Social studies, theoretically, examines the social dynamics of different groups of people within a particular society. The subject, as defined in the US education system, incorporates different disciplines, such as history, sociology, geography, and political science. The objective of social studies is the development of students as active participants in civic society. Since 2001, however, decreased learning time for social studies in elementary school grade levels and narrow interpretations of historical events in secondary school classes due to standardization efforts have threatened the viability of social studies in US schools. A critical social studies interpretation can redirect the current path of the subject. The concept of critical social studies scrutinizes three facets of the subject: curriculum, citizenship, and teaching. Critical teachers, curriculum writers, and students utilize self-reflection, critical theories, and active engagement in critiquing dominant concepts of citizenship. The open exchange of ideas with different individuals challenge standard explanations of citizenship in the United States. Critical educators use community development, student-centered dialogue, and transdisciplinary methods in expanding the learning of social studies. Critical social studies seeks to bring social studies back to its intellectual origins while pushing it into new peripheries.
In academic literature there is a multiplicity and proliferation of alternative curriculum definitions, and the matter of defining curriculum is in a state of disarray. Likewise, there are diverse ways of defining teaching in which curriculum is virtually invisible. Invoking Dewey’s idea of “reality as whole,” this article makes a case for rethinking curriculum and teaching as two interrelated concepts embedded in the societal, institutional, and instructional contexts of schooling. Curriculum is construed in terms of societal, policy, programmatic, and classroom curricula that give social meaning, normative and operational frameworks, and educational quality to the practice of teaching. Likewise, teaching is thought of as sociocultural, institutional, deliberative and curricular practice with a bearing on the societal, policy, programmatic, and classroom curricula. The article concludes by questioning the technicist and reductionist treatment of curriculum and teaching associated with the global neo-liberal movement toward standards and accountability and by calling for reenvisioning curriculum and teaching in view of the educational challenges of the 21st century.
Vera Munde and Peter Zentel
Designing education for learners with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities (PIMD) is a special challenge for both professionals and researchers. Learners with PIMD experience a combination of significant intellectual and other disabilities, such as motor and sensory impairments. Heterogeneity in terms of combination and severity of disabilities is a common characteristic of this group. In the past, learners in this target group were described as not being able to learn due to the complexity of their disabilities. Recent studies do provide evidence that learners with PIMD are in fact able to learn, however, evidence-based practice for designing education for this group of learners is still scarce. One reason could be the difficulties associated with conducting intervention studies such as randomized controlled trials or controlled clinical trials with this target group. Most studies are designed as single-case studies. Hence, only a small number of studies have investigated topics such as communication, assessment, and teaching curricula to generate knowledge about the education of these learners. The most important conclusion of these studies is that all teaching activities need to be designed according to the strengths and needs of each individual learner with PIMD.
In 2013, the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China initiated fundamental reforms of the Matriculation English as a Foreign Language Tests (the Matriculation EFL Tests hereafter) in order to solve problems in college admissions and K–12 education. Under the guidance of the Ministry of Education, provinces announced their specific reform plans. This round of reforms features holding the Matriculation EFL Tests multiple times per year and involving nongovernment testing companies in test development and administration. This indicates China is on the way to aligning with international educational assessment standards and practices. Meanwhile, some proposed reforms are unexpectedly deviating from the longstanding English fever and have triggered heated debates and disputes in China. Proposed reforms of the Matriculation EFL Tests reflect China’s current language policy and the trend of de-Westernization. These reforms will have both positive and negative influences on test development, the K–12 EFL curriculum, instruction, and learning. Social impacts and potential influences on social justice caused by this round of reforms also deserve attention.