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Jul-Sep-2018 Pedagogies

Effective Pedagogy in Social Sciences

Swati Pant
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India is known for its diverse ethnicity, culture, languages, and rich history. But ironically, the study of social sciences, the umbrella discipline in which these fields belong, has long been given step-motherly treatment in our education system. Right from middle school, students consider social sciences which includes history, political science, anthropology and economics as burdensome; something that involves long essays, drab theories and tough-to-remember dates and statistics. This attitude towards the subject leads students to believe that social sciences would not be of any help to them in the long run.

Going beyond the classroom, there exists a common misconception that as a stream, social sciences does not contribute to the economic development of the country in comparison to other disciplines such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This results in STEM receiving considerably higher investment and support from the government and universities. Moreover, the existing pedagogy encourages rote learning, and mugging up of historical facts and theories which have no bearing on real life issues, making the subject boring and repetitive.

WHY IS SOCIAL SCIENCES IMPORTANT?

IT INCULCATES LIFE SKILLS:
Social sciences is important as it enhances comprehension, application, analysis, evaluation and creativity; skills which are are vital in day-to-day life. Learning about diverse topics enables students to gain well-rounded information, based on which they can make observations and connections between related concepts, ideas and resources. Appropriate experiences further enhance students’ understanding about how different things and people affect their day-to-day lives. For example, in order to gain a proper understanding of poverty in the society, students are required to study subjects such as history, economics and politics.

IT BUILDS A CONNECTION BETWEEN THEORIES AND IDEAS:
A good grasp of social sciences is necessary to understand vital issues that concern society and gain the correct perspective. Considering the same example of learning about poverty, students first need to acquire information and comprehend ideas such as discrimination, resource allocation and political priorities. Then they need to understand, analyse and evaluate the existing connections between those ideas and theories to make sense of how poverty affects certain populations in the country. This knowledge can be further put to use to foster students’ creativity and help them come up with solutions and policies to reduce poverty. They could further present their ideas in the form of debates, essays, role plays or class projects.

IT HELPS TO UNDERSTAND HUMAN BEHAVIOUR:
Social sciences helps students observe, learn and understand human behaviour, values and attitudes, and the interrelationships that exist among people across the world. They also learn about social strata, the norms of society and the need for various governing bodies and other institutions. This, in turn, helps students develop a wider perspective of society and its different elements.

IT HELPS TO APPRECIATE CULTURAL DIVERSITY:
Social sciences makes students understand about the diverse and multicultural nature of society. This helps them recognise the benefits and challenges of living in a world with multiple cultures and ideologies. This awareness makes them develop an understanding of their rights, duties and responsibilities and the fact that in order to live and coexist peacefully, each and everyone needs to respect, trust and balance various opinions, values and attitudes, lifestyles, cultures and practices, and ideologies existing in society.

THE NEED FOR CHANGE

Social sciences essentially involves the study of human beings. As elaborated earlier, the wide spectrum of disciplines covered under the subject have a significant impact on our society and the economy. It is high time the social sciences pedagogy is directed towards encouraging students to critically examine their assumptions, engage with social issues and take action.

Instead of making the subject matter a mere collection of theories, numbers and dates, it should involve assessment, practice, intuition and deductions. For example, we all know about the events that took place during the freedom movement in India and recognise our freedom fighters. Yet, we do not assess how our present socio-political scenario has evolved. Similarly, we also know that India is the largest democracy but we do not attempt to analyse the reasons behind its transformation to this state. Thus, drawing conclusions after thorough assessment of relevant content is one of the ways to bring in an effective change in social sciences pedagogy.

EFFECTIVE MEASURES

CONTINUITY AND ALIGNMENT:
To optimise learning of any subject, it is important to build up on what students already know. Continuity and alignment in the content taught can thus make learning social sciences more relatable. To facilitate this, teachers should make an attempt to access and assess the prior knowledge of students. Revisiting known facts and theories gives an opportunity to students to apply what they have learned, something which is seldom followed while studying social sciences.

RELEVANT CONTENT:
It is a well-known fact that the lessons learned through real-life experiences are retained in our minds for a longer period of time. The diversity of the classroom is immensely beneficial for the teaching of social sciences; for discussing ideas based on a variety of perspectives and to encourage critical thinking. Involving students to share their cultural knowledge and experiences proves to be a helpful tactic in getting acquainted with new concepts. Conversely, if teaching does not involve diversity, students might develop a biased understanding of a topic, besides losing interest in the subject. It must also be ensured that the content being taught has some point of relevance for the students. Moreover, the teachers should ensure that the learning being imparted is inclusive in nature and does not promote stereotypes and biased understanding.

COMMUNITY AND DIALOGUE:
It is important to establish a respectful relationship between teachers and students. This implies that teachers and students should be able to establish good communication links and be ready to give each other a chance to discuss their perspectives and learn from each other. Secondly, creating and encouraging dialogue via activities, such as group tasks or class discussions, has been statistically proven to be a successful strategy in effective learning.

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Swati Pant
Swati Pant

Swati Pant has done her Bachelors (Hons) in History from Miranda House, Delhi University and Masters in Communications from University of Hyderabad. Her interests include reading history books and travelling.

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