This week I had the opportunity to consult informally with a local educational leader (I would use names, but I did not ask for permission so ... maybe another time). The Discussion focused on ways to implement and measure professional development in social studies education with an emphasis on American History in elementary schools. While it has been a while since I taught history (15 yrs to be exact) the knowledge I brought to the table was actually related to the work we've done in Arts LINC. Interestingly Nancy A., my long time collaborator in Arts LINC, is now a project director in a Teaching American History Grant.
The parallels between the two domains are uncanny. In the past decade, social studies in the elementary schools have been declining, despite the fact that it was one of No Child Left Behind "Core Subjects". The bottom line was that social studies were not tested at the elementary level and thus less and less attention, time and resources were directed at them over time. Social studies curriculum leaders find themselves needing to convince others that social studies matter for all students and that understanding of history can have added benefits to other domains through integration and 21st-century learning. In short they present an argument not much different than the one we presented over a decade ago in arts integration. Luckily, I could bring to the discussion our lessons of making integration work. So here they are:
1. Partner with teachers as co-researchers.
2. Allow for leadership opportunities and encourage initiative
3. Measure teacher implementation and student achievement and provide short feedback cycles of results
4. Integrate into existing curriculum (do not add instructional units), let teachers decide where and how much
5. Set clear yet flexible criteria for quality that will become your fidelity checks
6. Develop teacher's knowledge base/ model lessons
7. Visit teachers to teach and learn