Last week, I got the chance to work with about 25 teachers and educators from around the state as we started the process of revising our state social studies standards. Long time readers will recall a similar process from seven years ago.
At the time, the Kansas state standards were very much the same as other state level standards documents. The focus was on the details of history – people and places and dates. Assessments tried to incorporate critical thinking but since the entire test was multiple choice, it was difficult to measure high levels of thinking and problem solving.
To be successful on this type of high stakes state assessment, teachers shifted to a drill and kill, memorize specific pieces of content out of context instructional strategies. These strategies increased test scores but lowered student engagement, failed to create critical thinkers, and didn’t prepare kids to become informed citizens.
So we started from scratch.
The 2011 process resulted in a brand new set of standards that shifted instructional focus from memorizing details to one that encouraged analyzing evidence, solving problems, and sharing solutions. We created five big ideas that acted as our standards. We adapted reading, writing, and communication expectations and instruction best practices to guide local curriculum development. And we left the specific content up to each district.
Teachers appreciated the freedom to focus on the doing of social studies rather than asking kids to memorize minutiae. But this “new” style of teaching can be time consuming and difficult. The old standards had trained both our kids and our teachers that drill and kill was acceptable – now we were asking that instruction and assessment look different.
And teachers had questions. What does this sort of teaching look like? How do you assess the learning? How long should it take? If we don’t have to “cover”so much content, what content is important enough to focus on? What resources are available?
Back in 2013, as the revised document rolled out, there weren’t a ton of examples and resources out there that supported this kind of inquiry based teaching model. But around the country, others were having similar conversations:
Things got better.
And now, if you’re looking for examples, resources, lessons, student samples, and rubrics, things are looking even rosier. Read more