Social Studies Degrees

If you think social studies is just about memorizing important dates, think again. Historical dates matter, but social studies teachers are in the business of producing informed citizens who can take an active role in our democracy and the global community. That means social studies teachers are more concerned with teaching students how to think about and learn from history whether it's ancient, modern, world or U.S. history. In social studies, students learn about cultures, governments, global issues and civic ideals.

History/Social Studies Teaching Job Description

The National Council for the Social Studies describes social studies as the "integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence." Social studies teachers work at the elementary, middle, and secondary school levels. At the elementary level, the curriculum tends to be generalized. The classroom teacher provides instruction in social studies and other core subject areas. At the middle and secondary levels, the social studies curriculum becomes specialized and includes disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, civics, economics and political science. Courses are often organized by era such as modern or ancient history.

Social studies teachers design and implement lesson plans that engage students in major curriculum themes such as civic ideals and practices, governance, environments and global issues. They teach students how to find and evaluate information sources and historical accounts. They also encourage students to examine current events and make interpretations based on their knowledge of history.

History/Social Studies Teaching Requirements

Social studies teachers in public schools must be licensed by the state in which they work. All 50 states require that social studies teachers hold a bachelor's degree from an approved teacher education program. At the elementary level, social studies teachers typically hold a degree in elementary education. Social studies teachers at the secondary level usually hold a degree in secondary social studies education with a concentration area such as history, geography or political science. Both elementary and secondary social studies teachers are required to do a student teaching internship and pass a competency test to receive a license.

Featured Online Programs:

Online programs may not be available in all states

History/Social Studies Teaching Career Outlook

Prospective social studies teachers may need to look longer and harder for a job than those in other specialties. A 2016-17 report by the American Association on Employment in Education identified social studies as a category a some surplus of qualified candidates. Candidates who are geographically mobile will have better prospects. Salaries for social studies teachers vary from one school district to the next. Public school social studies teachers can expect to earn more than those in private schools. The median annual salary for all teachers in elementary and secondary schools ranged from $57,000 to $59,000 in 2017, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

History/Social Studies Teaching Trends

In an era of increased testing, many social studies teachers feel their specialty is getting short shrift. In a 2010 study by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 70 percent of the social studies teachers surveyed said their classes are a lower priority because of the pressure to demonstrate progress on state mandated math and language arts tests.


Online History Education Programs

Whether you are an aspiring teacher or a current teacher, earning a history education degree online could be an option for you. Online degrees are available at the bachelor's, master's and post-baccalaureate levels.

The structure of online programs varies somewhat between schools and degree types, but generally, curricula are broken into units and each unit is assessed separately, culminating in a capstone project and/or internship. Typically, online programs in history education include courses in historical perspective, government and political science, as well as a choice of social science electives.

The speed with which online degrees are completed depends greatly on the work ethic and schedule of the student, but typically, online bachelor's degrees take three to four years to complete, and master's and post-baccalaureate degrees take 18 months to two years. Online programs in history education are ideal for individuals who wish to maintain their current employment while pursuing their degrees, and who are self-motivated and organized. Those who learn better within the structure and discipline of the classroom environment may wish to enroll in on-campus courses.

Online History Education Options

Two schools offering online programs in history education that you may wish to consider are Grand Canyon University and Western Governors University.

The Bachelor of Science in secondary education, with an emphasis in social studies, program offered by Grand Canyon University can prepare students for a teaching career in grades 7-12. All courses are aligned with the standards of the National Council for the Social Studies and are designed to maximize content knowledge. The online learning system is available 24 hours a day, allowing students to create their own learning schedules.

Western Governors University offers a Master of Arts in teaching social science 5-12 program that is designed for individuals who already possess a bachelor's degree, preferably in one of the social science disciplines. This flexible program includes 37 competency units in addition to 12 to 20 weeks of supervised practice teaching.

Curriculum Information for History Education Programs

If your major is in history, you may appreciate the courses in that target teaching your area of expertise. In addition, your course curriculum will provide you with the knowledge of learning theories and educational research to effectively teach your students with appropriate learning materials, assignments and the evaluation of your lesson plans. Core courses for a history education program may include some of the following:

Introduction to Teaching Secondary Education

Prospective teachers may focus on the history of pedagogy, learning theories and the application of research in the design of curriculum and lesson planning. Methods of teaching on a secondary level include the selection of materials; organizational practices and meeting the needs of the exceptional student is discussed.

An overview is provided of philosophy, socio-cultural and political trends that currently influence the modern day teacher. Prospective educators are also given information on education reform and how current legislation impacts the changes taking place in education. In addition, professionalism, ethics and diversity in the classroom are discussed.

Methods of Teaching History in Secondary School

This course provides prospective teachers with methods that help students evolve critical thinking skills in history and the social sciences. The emphasis is on meeting individual needs and applying appropriate learning methods that result in successful learning. The academic nature of history as a subject requires the use of organizational patterns and structure to appropriately transmit meaning and provide correlations to current trends in politics, legislation and social norms.

Methods of teaching are based on research and learning theories that provide a framework for the construction of curriculum, lesson planning and assignments. Aspiring educators are provided with teaching resources that promote critical thinking and problem solving in the classroom. In addition, team teaching and collaboration in learning are presented.

New Trends in Teaching History in Junior and Senior High School

Class emphasis is devoted to the new trends and experimental methodologies that are used to teach history in the classroom. Aspiring teachers learn research methods to improve the organization and effectiveness of learning in a secondary school situation. Learning theories are used as the framework in the design of curriculum as it relates to teaching history.

Focus is on new directions and changes taking place to state education standards and the impact it places on teaching history in secondary education. Teachers are provided with knowledge and theory to effectively construct history lessons with an integrated approach that facilitates learning and organization on how the historical process has been developed.

Adolescent Development and Education

This class is an intermediate course that discusses the cognitive, social and emotional development of adolescents. Developmental learning theories are presented to prospective secondary teachers to facilitate the understanding of how adolescents perceive their environment, process language and express emotion.

The teacher/student dynamic is discussed and examined with developmental learning theory as a guide to effective communication and motivation. Implications for classroom practice are grounded in theory and developmental methodologies are used to maintain a successful learning environment. Focus is also on the impact of the learning process in cross-cultural environments.


Clinical Experiences in Secondary Education

History majors will attend a teaching practicum that applies learning theories, research and other methodologies to an assigned project in an actual history class. Prospective educators will use learning methodologies to write curricula and design lesson plans for students in the history classroom. The project generally requires that the aspiring teacher uses learning theories and developmental research to evaluate their lesson plans and the effectiveness on the learners.

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