This work is part of the Ministry of Education’s Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis (BES)Programme. This programme aims to systematically identify, evaluate, analyse, synthesise, and make accessible, relevant evidence that links teaching approaches to enhanced outcomes for diverse learners. In doing so, it seeks to answer the question ‘What works for whom and in what circumstances?’
This best evidence synthesis is concerned with teaching and learning as it occurs in a range of settings: English- and Màori-medium; early childhood to senior secondary; and in the curriculum domains of Te Whàriki, social studies, tikanga à iwi, history, geography, economics, classical studies, and other social sciences. While it is firmly located in the New Zealand context, it draws also from international research into social sciences and social studies education. It seeks to answer two questions:
- What teaching approaches enhance outcomes for diverse learners in the social sciences curriculum domain?
- How and why does this happen?
By connecting teaching and learning via these questions, the synthesis aims to inform understanding of a pedagogy for social sciences teaching that draws on the concept of ‘ako’.
Linda Tuhiwai Smith explains:
"Our concept of those who teach and those who are taught, our word is exactly the same word, our word is ako. It means to learn and to teach" (p. 179).
Likewise, Loughran describes the traditional European (Dutch, Belgian, German, and Scandinavian) concept of pedagogy as:
"not merely the action of teaching … more so, it is about the relationship between teaching and learning and how together they lead to growth in knowledge and understanding through meaningful practice" (p. 2).
The importance and relevance of research in the social sciences curriculum domain was emphasised by Stahl in his presidential address to the 74th Annual Conference of the National Council for the Social Studies:
"we must never accept that we have been highly effective or successful until after we have ample evidence that nearly every student has attained and maintained the abilities, perspectives, and orientations that we have targeted" (p. 47).
This is especially important in social studies because:
"lack of success in our classrooms means that children will leave school with less of the information, abilities, perspectives, and attitudes needed to function competently as citizens of this nation and members of a pluralistic global community" (p. 48).