Research shows that high-quality instructional materials can significantly improve outcomes for students. What can the social studies community learn from other subject areas that have prioritized these materials? We were joined on our webinar by Shanti Elangovan (CEO & Founder, inquirED) as she interviewed Larry Berger (Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Amplify Education). Read the summary of their conversation below.
Standards vs. Quality: Traditional curriculum prioritized compliance over engagement and pedagogy. HQIMs aim to bridge this gap. HQIMs shift from just meeting state mandates to truly engaging students in real-world applications.
HQIMs Boost Literacy: Especially in ELA and Social Studies, HQIMs deepen student connections and comprehension.
Revolution in Adoption: HQIMs are transforming how curricula is chosen, emphasizing genuine piloting over cursory reviews.
The Effects of Standards Compliance
With the introduction of standards and frameworks by states, curriculum publishing in the education sector became synonymous with standards compliance, driven predominantly by large publishers. As a result, editorial teams often produced content that, while meeting all requirements, might not resonate as quality teaching or engage students effectively. “Editorial teams were writing drearily compliant curriculum,” according to Berger, “so that a teacher committee would say: 'I guess this hits all our requirements.' However, a teacher might not think that it was a quality form of pedagogy.” The movement for high-quality instructional materials (HQIMs) arose to address these deficiencies and in response to more demanding college and career-ready standards.
The Shift to High-Quality Instructional Materials
The essence of the high-quality instructional materials movement is the intent behind the content. Questions like "How do we make social studies come alive?" or "How can we teach this discipline rigorously and engage students?" became central. While the HQIMs movement still considered it essential to meet state requirements, the priority shifted to ensuring the teaching material is effective and engaging. For Berger, the shift was from a checklist of what students should know to focusing on what students were actually doing in the classroom:
Ask someone who is a real historian, sociologist, or anthropologist: What is the game that you play all day at work? Then ask: Do kids who are learning this get to play that game? And if they aren't playing that game, merely learning the facts and terminology of that discipline, then, it's not a true HQIMs offering.
HQIMs and Knowledge Building
Knowledge building in elementary English Language Arts (ELA) and Social Studies programs is crucial for fostering literacy. At this foundational stage, acquiring knowledge not only enhances reading and writing abilities but also encourages a broader understanding of diverse texts and contexts. ELA, emphasizing reading and writing, allows students to access and interpret information, while Social Studies provides context within real-world scenarios. Together, they amplify a student's ability to understand and interact with texts, laying the groundwork for lifelong literacy. HQIMs act as a catalyst in the knowledge-building process, especially in elementary ELA and Social Studies curricula. Unlike materials sourced randomly online or those poorly structured, HQIMs present content in a coherent sequence, promoting deeper connections between related concepts.
Changing Trends in Curriculum Adoption
The emphasis on HQIMs has started to alter the way districts adopt curricula. Historically, adopting a curriculum involved perusing publishers' offerings in a conference room and making a choice based on a cursory review. But, as HQIMs seek to transform classroom experiences, the basic “flip test” has given way to genuine piloting, helping educators identify quality differences between materials. “When teachers pilot,” Berger remarked, “they can recognize that there's a difference in quality.”
The Potential of HQIMs in Education
The drive for HQIMs underscores the changing landscape of educational materials, emphasizing the necessity for content that not only adheres to state requirements but also genuinely enriches the learning experience. As districts shift from superficial evaluations to in-depth piloting, the promise of a more engaged, informed, and literate student body emerges. Ultimately, HQIMs represent a commitment to elevating the quality of education, ensuring that students are not just learning but truly comprehending, connecting, and applying their knowledge in meaningful ways.
Links and Resources
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inquirED was founded by teachers with the mission of bringing inquiry-based social studies to every classroom. Inquiry Journeys, inquirED’s elementary social studies curriculum, is used in schools and districts across the country to help students develop deep social studies content knowledge and build the inquiry skills that are essential for a thriving democracy.
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