Social Studies_What's New

Social Studies

What's New?

Revisions to the K–9 curriculum

The K–9 Social Studies draft curriculum received a great deal of feedback from educators. Most of this feedback was positive, particularly regarding the building of Curriculum Competencies around the historical thinking concepts. This expanded focus on developing students’ thinking skills was very well received and continues to be the major change in the new curriculum. However, educators identfied some key areas for revision.

First, many middle school teachers expressed concerns about the loss of the topics in the current Grade 6 curriculum related to global citizenship topics. Many teachers mentioned that their schools have a variety of successful action projects related to the global citizenship content
in the curriculum and that these projects might not be as easy to continue if the curriculum connections are not as direct. Similarly, several teachers felt that the draft curriculum had too much of a history focus and not enough content related to current Canadian and world issues.
In response, the team compressed the historical content and returned the global issues theme
to the Grade 6 curriculum.

Another major piece of feedback was that the intent of some of the topics in the new curriculum was not always clear, especially to people without formal background education in history and geography. In order to help clarify these topics for teachers, a large set of Elaborations was developed for both the Content and Curricular Competencies learning standards. They provide a number of sample topics and key questions to help teachers when planning units and lessons.

Lastly, suggestions were provided for improving a number of areas of the curriculum, including First Peoples content, environmental education, and the amount of content related to geography, civics, and economics. To address these suggestions and increase the representation of
these topics, numerous additions and revisions were made to both the learning standards and
the elaborations.

Grades 10–12 draft curriculum

The Grade 10 Social Studies draft curriculum maintains the same structure and format as the K–9 curriculum and is proposed as the last Social Studies course that all BC students are required to take. The Grade 10 Social Studies curriculum finishes the historical sequence started in the new Grade 7 curriculum and finishes in the present day, with issues in modern Canadian and world history, geography, civics, and economics.

The Grade 11 and Grade 12 draft curriculum provides a wide range of courses to enable students and teachers more choice and increased engagement. While the Content varies from course to course, the thinking skills remain a consistent part of the Curricular Competencies, varying slightly from discipline to discipline.

The Grade 11 and 12 courses include:

  • BC First Peoples 11
  • Contemporary Indigenous Studies 12
  • 20th Century World History 11
  • Human Geography 11
  • Law Studies 12
  • Physical Geography 11
  • Social Justice 12
  • Political Studies 11
  • Comparative Cultures 11
  • Philosophy 12
  • Comparative World Religions 12
  • Asian Studies 1850–Present 11
  • Genocide Studies 12
  • Urban Studies 12
  • Economics 12

The curriculum is also intended to support flexibility for teachers and students by allowing a variety of different options for creating new courses in addition to the provincially developed curriculum. Options could include combining elements of different provincially developed courses into a new course or creating a new, locally developed course based on a provincial template. This would allow teachers to provide a variety of locally developed options while ensuring that the focus remains on thinking skills.

What’s new?

The new Social Studies curriculum has four important new features:

  • The reduction in the number of Content learning standards places greater emphasis on acquiring and developing key disciplinary thinking skills. These skills are built around six major historical and geographical thinking concepts: significance, evidence, continuity and change, cause and consequence, perspective, and ethical judgment. While the Social Studies curriculum focuses on topics from the disciplines of history, geography, political science, and economics, Social Studies can draw topics from disciplines across the humanities and social sciences, such as archeology, philosophy, and anthropology.
  • The focus on disciplinary thinking means that students will be involved in developing their own understanding of important concepts, rather than simply receiving that knowledge from textbooks, the teacher, or other authoritative sources.
  • Less detailed and less prescriptive content allows teachers and students to go in directions of particular interest or local relevance.
  • In order to build greater understanding of First Peoples history and culture, the study of these important topics and perspectives is embedded throughout all grades.

What’s the same?

