Updated: Nov 12, 2021
The Future of Social Studies Education
Last week’s webinar launched The Future of Social Studies, inquirED’s fall webinar series in collaboration with the National Council for the Social Studies. We were joined by NCSS Executive Director, Dr. Lawrence Paska; Natacha Scott, Director of Educator and Engagement at iCivics, and Shanti Elangovan, Founder and CEO of inquirED. The webinar was moderated by Sarah Schwartz of EdWeek. You can view a recording of the webinar at the end of this post, or read below for a brief summary.
Sarah Schwartz began the webinar by digging into current controversies around Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the bills working their way through statehouses across the country to dictate content and instruction. Our panelists agreed that the mostly-manufactured crisis was starting to have real-world consequences for schools and teachers. “The first place we are going to see things really happen is at the school board level,” according to Lawrence Paska, “we’ll see it in the elections and meetings coming up.” Natacha Scott also took a moment to remind us that there are inspiring responses happening as well, “There are actually states that are expanding education about racism and bias,” she said, “deepening their examinations about the contributions of marginalized populations.”
If this moment isn’t about social studies, I don’t know what is.” Shanti Elangovan
As for what the future of social studies holds, there was consensus among panelists that as we move into the future, we will need social studies more than ever. “If not now, when?” Shanti Elangovan shared the sentiments of one of inquirED’s district partners. She continued: “If this moment isn’t about social studies, I don’t know what is. And we have to ask ourselves: how are we supporting teachers at this moment?” Paska agreed and shared how “the challenges to our institutions, to our democracy, the issues for justice and equity that we are calling for,” should reorient how we approach social studies and instructional time. “We should not be carving out time for social studies,” he said, “we should begin with social studies, lead with social studies.”
“We should begin with social studies, lead with social studies.” —Lawrence Paska
There was also broad agreement that education leaders, curriculum providers, and advocacy organizations need to improve supports for classroom teachers. According to Elangovan, “we have left teachers out there on their own.” Natacha Scott agreed and wanted to send a clear message to teachers “I want to reinforce to educators that you are not alone. Talk to your colleagues, talk to your community, there’s so much we can do together.”
“I want to reinforce to educators that you are not alone.” —Natacha Scott
During the discussion, much of the focus on supporting teachers had to do with providing teachers with high-quality instructional materials and sources that support inquiry in social studies. At Educating for American Democracy, where Natacha Scott works with educators, they’ve focused on creating a roadmap that includes vetted resources. “As an educator,” Scott said, “we know how hard it can be to gather resources. That’s why we’re curating resources to support teachers.” Elangovan encouraged educators, curriculum providers, and advocacy organizations to focus on “a landscape analysis of state standards” and on the “ingredients we have in common,” like the C3 Framework and The Roadmap to Educating for American Democracy. “If we focus on these common elements,” Elangovan said, “we can push curriculum providers to create high-quality materials to meet our demands.”
Resources Shared or Requested
EdWeek Articles by Sarah Schwartz: Sarah Schwartz is a reporter for Education Week who covers curriculum and instruction. Before joining the staff, she worked as an Education Week intern, covering education technology. She has also worked at a middle school in East Harlem, N.Y.
Educating for American Democracy: A call to action to invest in strengthening history and civic learning, and to ensure that civic learning opportunities are delivered equitably throughout the country.
Civic Life (C3) Framework: The result of a three-year, state-led collaborative effort, the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards was developed to serve two audiences: for states to upgrade their state social studies standards and for practitioners — local school districts, schools, teachers and curriculum writers — to strengthen their social studies programs
inquirED's Curriculum Review Guide: In consultation with our partner schools and districts, inquirED has created a Curriculum Review Guide to support instructional leaders as they develop and search for social studies curriculum.
Social Studies Instruction and Reading Comprehension: Evidence from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study: Bringing forward new evidence to this debate, Fordham’s associate director of research Adam Tyner and early childhood researcher Sarah Kabourek explore whether classroom time in the nation’s elementary schools is being put to the best use.
View the recording of the webinar below.
inquirED has moved beyond the textbook, offering a customizable, digital curriculum that supports teachers in shifting to student-centered instruction. inquirED delivers year-long, student-centered curriculum and assessment with engaging content and activities for students and embedded professional learning for teachers. Inquiry Journeys is inquirED’s core elementary social studies curriculum. Inquiry Journeys is a comprehensive inquiry-based curriculum with embedded PD that helps teachers shift their practice to a more inquiry-based approach. Learn More.
Dr. Lawrence Paska
National Council for the Social Studies
Paska began his career as a middle school social studies teacher in New York state public school districts. He later served in multiple roles at the New York State Education Department (Albany, NY). He led New York's standards and assessment programs for P–12 social studies education as a state social studies specialist, established the Office of Educational Design and Technology in P–12 Education, and implemented the Board of Regents' Statewide Learning Technology Plan and regulations for online and blended learning as the Coordinator of Technology Policy. Paska returned to schools as the Director of Social Studies for the Harrison Central School District (Harrison, NY), leading K–12 social studies, business, and library media departments. Most recently, Paska served as the Director of Professional Development for the Southern Westchester Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), where he and his team provided instructional programs and services for 32 public school districts in the greater New York City region, supported data-driven instruction, developed instructional leadership seminars, and were instrumental in implementing New York State's K–12 Social Studies Framework.
Director of Educator Engagement
Natacha worked with the Boston Public Schools for the past 14 years beginning her journey as a third-grade teacher at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School after she graduated from Northeastern University with a Masters in Teaching and a Bachelor's concentrated in Public History. She then continued her growth in leadership by participating in a principal internship through the Center for Collaborative Education Principal Residency Network. Prior to transitioning to her role as K–12 Director of History and Social Studies, Natacha worked with the History Department in several different capacities including curriculum writer, elementary coach, and assistant director in order to develop curriculum resources and professional development to support teachers with designing engaging and meaningful learning experiences for students.
Beyond the classroom, Natacha serves as a professional development specialist at Educating for American Democracy and has served as a review panel member supporting the revision of the Massachusetts History and Social Science 2018 Curriculum Framework. She also contributed to the design and development of the Civics Project Guidebook used to frame the expectations of the Action Civics Projects aligned with the 2018 Massachusetts law on civic education. Natacha also serves as a Steering Committee member and Educator Workshop Lead for the Educating for American Democracy Roadmap project. She is also a part-time lecturer at Northeastern University, facilitating a course on history and social studies pedagogy.
Founder and CEO
After obtaining an M.Ed from Columbia University, Shanti Elangovan moved from classroom teacher to coach to curriculum director. Eager to help educational organizations scale their impact, she went on to earn an MBA. Shanti quickly put those skills to work by envisioning and implementing strategies to grow National Center for Teacher Residencies’ impact. In 2017 Shanti founded inquirED to scale the use and impact of inquiry-based learning, a powerful teaching pedagogy that prepares students for the 21st century.
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