League of Nations?"

Schorling, Raleigh S.: Student teaching, an experience programme. McGraw-Hill. 1940
Pages 93-99. A brief rather general treatment. Steps in planning a unit are specific and helpful.

U.S. Office of Education Bulletin, 1945, No. 6 by Ruth G. Strickland: How to build a unit of work
Better for its suggestions than for detailed directions.

Wesley, Edgar Bruce: Teaching the Social Studies. Heath. 1937 (Copp Clark)
Pages 251-253 and 518-528. Brief description. Morison plan outlined.

Some Sample Social Studies Units in the Professional Literature

Industrial Development

Jackson, D. D. and Irwin, W. B.: The unit method of learning and teaching. John S. Swif Co. 1942
Pp. 206-211. This is one of many excellent unit illustrations in the book.

Participating in the Rights and Duties of a Citizen

Jones, A. J. and Grizzell, E. D.: Principles of unit construction. McGraw-Hill. 1939
Pp. 219-225. A well organized and complete outline of a core curriculum unit.

Our Latin American Neighbors

Draper, E. M.: Principles and techniques of curriculum making. Appleton-Century. 1936
Pp. 782-789. Includes two complete outlines-one for the teacher, one for the pupils.

Contributions of Primitive and Early Civilizations

Draper, E. M.: Principles and techniques of curriculum making. Appleton-Century. 1936
Pp. 308-313. A compete outline of three subject matter units-includes understandings to be developed, guide questions, activities.


Michener, J. A. and Long, H. M.: The unit in the Social Studies. Harvard Workshop Series, No. 1 George Banta Pub Co. 1940
Pp. 66-91. A complete source unit for teachers of Grade XI

How the French People Gained Political Democracy by Revolution

Michener, J. A. and Long, H. M.: The unit in the Social Studies. Harvard Workshop Series, No. 1 George Banta Pub Co. 1940
Pp. 42-44. A complete and well organized worksheet for students in Grade XI.


Billett, R. O.: Fundamentals of secondary school teaching. Houghton Mifflin. 1940 (Nelson)
Pp. 527-533. A well organized unit.

Exercising Freedom of Religious Belief and Expression

Leonard P. J.: Developing the secondary school curriculum. Rinehart. 1946 (Clarke Irwin)
Pp. 446-450. A unit organized around a core problem of a social nature-gives suggested content and pupil experiences.

Primitive, Oriental, and Greek Culture

Bining, A. C.; Mohr, W. H. and McFeely, R. H.: Organizing the Social Studies in secondary schools. McGraw-Hill. 1941
Pp. 112-113. Contains questions that could be used for purposes of evaluation.

The French Revolution

Bining, A. C.; Mohr, W. H. and McFeely, R. H.: Organizing the Social Studies in secondary schools. McGraw-Hill. 1941
Pp. 87-90. An outline or guide for a subject matter unit. Lacks suggestions for activities, problems, etc.

Units on Democracy

Education Policies Commission: Learning the ways of democracy. National Education Association. 1940
Pp. 51-57. Brief outlines for units on democracy-with explanatory notes.

The Struggle for Personal and Political Liberty

Education Policies Commission: Learning the ways of democracy. National Education Association. 1940
Pp. 66-67. Objectives, outline of content and questions-not detailed.

Protecting Ourselves from Disease

Risk, Thomas M.: Principles and practices of teaching in secondary schools. American Book. 1948 (Gage).
(A subject matter, problem unit)
Worked out completely save for tests, Bibliography, and some of the divisions.

The People of the United States

Quillen, I. J. and Hanna, L. A.: Education for social competence. Scott, Foresman. 1948 (Gage)
Pp. 509 of the above and other units in this book are unusually complete and should prove exceptionally helpful.

The Early Days of a New Nation

Krug, E. and Anderson, G. L.: Adapting instructions in the Social Studies to individual differences. National Council for the Social Studies, Fifteenth Yearbook. 1944
Pp. 142-144. Brief outline, giving general topic headings only, with no elaboration of problems or activities.


1 Dewey John: Experience and Education. Macmillan, New York, 1938.
2 For a more extensive consideration of the Knowledge Objective in Social Studies instruction, see Report of the Commission on The Social Studies, Conclusions and Recommendations, pp. 49-54. See also Quillen, E. J. and Hanna, L. A., Education for Social Competence (Scott Foresman and Co., New York 1948) Chapter One.
3 For more extensive treatment of Objective II see National Council for the Social Studies, Thirteenth Yearbook, Teaching Critical Thinking in the Social Studies (National Education association, Washington 6, D.C., 1942), and also Education Against Propaganda, the Seventh Yearbook of the National Council for the Social Studies, 1937.
4 Canadian Youth Commission: Youth Challenges the Educator (The Ryerson Press, Toronto, 1946) p. 78.
5 See pp. 2-10.
6 Op., cit. Conclusions and Recommendations, p. 69.
7 Ibid., pp. 71-72.
8 Wesley, E. B.: Teaching the Social Studies. D.C. Heath and Company, New York, 1937, p. 467.
9 Horn, E.: Methods of Instruction in the Social Studies (Part XV, Report of the Commission on the Social Studies, American Historical Association, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1937), pp. 37-38.
10 See Teachers References on the unit method, page 21.
11 This list of methods or techniques is derived, in the main, from one of the more progressive American courses of study-namely, that of the State Department of Education, Montpelier, Vermont. See suggested course of study and teacher's manual in the Social Studies for Vermont Secondary Schools (State Department of Education, Montpelier, Vermont, 1943).
12 Bining, A. C. and D. H.: Teaching the Social Studies in Secondary School. McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1935.
13 Burton, W. H.: The Guidance of Learning Activities. D. Appleton-Century, New York, 1944, p. 244.
14 Michener, J. A. and Long, H. M.: The unit in the Social Studies. Harvard Workshop Series, No. 1 Graduate School of Education, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.; 1940 p. 1.
15 Those who wish to explore the range of variation within Unit Methods should consult the Professional Reference displayed on p. 23.
16 See References on the Unit Method p. 23.
17 For an excellent statement re Unit Logs see Programme and Guide, Social-Studies for the Elementary Schools of British Columbia.
18 R. O. Billett: Fundamentals of Secondary School Teaching, Houghton Mifflin, 1940.

Source: British Columbia. Department of Education. Social Studies Programme of Instruction (1950), pp.11-24.
Transcribed by Crystal Ruel, History 349, Malaspina University-College, April 2002