The new Social Studies curriculum retains two major aspects of the previous curriculum:

  • The development of educated, active citizens remains an important focus.
  • The overall types of topics studied have not changed dramatically. While the grade level or the emphasis of some topics has shifted, students are still expected to study key topics, including Canadian society and identity, Canadian history, world history, Canadian and world geography, Canadian politics and government, and major economic systems.

How does the Social Studies curriculum relate to the educated citizen?

Educated citizens are able to think critically, communicate ideas effectively, make decisions,
and respect others. The Social Studies curriculum provides numerous opportunities to develop
these competencies through activities such as comparing multiple perspectives on a major historical event or analyzing the potential causes and consequences of a public policy issue in their community.

The Social Studies curriculum has the primary responsibility for providing opportunities for students to learn about Canadian society, our democratic institutions, and the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizens.

How is the Social Studies curriculum concept-based?

The primary goal of Social Studies education is to give students the knowledge, skills, and competencies to be active, informed citizens, which includes teaching students about two types
of concepts: disciplinary concepts and substantive concepts.

Disciplinary concepts are the concepts that experts — historians, geographers, and economists — use to think about topics in their fields. As mentioned above, the Curricular Competencies in the Social Studies curriculum are built around six disciplinary concepts: significance, evidence, cause and consequence, continuity and change, perspectives, and ethical judgment.

The substantive concepts in Social Studies are the important pieces of background knowledge that allow students to make sense of the world and process new ideas and information. Students who have a deeper background knowledge are better able to process new information and to engage in critical thinking. The substantive concepts go beyond discrete facts like names and dates and include key concepts like democracy or revolution.

How is the Social Studies curriculum competency-driven?

The Social Studies curriculum is built around disciplinary methods for critical thinking and problem solving, which are strongly linked to the Thinking Core Competency. It also requires students to consider the perspectives of others and make ethical judgments, which are tied to aspects of the Personal and Social competency. Finally, the Social Studies curriculum provides many opportunities for students to develop their Communication competency as they communicate their ideas and opinions, particularly through debating and discussing contested ideas and values in a respectful way.

How does the Social Studies curriculum connect with First Peoples Principles of Learning?

The Social Studies curriculum connects strongly with the values expressed in the First Peoples Principles of Learning. The focus of the curriculum is on learning through inquiry, critical thinking, and analyzing multiple perspectives. The Principles of Learning state that “Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational (focused on connectedness, on reciprocal relationships, and a sense of place).” The emphasis on big ideas and the historical and geographical thinking concepts in the Social Studies curriculum will provide many opportunities for learning that is holistic, reflective, and relational.

Factors such as class, race, and gender shape the perspectives and understandings that people have about societal issues or history events. Students with perspectives and opinions other than the dominant societal views, such as First Peoples students, can become disengaged and alienated by a curriculum that does not provide opportunities for their views to be included in
the conversation.

The focus on inquiry benefits both First Peoples and non–First Peoples students alike:

      By allowing students to pursue their own investigations and reach their own conclusions, inquiry should enable those whose experiences have not traditionally been represented in the official curriculum to deepen and expand their historical understanding rather than simply to remain distanced from school history. Meanwhile, because inquiry can engage students with a variety of sources of evidence, those whose understandings have traditionally been privileged may be more likely to encounter conflicting perspectives that force them to question their beliefs. (Barton and Levstik, 2004)

How does the Social Studies curriculum support inquiry?

Through the Social Studies curriculum, students examine big, open-ended questions so they can make informed decisions. Making an informed decision about an issue requires an understanding of the key historical, geographical, political, economic, and societal factors involved, and how these different factors relate to and interact with each other.

Students cannot gain this understanding passively through a broad survey of topics and by receiving knowledge from authoritative sources. To become active, informed citizens, students must build deeper understandings and create their own knowledge through investigations into interesting, open-ended questions; debating and discussing historical and contemporary issues; and developing and supporting their own hypotheses, solutions, and conclusions. 

Last updated: July 4, 2016