How Can We Improve Motivation in Today's Social Studies Classrooms? Alan R. Brandhorst, in "A Cognitive Perspective on Motivation: Implications for Social Studies Curriculum, Teaching, and Testing" (International Journal of Social Education, Fall/Winter 2001-2002, 57-69) takes a look at perceptions of Social Studies and their effect on classroom motivation, as well how to improve these issues.
The authors' attempt to explain overall student motivation is through the theories of both John Nicholls and Ernest Scatchell. In these theories Nicholls and Scatchell try to separate all learning in to 2 separate categories. Task-involved learning, and Ego-involved learning are Nicholls' while Scatchell points to the coinciding Autocentricity and Allocentricity. In short both theorists are drawing a line between understanding material and just memorizing discrete bits of information, with understanding being the more effective method of learning.
The author interprets the theories of Nicholls and Scatchell, to reach the conclusion that Social Studies teaching faces serious problems in the realm of motivation.
Students, claims the author, are not as likely to understand subjects like history because these subjects offer little gratification for our egos. There is no sense of satisfaction in learning social issues as there can be in solving a complex math problem or balancing a chemical equation.
Another challenge facing Social Studies, according to Brandhorst, is the general perception by the public and the government that unlike math, science, and language arts, Social Studies is not useful in preparing for a profession. And although it is obvious, claims the author, that it is Social knowledge like economics, history and politics that make us good citizens, there are no national endowments for these fields nor incentives from colleges to excel in them. This leaves students as well as curriculum placing Social Studies on the back burner.
The answer, claims the...