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Effective pedagogy in the social sciences

The purpose of the BES is to draw together bodies of research evidence to explain what works and why in order to improve educational outcomes for our students. In particular the Social Sciences BES seeks to answer two questions:

  • What teaching approaches enhance outcomes for diverse learners in the social sciences?
  • How and why does this happen?

This is the key to the how of what we teach. The Social Sciences BES has identified four causal mechanisms by which student outcomes will be maximised.

They are:

  • Connection – Make connections to students’ lives.
  • Alignment – Align experiences to important outcomes.
  • Community – Build and sustain a learning community.
  • Interest Design experiences that interest students.

The connection mechanism at work in geography

Use students’ experiences and knowledge as a point of comparison. Teachers connect learning to the lives of students by using content that is relevant to their culture and experience. This enables students to make comparisons which will help to improve their achievement. This will allow students to identify similarities and differences through comparisons.

For example: The geography teacher in an East Coast area school selects pounamu as an example of a natural resource. This example demonstrating the use of a natural resource for geography achievement standard 1.3 can be viewed on the DVD Te Mana Korero: Relationships for Learning (Ministry of Education, 2007).

The alignment mechanism at work in geography

Align learning experiences to the development of conceptual understanding.

For example: the teacher provides a number of opportunities for students to develop understanding of an environment (such as the South Island high country) first through interpreting maps and aerial photographs and then through fieldwork.

The community mechanism at work in geography

Teachers and students collaborate to establish a learning environment where students can share ideas and make decisions about their own learning.

For example: The teacher provides a framework in which students are able to make decisions about the context selected to study in order to develop their understanding. This gives the students the opportunity to take ownership of their learning. The geography research achievement standards provide the opportunity for students to choose the topic to research.

The interest mechanism at work in geography

Use student experiences and a variety of activities to promote interest and learning. The teacher designs programmes with activities that engage students. The teacher uses real life experiences that students can relate to which give them a better understanding of an issue.

For example: When teaching hurricanes to the class a teacher with a high number of Pasifika students drew on students’ personal and family experiences of living through a hurricane in Pacific island nations, such as Fiji, Western Samoa, Tonga.

Last updated September 12, 2017