Rarely Assessed Standards

My UCLA Social Studies Methods professor Dr. Emma Hipolito is simply god’s gift to History teachers. I can honestly say that I probably would have quit teaching within my first two years if it weren’t for Emma’s nurturing and kindness. She gave me my first chance to present my work to academics. In short, she helped me find my strengths. Anyone who went through UCLA’s Center X teaching credential program can attest to how dedicated she is to the success of her students. Dr. Hipolito finished her dissertation Social Studies Teachers and The Common Core: A Study of Instructional Practices last year. It is a fantastic read and deserves a wider audience. My biggest takeaway is that Emma has quantified how the teaching of speaking and listening skills is severely neglected in most classrooms.

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Hippolito (2015) found a majority of Social Studies teachers struggled to explain how they helped students develop speaking and listening skills. While these teachers regularly reported using small and whole-group discussions, their students were rarely assessed on their participation. Only 15% of teachers surveyed spoke confidently about their speaking & listening instruction.

This mixed methods study surveyed 217 California Social Studies teachers and conducted interviews with 20 High School teachers in order to assess how teachers are shifting their instructional practices in response to the CCSS standards. The survey data resulted in three key findings.

First, teachers – particularly those working in low-income schools − are concerned about the academic preparedness of students to engage in the Common Core. Nearly two-thirds of all teacher participants agreed or strongly agreed that students “are not academically prepared to engage in these types of activities.” However, a statistically significant 85% of the teachers in 101 low-SES schools agreed or strongly agreed with this statement, as compared with 48% of teachers in affluent communities.

A second finding was that high school social studies teachers are implementing some of the practices associated with the CCSS. These include the use of primary sources, the consideration of the origins and purpose of a source as an aspect of reading in history/social studies, and the use of critical thinking question to promote reasoning. However, teachers less frequently focused on critical reading practices that examined perspective, bias, and analysis of multiple sources on a similar topic. Relatedly, the development of speaking and listening skills is an area that is currently neglected in classrooms in California.

A third finding is that many social studies teachers in California report that neither they nor their colleagues are prepared to teach the CCSS. Only 30.8% of all survey respondents reported that they were “very” prepared to teach the Standards to students. Despite over 60% of teachers participating in four or more days of professional development, only 15% reported that the CCSS were “very” integrated into the practices of teachers in their departments.

Three other findings emerged from the interviews: (1) Teachers believe that a CCSS’s skill-based approach means less coverage and more in-depth work with fewer historical topics. (2) Interviewees at low-income schools had more tools and strategies to support literacy development than did teachers at high-SES schools. (3) Educators want more time to plan, more time to work in content-alike groupings, and more instructional resources provided for them in order to implement the CCSS.

I am interested in learning how schools and districts are re-shaping their professional development offerings in response to CCSS. I have yet to find any well-articulated courses on how to teach speaking and listening to adolescents. Have you found any gems I should be familiar with? If so, please add them in the comments section. Congratulations to Dr. Hipolito. I hope you influence a few thousand more Social Studies teachers.

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