Powerful Knowledge in the Social Studies Classroom

So, after a wonderful summer of work, work, Paris, work, its back to third year and within my first day I have been subjected to TDT’s! Nothing quite like getting into the swing of things, is there? My elective module this year is Scottish Studies (unlike me I know, but when I signed up to it, it was called social studies and it sounds like this is what it will be) and will have main focuses on geography, history and politics – just has social studies does in a primary school. It looks as though I will be updating this blog on a more regular basis again (yay) because we have to create a portfolio which will have pieces of writing which reflect on what I am reading, thinking and learning. So lets start as we mean to go on!

I am starting off by comparing two very different articles which are referenced at the end, on a knowledge based approach in the classroom setting. Young (2013, p.115) throughout the article, has argued that a knowledge based curriculum is not a workable solution to any problems arising in our curriculum, but would highlight the issues in our modern society. Roberts (2014) on the other hand has written positively about knowledge in the curriculum, feeling that the knowledge children bring in to the classroom from past experiences can be an asset to the classroom for pupils. Now I’m going to be honest here. I found the article Young wrote quite a tricky read, putting it down and thinking “what does knowledge even mean anymore”? It could have been the fact it was the evening and I just needed some sleep and it could have been the language he has used, but I decided to find out exactly what is meant by  a knowledge based curriculum. The Great Education Debate (2013) has stated that a knowledge based curriculum is based primarily on knowledge as opposed to the skills a child will need for going out in adult life to work. Currently, our curriculum’s are based on the skills needed and not the knowledge, but some people feel that knowledge in the classroom is far more important.

Now we know what a knowledge based curriculum is, what are my thoughts on what I have read? I personally think there is absolutely a case for knowledge in the classroom. At the end of the day knowledge is already a huge part of the curriculum, we are teaching knowledge everyday – I am slightly confused as to why we are believed NOT to be teaching knowledge already, but rather skills. Roberts (2014, p.192) discussed Vygostky throughout the article and points out how Vygotsky values knowledge learned at home and supports children’s everyday experiences. On the other hand, Young (2013, p.111) disagrees with Vygotsky, claiming that a child’s experiences growing up can limit their education. Personally, I feel a child’s previous experiences can benefit the child’s learning in the classroom because I have seen first hand how enthusiastic some children can be about sharing personal stories from home and the joy on their faces when they realize they already knew something. The children can feel smart and accomplished with is really positive for those pupils with low self esteem.

Don’t we find out what children already know as teachers everyday from their old books?

My argument is also that, do we not as teachers get taught to understand our children when they join our classroom, which I have always believed to mean, understand how much knowledge they already have AND the skills they already have. Furthermore, the first thing most teachers will do is grab the child’s old books and see what they have learned previously or talk to the child to gain an understanding. Young (2013, p.111) reports that students don’t come to school to learn what they already know from experiences and frankly I completely agree. It seems stupid in my head to teach children something they have already learned, but at the end of the day, as a teacher if you do not explore what knowledge children have already learned then how will you know what it is you need to teach them in the first place. Therefore, previous knowledge can benefit the teacher in the classroom as well. 

I think when it comes to social studies, we need to draw on these experiences. Children will have a wide range of ideas of what, for example, geography means and this includes from direct and indirect experiences Moreover, as Roberts (2014, p.193) suggests, a schools curriculum should not exclude a child’s everyday knowledge, it should be utilized. The problem with this is that every pupil is different and with that, every child’s experience will be different, so how can you possibly design a curriculum which can include the millions of different experiences a child will have. This argument against a knowledge based curriculum continues with, Young (2013, p.112) believing, this curriculum will not be practical for all students, leaving the proportion of students failing left to increase. Although, this is a rather bold statement to make, I see that Young believes the knowledge based curriculum is not a solution for the faults in the current curriculum and may add to them.

To conclude, with the many arguments for and against from Young and Roberts’s articles, I have come to the conclusion that when it comes to class sharing activities, it is vital for a child to have knowledge in the classroom. I don’t feel it is right for the current governments to suggest that we only prepare students with skills for the working adult world either, because on a daily basis teachers are using the experiences that children have brought into the classroom with them positively. Children are leaving our education system into a modern society very different from the societies we have seen before, with knowledge at our finger tips from just one click of a button. We need a curriculum that will take both skills and knowledge into account to equip our young for the working adult world of today.

 

References

Roberts, M. (2014), ‘Powerful knowledge and geographical education’, The Curriculum Journal, Vol.25, No. 2, pp.187-209

The Great Education Debate. (2013) ‘The Curriculum’, [Online] Available at: http://www.greateducationdebate.org.uk/debate/debate.the-curriculum.html (Accessed on 13th September 2017)

Young, M. (2013), ‘Overcoming the crisis in curriculum theory: a knowledge-based approach’, Journal of Curriculum Studies, Vol.45, No.2, pp.101-118

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