Volume 1, Issue 1 2012

A Note from the Editors

Welcome to the very first issue of HSSE Online! We hope that this online journal, published twice a year by the Humanities and Social Studies Education Academic Group at NIE, will be a place you visit regularly to find useful and informative articles and teaching resources. This journal also offers you a unique opportunity to be part of the vibrant community of humanities educators, both in Singapore and in other countries.

Humanities education is central to the development of civic-minded, engaged, and informed citizens. For this issue, we present seven exciting and thought-provoking articles written by prominent and experienced scholars and educators from Singapore, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The articles by Walter Parker, Janet Alleman, Yuen Kah Mun, Avner Segall, and Clare Brooks are largely based on their presentations and workshops conducted during the Humanities Educators Conference held in Singapore on 30-31 May 2012. They have addressed areas of special interest to Singapore humanities educators and these include inquiry learning, assessment, fieldwork, and critical thinking. We also have a special section featuring the work of two established NIE historians, Kevin Blackburn and Ang Cheng Guan. This will be particularly relevant to history teachers as the first article addresses the use of oral history while the other analyzes the communists’ perspectives of the Vietnam War. 

We invite you to share your opinions and perspectives with the other readers in the online forum and give feedback on any of the contributions in this issue and on the structure or content of the journal. Finally, we also urge all readers to contribute articles and teaching resources so as to make this journal even more exciting and intellectually stimulating.       

Mark Baildon
Li-Ching Ho
Editors, HSSE Online
Sept 2012

“Their Minds Must Be Improved to a Certain Degree”: A Learning Cycles Approach to Inquiry

"The central idea of this article is that inquiry is not only an instructional method, it is also a curriculum objective. It is important in its own right. Teaching students to inquire—to arrive at well-supported claims using evidence and reason—is what education is mainly for."

Authentic Assessment in Social Studies

"A holistic assessment plan should address the full range of goals including attitudes, values, and dispositions along with knowledge and skills. Different assessment tools (provided as an attachment) might be more or less appropriate at different stages of learning. However, the unit’s assessment components should build toward authentic applications. Currently, teachers are faced with many obligations, responsibilities, new initiatives, and challenges. Many of these are prompted by changes in the curriculum and high stakes testing. It follows, however, that if the teacher’s assessment plan for students matches the curricular goals and is multi-faceted – and if the results are used to inform planning and modify instruction, student performance on standard measures will be positively affected and teacher accountability will no longer be in jeopardy."

Exploring the Pedagogical Nature of Historical Texts: Implications for Classroom Teaching

"History, we all know, is the study of the past. As students pursue their history education, they encounter a multitude of textbooks depicting different eras and, in the case of better history classrooms, also a variety of primary and secondary sources from which to gain a more robust understanding of the complexity of the past and the various interpretations given to it. The latter is an important process that moves beyond simply memorizing facts to an endeavor involving, among other things, discerning fact from opinion, corroborating information, contextualizing that information in the period in which it was written, comparing interpretation across multiple sources, and ascertaining the credibility of sources and its utility in exploring a particular topic. Comparing and corroborating sources and ascertaining their credibility not only helps gain a fuller understanding of the past; it also introduces the very idea that history is contested, that it is constructed (made), and that it carries with it particular assumptions and perspectives about the world it attempts to depict."

What about Geography? The Geography Curriculum, Young People, Critical Thinking and Active Learning

"This paper is based on a workshop I ran at the Humanities Educators Conference (Singapore, 2012) with the same title. In the workshop, my intention was for the participants to consider ideas of critical thinking and active learning and how this might apply to their own practice. I used examples from geography lessons I had observed in England to illustrate the discussion. Converting a workshop into a paper is not an easy task. One of the benefits of a workshop is the interaction between the participants and the participant led discussion, which is necessarily absent from a paper which reflects a lone voice. Therefore, I have chosen to present some of the content of the session in this paper, and to encourage the reader to consider this content in the light of their own experience. As a geography educator from England, I do not pretend that I have the answers: critical thinking and active learning are challenging for all geography educators, and can differ depending on context. My intention is for individual geography teachers to come to their own understanding of what these terms mean and how they may develop them in their own classrooms."

Geography Fieldwork is Not Mission Impossible

"Geography teachers face numerous difficulties in conducting fieldwork for their students. While the national curriculum is shifting towards a field inquiry approach, some pre-existing problems remain, such as the issues of large class sizes, the lack of suitable sites due to our highly urbanised landscape, and teachers who do not have an understanding of the role fieldwork plays in constructing meaning in Geography. Having an understanding of how geographical knowledge has evolved will allow teachers to adopt meaningful strategies in the field in order to maximise the construction of geographical concepts and learning of geographical skills. In this paper, I propose a simple matrix that identifies purpose and strategies as two key goals that can help teachers work towards the implementation of a meaningful fieldwork programme for students. "

Research into Practice: Tuning in to the “Chorus of History” Through the Use of Oral History in the Classroom

"Using oral histories in history and social studies classrooms can highlight the fact that historical sources are authored and contain particular assumptions, biases, and perspectives about the world. They require critical evaluation to understand why people might have said what they said, why they might view particular events or issues in certain ways, the kinds of insights, emotions, and attitudes they have about what happened in the past, and the reasons they give for acting in the ways they did. Because oral histories have become more widely available and utilized due to electronic and digital means of preservation and access, they can be easily used with students of all ages. To learn more about the use of oral history in the classroom and consider how students can work with oral sources, I reviewed the work and ideas of Associate Professor Kevin Blackburn, a proponent of using oral histories in classrooms."

Research into Practice: Understanding the Vietnam War from the Communists' Perspective

"Most of us are familiar with the narrative of the Vietnam War as it is commonly told in history textbooks: (1) the United States got involved because they were afraid of the possibility of a domino effect of Southeast Asian countries falling to communism; (2) there was a huge public outcry back in the United States as American casualties increased dramatically and the horrors of war were shown in every home; (3) the US eventually withdrew its troops; and (4) North and South Vietnam were reunited. But in this unjustifiably sketchy summary of the typical portrayal of the Vietnam War, it is evident that most students of history only look at materials that, ironically, the losers of this war provide. American versions of these historical events often point to the failings of the South Vietnamese regime (the regime of Ngo Dinh Diem), the failed US containment policy or domestic opposition as the reasons behind the fall of Vietnam. "

Subscribe to Journal Articles

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

Newsletter Subscription

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up-to-date with new journal issues!