Good Social Studies

Elements of good social studies

Social studies is the study of people, their relationship to others and to the world around them. It is the school subject area that best provides students the opportunity to develop skills and knowledge that help them become informed, responsible and engaged citizens.

While each province and territory defines social studies in their own ways, these statements are intended as broad goals of all of the subjects that are typically included in elementary and secondary schools, whether combined into a social studies program, or taught as separate courses at any grade level.

The position of SSENC / RESSC is that teachers must have adequate and ongoing training and support to teach social studies so that they can address the complex pedagogical and subject matter issues that necessarily arise in a social studies classroom.

multi-cultural hands clasped​   Good social studies builds community

When social studies is taught effectively it contributes to the building of community. It helps students value diversity in society and learn to demonstrate compassion, fairness and justice for all. Teachers bring students together by encouraging an appreciation for multiple perspectives by including the histories, perspectives and stories of many communities.

Good social studies teachers acknowledge and support diversity in the classroom in order to promote human rights and social justice while helping students appreciate and value concern for others. They continuously seek out multiple perspectives, histories and stories to build community.

hands of students working at a table​Good social studies explores multiple ways of thinking about the world

Social studies includes many disciplines such as economics, political science, geography, history, and other social sciences to explore issues and events. By examining the world through different lenses, students gain tools for understanding the world around them.

For example, using historical thinking concepts, students can analyse events and evidence from the past to develop their own historical consciousness in the present. Geographic thinking helps students develop a sense of place through analysis of human and physical geographic factors. The study of politics and law help students understand decision making and governance so they can make informed decisions as citizens. Economics helps students to understand how scarcity is dealt with and how goods and services are distributed so that they can participate productively in our economy.

Good social studies teachers understand the thinking concepts and processes specific to several disciplines, and use research-based pedagogy and authentic inquiry tools to help their students to explore the social world and their own place in it.

Group of people working at a large table​Good social studies develops lifelong skills

Social studies provide opportunities for students to learn and practice a wide variety of transferable skills. It is far more than the transfer of knowledge, the memorization of dates and “coverage” of topics. Good social studies engages students in age-appropriate inquiries that develop their:

  • Critical and creative thinking skills
  • Disciplinary thinking skills
  • Decision making and problem solving skills
  • Cooperation, conflict resolution and consensus building skills
  • Age-appropriate social skills
  • Analysis and interpretation skills
  • Literacy and communication skills
  • Global citizenship skills

Good social studies teachers engage their students with ideas, issues and ongoing complex matters of significance to Canadians and the global community. They invite inquiry, exploration, investigation, discussion, deliberation and debate, and provide opportunities for students to examine and explore their own place and develop their own voice in their community and the world.

Couple with flag in Toronto​Good social studies promotes participatory citizenship civic engagement

Social studies should promote student engagement in civic activities, as well as active participation in democratic processes.  Social studies classes embrace democratic ideals and help students understand the rights, freedoms and responsibilities they have as citizens.

In social studies, students explore individual and collective identities, and are exposed to multiple perspectives on significant issues. Social studies provides a unique opportunity for students to respectfully disagree and to consider all sides of an issue, and engage in reasoned, informed conversations about issues that matter to them, their communities and Canada.

Social studies provides a place to learn their role in our democracy. For example, students can assess the success of various types of citizen actions and decide for themselves how they could take action to affect government policies.

Good social studies teachers help their students to consider the ethical dimensions of various issues, examine opposing points of view, and develop well-supported positions while demonstrating sensitivity to cultural similarities and differences. Social studies has the potential to develop citizens who are more likely to make their communities more vital, sustainable, and just.