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Skills and Best Practices

Activity 3: Skills and Best Practices

Jurisprudential Approach to Teaching Social Studies

According to several studies, students taught using a jurisprudential approach will develop a greater interest in contemporary issues and increased skill in analyzing these issues.

This approach, according to Shaver1, may be used to involve students in an in-depth analysis of public policy issues. The approach is based on the following assumptions:

  • Controversy over public issues is inevitable because different people have different views of the world as a result of their different backgrounds (ethnic, religious, socio-economic, family, etc.).
  • Important social values (values or principles for judging worth) that people hold may conflict with each other in specific cases. (For example, in a zoning issue a person’s freedom to use land he owns as he pleases may conflict with the general welfare in one or more ways.)
  • There is an analytic perspective that is useful in analyzing issues and in making decisions with regard to them. The perspective includes these elements:
    • Consciousness of differing points of view or frames of reference.
    • Knowledge of how to use language with some precision. (This involves being aware of the meanings of words, of how some words have emotional attachments, of how the same words may have different meanings for different people, and of how to resolve disputes over the meanings of words.)
    • Knowledge of how to determine and validate factual claims.
    • Knowledge of identify, define, and weigh values relevant to the issue.
    • Knowledge of how to make a reasoned decision, taking into account language problems, factual uncertainties, and value discordances.

1 Shaver, J.P., Social studies. In Cawelti, G. (ed.) (1995). Handbook of research on improving student achievement. Arlington, VA: Educational Research Service, 147-48.

Decision Making in Social Studies

Decision making is a process that is taught from the early grades through high school. And yet, most students have difficulty telling you the steps in the decision-making process. This is partly because teachers are not consistent in teaching the steps in the process. This site is useful in:

  • Teaching students how to apply the decision-making process to real life
  • Reviewing the six steps in the decision-making process
  • Connecting the decision-making process to role planning and group decision making
  • Providing students with an assessment to see if they understand the process
  • Helping students evaluate how they make their own decisions