(Associate) Professor — Interdisciplinarian — Dispensing Educationist

Signature Pedagogies in Social Studies: Scholars & Master Teachers Address the Missing Paradigm Problem in Social Studies Education

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The first question most new teachers ask as they get ready to enter the classroom is the most obvious one: how do I teach? But there’s another question new teachers need to ask themselves, and it’s one that can be especially difficult to answer in social studies. That question is: whatdo I teach? This volume brings together scholars of history and expert teachers to reveal how relevant content and teaching strategies can be conjoined to create “signature pedagogies,” key ways of thinking about and presenting the past to students that draw on both recent historical scholarship and on insights from the classroom. Armed with these signature pedagogies, teachers can begin to connect whatthey teach to the central purpose of social studies—powerful and substantive citizenship education—to create more thoughtful and engaging classroom spaces that support the development of citizenship skills in our pluralist democracy.



In a short essay written for The Stanford Educator, an alumni newsletter published by his former employer, in 2005, Lee Shulman made a striking declaration: “Teacher education does not exist in the United States.” Shulman, who was then serving as president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, had not come to this conclusion suddenly. Nearly twenty years had passed since he and his colleagues had begun to map a new approach to understanding the complexities of teaching, a project that resulted in the identification of a special kind of knowledge held specifically by teachers. Shulman called this knowledge “pedagogical content knowledge,” or PCK, and referred to it as knowledge that “goes beyond knowledge of subject matter per se to the dimension of subject matter knowledge for teaching.” He included within pedagogical content knowledge “the most regularly taught topics” in a teacher’s subject area, along with “the most useful forms of representation of those ideas, the most powerful analogies, illustrations, examples, explanations, and demonstrations,” summarizing all of this as “the ways of representing and formulating the subject that make it comprehensible to others.” Shulman was dismayed to find, twenty years on, that these ideas still carried very little currency in teacher education programs despite a growing literature base that had formed around them, and despite near-constant calls for “professionalization” of teaching. In his view, attempts to create a sound knowledge base for teaching had been eclipsed by an “idiosyncratic ‘let a thousand flowers bloom’” approach that unsurprisingly led many to conclude that it doesn’t matter at all how teachers are prepared—because any approach is as good as any other.

Another thirteen years have passed since Shulman published that note, and little seems to have changed. Social studies, in particular, has been a subject field that never came close to embracing the promise of PCK, for a variety of reasons. This book represents an attempt to fill that void. It is designed to bring together accomplished historians and teachers to elucidate the scholarly consensus on significant historical events and take the first steps toward establishing a pedagogical consensus on that subject matter as well. The overarching goal of the project is to begin to identify “signature pedagogies” in social studies—signature ways of thinking about how to teach the most important things taught in social studies classrooms.



Historians are asked to focus on one of the ten historical eras listed below; these are the eras identified by the National Center for History in the Schools (NCHS) at UCLA, which administered the development of National History Standards with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the U.S. Department of Education in the 1990s. Historians are encouraged to contribute essays that comprehensively, but concisely, address important themes in a particular era. The eras are provided simply as a guiding framework; some essays may bridge multiple eras. Essays should run no longer than 7,500 words, including references. Teachers are asked to consider contributing essays that explain how they approach the teaching of events or eras in American history. These should not be lesson plans, but, rather, engaging explanations of how historical scholarship is used to shape decisions about what and how to teach the past to young people. Teacher contributors are encouraged to think broadly about how the pieces of the past fit together while also providing helpful advice to other teachers about the most effective ways of teaching it in schools. These essays should be no longer than 3,000 words, though some may be longer or shorter depending on the needs and interests of authors.



To facilitate timely delivery of the book manuscript to the publisher, contributors are asked to submit initial drafts of their proposed chapters by no later than January 31, 2019. For more information, or to inquire about contributing, please contact the volume’s editor, Dave Powell, using the information below. Interested authors are encouraged to submit a short proposal to the editor by October 1, 2018.



Dave Powell, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Education & Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies

Gettysburg College

E: djpowell@gettysburg.edu | T: 717 337-6557


Ten Eras in US History

  1. Era 1: Three Worlds Meet (Beginnings to 1620)
  2. Era 2: Colonization & Settlement (1585-1763)
  3. Era 3: Revolution & The New Nation (1754-1820s)
  4. Era 4: Expansion & Reform (1801-1861)
  5. Era 5: Civil War & Reconstruction (1850-1877)
  6. Era 6: Development of the Industrial United States (1870-1900)
  7. Era 7: The Emergence of Modern America (1890-1930)
  8. Era 8: The Great Depression & World War II (1929-1945)
  9. Era 9: Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)
  10. Era 10: Contemporary United States (1968 to the present)

NOTE: These are provided as a loose organizational frame for the essays to be contributed in this book project and to facilitate alignment with voluntary national standards for the teaching of history in schools. It is understood that authors may wish to expand or ignore these boundaries in the essays they ultimately contribute to the volume.


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