Provoking Inquiry: The Use of Primary Sources in the Primary Social Studies Classroom, pp. 8 of 12

Self-directed Learning

Another significant benefit highlighted by students was that analysing primary sources using the modified See, Think, Wonder approach generated a variety of intriguing questions that motivated them to independently search for answers. Students expressed that they were “very frustrated” when primary sources, the textbook and teachers could not provide them with the answers to the questions that they came up with. Ironically, it was this same frustration that made students accountable for their own learning, leading them to search for answers by browsing the Internet and visiting the school library.

While it is encouraging to see survey results indicating that 71% of students have taken it upon themselves to independently search for answers to their own questions, it is equally important to consider the feedback from those who indicated otherwise. The significant bulk of survey respondents who made up the 29% were HP students, and nearly all of them shared that the non-examinable nature of social studies was the main reason why they refuse to invest additional time or energy to conduct independent research outside school.

Research Findings from Teachers 

After the completion of both lessons, our PLC group interviewed both teachers. In general, the feedback on using the modified See, Think, Wonder approach to introduce primary sources of information was largely positive. Below were the two key benefits and one area of consideration gathered from interviewing both teachers.

Skills Development   

Both teachers shared that the introduction of primary source documents using the modified See, Think, Wonder approach helped shift the focus from teaching content to developing important 21st century skills and proficiencies. Unlike textbook instruction where knowledge flows in a unidirectional manner from teacher to student, using original source documents to teach content means that the amount of knowledge students acquires directly depends on how well they are able to analyse primary sources. Simply put, the use of primary sources as a key pedagogical approach “compels teachers to shift the focus from teaching content to equipping students with the skills to critically analyse, evaluate and communicate findings.” The modified See, Think, Wonder approach is especially useful because it provides an explicit structure to help students and teachers “systematically approach primary source analysis.” This is beneficial because learning in an information saturated 21st century world is becoming “increasingly dependent on our ability to understand, analyse and evaluate complex information”.

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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