ERIC Number: ED315348
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1989-Mar-28
Geography in Elementary Social Studies Classrooms.
Thornton, Stephen J.; Wenger, R. Neill
The criteria that elementary school teachers use to guide their decisions concerning content, sequence, and instructional strategy in geography and their frames of reference toward geography were examined through interviews and classroom observations. Research indicates that the teacher determines the curriculum that the students actually experience. The criteria that teachers use to make curricular instructional decisions are comprised of an interactive system of beliefs and contextual influences that need to be understood holistically. After an initial interview of 40 minutes, each of 3 experienced teachers was observed for 6 weeks for a total of 21 hours. The study was conducted at a metropolitan area school (in a mid-Atlantic state), where most students were from the lower half of the socio-economic scale. In all the observed classrooms, evaluation of student learning focused on facts and skills. Within the constraints of the curriculum guide and available materials, the teachers made subject matter choices less on the basis of their conception of what social studies should be ideally than as the product of three interlocking elements of their frames of reference. The elements were: (1) a commitment to coverage of major facts and skills in the textbook, (2) low expectations for what children are capable of learning, and (3) their beliefs about the subject of geography. The teachers seldom examined their frames of reference. This combination of unexamined assumptions and the interactive character of a frame of reference explain why geographic education has remained dominated by recitation of facts and skills even though reformers agree on the need for a geography curriculum that is more focused on geographic relationships. If relationship geography is to be implemented, major efforts will be needed to assist teachers to reflect on what they do, why they do it, and what educational effects this has. (JB)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: Delaware Univ., Newark.
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (70th, San Francisco, CA, March 27-31, 1989). For related document, see SO 020 520.