Concepts Underlying the Social Studies, History, and Geography Curriculum
In social studies, history, and geography, it is crucial that students not simply learn various facts but that they acquire the ability to think and to process content in ways best suited to each subject. To that end, the curriculum focuses on developing students’ ability to apply concepts of disciplinary thinking, which are inherent in “doing” each subject. Each of the three subjects in the elementary curriculum (as well as the subjects that make up the Canadian and world studies curriculum) has its own way of thinking, and its own concepts. Given the inherently interdisciplinary nature of social studies, the six concepts of social studies thinking – significance, cause and consequence, continuity and change, patterns and trends, interrelationships, and perspective – provide the foundation for the concepts of geographic and historical thinking in Grades 7 and 8, as well as for the concepts related to each subject in Canadian and world studies in the secondary grades, as shown in the following chart. (Note that the variations in the wording of the concepts reflect terminology specific to each subject.) See the full descriptions of the concepts of disciplinary thinking in social studies, history, and geography.
Concepts of Disciplinary Thinking across Subjects
|Significance||Historical Significance||Spatial Significance||Political Significance||Economic Significance||Legal Significance|
|Cause and Consequence||Cause and Consequence||Objectives and Results||Cause and Effect|
|Continuity and Change||Continuity and Change||Stability and Change||Continuity and Change|
|Patterns and Trends||Patterns and Trends||Stability and Variability|
|Perspective||Historical Perspective||Geographic Perspective||Political Perspective||Economic Perspective||Legal Perspective|
Concepts of disciplinary thinking can be used in any investigation in social studies, history, and geography, although certain concepts are more obviously related to some topics than others, and concepts are often interrelated (for example, in social studies, it is often difficult to consider significance independent of perspective). Students use the concepts when they are engaged in the inquiry process, whether they are conducting an investigation that involves the process as a whole or are applying specific skills related to different components of that process as they work towards achieving a given expectation. In Grades 1 to 8, at least one concept of disciplinary thinking is identified as a focus for each overall expectation. Teachers can use the specified concepts to deepen students’ investigations (for example, encouraging students to apply the concept of geographic perspective to look at an issue from multiple points of view). It is important that teachers use their professional judgement to ensure that the degree of complexity is appropriate for both the grade level and the individual student’s learning style and that it does not lead to confusion.
A “big idea” is an enduring understanding, an idea that we want students to delve into and retain long after they have forgotten many of the details of the content they studied. The big ideas address basic questions such as “Why am I learning this?” or “What is the point?” Through exploration of the big ideas, students are encouraged to become creators of their understandings and not passive receivers of information. Many of the big ideas are transferable to other subjects and, more broadly, to life itself. In many cases, they provide the opportunity for students to think across disciplines in an integrated way.
In this document, the big ideas are connected to the overall expectations and the related concepts of disciplinary thinking in each strand. They are given in the chart on the overview page that precedes each grade in social studies and history and geography. By way of example, the following chart shows the three big ideas related to Strand B, “People and Environments: Canada’s Interactions with the Global Community” in Grade 6 social studies.
From Big Ideas and Related Concepts to Expectations
|Overall Expectations||Related Concepts of Social Studies Thinking||Big Ideas|
|B1. explain the importance of international cooperation in addressing global issues, and evaluate the effectiveness of selected actions by Canada and Canadian citizens in the international arena||Interrelationships;
|The actions of Canada and Canadians can make a difference in the world.|
|B2. use the social studies inquiry process to investigate some global issues of political, social, economic, and/or environmental importance, their impact on the global community, and responses to the issues||Cause and Consequence||Global issues require global action.|
|B3. describe significant aspects of the involvement of Canada and Canadians in some regions around the world, including the impact of this involvement||Significance;
Patterns and Trends
|Canada and Canadians participate in the world in many different ways.|