Transformative disciplinary learning in history and social studies: Lessons from a high autonomy curriculum in New Zealand
Wood BE., Sheehan M.
The challenges of naming a bounded disciplinary body of knowledge for the social sciences has made it difficult to define and clearly articulate ‘what counts’ for disciplinary learning in school curricula. The shift to ‘new’ generic skills with an associated autonomy of curriculum content choice and learner-centred approaches has introduced further challenges for the social sciences. In this paper, we consider what transformative disciplinary learning might look like for two core social science subjects in New Zealand—history and social studies. We begin by outlining what we mean by transformative disciplinary learning in history and social studies. Drawing on two in-depth classroom-based studies, we then examine the strategies, practices and processes that supported or undermined transformative disciplinary learning in history and social studies. In the absence of prescribed content, both subjects relied strongly on procedural approaches (historical and social enquiry processes) which helped to sustain some coherency and disciplinary learning. However, poor topic choice meant that students often missed out on in-depth knowledge and/or opportunities for effective and transformative citizenship engagement. We conclude by highlighting the importance of content selection if students are to widen their horizons and experience transformative disciplinary learning in history and social studies.