Using Investigation and Discussion to Inquire about Issues in Primary Social Studies, pp. 6 of 15

For SAC to succeed, it is important to teach students appropriate conflict management skills in order to reap the benefits of controversy. Some of these skills include focusing on obtaining the best decision possible and not on winning, being critical of others’ ideas and not the persons, listening to all the ideas from both sides before integrating them together, taking the opposing position for the purpose of understanding both sides of the issues, changing one’s perspectives if evidence indicates the need for change, paraphrasing unclear points and focusing on seeking the best possible answers. SAC is best used when the issue is contentious and there is scope for students to take opposing positions.

In the next section, two issue-based, inquiry centred packages designed for upper primary children by a group of fourth year NIE student teachers will be showcased to illustrate the application of the three described models.

Examples of inquiry-based instruction for upper primary social studies

Inquiry 1 on Foreign Workers in Singapore Using Marsh’s Inquiry Model and Johnson and Johnson’s Structured Group Controversy   

The issue-centred, inquiry-based instructional package on foreign workers is developed by Cheryl Khoo Wan Shir, Jonathan Yang Qing An, Nur Afiqah Binte Anwarie and Nurul Raudhah Binte Abdul Malek. The issue for inquiry is “Should Singapore hire more workers to contribute to its development?” This issue is chosen for a few reasons. First, it is current because the Singapore government plans to hire more foreign workers to develop the economy (National Population and Talent Division, 2012). Second, it is connected to students’ daily living – they are familiar with the presence of foreign workers in their neighbourhoods. Third, it is a relevant issue as it is an extension of student learning in Primary 4 which is about the early settlers’ contributions to Singapore. The inquiry will enable students to compare the early settlers’ contributions with those of the current foreign workers. The goals of the inquiry are for students to develop an understanding and appreciation of foreign workers’ contributions to Singapore’s development and develop their research, teamwork and presentation skills. The aim of the inquiry is to promote student learning of the core concepts of contributions and development. The guiding questions which are derived from the main inquiry question, which is also the issue question, are as follow:

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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