Teachers' re-conceptualization of social studies as education for active citizenship

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (M. Ed.)


Institute for Educational Development, Karachi


This study was designed to explore how a primary school teacher could be assisted in re-conceptualizing the teaching of Social Studies from the transmission of factual knowledge to education for active citizenship. An action research project was undertaken, in which the researcher worked with a grade five teacher in a local school over a period of six weeks. The work involved the testing of alternative approaches to the teaching of Social Studies through readings and discussions, demonstrations, joint planning and review of lessons, and exchange of written reflections with the teacher. Data were collected through interviews and conversations with the teacher and a selected number of students, review of written materials and classroom observations. Initial investigations showed that the teacher as well as her students considered Social Studies to be a low status subject. The teacher was reluctant to teach the subject because she considered it unworthy of her status as a science graduate and acknowledged her lack of subject-matter knowledge. She focused on helping students to memorize facts in the textbook. The students thought they had to learn the subject, in the short-term to pass examinations, and in the long-term to pass on their knowledge to the next generation. In order to change the teacher's conception of the subject three instructional approaches were introduced in her class. These were (a) higher order questioning (b) controversy, and (c) discussion on social issues. As a result of the work with the teacher, in and outside the classroom, she learnt about the relationship between Social Studies and active citizenship education. An analysis of the work with the teacher revealed that testing the proposed innovations in the teacher's classroom helped the researcher and the teacher to develop a grounded understanding of what changes were possible in that particular context. The feasibility of the proposed change needed to be considered not just in terms of immediate issues such as classroom management, but also in terms of the teacher's beliefs and competencies, syllabi and examinations, and expectations of parents, colleagues and management. The study showed that mutual exchange of personal concern help to establish a trusting relationship, which is necessary for a teacher's willingness to seriously consider and test alternatives presented to her. The experience of successfully using the propose instructional strategies in class, and evidence of student learning as a result of using the strategies, helped to move the teacher toward a different view of the subject. The teacher's philosophic perspectives, values and beliefs about education in general, her views about how Social Studies should be taught based on her own experiences as student, her perceptions of what school managers, other teachers and parents wanted her to do, and her interpretation of constraints related to the school (for example, time and schedules, learning materials, syllabus and examinations) were the major sources of her resistance to change. This study showed that while it is possible to assist a teacher to re-conceptualize the teaching of Social Studies as education for active citizenship, by itself this is not sufficient to effect change in her practice.

This document is available in the relevant AKU library