Still the “bump” subject? Investigating elementary teachers' decisions about and implementation of the social studies curriculum

Laura E Meyers, Purdue University


Social studies is often the neglected or "bumped" subject in many elementary schools. Interestingly, some teachers still choose to include it within their classrooms. Research, however, is limited in this area. The purpose of this study was to report how three elementary teachers working with the undergraduate elementary education program at Purdue University (West Lafayette, Indiana) viewed and implemented the social studies curriculum within their individual classrooms. The qualitative nature of this yearlong study allowed the voices of the teachers to be of paramount importance. Portraiture methodology guided the conversations of the four interviews (individual and focus group) and the choices made in reporting the stories of the three elementary teachers. In addition to the three portraits of each teacher (kindergarten, third grade, and fourth/fifth multi-age), a portrait of a "social studies enthusiast" emerged. This term was coined and used to identify characteristics practitioners need to maintain and improve upon in regards to the social studies curriculum. The checklist is not intended to be taken out of the context of this study. The criteria of a social studies enthusiast, as determined by the three teachers and the researcher during a focus group interview, includes twelve characteristics that pre-service and/or in-service teachers can use to self-assess their own inclusion and implementation of social studies. The results of this study can benefit both pre- and in-service teachers. Pre-service teachers can use this self-assessment checklist as they are learning their craft and identifying the specific criteria of an elementary teacher who embraces the social studies. In-service teachers can use this tool not only as a way to self-analyze but also as a conversation starter---if you will---with colleagues about social studies instruction (e.g., time spent teaching social studies, integrating within literacy instruction, etc.). It is not meant to be yet another form of standardized assessment. It is the researcher's hope that this study will invite practitioners at all levels of education to reflect on their attitudes toward, instruction of, and passion for social studies.




VanFossen, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Elementary education|Social studies education|Teacher education

Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our
proxy server