It's a plan: Social studies implementation
If there’s one thing the Iowa Social Studies Standards Review Team wants educators to know is that implementing the new standards in the classroom is a marathon – not a sprint.
To that end, the State Board of Education learned today that it is recommended that educators implement the standards over a three-year period. Throughout that three-year period, educators will learn about the standards gradually.
“Implementation of anything is a process over time, and according to research, it’s generally a three-year process to change instructional practices,” said Stefanie Wager, social studies consultant at the Iowa Department of Education. “Districts should think about it as a three-year process. It’s a gradual buildup of awareness. Standards don’t need to be implemented with the next year.”
The implementation plan is divided into three phases, or years, which include (1) Exploration, Awareness, and Capacity Building, (2) Classroom Transitions, Shifts, and Practices, and (3) Leveraging Partnerships, Analysis, and Development.
The social studies standards are a part of the Iowa Core standards, which describe what students should know and be able to do from kindergarten through 12th grade in math, science, English language arts and social studies. The Iowa Core also sets learning goals for 21st Century skills in areas such as financial and technological literacy.
The Iowa Core is a set of common expectations for school districts across the state. It is not a curriculum, so decisions about how to help students meet learning goals remain in the hands of local schools and teachers.
The three-year plan specifies by year what should be happening in the classroom, as well as what’s happening behind the scenes to make it happen. The plan lists responsibilities year by year for teachers, districts, area education agencies, higher education institutions and the Iowa Department of Education. In addition, external partners such as the Geographic Alliance of Iowa and State Historical Museum will be working with content-specific ideas.
“Everyone plays an important role so that we are maximizing the learning curve,” Wager said.
Ultimately, teachers will have to examine what kinds of shifts they will need to make in their classroom instruction to ensure they are engaging in the standards. For instance, teachers need to move away from teaching a series of facts.
“So instead of saying ‘we are going to have our unit on the American Revolution,’ I, as teacher, would pose a compelling question such ‘was the American revolution really revolutionary?’” Wager said. “It’s kind of a small change, but by posing questions, it makes it more engaging to the students. It’s more of an investigation to the kids – what was revolutionary about the American Revolution? It puts the student more in the driver’s seat rather than the teacher. That’s important because it’s a 21st century skill, to not just process the question itself, but to look at a lot of different primary and secondary resources and find out which ones are more reliable. Kids are presented so much information in the traditional social studies class, but now we are trying to show that kids can analyze questions. Instead of delivering facts, we are asking students to develop arguments on the question posed.”