Shift happens in Social Studies: Should instructional design apply across disciplines?

Link to ETEC 532 paper

This paper is based on the premise that a constructivist approach is best suited for the study of society and its history. This is because subjects like history and social studies are inherently based on constructivist principles. That is, they are in themselves constructs subject to cultural norms, personal experience, and other biases. Being able to gather primary sources, evaluate them, categorize them, and form a position based on what is known, is what history and social studies are all about. The discussion also offers a new way to present social studies curriculum to students so to maximize learning, retention, and the development of indispensable skills required in the information age. SSCIE (Social Studies Constructivist Instructional Environments) would consist in a web-based system of archives linked directly to the ministry of education’ learning outcomes which would allow students to work toward meeting the requirements for each through their own choice of artefacts.  Each, choosing from a wide variety of media, and producing evidence of their learning through the construction of a wiki which would then become the basis for summative assessment. I strongly believe that if this model should ever become a reality, it would revolutionize these subjects, support both learning and teaching,  as well as generate a whole new set of attitudes towards history and social studies.

While I was working on this assignment, something came to me: should instructional design apply across disciplines? Typically, when there is some kind of big conceptual breakthrough  in education, it is implemented across the board: multiple intelligences, collaborative learning, online education. Further, I thought about a French 10 course I had developed for online delivery, and recalled how I felt throughout that online education was not well suited to language learning because  immersion, as well as non-verbal language, are an essential requirement for fluency.

I believe that the reason for this seemingly homogeneous attitude toward instructional design is that decision-makers are often quick to implement innovation without considering the most important and central component of any subject: the prescribed learning outcomes. So while this instructional design might revolutionize social studies, it would not work in a language course, for example. The sooner we realize that each discipline / subject requires its own theoretical framework, the better off we and our students will be.

Works Cited

Maxwell, Wendy. (n.d.) Research to Support the Implementation of ‘Histoires en action!’. Retrieved August 2, 2009, from