Using Investigation and Discussion to Inquire about Issues in Primary Social Studies, pp. 14 of 15

Challenges to implementation and suggested solutions

Although there is much value in implementing issue-based, inquiry centred teaching in the social studies classroom, there are challenges to be overcome when planning and teaching such lessons. Some of these challenges have to do with availability of suitable issues and supporting resources, the lack of student research and discussion skills, time, school support and teacher factor.

It is not easy to look for suitable issues that cater to primary school children as many are too complex for their understanding. Issues need to be relevant to the primary social studies syllabus, appropriate to children’s understanding and emotional maturity and connected to their daily living (Evans, 1989; Shaver, 1977). Issues also need to be authentic, recurring and the study will help children to become informed and thoughtful citizens (Skeel, 1996) who will participate actively to effect positive changes to the society around them (Massialas, 1996). Often, relevant resources have to be adapted to make them more child friendly and age appropriate for teaching and learning and teachers may not have the time to prepare and adapt them. The lack of research and discussion skills in students can be another challenge for implementing issue-based, inquiry centred teaching. These skills need to be taught to students and be developed over time if inquiry and discussion are to be carried out successfully. Often, the situation arises when schools do not emphasize such skills in the teaching and learning. The lack of time in the overcrowded school curriculum is also an issue. Teachers may not have the necessary knowledge and skills to carry out issue-based, inquiry-centred teaching themselves.   

Despite the challenges, they can be overcome. Teachers can collaborate together to actively source for appropriate issues for students and that are relevant to the social studies curriculum. Professional development classes on research and discussion skills can be conducted for teachers to upgrade their teaching skills. With the new knowledge gained, teachers can then teach the inquiry skills to their students. Through lesson study on inquiry teaching, teachers who are sceptical can observe the benefits of inquiry based teaching and be convinced to give it a try.

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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