Interrupting traditional social studies classrooms: perspectives of U.S. history teachers

Kapavik, Robin Denise Robinson
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The purpose of this collective case study is to examine the perspectives of secondary U.S. history teachers and how they see the classroom as a space where multiple narratives about race, class, gender, religion, etc. are explored, studied, and analyzed. When secondary history teachers facilitate discussions beyond surface level about these issues, it creates a space where students can begin to understand Others’ histories and how those histories have been influenced, as well as influenced the dominant notions of traditional story lines within the social studies/history curriculum. Although there may be an assumption that this is an impossible task not valued by those in the profession (Cornbleth, 2001; Cornbleth, 1998; Goodlad, 1984), for many teachers, this type of pedagogy is an “explosion of contradictory and competing knowledges” (Lather, 1991; quoted in Santora, 2001, p. 151). Therefore, this study will focus upon the expansion of “more inclusive ways of knowing” in order to “transform one’s assumptions, values, beliefs, and ways of experiencing” (Santora, 2001, p. 150) culturally relevant pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 1994) for teachers and students. Similar to teachers of every subject matter, social studies educators are bombarded with the daily task of choosing what to include, as well as what not to include, in their daily curricular decisions. This task is intensified due to the obligations each teacher must satisfy with regards to the curriculum: state standards, state mandated examinations, pacing guides, departmental requirements, professional commitments to the field, student interests, etc. With all of these influences upon the curriculum, secondary social studies educators must carve out the best possible pedagogical methods to meet the diverse needs of their students in a way that is complimentary to their own teaching styles. Therefore, the perspectives of social studies teachers become key when researching how and why certain curriculum topics and materials are chosen. These ideas shaped the development of the final research questions. From the data emerged six themes that led to four findings: passion for history; resistance and facing resistance; lifetime learning; and reciprocal stories of inspiration. Implications for the field of teacher education and social studies follow.